WWE: The Best of WWE – Ric Flair’s Defining Matches
THE BEST OF WWE: Forever Flair – Ric Flair’s Most Defining Matches
- Steel Cage Match for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship with Special Referee Gene Kiniski: Harley Race (c) vs. Ric Flair – (NWA Starrcade, 11/24/83)
The set-up for this one was that Race didn’t want to have to contend with Flair any more after regaining the title from him in June of ’83 so he put out a $25,000 bounty for whoever could get rid of Flair forever. Dick Slater and Bob Orton Jr. were able to put Flair out of action for a while and got the $25,000. But nevertheless, Flair came back after “training hard, saying his prayers and eating his vitamins” with all his babyface friends and here we are at Starrcade 1983. Ok, he didn’t use that exact phrase, but his actions spoke those words. Interesting note about Race and Flair; both men were involved in near-fatal accidents early in their careers. So if you want to be a wrestling legend, then try your best to almost die in a moving accident. It doesn’t matter if it’s in a car or a plane.
Flair frustrates Race with the headlock early on which causes a little scuffle between him and Kiniski. After several rope breaks, Flair snapmares Race down in the middle of the ring and applies a chinlock and then maneuvers into the headlock. Race backs into the ropes again and whips Flair in for a running knee. Race tries a falling headbutt but Flair moves out of the way. Flair chops him and returns to the headlock. From the hold, they get a few near-falls on each other. Notice how they use the headlock as an energy-draining and psychological hold here rather than to lead to elbows and a big move like it’s done today. See, no elbowing out for that. He just adapted to what was happening and countered the move. As Flair changes to a front face-lock, Race stands up and delivers a suplex for two. Flair avoids an elbow drop but then his knee buckles on a slam to get a near-fall for Race. Race connects with a knee drop and begins to take control. Once Race has Flair in the ropes, Kiniski has to literally pull Race away from him to give Flair a breather. Race continues to punish the injured neck and the head with knee drops. Race hits the PILEDRIVER and an elbow for 1, 2, NO! Race drops an elbow on the neck and delivers a swinging neckbreaker for 1, 2, NO! Race keeps Flair trapped in the corner by repeatedly driving his knee into Flair’s neck. At nearly ten minutes in, the cage comes into play as Race rams Flair’s head into the steel. Race hits a slam and covers for a near-fall. Flair fights back with blows to the mid-section, but Race puts him back down with a headbutt. Race punishes Flair with another falling headbutt. Race slams Flair’s face into the cage. Flair attempts to fight back, but then Race throws him into the cage again. Flair begins to bleed as only Flair can bleed if that makes any sense. As Race has Flair in the corner way past the ten-count, Kiniski has to pull Race out which leaves an open shot for Flair. Now it’s the other way around as Kiniski pulls Flair out of the corner, Race gets in a headbutt. Flair reverses a cross-corner whip that sends Race face-first into the cage. Now Race has been lacerated. Flair begins to style and profile while sending Race into the cage. Flair snapmares Race down for the knee drop off the ropes. Flair connects with the piledriver and immediately covers for 1, 2, NO! Flair snaps Race’s neck and then hits a butterfly suplex for 1, 2, NO! Flair chops on Race and then takes him face-first to the cage again. Kiniski gives Flair another talk about what he just did, but Flair doesn’t give a CRAP and shoves Kiniski back. Flair slams Race into the cage again and that causes a shoving match between him and Kiniski. Gene needs to chill out. Race headbutts low to regain control and then grinds Flair’s face into the cage. Now Kiniski and Race get into a shoving contest. Flair gets slammed into the cage again but then fights back with chops for a near-fall. Flair hits an elbow drop and screams, “NOWWWWW!” and mounts Race for some punches to Race’s bloody forehead. Flair struts around while Kiniski yells at him for using closed-fists.
