The Midnight Rider

The Midnight Rider

When WWE decided to introduce fans to Mr. America, newer fans have been under the assumption that this is a unique, creative way to bring Hulk Hogan back, In fact, nothing could be further from the case. The gimmick of a mysterious masked man who looks suspiciously like a recently suspended wrestler is as old as Hogan himself. Tommy Rich (Mr. R), Barry Windham (Yellow Dog), Randy Savage (Mr. Madness), and Brian Pillman (Yellow Dog – yes, again) all did this schtick. And while this storyline has been played out time and again, every few years it comes back like an unwanted rash.

Without question, one of the most infamous of these such events took place in the old NWA region. Let’s hop in the wayback machine and set the dial to 1988…

Magnum TA, who at one time was pegged to be the next big star in pro wrestling, crashes his car at over 100 MPH. His in-ring career over, he begins a managerial stint, and begins to interfere in fellow fan favorites’ matches.

This infuriates the Four Horsemen, specifically long-time Magnum nemesis Tully Blanchard who assaults TA.

Magnum’s suck buddy Dusty Rhodes waddles out for the save, and begins to beat on Blanchard with some really stiff baseball bat shots. In the melee, the American Splotch wacks NWA President Jim Crockett in the head.

While beating up a cripple is acceptable behavior in the board of directors’ book, hitting a suit with a Louisville Slugger is a major no no. The board therefore orders a suspension, despite the prayers of big Dust.

Speaking of which, can you imagine that converstation with the Lord? “Dear Lord, please bless me this mornin’…preferably with a big plate of hotcakes, sausage, ham, bacon, grits, eggs, hash browns, home fries, biscuits, gravy, blueberry muffins, toast with jelly and jam, bagels, oatmeal, waffles, English muffins, Chocolate Fudge Pop-Tarts, and three bowls of Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch. Amen, baby!”

Shortly after the supension, vignettes begin appearing, telling fans to watch for The Midnight Rider…

…sure enough, the masked man appears! The He gallopped into town on his steed Los Diablo, who, accoring to the Rider, is, and I am quoting here, “the finest piece of horseflesh in the world.” Oh sure, you may have seen other horse flesh, but all pale in comparison to Los Diablo!

The Rider is here to bring justice to those who oppose it, in publick, if you wheeeel…by getting funky like a monkey…hmmm…there’s something not so vaguely familiar about him.

The NWA heels are immediately up in arms about this. Jim Cornette rants and raves as only he can

…while Kevin Sullivan urges his fellow nogoodniks to team up in order to fend off the Cowboy with the Horsey from Hell.

You know, we talk about how WWE is almost entirely booked around Hunter, but that is nothing compared to the old NWA when Dusty was booking. It was Dusty Dusty Dusty. Even guys that had no involvement in his feuds would talk about how great he was. HHH has NOTHING on Big Dust.

Most livid, of course, is James J. Dillon, manager of the Horsemen. He corners Jim Crockett, and asks him why he won’t suspend The Rider.

Crockett looked like the dumbest walrus this side of Chumley as he mumbled, “Duuuuhhhh…I don’t know who that is.”

So the Rider begins his path of destruction, KO’ing jobbers left and right. Strangly, he did so using moves that were very similar to those of the departed Dream, bringing delight to…well…no one in particular.

The Rider hung out for a few more weeks before returning once again as the flabby tub of goo we all know and love.

The explanation?

Well….ummm…there wasn’t one. The angle was simply dropped.

One of the most ironic parts of the entire scenario was that this was actually Dusty’s second run as the Midnight Rider. He had actually done the exact same gimmick five years earlier in Florida. That time, he actually won the NWA title, but was forced to relinquish the belt for refusing to unmask before NWA officials.

Let us all pray that Vince doesn’t go that far.

Dust…err, The Midnight Rider: “My name is … The Midnight Rider. I come from Diablo Canyon in Colorado. This here children is Los Diablo, the finest piece of horse flesh in the world. And he belongs to me!”

Jim Cornette: “I am sick and tired of stuff like this! You know, I saw what Dusty Rhodes did and we all thought he should have been suspended and stripped of the title and I was glad it happened. And then they show this Midnight Rider tape. Ray Charles knows who that is, he can see it plain as day!”

JJ Dillon: “I am glad I have you here with me, I’ve been chasing the board of directors around. I’ve hired this cameraman to follow me around. Now this thing with this Midnight Rider has gone entirely too far.”

A quick point about this sound bite. Bravo to Dillon for explaning why the cameraman was there. Today, we are simply supposed to believe that a camera is every where in the wrestling universe, and if you stop to think about it, that’s really dumb. Why would Torrie Wilson just let a camera man hang out in the women’s shower? It’s little stuff like this that make me appreciate the realistic/kayfabe approach of things back in the day.

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