Three-time NWA/WCW World Tag Team Champion, three-time NWA U.S. Tag Team Champion, WCW World Television Champion, NWA Georgia National Television Champion.
Rated by Arn Anderson as one of the toughest guys in the wrestling business and one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. A man who is respected by everyone, fans and wrestlers alike, and no one has an unkind word to say about him. A 22-year veteran who is still going strong.
I can be talking about only one man: Bobby Eaton.
I was fortunate enough to be able to spend some time with Bobby Eaton a few weeks ago. I didn't start talking to him with the thought of an interview in mind, but after talking to him I realized that he said a lot of interesting things worth sharing. So, he gave his permission to turn our conversations into an interview I could publish. So, here are some of the more interesting things we talked about. Look for more about Bobby Eaton on DDT Digest as time goes on.
First, the vital statistics:
Ring Name: Bobby Eaton
Other Ring Name(s) Used: "Earl" Robert Eaton
Weight: 233 lbs
Original Hometown: Huntsville, AL
Current Hometown: Charlotte, NC
Finisher: Alabama Jammer and Spinning Neckbreaker
Ring Debut: 5/76
First Opponent: Bearcat Wright
Bill: Bobby, how have you been?
Bobby: Pretty good. Can't complain.
Bill: I haven't seen you on TV all that much. Are you still full-time with WCW?
Bobby: I sure am. You're right, I haven't been on Nitro or Thunder all that much. So, if you watch only those shows, you may be thinking I'm not all that busy.
However, I've had a lot of matches on WCWSN and Worldwide. Also, I've been wrestling at a lot of house shows and doing a lot of other stuff for WCW. I spent some time with the new guys at the Power Plant, and I was recently up in Canada doing some work for the upcoming WCW video game.
Bill: What's been your biggest win over the last few years?
Bobby: I beat Konnan at a house show about two years ago. That was a big win for me.
Bill: I noticed you've wrestled a lot of the luchadores lately. What's that like?
Bobby: It's crazy. Those guys are absolutely nuts flying all over the place.
Their size is deceptive. I remember the first time I wrestled Rey Misterio. I picked him up and I actually hesitated for a second. He weighed exactly the same as my 11-year-old son and I was instinctively afraid to hurt him. Of course, I was paid back for my hesitation with a flying headscissors from him, so I didn't hesitate the next time.
I've also been in matches with the Lucha Libre rules. Totally crazy. In those matches, if the legal man gets thrown out of the ring, one of his partners can take his place in the ring without tagging. When you've been wrestling tag matches for 20 years with normal rules, it's tough to adjust. You throw one of those guys out of the ring, and you're catching your breath and keeping an eye on him, and his partner, now the legal man, attacks you from behind. Unless you've been in those matches, you can't appreciate how difficult it is.
Bill: What's it like at the Power Plant?
Bobby: It's tough for the new guys there. Sarge and the rest of the guys really separate the men from the boys. If you're not in the best shape of your life when you go there, you won't last an hour.
Bill: Do you think it's the best way to get trained as a wrestler?
Bobby: Yeah, they teach you a lot. However, once you graduate from the Power Plant, like graduating from any other school, there's no substitute for experience. Being in front of a live, paying crowd is so different than wrestling in front of five other guys sitting around the ring. The Power Plant is the best of its kind, but you still need to get out there afterwards to really get the experience.
Bill: What was it like working up in Canada, being the subject of a video game?
Bobby: A bunch of other guys, including Lash LeRoux, were up there with me. It's a lot tougher than you'd think. They attach sensors all over your body and you perform the moves...over and over again. You get used to wrestling a certain way, and it's tough doing a move, stopping, doing it again, stopping, and on and on. It's exhausting.
Of course, it's worse when you are the guy on the receiving end of the moves.
Bill: Sounds like the game will be pretty cool.
Bobby: They do everything there. On the last day, they set up a cage and we were climbing the cage with the sensors on, getting run into it...everything.
Bill: The guys running the thing must be pretty demanding.
Bobby: You get a little pissed off at them at first, when they have you do the same thing ten times. However, they're just doing their jobs. In fact, on the last day, when we were working with the cage, it was right after Chris Benoit had done the diving headbutt off of the top of the cage. One of the guys looks at me kind of expectantly and says "That was a pretty cool move that Chris Benoit did off the top of the cage, wasn't it?"