Flair is a nasty, bloody mess here as he delivers a back suplex to set up the FIGURE-FOUR! Back then, it was extremely rare for someone to reverse this bone-breaking hold, but Race was able to turn the hold over into the ropes. Race comes back with headbutts but then HIS knee buckles on a suplex as Flair covers for 1, 2, NO! Race headbutts Flair back down and delivers a headbutt off the second rope for a two-count. Race hits a vertical suplex for 1, 2, NO! Race keeps on with the punishment to the head and neck area. Kiniski has to pull Race off of Flair again by the ‘fro as he’s choking him up against the cage wall in the ropes. Race tries another vertical suplex, but Flair blocks and delivers a suplex of his own. Flair whiffs on an elbow drop just as he attempts to come back. Race hooks on a headlock and somehow headbutts Kiniski by mistake. Flair takes advantage by hitting the wobbly champion with a bodypress from the top as Race gets tripped up by Kiniski (sort of) for the 1-2-3! FLAIR REGAINS THE TITLE! (23:49) While nothing was fresh and new even in its day (compared to Dynamite Kid/Tiger Mask), this was just awesome story-telling, awesome selling and an awesome angle to pass the torch from Race onto Flair. Plus, they sent the crowd home extremely happy. What more can you ask from a supercard? After the match, all the faces run in to celebrate with Flair while Race stands in the corner in utter disbelief. ****½
- NWA World Heavyweight Championship: Ric Flair (c) vs. Sting – (NWA Clash of the Champions, 3/27/88)
To truly give this the big-match feel, they bring in Eddie Haskell from “Leave it to Beaver”, Wayne Arnold from “Wonder Years”, the Penthouse “Pet of the Year”, and two other faceless NWA stiffs as the ESTEEMED judges for this match. Are you kidding me? JJ Dillon is hanging up in an ascended cage to prevent any shenanigans and a clear-cut winner.
Flair yanks Sting down by his hair out of an arm wrench to start, and kips up to the delight of the G-boro crowd. Flair comes out of a Sting headlock into an overhead wristlock, but Sting powers out. Sting wants a test of strength because he wants to know who the strongest is FOR REAL, not for play-play and kick his opponent in the gut, but Flair is like, “Yeah okay.” Flair goes for it and screams and falls to his knees. He maneuvers Sting over to a corner and chops on him, but Sting no-sells and backs Flair across the ring. Sting hiptosses Flair out of the corner and dropkicks him down to send Flair out to the floor to take a walk. Back in, Flair grabs a headlock. They trade hammerlocks ending with Flair caught in an armbar. Flair backs Sting into the ropes and chops on him, but then gets caught in a press slam. Sting hits a flying headscissors and delivers a headlock takedown. Flair makes a few escapes, but quickly gets put right back in the headlock over the next four minutes. Sting no-sells a chop in the corner and comes out fighting with right hands. Sting whiffs on a dropkick, but Flair Flops anyway and is the first man to his feet. He throws Sting out to the floor, but Sting no-sells THAT and gets right back in the ring and reverts to the headlock. Flair comes out with a forearm to the ribs and chops away in the corner. Sting fights back again and delivers a press slam to set up a bearhug. They go the mat for a few near-falls, but Sting releases after two minutes of that. He gets all fired up and tries the jumping elbow drop off the ropes, but Flair rolls out of the way. No worries though, Sting doesn’t sell that either. Flair begs, but Sting whips him into the farside corner for the Stinger Splash, but nobody’s home. That hurts Sting’s left arm, but he goes for a ten-count corner punch anyways and Flair comes out with an inverted atomic drop. Flair takes Sting out to the floor and whips him into the guardrail and tries to get the countout win. Sting returns to the ring just in time and receives some chops and a couple good hard whips into the corner. Wooooo. Flair snapmares Sting over, pulls down the knee pad and delivers the rolling knee drop. Make it two. He rakes on Sting’s back and claws on his face. Flair throws Sting out once again and grabs a chair this time, but Tommy Young will not allow that! Flair compromises and sends Sting into the guardrail again. Back in, Flair chops away, but then Sting starts to no-sell again! Sting fires back and sends Flair over the top rope and out to the floor! Tommy Young calls it unintentional and due to momentum, so match continues. Sting follows Flair out and tries to Stinger Splash him up against the ringpost, but Flair moves and lets Sting hit steel. Back in again, Flair grabs a wristlock. Sting quickly fights back and hits a clothesline for 1-2-NO! Flair crawls to the apron, so Sting suplexes him back in the ring to set up the SCORPION DEATHLOCK! Flair gets to the ropes at the 25-minute mark. Sting no-sells more chops and fires back for another Flair Flop. Sting covers, but Flair’s foot was under the bottom rope.
