The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express – Tag Team Excellence By Lewis Carlan

By @PWSoth

On March 31, 2017, the WWE held its annual Hall of Fame ceremony in Orlando, Florida. Among the inductees this year were Diamond Dallas Page, Rick Rude, Beth Phoenix, Teddy Long, and Kurt Angle. There was also a legendary tag team among the inductees that I felt were the most deserving of this Hall of Fame honor. This team has been around since 1983 and are still competing today. This tag team held multiple tag team championships and sold out arenas wherever they went during the height of their popularity. The tag team I am referring to consists of Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson and they are The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express.

Robert Gibson began his professional wrestling career back in 1977 in the southern USA Indy scene. He often teamed with his brother Ricky Gibson and the brother tag team found some success. Together, they held a number of regional tag team titles. A year later in 1978, Ricky Morton made his debut in professional wrestling. He wrestled mainly in the Memphis, Tennessee area and wrestled in tag team matches with partners such as Ken Lucas and Eddie Gilbert.

In 1983, the Memphis territory had an immensely popular tag team that consisted of Steve Keirn and Stan Lane. They were known as The Fabulous Ones. As they were the top team in Memphis, sometimes they weren’t always able to wrestle in every town due to their growing popularity. Jerry Lawler, who was the booker in Memphis at the time, decided it would be a good idea to come up with another team that could be an alternative to The Fabulous Ones. With MTV and glam rock popular at the time, Lawler decided that he could pair two wrestlers and give them a gimmick of high flyers who liked rock and roll music. He gave that gimmick to Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson and The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express was born.

Throughout 1983 and 1984, The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express feuded with a number of teams in the Memphis area including The Bruise Brothers and more notably Randy Savage and Lanny Poffo. They held the AWA Southern Tag Team titles on a number of occasions.

Ricky and Robert eventually went to Mid South Wrestling where they began a legendary feud with The Midnight Express – Bobby Eaton and Dennis Condrey managed by Jim Cornette. Stan Lane later replaced Condrey. The two teams battled for months over the Mid South Tag Team titles. The rivalry between the two teams lasted for many years and made its way into the NWA promotion.

In 1985, Ricky and Robert debuted for the NWA and Jim Crockett promotions. It was during this time in the NWA that they became incredibly popular with the fans and were as over as anyone or team could get. Their debut match for Jim Crockett was a NWA World Tag Team title match against then champions Ivan Koloff and Krusher Khrushchev. After an incredible match, Ricky and Robert emerged victorious and earned their 1st NWA World Tag Team title reign. They would go on to win the NWA World Tag Team titles 3 more times while engaging in classic matches against The Russians (Ivan Koloff, Nikita Koloff and Krusher Khrushchev), The Four Horsemen (Ole Anderson, Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, and Tully Blanchard) and of course both versions of Jim Cornette’s Midnight Express.

In 1988, they left the NWA and had a brief feud with another young team that called themselves The Midnight Rockers – Shawn Michaels and Marty Janetty. The two teams battled for the AWA World Tag Team Titles which saw Ricky and Robert falling short in gaining those belts.

Ricky and Robert made a return to the NWA in 1989. But as wrestlers were getting bigger with teams such as the Steiners, The Road Warriors, and DOOM; Ricky and Robert could not regain the immense popularity they had just a few years earlier and were regulated to being mid card talent. Ricky eventually turned on Robert and the two feuded with each other until Robert left the NWA.

In 1992 they reunited in Smoky Mountain Wrestling and won the SMW tag team titles 10 times. From there Ricky and Robert competed in various promotions such as USWA, WCW, WWF, TNA and PWA.  Their amazing career was celebrated as they were inducted into the WWE Hall for Fame Class of 2017. A well deserved honor for a most deserving team.

The first time I ever saw The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express on TV was their debut match for Jim Crockett Promotions against The Russians in which they won the NWA Tag Team titles. I remember thinking when the match began that there was no way these little guys are going to last more than 10 minutes with Ivan Koloff and Krusher Khrushchev. But at about the 4 minute mark, I was solidly behind Ricky and Robert and was cheering them on as was the entire crowd. It was at that 4 minute mark that I officially became a huge fan of this team that I was watching for the 1st time. When Ricky rolled up Koloff and pinned him to win the tag titles, I jumped out of my chair, pumped my fist in the air, and yelled the word “Yeah”!

The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express had an instant connection with the fans. They had the good looks, great mic work, and incredible in ring ability. Nobody was able to sell quite like Ricky Morton. In my opinion, this is one of the reasons why they became so wildly popular. He really made it seem like he was in serious trouble or seriously hurt with his incredible selling that the fans would rabidly get behind him and cheer for him to make the hot tag to Robert Gibson. Ricky was so good; when he did make that hot tag to Robert the fans in the arena would normally blow the roof off the building during the peak of their popularity.

When Jerry Lawler put this team together back in 1983 as an alternative to his #1 team The Fabulous One, I would imagine that he had no idea that The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express would far surpass The Fabulous Ones on the tag team totem pole. Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson were perfect for one another and I am not sure if the team would have worked had Lawler chose any other wrestlers when forming this team. For that I will say thank you Jerry Lawler.

When one thinks of the greatest tag teams of all time, you may think of The Road Warriors, The Steiners, The Andersons, The Samoans, or The Hart Foundation to name a few. These are all excellent teams but they all have to take a backseat to The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express. Ricky and Robert are, in my opinion, the greatest professional wrestling tag team of all time. There are many new tag teams today that are extraordinary such as the Young Bucks, The Revival, and DIY. But as good as they are, they are still a notch below Ricky and Robert. And nobody and no tag team will ever surpass The Rock ’N’ Roll Express when it comes to tag team excellence.

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