By Liam Byrne @tvtimelimit
The Midnight Express vs Barry Windham and Ron Garvin
NWA US Tag Team Title Match
In the late 80s, the JCP branch of the NWA had enough tag teams of note to necessitate a secondary title solely for the tag team division. An amalgamation of the old Mid-Atlantic and Georgia tag belts, the US Tag Team Titles allowed for those who were not necessarily in the main title hunt to challenge for a title. That is not to suggest that the teams at this level weren’t any good; the first champions were Krusher Kruschev and Ivan Koloff, whilst Barry Windham and Ron Garvin had also had a run with the belt.
In terms of legitimacy, you can’t go too far wrong with the Midnight Express. After an incident between Dick Murdoch and Nikita Koloff saw Murdoch banned, the titles were stripped from him and Ivan Koloff, leading to a title tournament. The final would see the former champion team of Windham and Garvin take on the Midnight Express, with the Midnights only a year removed from a run with the World Tag Team Titles.
As the match started with Eaton and Garvin locking up in the center of the ring, Tony Schiavone mentioned that the racket in Jim Cornette’s hand seemed to be different from the one seen in a previous interview, and somewhat larger; rather than press the issue, Schiavone would almost instantly shrug off his own confusion, somewhat underestimating Cornette’s willingness to break the rules. Inside the ring, the early going was cautious, as if both teams were bedding in for a long and gruelling contest.
Multiple Windham armdrags allowed him to ground Lane, then Eaton, as the former champions began to slowly gain control until Garvin and Eaton collided mid ring. Lane would return the favour, keeping Garvin on the mat with a side headlock. Just as it seemed Garvin had managed to fight his way out with a whip and a hiptoss, the show would cut to a commercial break and return to Garvin back in an Eaton grounded side headlock.
With the action spilling to the outside, Garvin managed to plant Eaton with a back body drop on the concrete, but Eaton was wise enough to hold a leg so as to not allow Garvin to make the tag. Windham’s desires to get into the ring would be manipulated by the Midnights, as they kept the ring cut in half and distracted the referee to nullify legitimate tags. Eaton’s Alabama Jam would crush Garvin in the center of the ring as the Express seemed to be on course to take the titles.
One thing to never do with Garvin is to trade strikes. The Midnights would learn this the hard way as several open hand slaps to Eaton allowed the Canadian to roll to his corner and finally make the tag to Windham. The big Texan cleaned house with punches and a perfect powerslam on Eaton, though an atomic drop sent Eaton into the corner and allowed Lane to stall long enough to attempt a regroup. Unfortunately for Cornette’s Midnights, this didn’t pay off as several more punches and a dropkick rocked Lane.
Post-commercials, Windham continued where he left off with a superplex on Eaton that had both men writhing on the canvas. Windham isn’t known for being sloppy, but an admittedly ugly top rope… something didn’t connect, allowing the Midnights to utilise quick tag to isolate and neutralise their opponent. Lane locked in a modified camel clutch to wear him down, whilst Eaton was incredibly close to the win with a jumping clothesline.
Close falls continued to rain down, with even Windham getting in on the act with a sunset flip. The third (!) commercial break returned to an Eaton back elbow off the top rope for a close fall, though he would miss a subsequent elbow off the top. This led to the Garvin hot tag, wailing away with strikes and a vicious headbutt to Eaton. All hell would break loose from this point as Teddy Long lost control. Oddly enough, Long would be thrown out of the ring by Windham of all people, only for this to allow Cornette to use his racket and Lane a chair, the second to the back of Garvin’s head. A groggy Long had enough to make the count and crown the new US Tag Team Champions.
Legitimacy was mentioned earlier, and legitimacy was what followed. The Midnight Express, one of the greatest tag teams of all time, would hold the belts for almost a year in total, defending them with class, style…and Jim Cornette’s tennis racket if necessary.