In addition to winning the three biggest prizes in tag team wrestling during the 80s and 90s, the Road Warriors were involved in matches that not only sold tickets but also were quite the spectacle.
In 1986, one of the spectacles was the scaffold match against the Midnight Express at the grandaddy of them all—Starrcade ’86: Night of the Skywalkers. While the NWA World title match between “Nature Boy” Ric Flair versus the “Russian Nightmare” Nikita Koloff was the main event, it seemed like the main event on Saturday night at the Greensboro Coliseum instead of a truly original match. This match, in essence, was the main selling point of the show.
Why would Jim Crockett Promotions take such a huge risk with a match of this nature?
Simply put, they wanted to compete for the wrestling dollar against the WWF and Vince McMahon. When the WWF put WrestleMania on display for the masses in 1985, JCP countered with two shows from two different states on the same night for Starrcade ’85.
In true wrestling fashion, the WWF answered with WrestleMania II being hosted at three different arenas.
What could JCP do to draw eyes as well as money from wrestling fans for Starrcade ’86?
Take the biggest drawing tag team, pit them against some dastardly heels with an annoying manager, and provide a solid hook.
To set up the match, an entitled and self-indulgent Jim Cornette insulted “Precious” Paul Ellering which led to Ellering slapping Cornette. As retribution, the Midnight Express left Animal laying in the ring due to both Eaton’s flying knee drops and Cornette’s infamous tennis racquet.
Afterward, the Road Warriors cut an outstanding promo from atop a construction scaffold. Since it was October, they had pumpkins to symbolize the Midnight Express. To show their cruel intentions toward their foes, the Road Warriors tossed the pumpkins from the scaffold down to the pavement where each pumpkin shattered into pieces.
To add even more intrigue to the match, Hawk broke his leg during a tour of Japan roughly two weeks prior to the supershow. During shoot interviews, Animal stated that he removed Hawk’s cast and taped him up so that Hawk could perform. I can’t begin to imagine what type of pain Hawk experienced after he finished competing in this match.
Let’s go to the ring…
Match (scaffold): The Road Warriors (w/ “Precious” Paul Ellering) versus the Midnight Express (w/ Jim Cornette & Big Bubba Rogers)
- As the Midnight Express made their entrance, they chose to enter the ring.
- Conversely, the Road Warriors literally took their entrance to the next level by climbing 25 feet to the scaffold.
- Cornette looked up in disgust and disbelief.
- When Condrey made his climb upward, Animal pantomimed him as a chicken.
- Eaton began his climb, yet Cornette grabbed him by the leg in a loving way to protect him.
- After all four wrestlers were atop the scaffold, Condrey climbed between Animal’s legs to get to Hawk.
- Animal leveled Eaton with an elbow smash almost knocking him down to the concrete floor.
- While Condrey tossed powder in Hawk’s eyes, Eaton did the same to Animal. How dastardly!
- Condrey then rammed Hawk face-first into the scaffold railing which may have tasted like eagle wings.
- As Condrey almost sent Hawk reeling over the edge, Animal caused Eaton to lose his balance.
- Fortunately for Eaton, he caught himself under the scaffold.
- He returned to the scaffold, but Animal rammed him face-first into it.
- When Hawk rammed Condrey repeatedly into the scaffold, both Midnight Express members were BUSTED OPEN.
- Condrey found himself down on one of the ladders to the scaffold but couldn’t return because Hawk booted him in the head.
- After Hawk joined Condrey on the ladder, Animal continued to pummel Eaton atop the scaffold.
- Eaton rebounded by nailing Animal and climbed under the scaffold.
- With all four wrestlers hanging off the scaffold, Rick Stewart referred to this portion of the match as a “chicken fight.”
- Hawk kicked Condrey down to the mat, and Animal booted Eaton down soon afterward.
- As a result, the Road Warriors won at 7:07.
Summary: Since it was impossible to take bumps on the scaffold, the match had to be a brawl. With foreign objects, the Midnight Express did their nastiest to hold momentum. On the other hand, the Road Warriors made them bleed after repeated shots to the scaffold. Both elements added to the story of both teams wanting to beat each other up and send them flying down to the mat. While this match was by no means a technical classic, it stood out as one of the most memorable matches of all time.
After the match, Rogers enters the ring to check on the Midnight Express. That allows Ellering to swipe Cornette’s racquet and chase him up the ladder.
When Cornette successfully climbs onto the scaffold, Animal is waiting for him much to the delight of the Atlanta faithful and Cornette’s dismay.
Cornette, who is legitimately afraid of heights, clings to the scaffold with all his might. As Animal easily sends him over the edge, Cornette grasps the undercarriage of the scaffold to save his own bacon.
With nowhere else to go, Cornette loses his grip. Unfortunately, Rogers is supposed to catch him, but due to wearing sunglasses indoors, he can’t judge Cornette’s fall properly. Instead, Cornette lands awkwardly and blows out both knees. OUCH!
Considering how dangerous the circumstances were, the efforts involved in the match showed not only the courage of the Road Warriors but also the demise of the Midnight Express. Condrey would leave the Midnight Express in early 1987, and Stan Lane of the Fabulous Ones would replace him.
Also, to this day, Cornette’s knees are still afflicted by his fall despite knee surgery.
Although the match’s outcome was obvious to the keen eye, its story and legendary status add to the mystique of both tag teams. Since it was the Midnight Express’ job to (kayfabe) put Animal on the shelf, it was also the Road Warrior’s responsibility to teach them a hard lesson in retribution. Without questions, both teams did a solid job of angle execution.
With over thirty years of hindsight, the Night of the Skywalkers remains a legendary match for all to enjoy.