Sting hiptosses Flair near the ropes and charges, but Flair ducks and lets Sting fall out the concrete floor. Sting gets back up on the apron and Flair snaps his neck on the top rope. Flair crawls to the middle of the ring and doesn’t notice Sting is perched up on the top rope! Flair turns around and gets nailed with a Flying Crossbody for 1-2-NO! Sting grabs another headlock, but Flair comes out of it with a shin breaker. Wooooo. Flair hammers on the knee some more and delivers another shin breaker, making Sting roll out to the floor. Sting gets back in the ring after an eight-count and Flair stays on the knee. Back suplex by Flair sets up the FIGURE-FOUR! In classic Flair mode, he uses the ropes for leverage like CRAZY, but Sting won’t give up. We JIP to Flair being in the Figure-Four, which is odd because one moment you see Sting in the hold and the next moment Flair is being asked if he’ll give it up. Flair gets to the ropes to call for the break. Sting has his way with Flair for a while and works on his knee. Flair Flip out to the floor and Sting slams Flair’s head into the guardrail just like he did to him. Sting bounces Flair’s head off the judges table and then eats the ringpost before falling out into the front row. Back in, Flair attempts a sunset flip from the apron, but Sting pounds him down. Sting mounts Flair in the corner and Flair tries to atomic drop his way out of it, but Sting avoids it and clotheslines Flair down for 1-2-NO! Flair got his foot on the bottom rope. Sting tries another Stinger Splash, but Flair avoids it again and Sting hits his head on the ringpost as he falls to the floor. Sting makes it back in the ring before the ten-count, but then runs into a sleeper. OH SNAP. Sting counters by sending Flair face-first into the turnbuckle. Flair tosses Sting out, but he pops right back up on the apron and goes for a sunset flip. Flair tries to pin Sting using the ropes, but Tommy Young sees it and kicks Flair back for 1-2-NO! We’ve got two minutes to go. Another Flair Flip leads to a flying crossbody attempt, but Sting rolls through it for 1-2-NO! The crowd goes into freakin’ cardiac arrest. Sting no-sells some chops and hits the Stinger Splash! SCORPION DEATHLOCK is applied, but Flair holds on until the time runs out! That leaves it up to the judges now. The match ends up a draw and Flair retains the belt. (39:16 shown) This is the match that made Sting a main event player. For all the little Stingers out there, we thank you Ric Flair. These two have wrestled so much, that their matches became formulaic. However, the original match still contains some amazing drama. Even though this match is nearly twenty years old, you still want to believe that Sting will pull it off. ****
- NWA World Heavyweight Championship: Ricky Steamboat (c) vs. Ric Flair – (NWA Wrestle War, 5/7/89)
Flair comes down to the ring with FORTY-SIX girls, while Steamboat brings his wife and son with him. How could two complete opposites put on the greatest series of matches ever in American wrestling history? I still don’t know how to explain that fact, but it sure is true. In case the match goes to a 60-minute draw, we’ve got Lou Thesz, Pat O’Connor and Terry Funk as our esteemed judges! Steamboat lets Flair know immediately out of a tie-up that he’s going after his arm with an armdrag. Keep in mind that during Clash VI where these two went nearly 60 minutes in a 2/3-falls match, that Steamboat made Flair submit for the first time ever in the second fall with a double-chicken wing hold, which KILLS your arms and Steamboat hasn’t forgotten that. Flair connects with a shoulderblock off a headlock, but Steamboat catches him with a hiptoss and an armdrag leads to an armbar. Flair backs Steamboat into the corner where they begin to disrespectfully slap one another. Steamboat wins that, as Flair backs away. They lock up again as Flair puts Steamboat in the corner for some INTENSE chops. Steamboat fights back with chops