December 9, 2009
I wrote the following for my “Storm Front” article for “Fighting Spirit” Magazine, back in September, and it is being reproduced with permission from Uncooked Media Ltd.
I’m currently reading “The Midnight Express and Jim Cornette 25th Anniversary Scrapbook”. This is a truly unique and fascinating book, which covers the 8 year run of probably the greatest Tag Team / Manager combination this business has ever seen. The book covers the careers of both versions of the Midnight Express (Condrey & Eaton and Eaton & Lane) and is an incredible trip through the history of this business.
One of the most amazing aspects of this book, and what brought about this article, is the detailed notes and time line Jim Cornette shares with us in this book. Jimmy has almost every arena date, attendance and gate figure listed for every show the Midnight Express ever worked, which paints a mind boggling picture of their unbelievable road schedule. I’ve always known the road schedule was bad, back in the day, but as it turns out, I really had no idea.
When the Express first hit it big in the MidSouth Wrestling territory in 1984 the road schedule was unbelievable. They worked year round with only 1 or 2 days off per month, with the occasion double shot thrown in. They were working between 29 and 33 shots per month the entire year, and driving to every show; they literally never stopped. To put this in perspective the current WWE schedule is approximately 12-16 shows per month, providing usually 3 days off per week.
As their careers progressed their schedules would not get any lighter. In 1988 during the Great American Bash tours for Jim Crockett Promotions (later to become WCW) they worked 48 times in a 43 day period. They worked 31 Handicap Bunkhouse matches, 4 regular Tag matches, 5 Scaffold matches, and 8 regular TV bouts in that 43 day period. How these men are even alive today is beyond me, especially when you consider the work rate of this great tag team.
After reading about these incredible schedules it got me thinking back to my career and what some of my worst schedules were like and how they compared to what had to have been the busiest schedule this industry has ever seen.
The only authentic Territory (at least in the traditional sense) that I ever worked was Smokey Mountain Wrestling, back in 1994, coincidentally enough owned and operated by one James E. Cornette. Stampede Wrestling had stopped full time operation by the time I broke in and ECW, WCW and WWE, were companies not Territories in the old school sense. SMW ran 15 shows per month back then with 14 of them being regular events with one TV taping per month. We taped 4 weeks of TV at each taping so it was possible to work 4 TV matches in one night. If we take the worst case scenario, that puts my maximum possible workload in SMW at 18 matches per month. All shows were within a 4 hour driving radius of Knoxville so I was home every night and generally had 15 days off per month.
By today’s Indy standards that would be more than a full schedule, yet still pales in comparison to the Midnight Expresses MidSouth schedule a decade earlier.
While SMW may have been my only traditional territory it was no where near my busiest schedule. My busiest wrestling schedule was in 1993 when I worked for Otto Wanz and Peter William in Europe for CWA Catch Promotions. CWA was not a full time territory; instead it ran a 6 month season of World Cup Tournaments each year, with big tournaments in Graz & Vienna, Austria, and Hanover & Bremen Germany. Each tournament ran for 6 to 8 weeks in each City. In 1993 Graz ran 7 days a week for 6 weeks, Vienna ran 8 weeks, with Mondays off, Hanover was the full 8 week running every day, and I believe Bremen was 7 days a week for 7 weeks (I got injured and missed Bremen).
Despite CWA running shows 7 nights a week, for most tournaments, it didn’t mean you had to wrestle every night. Not everyone was booked on every show so you did get the occasional night off, but even those nights you still had to come to work. Each night the show would open with what was called the Parade. Everyone in the tournament would come to the ring (in gear) and be introduced to the crowd and then that night’s matches would be announced. If you were not booked in a match that night you could get changed and you were off for the night.
If you count, going to the building, putting on your gear, and getting in the ring working, I worked 60 straight days in Hanover, Germany in the fall of 1993, which would be the busiest schedule I ever had to work. As bad as that sounds, the truth is with the shows being in the same building every night, and the fact that we lived right on site in Camper trailers, it was actually a pretty relaxing time.
If you only want to look at nights I actually had matches my schedule is only a bit lighter. Back then I was keeping track of how many nights off I had and there weren’t that many. I don’t know whether it was because I was the new guy and had to pay my dues or if they liked my work and wanted me on the show, but I almost never got a night off. In October of 1993 I worked 29 of the 31 nights and would have wrestled between 31 and 34 matches.
I don’t know the exact number of matches because, I only kept track of days off and every Sunday we had a Battle Royal, in addition to our regular matches, so I sometimes had to work twice on Sundays. If I only worked the Battle Royal I considered it a work day but if I worked the Battle Royal and a regular match I still only counted it as one nights work. There were 5 Sundays in October 1993, so if I had an additional match on every Sunday it’s possible that I wrestled 34 matches in one month. While 34 matches in a month sounds impressive, with absolutely no travel involved, it still pales in comparison to what the Midnight Express had to go through, during the American Bash tour in 1988.
If you get a chance pick up a copy of the “Midnight Express and Jim Cornette 25th Anniversary Scrapbook” I’ve just touched the surface of the amazing tales covered in this book. The book is available at www.JimCornette.com and is a great piece of wrestling history. I love this book so much; I chosen it to be part of my online book club, Book Marks. If you hurry you can likely still take part in the club with me, by reading it and sending me your thoughts. The Louisville Slugger himself James E. Cornette will be taking part in the club with us, so he will be reading your thought and providing comments exclusively for the club. If you are interested in becoming a Book Mark, check it out at www.stormwrestling.com/bookmarks