Interview with Wrestling Legend The Midnite Rider
by Drew Archer
Mystery and intrigue.
That sums up IZW’s freshest tag team in years, the East-West Playaz. The East-West Playaz is comprised of the Midnite Rider and Soto Miyagi, two of the most cagey and veteran wrestlers in the sport. With years and years of experience under their respective belts, they have likely forgotten more than most of today’s wrestlers even know.
It was hard tracking these two down, but I managed to get a quick interview with each of them even though they still played it close to the vest. Both Rider and Miyagi are in a heated feud with IZW Tag Team Champions, “What Wrestling Should Be” Jermaine Johnson and “Lights Out” Jordan Jacobs and their current situation had both Rider and Miyagi unwilling to sit down over coffee and shoot the breeze but I did manage to get a few tidbits of truth about their pasts and their goals in IZW. Combine that with the research that I did on my own and calling in a few favors from my worldwide connections and contacts, well, then a clearer picture started to form concerning these two wrestling masters. This is PART 1 of my extended story on the East-West Playaz covering the veteran of the crew, the Midnite Rider.
I tracked down former multi-time NWA World Champion and IZW veteran, Dusty Rhodes and talked to him about his persona in the early-70s, The Midnight Rider, which he used to ascend through the ranks of various NWA promotions. “We heard about this cat down in south Texas, who was bringing down the arenas every week. I was still new to the game and living in Austin, so I tore off down to Houston to see for myself if all the rumors were true. Sure enough, they were…” said Rhodes.
It was this initial encounter that gave Rhodes the idea for his version of, The Midnight Rider which he used to keep his enemies off balance and on the ropes for years as Rhodes carved a name for himself as one of the best to ever lace up a pair of wrestling boots.
“Make no mistake, I owe a lot to the original Midnite Rider that I saw back in Houston. The way he wrestled, the mystery of the man behind the mask, hell, even his bionic elbow is something I incorporated into my arsenal. The Midnite Rider is a true legend in the sport to those of us who came up in the 70s and even before,” Rhodes continued.
Houston was just a pit stop for Rider, who had already put in years of work throughout the country, wrestling everybody who was somebody in the ring and then taking on the toughest bully in the town at the local watering hole after his matches. When I spoke with Rider, he was very guarded about his past accomplishments and would only offer up that he had wrestled for every promoter who was somebody during wrestling’s golden heyday in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s and that the list of people he has trained include multiple world champions including Buddy Rogers, Gene Kiniski, the Funk brothers, Harley Race and more.
I also heard a story, which the veterans of that era swear by of how a young Rider teamed with Lou Thesz one time in St. Louis after a match, to totally destroy a bar and its patrons. Rider and Thesz (who was in the midst of another monumental title run with the NWA) were accosted by an angry mob who wanted to try their hand at taking on Thesz in a street fight. After dozens of bodies littered the pavement, Thesz and Rider finished their beers and then set off back to their hotel.
Rider has witnessed his fair share of changes in a business that has spanned half a century. Some he views as positive, some as negative. “I miss the days when we had territories. You could spend a little time down south in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama in the winter, then head up north to Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska during the summer. I like to travel with the seasons, and because of the territories that allowed me to wrestle year-round where the weather was always at its best. I’m proud to say that I’ve wrestled in every state in the U.S. of A. and passed through each territory several times during my run,” Rider remembered.
Rider continued, “Now with no territories, it’s harder for the new guys to get the experience they desperately need to polish off their game. There’s a bunch of fly-by-night promoters out there that only put on a show or two before they go out of business. When that happens, where do the boys go next? That’s kind of why I’ve thrown my hat in with IZW. These guys are the closest thing to the good old days of the territory and they runs shows every week, and give the boys opportunity after opportunity to step foot inside the ring and learn the craft. Once you’re here it’s up to you to rise to the top.”
Now the Midnite Rider and his tag team partner, Soto Miyagi find themselves locked in a struggle against IZW’s #1 Tag Team, and Impact Elite stalwarts, Jermaine Johnson and Jordan Jacobs. Rider didn’t seemed fazed by the daunting task that stands in front of him and his partner in taking on the Champions. “I don’t wrestle for titles. That’s very apparent by the fact that I’ve got close to fifty years in this business and wrestled for nearly every promotion in this country and if you hop on that information freeway or highway or whatever it is and type my name in the computer, you won’t find a title history. The fact that I’m still around and relevant in this sport and doing things in the ring while my peers are either in a nursing home or in the ground means more to me than any strap,” Rider added.
That’s not to say Rider has never won a championship, but he’s not the type of guy to flaunt his past accomplishments. He’s a professional wrestler, not a promoter or “some Internet guy” as he calls it.
“My history and legacy were already cemented in this business when Johnson and what’s his face were still trapped in their daddies’ sack. If we win the titles it’s not going to make my career, but I’d like to do it for the kid [Miyagi],” Rider added.
Rider remained coy when I pushed him on what he and Miyagi had up their sleeve for Johnson and Jacobs, but he promised the fans that when the time was right, and it was for all the marbles, he and Miyagi would be at their best. “Everybody’s got a weakness and I already know what theirs is. Rest assured, Miyagi and me will exploit that to the fullest extent and send those boys of Impact Elite home without their gold.”
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