SMW LOOKBACK – Ep. 1 (2-1-92): The launch of Jim Cornette’s regional promotion, Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, Horowitz, Koloff, Dutch Mantel

By Mike Mills, PWTorch Specialist


FEBRUARY 1, 1992
Report by Mike Mills, PWTorch Specialist

Smoky Mountain Wrestling Background

Since this is the first edition of my Smoky Mountain Wrestling TV Flashback, I thought it would be a great idea to give some background on the promotion and why taking the Smoky Mountain Wrestling journey is something old school wrestling fans will enjoy.

Smoky Mountain Wrestling was a professional wrestling promotion that held events in the Appalachian area of the United States from October 1991 to December 1995, when it was run by Jim Cornette.

Cornette (30 years old at the time) formed the promotion in October 1991 upon leaving World Championship Wrestling. The promotion was backed financially by music producer Rick Rubin. The first events and TV tapings were held in October and November 1991. Matches from these shows were first shown in February 1992.

Cornette had initially envisioned a territory reaching from Kentucky into as far as South Carolina and Georgia according to my understanding. Though they did eventually run events over that large of a region, including a few shows at the Cobb County Civic Center in Marietta, Georgia, the promotion’s biggest towns included Knoxville, Tennessee, and Johnson City, Tennessee. SMW event tours also included high school gyms and fairs in cities throughout Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina.

Though the promotion was highly thought of, it struggled to get a profitable television deal, and operated throughout a tough time in wrestling’s history that would not end until a year after its demise. After years of trying to make Smoky Mountain work, Cornette shut the promotion down in December 1995. The last SMW show was held on November 26, 1995 in Cookeville, Tennessee.

Smoky Mountain Wrestling deserved much more than is received. Throughout much of its run, the angles were great and the storylines were very compelling. Enjoy the Smoky Mountain Wrestling ride with me as I walk through each and every episode of Smoky Mountain Wrestling TV in this flashback beginning in February of 1992 through November of 1995.


– Bob Caudle and Dutch Mantel are the announcers and they set the table for this week’s SMW TV. It is key to point out that these episodes are only one hour in length and generally feature four to five matches at the most. Bob Caudle and Dutch Mantel tell us that this week’s matches will include Robert Gibson vs. Killer Kyle, PrimeTime Brian Lee vs. Barry Horowitz, White Lightning Tim Horner vs Joe Cazana, Paul Miller vs. The Black Scorpion, and Bobby Fulton (from the Fantastics) vs Ivan Koloff. Bob Caudle recites a line he will become known for in SMW and that is when he says, “Let’s go to the ring!”

(1) Robert Gibson (Rock ‘n’ Roll Express) vs. Killer Kyle

It is important to remember that these first few episodes are SMW getting their feet under them and getting some angles started. This is a very quick match lasting just over 3 minutes. Killer Kyle is a big powerful man as he is the heel in this matchup. This is also the early 90s still where wrestling looks drastically different than it does today or even once we get to the late 90s. Dutch Mantel and Bob Caudle on commentary are gold. Dutch about midway through the match gets into a conversation with Bob Caudle about why they call the Rock N Roll Express the Rock N Roll Express. Dutch wants to know if they were singers or something. Bob Caudle starts answering and says he heard them one time with their rock n roll band and because of that the fans still chant Rock N Roll wherever the Rock n Roll go. Caudle says it drives the opponents of the Rock N Roll nuts because of it. Dutch then says, “yeah well they released a record one time that once went plywood in the first 3 weeks. It sold a total of 75 copies and was on the verge of going sheetrock.” Caudle chuckles and then gets back to the action where we see a quick pin fall when Gibson gets the pin on Killer Kyle from a rollup out of the corner. Nothing flashy here just an opening match where the baby face gets the pin.

-The Fantastics Bobby Fulton and his brother Jackie Fulton, who will be known as the Fantastics, are cutting a promo on the Koloffs Ivan and Vladimir. Bobby Fulton says that this may be one of the toughest fights he and Ivan have had.

-Commissioner Bullet Bob Armstrong delivers a promo and message to the fans telling everyone of the fans that Smoky Mountain will be governed accordingly by him. He tells us how he’s going to bring back wrestling the way it should be and the way you like it. He begins to talk about the fines for foreign objects and for throwing people over the top rope that he will levy out if needed.

(2) PrimeTime Brian Lee vs. Barry Horowitz

Barry Horwitz is pretty well known for all of his years as an enhancement talent. He fits that role well in SMW here. When you watch this match, you can see how talented Barry Horowitz is and sometimes wonder why he did not get a shot at doing more in wrestling. It is clear from the commentary that the goal here is to establish Brian Lee as one of the top baby faces in the promotion. Brian Lee finishes off Horowitz in a little over four minutes with his finishing move he calls The Cancellation.