of his own ALL the way around the ring. He shoots Flair into the corner and follows up with a back drop to send Flair rolling out to the floor. Back in, Steamboat powers out of a side headlock with an overhead wristlock into the armbar. Flair is selling like he’s in an unbelievable amount of pain. Flair stands up out of it, but he goes right into the armbar. Steamboat changes over to a hammerlock, but Flair counters with a drop toe hold. Steamboat slips out of that and puts Flair back in the hammerlock/half-nelson for a one-count. Flair gets out of that and chops back, but he’s then tripped up and into a keylock from Steamboat. Flair backs Steamboat into the corner for the break and LEVELS Steamboat with forearms. Steamboat chops back at him leading to the Flair Flop. Steamboat goes right back to the arm and grinds on the injured arm with a hammerlock into a bridge. Flair stands up out of that and picks Steamboat up and sets him in the corner and slowly moves away like he’s injured, but then he charges back at Steamboat! Steamboat leaps over him and sends Flair out to the floor with a dropkick. Steamboat realizes how dangerous Flair can be on the floor and doesn’t accept Flair’s challenge to come meet him down on the concrete. Flair crawls back in and gets put back in the armbar, but he escapes and catches Steamboat with a hiptoss. He misses an elbow drop though and Steamboat reapplies the armbar. Flair gets Steamboat in the corner again and DRILLS him with his shoulder and then chops away on him. Flair nails Steamboat with a shoulderblock and then tosses him out to the floor, but Steamboat hops right back in the ring and takes Flair into the corner for ten-count corner chops. Steamboat whips Flair in the corner for a Flair Flop, but Flair ends up caught in a tree-of-woe position instead and pays for it. Steamboat nails Flair with a shoulderblock, but Flair uses Steamboat’s momentum as he comes off the ropes to send him FLYING out to the floor. Flair goes out after him and chops Steamboat into the front row. Flair heads back into the ring to break the count, but that allows Steamboat to regain some composure. Flair goes out after Steamboat again and meets more chops and gets chased back into the ring. Steamboat comes off the top with a JUDO CHOP that Flair never saw coming. Flair executes the Flair Flip in the corner, but Steamboat nails him on the apron. Do you think Steamboat has forgotten about his work on the arm? No way. Steamboat goes RIGHT BACK to the armbar. Flair gets back to his feet and ducks a crossbody from Steamboat to send him falling out to the floor. Flair brings Steamboat back in the ring and chops him down again, but Steamboat won’t stay down! Flair hits a back suplex at the 20-minute mark for a bunch of nearfalls. That’s followed up by the Rolling Knee Drop and a butterfly suplex for 1-2-NO! Steamboat gets back to his feet while Flair argues with ref Tommy Young about the count. Steamboat ducks a chop, but he can’t avoid a hotshot! They’re too close to the ropes for a count though as Flair uses that time to choke on Steamboat with his shin. They go to the floor where Steamboat takes a suplex! Flair brings Steamboat back in by his hair and tries for a suplex, but Steamboat flips out and rolls Flair up for 1-2-NO! Flair ducks a big chop from Steamboat and then charges back into him to cause them both to fall out to the floor for a CRAZY bump! Back in, Flair goes to the top and gets slammed down. Steamboat pumps himself up as Flair begs away in the corner. Ten-count corner chop leads to a backdrop. Flair draws Steamboat into the corner and kicks him to set up an atomic drop, but Steamboat flips out and rolls him up for 1-2-NO! The whole building collectively just had a heart attack. Steamboat sets Flair up for a superplex and DELIVERS! It’s time for the DOUBLE-CHICKEN WING, but Flair desperately wraps his legs in the ropes for the break. Flair takes a turnbuckle smash as Steamboat heads