Jim Cornette has brought intense heat on himself throughout his entire career. While leading the Midnight Express through Mid-South Wrestling in the mid-1980’s things could get out of hand. Cornette said thankfully, they had security to rely on who were often police officers. He discussed one city during Jim Cornette’s Drive-Thru that had the possibility of getting so out of hand that he was given extra protection.
“In Little Rock Arkansas, and this was early in the Mid-South run so probably spring time,” Cornette said. “The Little Rock Police Department did security for the matches at the Barten Collisium. They had apparently just gotten new bulletproof vests in, provided to them through the department.”
Cornette explained how important good security was during that time. Not only did it provide essential protection and peace of mind that they would be protected, but it helped in other areas as well. Police officers who were friendly with the boys in the back were more prone to turn a blind eye when needed. It was also good to have security that wasn’t going to turn on them due to the hometown heat.
“It was the same cops especially on the heel side all the time,” Cornette explained. “Because the promoters liked to use the same guys because they were loyal to them and they overlooked certain things that may happen because they were getting a payoff for being there. At the same time, they knew how to watch the fans and protect the heels. It was beneficial all around in your regular towns to have the same crew. Especially when they’re legitimate police officers and can take people to jail. It’s nice that the wrestlers always had them on their side.
“One of the cops that always walked us out and this was the place where when I was coming back from the ring someone vomited on my leg. This is the place where they called in the death threat to [Ted] DiBiase. They were gonna shoot him and that was the night when I was in the [shark] cage over the ring and I was a sitting duck.”
Cornette explained how passionate and potentially violent the Little Rock, Arkansas fans could get. They had protection down to a science to help Cornette and The Midnight Express escape after their matches. He also had one extremely large police officer who knew just how to protect him.
“Little Rock was a tough place and usually we would get eight of the uniformed police officers and they would form somewhat of a circle around us. Other places, they’d walk ya — they’d get in front of ya and in back of ya but you’re walking down an aisle so your sides are open. Here in Little Rock, they kept the aisles a little bit wider down the middle of the seats.
“A lot of times coming back from the ring [in Little Rock], my dedicated, designated policeman was this guy that was like six-three but he had to weigh four-hundred pounds. He’s in one of the biggest goddamn police uniforms you’ve ever seen, biggest gunbelt and everything you’ve ever seen in your life.
“What he would do, after a match when [the crowd was] really hot, a couple of the cops would get in front, a couple on the side, a couple behind Bobby and Dennis and me in the middle but he would bearhug me and walk backwards down the aisle looking over my back because he was so wide that nobody could get to my front because he was in front of me. He could watch my back as he was backing me down the aisle with his arms around me.
Cornette was given his bulletproof vest by a police officer who thought he should have it. He used the vest to give himself assurance that he had some extra protection in case things went wrong. However, there were a couple ways around the vest.
“This how f–king prepared this exit got in Little Rock. People now think, ‘what the f–k are you talking about?’ They were trying to get us. So one of the cops comes in one night and says, ‘hey we just got new bulletproof vests and I brought my old one because I think you might should use it.’
“Because when’s the last time a city police officer told you that you should wear a bulletproof vest in any instance, right? So that got my attention automatically. Then he said, ‘I don’t know if we have to worry about you getting shot at, but this is also useful for knives. It will keep you from getting cut or stabbed.’ I said, ‘oh, that’s good to know.’ Then he said, ‘but it won’t stop an icepick.’
“So he’s really pepping me up for this, then he gives me the goddamn thing, right? I mean this is what they’re telling me. People wonder why I was conflicted a time or two about whether I should quit the f–king business at ringside down there or not.
“Anyway, so I started wearing [the bulletproof vest] in a couple of places: Tulsa, Little Rock when we expected to have an issue and maybe once or twice in another town when it looked sketchy. Maybe a spot show or something where it looked like we couldn’t trust the cops being on our side.”
Cornette had an inventive way of concealing his bulletproof insurance policy. He would sneak away and put on his kevlar protection which resulted in a few surprises for his opposition in the ring when they hit him. Cornette eventually retired his bulletproof vest after leaving Mid-South, but it was still nice to have around.
“I didn’t wanna telegraph cause then the boys will make fun of me. So what I would do is I’d go in the bathroom and I’d take my jacket and my shirt off real quick and I’d put the bulletproof vest on and then put my shirt on over top of it buttoned up which is what the cops do. They’re wearing it underneath their s–t, right?
“Then I’d put the jacket on and you couldn’t really tell I had it. A couple of times when the babyfaces hit me with body shots they were like, ‘what the f–k? He’s harder than we thought he was!’
“It made me feel a little bit better. You know I’m thinking okay if nobody shoots me directly in the head or brings an icepick I should be alright. By the end of the year, it had outlived its usefulness.”
If you use any portion of the quotes in this article please credit Jim Cornette’s Drive-Thru with a H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription