An Article by Mike Mooneyham
Stan Lane carved his niche in the wrestling business as a member of two of the most famous tag-teams of the ’80s. He’s also the answer to a great trivia question.
Lane spent the first half of the decade teaming with Steve Keirn as The Fabulous Ones
arguably the most popular duo ever to appear in the then-booming Memphis-Nashville territory. He later joined Bobby Eaton and manager Jim Cornette in 1986 to form one of the most celebrated teams in wrestling history, The Midnight Express, until a breakup in 1990.
Lane is unique, however, because he is the only wrestler ever personally trained by Ric Flair.
[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]The two met in Myrtle Beach in the summer of 1978. Lane, who grew up in Greensboro but moved to the beach in the late ’70s, was working three jobs at the time: as a lifeguard, head bouncer at Mother Fletcher’s night club and doing morning room service at the Myrtle Beach Hilton, which is where the two first crossed paths.
“(I was delivering) Four Bloody Marys, the door opened, and it was Ric in his underwear. I won’t go into detail,” jokes Lane.
Flair ended up training Lane in the back yard of his house in Charlotte. Lane began his pro career shortly thereafter and started under the name Stan Flair, changing his monicker to “Nature Boy” Stanley Lane in Texas and Florida.
Lane, 45, who retired from in-ring competition in 1993, says he got bit by the wrestling bug and is itching to get back in the squared circle.
“Now that wrestling has gotten so hot again, I thought I’d give it a shot,” says Lane, who keeps in shape by working out daily at Ricky Steamboat’s gym in Lake Norman, N.C., less than a mile from Lane’s home. “Maybe just one more run.”
Lane served as a WWF announcer from 1993-96. For the past several years he has done offshore power boat race broadcasting on an ESPN II show called Speed World.
“I’ve basically been retired since leaving the WWF in 1993. I do the power boat stuff and occasional TV commercials and voice-overs in the Charlotte area, and I play a lot of golf, so I thought maybe I should just get a little busy for a change instead of living the life of leisure.”
Lane was a natural for the wrestling business. He turned pro on Dec. 29, 1978, and was in the sport for less than a year when he teamed with Bryan St. John to win the prestigious Florida tag-team straps from Eddie Graham and Ray Stevens.
“It was unheard of at that time to be a champion after only a year,” says Lane. “It was more of a fraternity type thing back then where you usually had to pay your dues for about five years or longer. It was a great honor with two legends like that.”
Lane’s success continued as he spent the following year as Georgia junior heavyweight champion (ironically teaming with Dennis Condrey, the man he would replace several years later in The Midnight Express), and later moved to the Pensacola area where he won the U.S. junior heavyweight title. Lane also spent five weeks in Japan where he defended the title against such Japanese stars as Tatsumi Fujinami.
But it was with Steve Keirn in 1981 that Lane made his first major impact on the wrestling business. A revolutionary team called The Fabulous Ones took Tennessee by storm.
“We were the first tag-team to use videos to promote ourselves. We were more like rock stars. It was a great period for us,” says Lane, whose reputation as an ultimate “party guy” translated well to his new role as a member of a team built around two wrestlers with blond hair, well-developed bodies and youthful good looks, but with ring ability as well. It also marked the beginning of a decade that would spawn similar teams such as The Rock and Roll Express (Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson), The Fantastics (Bobby Fulton and Tommy Rogers) and The Midnight Rockers (Shawn Michaels and Marty Janetty).
Lane had been a heel in Tennessee and was managed by Jimmy Hart, but turned babyface in 1982 and was billed as the protege of area legend Jackie Fargo. With Fargo’s blessing, Lane and Keirn dubbed themselves The Fabulous Ones, a takeoff on The Fabulous Fargos team from a previous generation, and proceeded to set the Jerry Jarrett promotion on fire, drawing the biggest crowds that area had ever seen. In yet another touch of irony, Jim Cornette, who at the time was an under study for Hart, had been scheduled to manage The Fabs after a heel turn. The turn never took place, though, and Cornette went on to make his mark in mat history by managing The Midnight Express, a team that would later include Lane.
Lane and Keirn rode their success in 1984 to Verne Gagne’s AWA where they headlined for nearly a year and worked high-profile programs with such teams as The Road Warriors, Jesse Ventura and Mr. Saito, Greg Gagne and Jim Brunzell, and The Sheiks (Ken Patera and Crusher Blackwell). The Fabs returned to Nashville and the Mid-South area in 1985 for another one-year run before leaving for Florida. That territory, however, was no longer the booming hotbed that it had once been, and Keirn, a native of the state, decided to break the team up when he joined his father-in-law’s real estate business.
Lane, however, was not to be on the shelf for long.
“About two weeks later my phone rang and it was Dusty Rhodes calling from Jim Crockett’s office,” says Lane. “They flew me up to Charlotte, and that’s when I joined The Midnight Express with Bobby Eaton and Jim Cornette.”
Lane took Condrey’s place in The Express in 1986 when Condrey, being outvoted by Eaton and Cornette over an opportunity to take a job with the WWF, left the team and the National Wrestling Alliance (later to become WCW). The new version of The Express didn’t lose a beat, however, as Lane possessed more speed, was flashier and had far greater charisma than his predecessor. The team of “Sweet” Stan Lane and “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton, behind one of the greatest managers in the business, held the NWA tag-team belts and were named tag-team of the year in 1987-88. Their matches with teams such as The Rock and Roll Express, The Fantastics, The Original Midnight Express (Condrey and Randy Rose), The Road Warriors, Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard, and Barry Windham and Ron Garvin were among the best area fans had ever seen. The two were innovative, and created maneuvers like the rocket launcher, Alabama jam and the vegomatic.
The partnership, though, ended in 1990 after a falling out with then-WCW boss Jim Herd and booker Ole Anderson. Lane and Cornette abruptly left the company, but Eaton decided to stay.
“I was very fortunate,” Lane says of his career breaks. “I had a very good run.”
Lane helped Cornette start the Tennessee-based Smoky Mountain Wrestling promotion in the early ’90s and formed yet an other top team with Dr. Tom Prichard as The Heavenly Bodies. Lane left the company after two years.
“It was so darn dangerous,” says Lane. “Cornette was hot-shoting the territory in towns like Harlan and Pineville, Ky. I wasn’t going to get stabbed up there.”
That Lane would become such a proficient tag-team wrestler shouldn’t come as a surprise. He grew up on the tag-team-rich wrestling tradition in the Carolinas during the ’60s.
“I watched Rip Hawk and Swede Hanson, George Becker and Johnny Weaver, The Bolos and The Kentuckians, with announcers like Bob Caudle and Charlie Harville,” says Lane, who adds that he didn’t have any aspirations of becoming a pro wrestler at the time.
Lane, who has an extensive martial arts background and fought in tournaments during the mid-’70s, laments the fact that certain aspects of the wrestling business have become lost in the new sports-entertainment version.
“The business has changed dramatically,” says Lane. “It’s more of a soap opera. The art of working the crowd – making them laugh, making them cry, making them mad, making them sad – it’s all gone. The main thing now is the ring entrance – the glitz, the glamour, the pyrotechnics. The match is an afterthought.”