Interview with Robert Gibson –
Douglasville Resident and Rock 'n Roll Express member
Robert Gibson may be the most famous resident of Douglasville. Inducted in to the WWE Hall of Fame in March of this year, his wrestling career has spanned 40 years. He will be one of the wrestlers featured in the WWE 2K18 game, which will be released later this year.
At the height of the popularity of The Rock 'n Roll Express tag team, a Charlotte police officer had to be stationed in front of his home, and the residence of his long time partner Ricky Morton. The pair holds the record for the longest continuous tag team at 35 years. They still wrestle nearly every weekend around the Southeast.
Robert moved to Douglasville six years ago to be with his “beautiful fiancé Tami”. About two years ago, he opened All Pro Championship Wrestling Academy here, and he also orchestrates a wrestling event one Saturday night each month at the National Guard Armory on Church Street. The next event will be on October 21.
In person, Robert is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. I, my son Jesse, and Associate Publisher Joe Keith, had the opportunity to interview him at his wrestling school, and at IHOP in Douglasville. As we dined at IHOP a couple of people came to our table to ask for an autograph, and he was very welcoming. One can tell that he loves his fans, and the sport that he has been involved in since boyhood.
He loves to joke around and always has a smile when he’s not punishing an opponent and “making them holler”. During our interview at IHOP, he entertained us by standing a spoon upright in his cup and telling the waitress that the coffee must be pretty thick. One can understand why he has been a fan favorite throughout his career.
Even if you are not a wrestling fan, you’ll probably find a great deal about this interview interesting.
Tim: I guess the first question would have to be, how did you get into wrestling?
Robert: I grew up in Pensacola, Florida and started training myself when I was 10 years old. My brother Rick Gibson was six years ahead of me. He was the first wrestler ever to do a drop kick off of the top rope. We used to train in the back yard, and we would go to the beach and do suplexes into the ocean. I also wrestled for three years in high school. I helped set the ring up, put up wrestling chairs, sold tickets. Same thing Rick did, I just followed his steps. I remember riding in the car with him after a match, and he’d say “Might as well hang your boots up Robert. You’ll never make it in this business.” I guess that inspired me because I am still here. I became a professional at the age of 17, after my brother became a pro. We were a tag team - Rick and Robert Gibson – The Gibson Brothers. I also wrestled solo some at that time. My brother got into a wreck caused by a drunk driver and that ended his career and eventually his life.
Tim: Is that when you partnered with Ricky Morton and became The Rock 'n Roll Express? How did you come up with that name and did you have a theme song?
We won the world title in 1985 in Shelby, North Carolina – defeated the Russians (Ivan Koloff and Krusher Khruschev). That match lasted 56 minutes. It was a TV taping, but the match lasted so long that it was the only match that made the 60 minute show. There were 6 other matches that didn’t get on the air. It was in July and hot and a packed house and our very first night coming to the Carolinas. People had only seen videos of us. When we got there, the line was around the building. People had never seen anything like the The Rock 'n Roll Express. We were like movie stars.
Tim: I heard that in 1986 The Rock 'n Roll Express had a fan club with a tie to Douglasville.
Robert: Yes, the first member ever was from Douglasville. Dawn Terry.
Tim: Any idea how many matches you have been in during your entire career?
Robert: You know what, I would have no idea. I started in 1977. I was 17 years old. Whew – lot of years. I remember when we were world champions in 1985, we wrestled nine months defending our titles without a day off. That included twice on Saturday and twice on Sunday. That was nine matches each week for nine months. (351 matches in nine months).
Jesse (Tim’s son): Do you have a favorite year in Pro Wrestling?
Robert: Every day the Good Man upstairs lets me live another year is a good year. I would say when I first started. That was what I really wanted to do and I finally got in the big time. Saw my name up on the marquis. Got my butt whooped a lot. Then as the years went on I was able to be partners with my brother, Rick Gibson, from 1979 to 1982. Then Ricky Morton and I got together in 1982. That was a roller coaster ride that ‘til today is still running.
Tim: Who do you think the best wrestler you ever competed against was, in terms of just skill?
Robert: I know my favorite wrestler growing up was a guy called “The Wrestling Pro”. He wore a solid white outfit and a solid white mask. He NEVER took the mask off. I was little, but I had access to the back and all of the buildings. I never caught him without his mask off the whole time I was growing up. I am talking 4, 5 or 6 years, wrestling every Sunday night at the auditorium. I’d even sneak by the shower, and he’d have his mask on in the shower. I didn’t know who he was.
Tim: Do you know who he is now?
Robert: Yeah, but you know what, when I saw him without a mask – I remember me and a friend were in a restaurant and he whispered, “Robert, that’s the Wrestling Pro over there”. “Where”. “Right there”. “There ain’t NO WAY that’s The Wrestling Pro”. This guy looked like a science teacher. I started laughing. But it was him, and his name was Tarzan Baxter. He wasn’t muscle bound, but just a thick man. That’s who I wanted to grow up to be like. Never got to wrestle him. We’ve become good friends – even before I saw his face.
Tim: That’s such a cool story. What do you think the attributes of a good wrestler are?
Robert: Heart. Gotta have the heart if you want to do this business. Has to be something you love because it’s not easy. Anytime a man picks you up and throws you down – there’s no faking that. You can get hurt out there. I have had guys come to the school and try it, and after two weeks you never see them again.
Tim: So, do you still keep up with a lot of the wrestlers?
Robert: I see them at conventions and different events. Next weekend me, Ricky, and Terry Funk are partners. We’re doing an event in Spartanburg, South Carolina that is already sold out. Terry Funk was around before I was around.
Tim: For your wrestling events one Saturday a month at the National Guard Armory, where do the wrestlers come from?
Robert: They come from Tennessee, South Florida, and North and South Carolina, and some from my school in Douglasville (All Pro Championship Wrestling Academy). Over the years as I have been out doing my shows, I see some kids that look good and I figured they would do well at my show and I invite them.
Tim: I am looking forward to the show on Saturday. When I visited your school, I was struck by how fast it is. It’s hard to grasp that from TV, but when you are right there it is pretty amazing.]\
Robert: It’s a big difference isn’t it? Have you ever been to a live show?
Tim: No. I saw parts of your show on DVD when I was at your school. It looks very professional.
Robert: You’re fixing to have an experience you’ve never seen. Wait until you see an APCW show live.
Tim: Where do you get the referees?
Robert: The referee is from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He used to referee for me years ago, then he retired, but he called me and told me he’d “been bit by the bug” again and so came out of retirement. I remember one night in Alabama, there were some people holding up a sign that said “Referee Fears Food” – that’s how skinny he is. They weren’t booing him, just holding up that sign. (laughs)
Tim: Have you had many injuries over the years?
Robert: Teeth knocked out, knee injury, ACL in my right knee, cracked ribs, more stitches than I could ever count. I’ve got soreness every morning, and chiropractors in almost every city. After I had my knee surgery I was off for 9 months. I missed it a lot. You’ve got to keep going in a match even when you are hurt.
Jesse: What’s your favorite Pay-Per-View, past or present?
Robert: I would say mine was the Scaffold Match. That was a pay-per-view in Chicago. That’s where you wrestle 20 feet above the ring on a scaffold, and the only way to win is to knock your opponent off.
Tim: Oh man, that’s pretty scary. Did you win?
Robert: Yeah, we won. Scary isn’t the word. Heights don’t bother me but it scared my partner. He kept saying, “Stop shaking it Robert”. There were two scaffolds above the ring. You’ll have to pull that up on the Internet.
Joe: If someone is getting in to wrestling, can they overcome their lack of coordination or skill?
Robert: The can improve it. Take doing something simple, like a forward roll - You’d think that would be easy because it’s something you did as a kid, but there is an art to it. The way you roll and get to your feet. Like my kids that I am training now – when they first got there one of the biggest and hardest things to do was a forward roll. Now they go out there (pointing at the parking lot) and just do it on the concrete.
Tim: I guess you and Ricky are “Good Guys”. Did you ever turn against each other or turn into people the fans would hate?
Robert: When I was out with knee surgery, I was out for 9 months. During the time I was out, he turned with the York Foundation. Then I started back about a month after that and we had a little thing going on. That’s the only time. The people didn’t want to see it.
Tim: When did you find out you were going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame?
Robert: It was around the first of the year.
Tim: Was that the exciting moment of your career?
