53. RICKY MORTON
Hometown – Nashville, Tennessee
Debuted – 1978
Titles Held – NWA World Tag Team; WCW Six Man Tag Team; USWA Tag Team
Other Accomplishments – Rock N Roll Express voted #4 in PWI’s 100 best tag teams list in 2003; has trained younger wrestlers including Kid Kash
There used to be a time when tag team wrestling was held in high regard. Good tag teams in the â€˜80s could legitimately draw a house. And this man knew tag team wrestling. The man that redefined the concept of a pretty-boy babyface, perfected the traditional tag team match formula, wrote the book on getting crowd sympathy and was the master of â€œplaying Ricky Morton.â€
Ricky Morton could draw the paying in the crowd into such an incredible frenzy just by essentially getting his ass kicked. He could take a convincing beating from heels probably better than other face in the â€˜80s. Morton was so good at getting worked over in tag matches that when he finally made the â€œhot tagâ€ to partner Robert Gibson the pop would rival Dusty or Hoganâ€™s. In fact he was good that the sympathetic face role in tag matches has now been unofficially named â€œthe role of Ricky Mortonâ€ or â€œplaying Ricky Morton,â€ as mentioned above.
Ricky got his start in the late â€˜70s, but it was in 1983 when Ricky met Robert Gibson and formed The Rock â€˜nâ€™ Roll Express. The rest, as they say, was wrestling history.
The pair made their first mark in Bill Wattsâ€™ Mid-South Wrestling, where they met the Midnight Express for the first time, kicking off what is one of the top two or three tag feuds ever. Along the way Ricky & Robert won the Mid-South Tag belts three times.
By 1985, Ricky and his partner showed up in the NWAâ€™s Mid-Atlantic territory. From this point on, the legacy of the R â€˜nâ€™ R Express and the selling prowess of Morton grew by leaps and bounds. The pair, but Ricky especially, were endearing fan favorites due to their small build and good looks. They were easily the NWAâ€™s top babyface team of throughout the â€˜80s and had longstanding rivalries with all the top heels of the day, including The Russians, The Andersons, The Horsemen and their old foes The Midnight Express.
Ricky was slowly breaking out as the star of the team. In the summer of â€™86, Ricky got his first taste of singles success as he went through a series of singles matches with then-NWA Champion Ric Flair on the Great American Bash tour.
The pair continued to dominate the NWA tag team scene through the â€˜80s, but as a new decade dawned, it was time for a change. In the summer of â€™91, Ricky turned heel on his injured partner and joined The York Foundation. Ricky now went by â€œRichard Mortonâ€ and had a nice run as a mid-card heel, teaming with Thomas Rich and feuding with his old partner and Dustin Rhodes. Unfortunately the heel turn didnâ€™t take off like everyone had hoped and by early â€™92 he was a low-card jobber teaming with various heels like Diamond Dallas Page and Kevin â€œVinnie Vegasâ€ Nash.
By 1993, Ricky was out of NWA/WCW and working the southern indys like Smokey Mountain and USWA. He reunited with Robert Gibson to reform their legendary team. They picked up regional tag championships and battled teams like The Heavenly Bodies and The Gangstas.
During WCWâ€™s hiring craze in 1996, Ricky & Robert were brought back to WCW. They were used primarily as face jobbers for the new heel teams of the day. They then made a brief stop in the World Wrestling Federation in the spring of â€™98 as part of the ill-fated â€œNWA invasionâ€ angle.
Since the new millennium, Ricky has been toiling through the independent scene and even made a brief appearance on one of the early editions of NWA-TNA. He is currently still semi-active and is in the starting process of writing his autobiography.
His legacy lives on through his training of such southern stars like Chris Hamrick and Kid Kash. And letâ€™s not forget he did the cocky-blonde-who-turns-on-his-brunette partner-thing months before a certain Heartbreak Kid. Where else do you think Michaels got the idea to use Kevin Nash as his personal bodyguard?
He has recently had some legal troubles, but his wrestling career shouldnâ€™t be remembered or defined by what he has become now. He is ranked on this list because of his outstanding in-ring talent, selling ability, psychology and an ability to connect with the fans that most wrestlers can only dream of. He literally redefined how to tell an entertaining tag team match.
During his heyday in the â€˜80s he was considered just as a big of star as Rhodes or Magnum. And to this day he is still a hero to those old-school fans in the southern United States. When Chris Jericho made light in his book that Ricky was on the level of Jesus to those Tennessee wrestling fans, he was only about half-kidding.
The entire Top 100 Wrestlers feature can be found here.