You can call wrestling a lot of things, but ultimately it is about telling a story. That can be accomplished in a lot of different ways, but there are a few things that have to be there to make the whole thing work. You need the right characters, the right story and the right actions, but you also need the right energy. If the vibe isn’t right, the whole thing is not going to work out. An old clip made me think about this earlier this week and it kind of shows you something that is missing from modern wrestling.

First off, the clip:

NWA Starrcade 1987 - Midnight Express entrance

And now, some backstory. This is from Starrcade 1987 in Chicago, with the United States Tag Team Champions, the Midnight Express (Beautiful Bobby Eaton on the left and Sweet Stan Lane on the right. If you somehow haven’t seen them before….egads man get out of this thing and go watch one of the best teams of all time.), on the way to the ring for a non-title Skywalkers (scaffold) match. Jim Cornette and his bodyguard, Big Bubba Rogers (Big Boss Man), are with the champs and you can feel…..well that’s what we’re getting into this time around.

It’s a short clip, but you can see a lot of things in the sixty three seconds. This really is one of the cooler entrances I’ve seen in a long time and despite knowing that the match itself is kind of lame (as scaffold matches tend to be), I want to go and watch it again. That right there is exactly what something like this is supposed to do: pull you in to a match and get you in the right mood.

That is what we’re going to be talking about this week. This entrance has a bunch of elements that come together to make this awesome. You will see some of them on a modern match every now and then, but it is very rare (though not unheard of) to see them all come together. Today we are going to look at some of the elements here and tie it to the big problem of the week.

First of all, we’ll start with the overall presentation. Just look at how the thing starts: you have the awesome theme music (seriously, that song is great) and the smoke with the lights. The team comes out of the smoke and just appear right in front of you, with Cornette looking around, seemingly impressed by the size of the audience (makes sense as it’s Chicago instead of one of the southern towns) and Rogers behind them, not really seeming to think much of it (as was his thing).

In a word, these guys look cool, or at least serious. Sure Cornette looks like a goon with his loud clothes, Rogers is a stereotypical enforcer and the Express’ long blond hair doesn’t quite scream intimidating, but the overall presentation makes up for it. This is about having a team and their entourage looking like an intimidating group and it really does work. I would believe that these guys are one of the best tag teams in the world (the belts around their waists help), even though you know absolutely nothing about them so far.

Then you have the people themselves, or at least a certain part of them. Look at their faces during the entrance. The Express look like they’re ready to fight anyone or anything. Cornette is as over the top as he always is, but the eyes say that he knows his boys are ready. Rogers….well ok he probably looks like that ordering dinner. The look Eaton gives to the fans (and whatever he mouths to them) lets you know that these guys are serious because it’s time for a fight.

The same is true over their body language. The champs walks to the ring, with Lane only throwing up the X sign for the Express and Eaton glaring at everyone else, because all he cares about is the match. Cornette is his usual self, but even he looks more serious this time around. What it all comes together to mean is that this has the big fight feel, and that is what they were shooting for with the whole thing.

Finally you have a case of addition by subtraction: there is no commentary talking over the whole thing (at least in the YouTube version). Commentary talking during an entrance is not the worst thing and is certainly not an instant negative, but this was a great example of stopping the talking and letting the visuals speak for themselves. It helps so much, and in this case it is the right call to make.

All of these things come together to make this entrance work. It wouldn’t work for everyone and it isn’t the greatest of all time (or even the best Express entrance) but it set the stage for one of the bigger matches on the card. These guys did their job and I can’t imagine they had a lot of coaching on how to make this work, aside from maybe some Dusty Rhodes pointers.

So now flash forward with me to this weekend, as WWE will be presenting Hell In A Cell. So far, the two matches that will take place inside the Cell are Rey Mysterio challenging Roman Reigns for the Universal Title (somehow their first ever singles match) and Bobby Lashley defending the WWE Title against Drew McIntyre (their third pay per view title match in about a year and their third match in just over two months). These matches will be the 46th and 47th matches to ever take place inside the Cell.

Now here’s what I can almost guarantee you about the entrances to these matches: none of them will stand out, they will be about the same as you see on any given edition of Monday Night Raw or SmackDown, and it will involve CG graphics, including a twenty five foot tall Reigns. In other words, it will be what you see every week, because WWE does not want something on a major show to feel different if it isn’t WrestleMania.

At the same time, you’ll have commentary talking over the entrances and explaining as many details as they can, many of which will not likely make complete sense because WWE is not very good at telling stories, while also probably insulting each other or trying to get the commentators’ personalities over, because COMMENTATORS need to be characters these days.

I know it’s a cliché by this point, but this is one of those situations where the old school stuff is absolutely better than the modern versions. Everything will be brightly lit to show off the video screens behind the barricades and the entrances will feel like they could be on any given television show as the wrestlers come out from the same set with identical graphics to a match they wrestled on Monday Night Raw or SmackDown earlier this month.

WWE has the skills and resources to make this kind of a problem go away. Their wrestlers know how to put off the right kind of attitude and aura to make their entrances feel special, but for some reason WWE would rather go with simple and forgettable. It isn’t going to ruin the show or even the match, but it is the kind of thing that could make a difference. Given the problems that WWE has, every little bit helps, even if it is as much as proper sneering.

Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at, or check out his- Amazon author page with 30 wrestling books.

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