-Ron Wright Promo. Ron Wright is a legendary professional wrestler from Tennessee. Not many people know of who Ron Wright is but Ron Wright was a legendary and great heel. He states that he needs to have a knee implant and a hip implant from his many years in wrestling. His goal in SMW is to sign a wrestler and manage them. Once he gets someone under contract he will be able to afford his surgeries. POSSIBLE SPOILER: Watch out for Ron Wright as SMW progresses. He is a big part of the promotion and that is all I will say at this time.

(3) Tim Horner vs. Golden Boy Joe Cazana

Joe Cazana is from the famous Cazana family. Tim Horner is a good looking baby face for this time period in wrestling. Dutch Mantel and Bob Caudle get into what becomes some normal banter between the two of them. Dutch mantel as they are talking about people having wind says he once held his breath for 10 minutes under water so he does not have a wind problem. In another quick match during this episode, Tim Horner pins Joe Cazana with the natural bridge move.

-Jim Cornette Promo: He says it’s not always that you hillbillies in the sticks get to see a celebrity like me. He then proceeds to rip the WWF and WCW and the cartoonish characters they have. He says the Midnight Express would not play politics and that is why they were pushed to the side. He also tells us about his team that he is bringing in that is going to change things and will have success like the Midnight Express did. This will happen in the weeks to come.

(4) Paul Miller vs. The Black Scorpion

According to my research, this may be the Black Scorpion that appeared during the Monday Nights Wars as the NWO Sting. If I am wrong correct me. In a very surprising match that does not lead to anything down the line in the promotion, Paul Miller gets a very surprise win over the Black Scorpion. I say this because Dutch Mantel from the beginning seems to believe this match is pointless although in the end Paul Miller gets the pin with a surprise small package roll-up.

-PrimeTime Brian Lee Promo. Prime Time Brian Lee cuts a decent promo. Brian Lee mentions the heavyweight tournament that he is going to win before he gets cut off. Dutch cuts him off and tells Brian Lee he would have wrestled the match earlier against Horowitz differently. Brian Lee says you are right you would have lost and he walks off. Dutch says, you see that guy can’t take constructive criticism. Mike’s Take: There seems to be an early feud brewing between PrimeTime Brian Lee and Dutch Mantel based on this exchange.

(5) Bobby Fulton vs. Ivan Koloff

This match takes a while to really get going but when it does the stuff hits the fan quickly. They are fighting outside the ring when Bob Caudle begins explaining how they’re fighting by the fence that separates the fans from the wrestler to which Dutch says, “it’s called a barricade Bob.” Caudle says, “ok a barricade that separates the crowd from the wrestler but whatever it’s called its metal and it hurts.” Soon after Bobby Fulton gets screwed when Ron Wright, who had a promo earlier, gives Koloff something to hit Bobby Fulton with as it appears they’re just shaking hands but clearly he gave Koloff something. Ivan Koloff gets the pin but Jackie runs in to tell the ref that Ivan Koloff got something from Ron Wright. Jackie and Ivan Koloff start mixing it up. Then Vladimir Koloff runs in. The Koloffs then hang Jackie Fulton from the top rope with the Russian chain.

-After the commercial break, Bob Armstrong in the back with the Fultons points out that the Koloffs cheated Bobby Fulton and Bob Armstrong sets up a match for the next episode with the Fultons and Koloffs facing off. He also fines Ivan Koloff $500 in typical old school classic wrestling fashion. Then Bobby Fulton continues the promo and called them two bald headed commie geeks. Chalk that up with something you probably would not hear today in wrestling on television. Bobby also tells Ron Wright he’s going to pick Ron Wright out of his wheel chair if he does it again and kick him in the booty.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This is just an introductory episode of Smoky Mountain Wrestling. Smoky Mountain takes four-to-six weeks before the angles start to kick in good. However, I assure you once the angles start heating up and things get going, you’re going to love this old school wrestling journey. All promotion have to start somewhere, so hang with this and you will enjoy the payoff at the end.

Mike Mills is a Smoky Mountain Wrestling TV Flashback Specialist, providing his point of view on Smoky Mountain Wrestling TV that aired between February of 1992 through November of 1995. You can follow Mike at @BTT_Podcast and @Mike504Saints on Twitter. An audio version of the Smoky Mountain flashbacks are also available at You can e-mail Mike at

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