Mid-South #29 Page #2
Akbar might have done more physical damage over his tenures in Mid-South, but Cornette’s constant scheming and ability to pull off evil plans in response to any action by Mid-South or babyfaces gives him the edge in cleverness. Let's call it a push.
Cornette’s Midnight Express enjoyed two strong reigns as Mid-South tag champions in 1984 and dominated the tag scene that year (sorry, Rock & Roll fans, but it’s true). He never focused his energy on guiding a single wrestler to the North American or Mid-South TV title, so you can’t hold against him that he didn’t have a singles title reign to his credit.
Akbar enjoyed the company of North American champ Ted DiBiase in 1985, and also guided DiBiase and Mr. Olympia to tag-team gold in 1983, but DiBiase was more his own man than a charge of Akbar’s, and DiBiase & Olympia never were the dominant tag-team force the Midnight Express were. Akbar, of course, would lead One Man Gang to the UWF title, and Gang had a stranglehold on the belt for months, but that’s after the Mid-South period we’re considering here.
5. Fan hatred
Clearly, no fans relished hating heels as much as the fans of Mid-South. They filled water pistols with Drano and shot them at the eyes of the Freebirds. They pulled knives on opening-match bad guys. They ran into the ring, ready to take on no less a force than Steve "Dr. Death" Williams on Ricky Morton’s behalf. Cornette and Akbar, as managers, were two of the most despised men in Mid-South history. Akbar had to wear a bulletproof vest when he went to many arenas. That’s a hate-inspiring individual.
Still, Cornette wins out, if only for the reaction he got at the end of the Last Stampede. Think about it -- his team had been all but killed by Bill Watts and Stagger Lee. Per the match stipulations, Cornette had been pummeled and put into either a dress or a diaper (depending on where you saw the match). He had been beaten, humiliated, seemingly left without heat. Still, fans tried to get to him as he made his way to the back. Some fought cops in an effort to get at him. A guy who still has that much heat after being put in Drag or a diaper has to get the nod.
6. Famous feuds
These two were not involved in every great feud in Mid-South history (JYD vs Butch Reed, JYD vs. Freebirds, Ernie Ladd vs Ray Candy, Dick Murdoch vs. Killer Karl Kox and many others come to mind), but both were involved in some legendary confrontations.
Cornette’s time in Mid-South was largely defined by his team’s war with the Rock & Roll Express. The Midnights and the Rock & Rolls battled back and forth for months, with the Midnights winning round one in July, driving the other Express out of Mid-South after a loser-leaves-town match. Ninety days later, though, the Rock & Roll Express came back and quickly won the belts from their arch-foes. Soon after, the Midnights were gone after losing a series of historic (if barely watchable) scaffold matches. The feud carried on later in Jim Crockett Promotions, but their 1984 encounters made for one of the greatest feuds in Mid-South history. Even after the scaffold matches, as mentioned above, Cornette would return to guide the Guerrero brothers against the Rock & Rolls for one match.
Cornette and the Midnights also feuded with Jim Duggan, which included Cornette buying off special ref Steve Williams in a hair match involving Duggan versus Hercules Hernandez. Cornette’s antics in the Midnight Express’ feud with Mr. Wrestling II and Magnum TA caused more than one near-riot, and we cannot forget his feud with Bill Watts that culminated in "The Last Stampede" (more on that below). Akbar’s men feuded famously with Junkyard Dog, Mr. Wrestling II, Dick Murdoch, Bill Watts (see below) and Butch Reed, but his greatest foe was Hacksaw Jim Duggan. From the moment Duggan split from Rat Pack partner Ted DiBiase over DiBiase’s alignment with Akbar, Duggan and the General’s forces were at war. And whenever the two were in the area at the same time, the war raged on for much of the next three years.
Akbar gave interviews that were deliberate and methodical, talking about how whoever his man was facing would be utterly destroyed.
Cornette had not yet developed the rapid-fire, motormouth style that would become his trademark, but was still witty, and showed signs of the superlative interview he would become. He also managed to convey a sense of menace about the Midnight Express while doing whiny promos that got him over as a wimpy mama’s boy.
Akbar was good on the mike, able to generate real hatred and malice, but Cornette generated a variety of emotions with a few minutes of talk. On the microphone, the Louisville Lip had no peers.
Being evil and hatching diabolical plots is all well and good, but ultimately unsatisfying for fans if the bad guy never gets his in the end. Fortunately for Mid-South fans, Cornette and Akbar both got what was coming to them, more than once.
Cornette had his face rubbed in cake, his head shaved and his body stripped so he could be put in a diaper or dress. He was also beaten up by the Rock & Roll Express and Jim Duggan more than once.
Akbar received many beatings as well, most notably in late 1985, when on his way out of Mid-South, he had to replace an absent Kamala to face Jim Duggan in a series of singles matches. Needless to say, Duggan went through the General like a warm knife through butter.
Still, while Akbar was punished, he never faced humiliation on a regular basis like Cornette did. In losing so horrendously, Cornette gets the duke here.
9. The Bill Watts factor
"Cowboy" Bill Watts was the face, the voice and the spirit of Mid-South. Watts, the ever-righteous president of Mid-South, retired as an active wrestler in 1982, but the hijinks of both managers brought of him out of retirement.
In 1984, Cornette held a celebration that ended with his face in the cake, courtesy of the Rock & Roll Express. With a little time left over at the end of that episode, Watts thought it was funny enough to show again.
After the replay, Cornette came out and was not amused. He threatened to sue everyone, saying he would end up owning Mid-South and would have Watts’ "stupid, geeky-looking son" selling Midnight Express T-shirts. Watts warned Cornette not to talk about his family and walked away. Cornette grabbed Watts, who turned and slapped Cornette with the force of a cannon. The next week, Cornette and the Midnights laid out Watts from behind, as Watts interviewed Butch Reed.
Watts decided to take matters into his own hands, enlisting Stagger Lee (who strongly resembled Junkyard Dog, but COULDN’T have been, as Dog was serving a 90-day suspension) to team with him for one more go-round, "The Last Stampede." If the Midnights won, Cornette would gain control of Mid-South for six months. If they lost, Cornette would be put into a dress or a diaper. It was simple and straightforward, but still compelling -- it drew sellouts or near-sellouts everywhere the match was featured.
A year later, Skandor Akbar was banned for life from Mid-South, after seemingly ending Hacksaw Duggan’s career with a fireball. Akbar’s lawyers got that ruling overturned, however, making Watts mad enough to come back to the ring for revenge on behalf of Duggan.
Watts and Duggan teamed throughout the summer, before Watts dropped a loser-leaves match, thanks to interference from El Corsario, Akbar’s newest charge (the Puerto Rican martial arts expert would gain greater fame as TNT in his homeland, and as Kwang and Savio Vega in the WWF).
The feud pretty much petered out, as Watts never did quite get his revenge on Akbar, although Duggan scored revenge in a series of loser-leaves matches with the General (see "Comeuppence," above) that put a temporary end to Devastation Inc.
Watts’ feud with Akbar lasted longer, but did not have the special feel that the Last Stampede did. Put it another way -- when people talk about the great Mid-South angles, they always mention The Last Stampede, but you don’t usually hear someone mention, "The Stampede’s Alive in ‘85."
10. Sheer evil
Cornette never had the evil heart Akbar did. Cornette was certainly devious and arrogant, but was more of a pest, who cared only about winning and keeping the tag titles. He would gleefully interfere in matches and plot against those who thwarted him. Cornette’s idea of interference was hitting a foe with his tennis racquet, or putting them out with an ether-soaked cloth.
Akbar’s idea of interference was setting someone on fire or bringing in his legion of monolithic wrestlers to injure someone and end the man’s career. He was motivated by a need to dominate and destroy. Where Akbar would put bounties up for anyone who could seriously injure one of his rivals, Cornette would put up some of his mother’s money to get "one more match" with the Rock & Roll Express.
Another thing to consider is how bad each manager was in comparison to other heels in the territory. Leading up to the Last Stampede, Cornette orchestrated a Midnight Express attack on Bill Watts while Watts was interviewing top heel Butch Reed. The attack was so heinous that Reed threw up his arms and walked off, as if to say, "My hands are clean of this one." Yes, even Butch Reed, who painted Stagger Lee yellow and teamed with Soviet traitor Krusher Khruschev, wanted nothing to do with the sneak attack on Watts.
Akbar, however, was so bad that even other heels turned into heroes rather than align themselves with him. Hacksaw Duggan is a good example, as is the aforementioned Butch Reed, who chose a beating from Ted DiBiase and Hercules Hernandez over a Rolex watch and an chance to join Akbar. Akbar also thought nothing of turning on other heels. In 1982, he bought the Samoans out from under the dastardly Ernie Ladd, who became a hero in Mid-South for the first time in years. Finally, consider this -- if the two managers were standing in the ring having this contest 18 years ago, Cornette would probably try to eke out a win by having the Midnight Express run in and beat up Akbar, leaving him bruised and bloodied. Akbar’s plot would probably involve debilitating, permanent injury, with permanent scarring.
Well, there it is – undeniable truth that Skandor Akbar was the all-time greatest manager in Mid-South history. This outcome might not be a popular one, but the numbers don’t lie. And besides, Akbar is used to winning in unpopular fashion.
We’ll look at some of the great foreign objects in Mid-South, and how the wildest wrestling company around tried to ban them outright.
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