Thirty-five years ago, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better tag team than the Rock N’ Roll Express. Sure, other tag teams drew better, such as the Road Warriors. Sure, there may have been flashier tandems, like the British Bulldogs or The Rockers. But the team of Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson changed tag team wrestling in the United States forever, with their innovative tag team chemistry and being the “spot monkeys” of the US territorial days in the early 1980s. And in 2019, the multi-time tag team champions are having a resurgence like none they’ve seen since the early 1990s.
Robert Gibson was already a tag team specialist when he met a young Rick Morton in Memphis’ territory, Continental Wrestling Association (CWA). Gibson had paired with his brother Ricky as The Gibson Brothers, capturing CWA’s tag team titles four times and the NWA Hollywood Americas tag titles once. In 1983, CWA’s Jerry Lawler paired the two together and magic happened. The veteran Gibson took the athleticism and charisma of Morton and helped create one of the most influential tag teams of their generation.
They were frequent challengers in both Mid South Wrestling and Mid-Atlantic, feuding with such top opponents as Nasty Boys (Knobbs & Saggs), The Russians (Ivan Koloff & Krusher Krushchev), Arn & Ole Anderson, and The Sheepherders (aka the WWF’s Bushwhackers). But they are forever entwined as the fiercest rivals of The Midnight Express, a feud that went from NWA to American Wrestling Association (AWA). They were 5x NWA World Tag Team Champions and 3x Mid South Tag Team Champions, inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2017.
By the late 90s, the Rock N’ Roll Express had been quieted down, much how grunge killed 80s hair metal. They were relics. Legends on nostalgia cards. Their legacy slipping away. They had one brief run in the WWF in 1998 with a failed NWA invasion, but it after a few months, it faded away. But then the internet happened. Suddenly their catalog became a video library of tag team wrestling from an era that really helped put tag team wrestling on the map. Bookings after 1998 dried up and for much of the 2000s, they were booked as a novelty act. But around 2014, the bookings began to pick back up, and following their WWE Hall of Fame induction, more and more eyes began to wonder again about this tag team with such a rich history, working with House of Hardcore, MCW Pro, and Black Label Pro. But this year, they have seen a spotlight they haven’t seen in nearly 30 years.
GCW, Joey Janela’s Spring Break 3, vs. LAX, April 6
Game Changer Wrestling (GCW) has had a midas touch the past two years. They’ve introduced young talents like Marko Stunt, Alex Zayne, Jungle Boy, and Blake Christian to larger audiences, but they’ve also done a great job with revitalizing older stars who have still been going at it all these years. It was their booking of PCO at Joey Janela’s Spring Break 2 that launched his amazing comeback story of last year. So it’s only fitting that Rock N’ Roll Express’ huge year essentially kicked off at Joey Janela’s Spring Break 3 where the faced arguably one of the top three tag teams in the world, IMPACT Wrestling’s LAX. LAX had become international superstars with their 4x IMPACT Tag Team reigns and their global rivalry with the Lucha Brothers. In a clash of past and present tag team champions, Rock N’ Roll Express showed they could still hang with today’s elite. While they may have lost a step in their speed, their chemistry was still undeniable and their psychology kept them in the game.
NWA/ROH, Crockett Cup, vs. Briscoes, April 27
This spring, the rebooted National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), in association with Ring of Honor, restarted the Crockett Cup, a tag team tournament that was a huge part of the NWA in the 1980s. The Rock N’ Roll Express themselves competed in the first two Crockett Cups (1986, 1987) and were announced to compete in this year’s reboot. They faced off against another top tag team in ROH World Tag Team Champions The Briscoes in the first round. It was a quick and brutal match, but the old-timers kept pace with the Briscoes and the seeds of war were planted.
Beyond, Americanrana ’19, vs. Butcher & The Blade, July 28
The Rock N’ Roll Express continued their run in the public eye this past summer as well, joining one of the hottest US indies of the year, Beyond Wrestling. Beyond had revolutionized the indie scene with a weekly live program, Uncharted Territory, that aired on IndependentWrestling.tv, and was heading into its biggest show of the year, Americanrana ’19. At the event, the Rock N’ Roll Express faced off against one of the breakout tag teams of the year in The Butcher & The Blade, scoring the victory.
