Pulse Wrestling’s Top 100 Wrestlers of the Modern Era: #80 – Stan Lane

80. STAN LANE

AliasesSweet Stan Lane; Stan Flair
Debuted1974
Titles HeldNWA United States Tag Team; USWA Tag
Team
; AWA Southern Tag Team
Other Accomplishmentsentered semi-retirement in 1993;
did announcing work for the WWF in 1994, including hosting
Wrestling Challenge

If you’re ever wondering what Jim Ross is referring to when he tosses around the term “tag team specialist” on Monday nights, track down a tape (or I guess a WWE 24/7 segment) of Stan Lane and you’ll have a much better idea. With his good looks and polished in-ring skills, Lane probably could have had a decent run as a singles performer, but instead he spent two decades as the ultimate team player, keeping the tag team scene alive in the late 80’s and early 90’s as a member of two great duos and one legendary unit, which gives him his own spot as one of our Top 100 Wrestlers of the Modern Era.

Lane debuted in the National Wrestling Alliance’s Florida Championship Wrestling territory as a singles competitor after being trained by Ric Flair in 1974. However, it would be six years before Lane made his first major impact on a national level.

In 1982, Lane journeyed to the Memphis-based Continental Wrestling Association where bookers Jerry Lawler and Jerry Jarrett teamed him with another good-looking young blond wrestler, Steve Keirn. With the endorsement of legendary Memphis hero “Fabulous One” Jackie Fargo, Lane and Keirn became the Fabulous Ones, the most popular tag team in the territory. Lawler and Jarrett promoted the team with then-innovative gimmicks like music videos and dressed them like Chippendale dancers with sequined tuxedoes and top hats.

The Fabulous Ones captured the CWA’s Southern Tag Team championship less than a year after their formation, the first of 15 times the duo would hold the title. Also in their first 12 months together, Lane and Keirn ignited what would be a five-year rivalry with the brutal Sheepherders (probably better known by their later docile incarnation as the Bushwhackers in the WWF). The contrast of the pretty Fabulous Ones and ultra-violent Sheepherders made for the perfect feud and their bloody matches over the next half decade showed that Lane and Keirn were capable of far more than just posing for the cameras.

Save for a brief sojourn to Texas, the Fabulous Ones remained in Memphis for the next few years, remaining perennial champions and among the promotion’s biggest draws. In 1985, the team journeyed outside their comfort zone for a fairly uneventful run in the American Wrestling Association then headed back to their roots in Florida where they met with a bit more success. Towards the end of 1986, Lane and Keirn made a final trip back to Memphis for one last run with the Sheepherders.

1987 was the year that changed it all for Stan Lane. Leaving Keirn and Memphis behind, Lane received the call from the NWA’s primary territory, Jim Crockett Promotions, to replace Dennis Condrey as Bobby Eaton’s partner “Sweet” Stan in the Jim Cornette-managed Midnight Express, one of the top heel tag teams in all of wrestling. Overnight Lane showed his versatility, going from five years of playing the virtuous pretty boy to an instant transformation into a smug bad guy who could get under the fans’ skin. The new incarnation of the Midnight Express quickly proved even more successful than the last as the two tag team specialists complimented one another perfectly in the ring while Cornette excelled on the microphone.

Lane helped Eaton and Cornette write new chapters in the feud that defined tag team wrestling in the 80’s pitting them against the Rock & Roll Express—a team ironically patterned in some ways after the Fabulous Ones—but his addition of speed and martial arts prowess also propelled the Midnight Express to their first of three NWA United States Tag Team titles in May of 1987. Lane and Eaton would trade the U.S. Tag Team title back and forth with the Fantastics, yet another team inspired by the Fabulous Ones, into 1988.

In September of 1988, Lane achieved his greatest accomplishment to date when he and Eaton defeated fellow heels Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard of the Four Horsemen to win the NWA World Tag Team titles and solidify themselves as the top team in all of the NWA and possibly the world. The Midnight Express proved so dominant that despite not altering their heel tactics, crowds began to cheer the team enthusiastically, one of the first examples of the “bad guys” gaining the support of the people foreshadowing events of a decade later.

At the end of 1988, Lane and Eaton dropped the World Tag Team belts to the Road Warriors, but officially made the transition along with Cornette to full-fledged babyfaces. Their new status would carry into 1989 and an unexpected challenge from the returned Dennis Condrey, teamed with old partner Randy Rose and managed by Cornette rival Paul E. Dangerously as the Original Midnight Express. After a couple initial setbacks, the Lane/Eaton/Cornette combination proved the superior Midnight Express, running Condrey & Rose out of the NWA.

As 1989 wore on, the Midnight Express found themselves overlooked as far as title contention, but along the way picked up a pair of not necessarily desired protégés in the Dynamic Dudes. The enthusiastic young babyface team of Shane Douglas and Johnny Ace latched onto Lane and Eaton, claiming they were their idols, and asked Cornette to manage them as well, a request he complied with, annoying the Midnight Express in the process. In November, the Lane and Eaton challenged the Dudes to a match with Cornette in a neutral corner and ended up cheating to win with the aid of their manager, who had been in cahoots with them from the start—the Midnight Express was back on the dark side where they belonged (of course the crowd hated the Dudes and thus cheered the turn, but that’s another issue).

However, despite the heel turn, the Midnight Express was on its last legs as 1990 pulled around. Lane and Eaton claimed another run with the NWA U.S. Tag Team titles from the team of Brian Pillman & Tom Zenk, but dropped the straps to the Steiner Brothers three months later. This would prove the team’s last taste of gold as Lane and Cornette departed the company during its transition into the Ted Turner-owned World Championship Wrestling leaving Eaton as a single performer and the Midnight Express buried.

After a short-lived Fabulous Ones reunion with Keirn in Memphis, Lane joined Cornette’s new Smoky Mountain Wrestling promotion and teamed with Tom Pritchard as the Heavenly Bodies, a team very much in the same vein as the Midnight Express. The Bodies won the SMW Tag Team titles five times over the next two years and renewed Lane and Cornette’s old feud with the Rock & Roll Express, even journeying back to WCW for a one-shot deal losing to their rivals at Superbrawl III in 1993.

Shortly after the Superbrawl match, Lane retired from active competition and took a job as a commentator for the World Wrestling Federation for a couple years. In the late 90’s, Lane returned to the ring and reunited with Keirn as the Fabulous Ones in the NWA Wildside promotion. Since then, Lane has remained semi-active on the independent circuit, often teaming with both Eaton and Condrey as the Midnight Express.

When you think about great wrestlers from the past 20 years, Stan Lane might not be a name that instantly leaps to mind. However, when you think of great tag teams, the Midnight Express will be at the top of the list with the Fabulous Ones not far behind and the Heavenly Bodies likely figuring in as well. Considering the common denominator of those three teams, “Sweet” Stan definitely deserves his props.

The entire Top 100 Wrestlers feature can be found here.