Robert: I would say going into the Hall of Fame was one of many. We wrestled every night going into different towns. This is what it was like in a typical week. We’d start off on Saturday morning doing an appearance in Atlanta on Channel 17 (TBS). After that was over, you’d get in a cab, grab some lunch and shoot off to the airport. Get on a plane Saturday afternoon and fly to Philadelphia. Get off the plane. Wrestle that night. Go to the hotel. Sleep. Wake up. Go to the Philadelphia airport. Get on a plane and fly to Miami. Get off the plane, get something to eat, wrestle. Get back on a plane. The next day I am in Kansas City.
Tim: So, it wasn’t like getting on a bus and going an hour or two.
Robert: No, It was living out of a suitcase. You were going so much you didn’t have time to stop and realize where you were. I told Crockett Promotions, “Hey, we’ve got to have a day off.” His exact words were, “If we leave y’all off, the company loses $25,000 a day."
Tim: Compared to now, did wrestlers make good money back then?
Robert: I guess it’s like football or baseball, every year it is getting bigger. These guys today are making very good money. I guess for my period of time, I did well. In the late ‘90s is when the money started to go crazy, when Ted Turner got involved.
Tim: Do you have a signature move?
Robert: Ricky and I do a Double Drop Kick, and I have the Gibson Leg Lock. That’s like a submission hold – it’ll make you holler.
Tim: Do you ever get nervous before matches?
Robert: I still get a little twinkle. Not as bad as it used to be but yeah. You still have to go in front of the people. Then you’ve got to be alert. Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t get hurt. Watch the other guy. When you walk out, your mind is straight in the ring. You see all of these people but your mind is focused. I’m Robert here, but when I walk out of that door, I’m The Rock 'n Roll Express. It’s like Superman putting on his outfit. I can’t explain it.
Tim: How has wrestling has changed since you started?
Robert: It’s more about entertainment now. It’s just different. Now there is a lot more talking than there is wrestling. It’s also more physical.
Tim: Do you still watch the Wrestle Manias and the Royal Rumbles?
Robert: Yeah, the last Wrestle Mania I had the privilege of being there because I was inducted to the WWE Hall of Fame that week. I try to go to as many as I can.
Tim: What’s the most unusual thing you’ve seen in your career?
Robert: I have seen times where the Midnight Express would beat us and people were so mad they were jumping off of the balcony trying to get at them. This would happen every night. I remember one night in Philadelphia it got so bad that the Midnight Express Manager, who would normally watch the match, would have to turn his back to the ring to watch the fans because they used to jump him so much. That was even with security around him. In his book, it said when he was in Louisiana he would always leave early and take his time because everybody hated him – cops, everyone. They really believed that the Midnight Express cheated The Rock 'n Roll Express. They even arrested the Midnight Express in a small town there once.
Tim: Do you still train much for wrestling?
Robert: I tell you, my school keeps me pretty busy. I got in the ring with my boys last night. I try to be there as much as I can.
Joe: So, how much of a match is scripted and how much is improv?
Robert: Most of the time, you just go out there and go. Sometimes, especially now, I go into the ring and I don’t even know who I am wrestling. We’ve been doing it so long if they try to get cute, I just make ‘em holler. I’m only going to let this guy do to me what I want him to do. We don’t try to go out there and kill each other. We try to wrestle and have fun. Sometimes we lose our tempers. You have got to have a lot of respect for each other. If not, it will be taught to you very quick.
Joe: What about those chairs – I see red marks on wrestler’s backs from them.
Robert: Yeah or a dent in the chair. A lot of people say those chairs don’t hurt, but let me hit you with one. Like I say, you don’t try to hurt anyone, but sometimes it happens.
Tim: So, are most of the guys that you and Ricky are wrestling now mostly regional wrestlers?
Robert: Yeah, usually they are the champions of their guys. Sometimes we also wrestle veterans. I wish that was every night because it would be a lot easier. The veterans are more skilled so there is less risk of getting hurt. A lot of the young guys are so nervous just getting in the ring with us, and the more nervous you are the stiffer you are.
Tim: Looking back, would you change anything about your career?
Robert: If I had to do anything over, I would do the same thing. Probably would be a little smarter, but I enjoy meeting the fans. I get to see the world – every country except Australia.
Tim: How long do you think you’ll keep wrestling?