ROH, Honor For All, vs. Briscoes, August 25
With the seeds set for further confrontation back at Crockett Cup, the Rock N’ Roll Express had some issues left unsettled against ROH Tag Team Champions The Briscoes. The two teams faced off in a championship title match at ROH’s August PPV, Honor For All. While the Express didn’t strike gold again, they once again showed they could keep up with the tag teams of today.
Glory Pro, Thunderstruck, vs. Besties in the World, September 22
Last week, the Rock N’ Roll Express faced off against another top tag team in the international indies, at Glory Pro‘s Thunderstruck event. The Besties in the World have been one of the US indie scene’s top teams for a few years, who spent the past year establishing themselves in Europe and the UK indie scene as well. The reigning and 3x AAW Tag Team Champions, as well as former 2x Glory Pro United Glory Tag Team Champions, 3x Wrestling Revolver Tag Team Champions, and Fight Club: PRO Tag Team Champions in the UK, the Besties in the World faced off in another intergenerational match-up against the Rock N’ Roll Express.
NJPW Fighting Spirit Unleased: Boston, vs. Bullet Club (Chase Owens & Jado), September 27
The Rock N’ Roll Express has worked for a Japanese company before – back in 1988, they had a successful tour with All Japan Pro Wrestling over in Japan. But this past weekend, they made their debuts for NJPW, as part of the entire Fighting Spirit Unleashed tour. The kicked off the tour on Friday night against Bullet Club‘s Chase Owens and Jado.
NJPW Fighting Spirit Unleashed: New York, w/ Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Bushi, & Shingo Takagi), September 28
On Saturday night, they had a much bigger match up at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City, when they teamed with former 8x IWGP Heavyweight Champion and New Japan “Ace” Hiroshi Tanahashi against the Los Ingobernables de Japon trio of Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi, and BUSHI. Alongside Tanahashi, they picked up the win, and their first under the New Japan banner.
NJPW Fighting Spirit Unleashed: Philadelphia, Elimination Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi, Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI, & The Rock N’ Roll Express (Robert Gibson & Ricky Morton) vs. Bullet Club (Jay White, KENTA, Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa), Chase Owens, & Gedo), September 29
They are featured heavily in the main event of Sunday’s NJPW card in Philadelphia. They reteam with Tanahashi as well as CHAOS members Goto, Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI to take on a full 6-man Bullet Club squad in a special elimination match.
Returning to NWA Television
Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson (@RealRickyMorton & @TheRobertGibson)
The Rock-N-Roll Express return to the NWA
Atlanta, GA | 10/1/19 (ONLY)
— NWA (@nwa) September 19, 2019
This coming week, the revamped NWA begins tapings on their upcoming weekly television show, filmed in Atlanta, Georgia on September 30 and October 1. It was earlier this month that the NWA announced that the multiple time NWA Tag Team Champions would be appearing in action at the tapings, putting them back on NWA TV for the first time in decades.
Bar Wrestling, You Got It Dude, vs. The ROCKNes Monsters (BHK & Johnny Yuma), October 9
Bar Wrestling has emerged as one of the top US indies in the vibrant West Coast scene, founded by Joey Ryan back in 2017. The Rock N’ Roll Express’ next stop on their rejuvenation tour of 2019 sees them face off against one of the top West Coast tag teams of the past decade in The ROCKNes Monsters, who are 3x Heritage Tag Team Champions with Championship Wrestling From Hollywood.
It’s been a great ride for fans of the original rock and rollers of pro wrestling, who are being used in matches that now help cement their legacies from the nostalgia triggers of the early 2000s. They’ve had more high profile matches in 2019 than they have in nearly 20 years and most of all, they’re having fun. Great mentors in and out of the ring – both run their own wrestling schools as well – these legends of arguably the greatest era of tag team wrestling are getting a chance to help with the resurgence of tag team wrestling, passing the torch to some great new talents.
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world.