I looked at the guy and thought, "You've got to be kidding..."
Bill: How do you get scheduled for all the stuff you have to do?
Bobby: Usually you get a call, but sometimes a Fed Ex just shows up at the house with a plane ticket in it. Sort of like being in the Army Reserve. When you get the call, you go.
Bill: Now, you've been with the NWA/WCW since the beginning of your career, right?
Bobby: Yep. Actually, there was a short period of time where I did some shots for other organizations, ECW and Smoky Mountain, and it wasn't by choice. I'd rather not go into everything behind it, it would take too long. Arn Anderson covers it pretty well in his book.
Bill: So, you've been happy for 22 years?
Bobby: I love this company and, above all, I love the wrestling business. WCW has been good to me, and continues to be good to me. I'm also a huge fan of pro wrestling. But, 22 years is a long time, and I'm sure some years were probably better than others. But I've always been happy in my career and I'm happy today.
Bill: As it is today, you wouldn't change anything?
Bobby: It's funny, everybody on the Internet seems to focus on what's wrong with wrestling today, as if they're experts.
I guess if I could change anything, I'd like to go back to the days of fast-paced hour-long matches. That's where I shine. However, if the shorter time limits are the worst thing I can think of, then I really don't have any complaints.
I'll tell you one story that may put it into perspective for you. My big thing is that I love to have a cup of coffee right before I wrestle. Why, I don't know, but it's something I really enjoy and I've enjoyed it for a long time. When you go back a number of years, for me to get a cup of coffee, I'd have to go to the concession stand, there was nothing backstage. So, there I am, in my wrestling tights, waiting in line along with all the fans at the concession stand. Not a great way to get psyched for a match, as you might guess. These days, there's always catering backstage, coffees, juices, sodas, food, everything.
That may sound simplistic, but the little things like that which have changed about the pro wrestling business over the last few years mean a lot to me.
Bill: Are you on the Internet a lot?
Bobby: Not that much. I check out the sites on occasion but I'm not big into computers. I've actually tried going into wrestling chat rooms on occasion. From what I've seen, everyone's swearing at one another and no one is talking about wrestling.
Bill: You're most often associated with the Midnight Express. Of the two partners you had as part of the Midnight Express, who was your favorite?
Bobby: It's hard to say. Dennis Condrey and Stan Lane were both great partners, and I consider it an honor to be associated with both of them, as well as Jim Cornette. However, even as they were both great partners, they had different strengths. Dennis was probably a better pure wrestler, but Stan had some great moves, had and still has a great physique, and is, so I'm told, a great looking guy.
Bill: Speaking of great looking guys, how'd you come by the nickname "Beautiful"? No offense, but...
Bobby: It originally came from the fact that I was from Alabama. Alabama is known as "Alabama the Beautiful". That's how I first got it.
Bill: Now, most people associate you with the Midnight Express, as well as the Dangerous Alliance. But I really enjoyed your time with the Blue Bloods. I really enjoyed it because it was so out of character for you. I really enjoyed those clips of you in the fancy restaurant asking for ripple or Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill.
Bobby: Yeah, those clips were some great stuff. All total, it was less than five minutes worth of film, but it took something like a day and a half to get it all. Just like doing the stuff for the video game, it takes a lot longer than you would think to do it. And it may be fun the first take, but it gets wearing after about the tenth time.
Bill: Do you really drink ripple or Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill?
Bobby: No, but turnip greens are my favorite food. My mother makes them best.
Bill: And, due to the Blue Bloods, you got your own action figure.
Bobby: Yup, they made one of Steve Regal and I together in the same box. They didn't make that many of them, so they are kind of rare. I've got one for each of my kids.
Bill: You mentioned being a big fan of wrestling. Do you have a collection of memorabilia?
Bobby: I have a ton of videotapes. Some of me and some of other people. Jim Cornette made a great tape of Midnight Express highlights and put it to music. It's really professionally done and is a favorite of mine. I've also got all the segments with me joining the Blue Bloods on tape.
The Blue Bloods figure is the only action figure produced of me, but I have some figures of other people, too. I have some old NWA programs from early in my career. Probably my prized possession is a football card of Wahoo McDaniel that I have from when he was with the Green Bay Packers.
Bill: What's the weirdest thing that happened to you in the wrestling ring?
Bobby: That's an easy one. It was when I was with the Midnight Express. I can't remember whether it was with Dennis or Stan. We were wrestling two guys for a TV match. I'd never seen them before.
Well, this one guy was like Superman. We'd throw him or kick him out of the ring, and he'd jump right back up on the apron and onto the ropes. I'd never seen anything like it before. Normally, when you throw or kick a guy out of the ring, he catches his breath, and it gives you a chance to gather your thoughts and figure out what you're going to do next.
But this guy just kept jumping right back up, no matter what we did. It was the weirdest thing. Finally, we get the win, pinning the Superman guy.
So, the referee is raising our hands in victory, and this Superman guy shimmies over, on his back, and boots me in my ass from flat on his back. I was like, "What the hell?" Normally, when you beat guys, they're smart enough to stay down. I was so shocked, I wasn't sure what to do. So, I stomped him once, not all that hard, to give him a hint. The referee went to raise our hands again and, believe it or not, I actually moved away from the guy to give him the benefit of the doubt. So, the guy actually shimmies over across the ring on his rear end and boots me in the ass again. So, my partner and I look at each other, and just proceed to beat the living crap out of the guy, who's already on his back. Superman's partner comes running in, probably just trying to protect his partner, but we didn't take any chances. My partner and I beat the crap out of him, too.
Bill: Speaking of opponents of the Midnight Express, I've seen clips of you guys wrestling the Mulkey Brothers. Please...share a Mulkey Brothers story with me.
Bobby: (LOL) No joke, "Mulkeymania" was a real thing in North Carolina. When Stan and I were together, the Mulkeys were incredibly popular. Normally, when we wrestled guys like the Mulkey Brothers, it was for TV, so you tried to beat them as quickly as possible.
Well, one night, we were scheduled to fight them at a house show. It was at the height of their popularity, and the crowd was going nuts for them. So, Stan and I decided to give the fans their money's worth. We decided that instead of beating the Mulkeys in less than five minutes like we usually did, we were going to pound them for forty minutes before pinning one of them.
Well, aside from the Mulkeys probably never having wrestled more than five minutes before, they were both in terrible shape. They smoked and I don't think they did any cardio work. So, after ten minutes, they were completely blown up. You know how a wrestler drags himself across the ring to tag his partner after a beating? Well, the Mulkeys were doing that ten minutes into the match just from being completely winded. They were literally crawling after ten minutes just from being tired. Stan and I were hysterical.
But, since you bring them up, for the record it should be said the Mulkey Brothers were both a couple of real nice guys.
Bill: I understand you live in Charlotte, North Carolina. It seems that everyone who wrestled in mid-Atlantic territory in the mid-1980s lives in Charlotte.
Bobby: Definitely. I'm almost afraid to name names, because I'll probably miss a bunch of them. Ric Flair and Arn Anderson, obviously. Ricky Steamboat lives here and has a gym on the west side of town. One of these days, I need to stop in and say hi. Stan Lane lives on a lake on the west side of town. Nikita Koloff lives north of the city. Nikita's another guy I should check in with. He's a full-time minister, now.
In fact, at one time, Arn Anderson, Barbarian, Jim Cornette and me all lived on the same street, and referee Tommy Young lived a block up. Tommy Young still lives a block away from me, but the other guys have since moved away.
Bill: Speaking of Stan Lane and Jim Cornette, do you keep in touch with those guys?
Bobby: Yeah. Stan and I talk on the phone every once in a while. Same thing with Jim Cornette. Hell, Jimmy and I are such huge fans of wrestling, we can have an entire conversation just about what's going on in pro wrestling like any other two fans.
Bill: When I think of the days when the Midnight Express were one of the hottest teams in pro wrestling, I think about the titanic battles you guys had with the Rock 'n Roll Express. Has time healed those wounds?
Bobby: Sure, in fact Robert Gibson and his family will be visiting at my house this weekend. He's booked for a couple of independent shows in Charlotte and they'll be stopping by.
Bill: I remember reading in Arn Anderson's book that whenever he wrestled Ricky Morton, invariably Arn would have to fight off a couple of crazed fans, too.
Bobby: Oh, yeah, back when the Midnight Express were really hot, we'd have fans jumping the railing all the time.
These days, when fans jump the rail, 99 out of 100 times it's not to get at the wrestlers, it's to get on TV. Times have changed. Heck, Ole Anderson's got a 14-inch scar down his chest and stomach from where a fan reached out and tried to cut him open. And all Ole was doing at the time was walking to the ring for his match.
Bill: You've lived in Charlotte for a long time, haven't you?
Bobby: Yeah, close to fifteen years. First, we were in an apartment, then we rented a house, then bought a house. Those three things all happened within the first year. We've been in this house for a long time.
Bill: Do you still have kids at home?
Bobby: The house is pretty full. My wife and I have three kids at home, plus a dog and a cat.
Bill: In a match, who would win...your cat or Bret Hart's cat, Smokey?
Bobby: I've never seen Bret's cat wrestle, so I wouldn't know. However, my cat is pretty talented. It knows which kitchen cabinet its food is in, and it opens the cabinet with its paw.
Bill: Are your kids wrestling fans?
Bobby: It's funny, my 15-year-old boy couldn't care less about wrestling. However, my 11-year-old boy is as big a fan as I am. He's absolutely crazy about wrestling. He plays the video games all the time. We always go to the shows together even if I'm not on the card.
We used to have a trampoline in the backyard, and he and his friends would try the moves on each other. He's convinced he's going to be a wrestler when he grows up, and he may be right.
Bill: Out of all the wrestlers out there today, who do you enjoy watching the most?
Bobby: It would have to be Booker T. He is such an incredible athlete. He's in great shape, he's got great moves, and he's really fluid in the ring. Even though his style is very different than mine, I really, really enjoy watching him wrestle.
Bill: Two last questions. Two things I've always wondered about, and I really want to know if they are true. First, did you really get your start in the wrestling business setting up the ring when you were thirteen years old?
Bobby: Yup. They came to town every week, and I helped set up the ring. I was the world's biggest wrestling fan back then, and I probably still am today, next to my son, of course. My entire family, other than my immediate family, is still back in Alabama.
Bill: Tell me the story of your first match. Who trained you and what were the circumstances?
Bobby: It was a long time ago, back in 1976, I think. I actually hadn't been formally trained by anyone. I'd worked out with a number of the guys and learned some stuff, but nothing formal. Then, one night, Bearcat Wright's opponent didn't show up, and someone asked me, "You want to get out there and wrestle?" I was like, "Hell, yeah!!!"
But, it was so long ago and I've had so many matches since then, I don't even remember the match. I was probably 17 years old at the time. I'm sure I got beat, though.
Bill: Last question. Is Bill Dundee really your father-in-law?
Bobby: Yup. It's actually a pretty funny story how my wife Donna and I met. Bill Dundee was the boss in the territory in the time. The number-one rule he had for his daughter was that she was never, ever to go out with a wrestler. Heck, she wasn't even allowed to talk to them.
Well, at their house, dad had his own phone line, and Donna had hers. And she was under strict orders to never use her dad's phone. Well, one day I called up about getting a booking changed, and Bill was in the shower. So, against orders, rather than let it ring, Donna picked up her dad's phone. She and I got to talking a bit, and she said she be at the matches and she'd wave to me.
Well, she never showed up that night, and I wound up calling her two weeks later to ask her out for beer and pizza. So, without her dad knowing, we went out. That first date, she did all the talking, and I was pretty quiet, so she thought I was kind of dull. However, we kept going out.
We kept going out and she kept it a secret from her dad for nine months. When she finally told him she was dating a wrestler, it was at dinner. He dropped his fork, started cursing, and yelled, "Who is he??!! I'll make sure he never works again!!!!"
She told him it was me, and he didn't say a word, he just started eating again. Donna was like "So?", and her dad said that out of all the boys, she had picked the best.
So, maybe nice guys don't finish last after all.