up to the top for another JUDO CHOP. He heads up again, but Flair falls into the ropes – causing Steamboat to lose his balance and fall down on the floor to hurt his leg. Flair brings Steamboat back in with a suplex, but not before kicking at Steamboat’s knee first. Naturally, Flair concentrates on the injured leg and immediately hooks on the FIGURE-FOUR! Flair cranks on the hold a little too much, allowing Steamboat to reach the ropes for the break. Flair keeps on the leg while Steamboat chops back and puts Flair down with an enziguri! Steamboat lifts Flair up for a slam, but his knee buckles up and Flair rolls through and cradles Steamboat up for the 1-2-3! Flair has won his 6th NWA World Title. (31:28) I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This is the absolute best match in American wrestling history and I can proudly say that it happened in the NWA, not the WWF. Say what you will about some of the NWA and WCW’s booking and gimmicks, but there’s no denying they had the best wrestling in America during this time period. *****
- The Rumble Match for the vacant WWF Championship – (WWF Royal Rumble, 1/19/92)
To this day sixteen years later, there has never been more on the line in a Rumble match. There has been WrestleMania main event spots, but never the most prized possession in wrestling: the WWF title. Because of all the Hogan/Taker shenanigans at “This Tuesday In Texas” PPV, WWF (kayfabe) president Jack Tunney vacated the belt and announced the winner of the Royal Rumble would be named the undisputed WWF world champion. Now Ric Flair had been prancing around the WWF for months, calling himself the real world’s champion after leaving Jim Herd and WCW in the dust over a contract/creative dispute and taking with him the NWA’s Big Gold belt that he owned and never received his money for. By this point though, Herd and WCW settled the title dispute and the belt was returned, but Flair still called himself the real world’s champion and instead carried some other WWF belt with him that was blurred out on TV. Tonight is Flair’s biggest opportunity to date. It’s put up or shut up. If he wins tonight, then this victory will back up everything he’s been ranting about for the past few months. I think that sets the stage quite nicely.
Flair calls this match on his DVD set the “who’s who” match. Pretty much anybody that was somebody during the boom period in the ’80s was in this match. With Heenan on commentary and in Flair’s back pocket, he’s hoping and praying that Flair didn’t draw #1 or #2. Ted DiBiase draws #1, Davey Boy Smith draws #2. Heenan’s able to relax for the opening two minutes of the match. DiBiase hits his signature moves (vertical suplex, gutwrench suplex). He tries to toss Bulldog out, but DBS falls on the apron and clotheslines DiBiase out on the other side of the ring. It’s time for #3 to appear, and it’s Ric Flair. Heenan’s heart sinks to the ground. Monsoon makes it worse by mentioning that no one has ever won the Rumble match after drawing numbers this low. What a Negative Nancy. DBS kills Flair with press slams and clotheslines and dumps Flair out to the apron as Jerry Sags comes in at #4. Davey Boy gets double-teamed for a bit because heels stick together. DBS ducks on a double-clothesline and returns the favor. Sags gets dumped out to the apron and then poses to congratulate himself on not losing, and then DBS dropkicks him off the apron. We’re back to Davey Boy Smith vs. Ric Flair. Haku is our #5 entrant. The heels do more double-teaming, but then Haku turns on Flair! Heenan is irate! Flair tries to turn Haku over in the corner for some chopping, but he NO-SELLS and Flair bails out under the bottom rope. Back in, after Haku gives DBS a piledriver, Flair grabs Haku and starts up some eye-gouging. Haku chops back, but then takes a backdrop out to the floor from Davey Boy. The recently turned heel Shawn Michaels enters in #6. Like, he just gave Marty Jannetty the superkick a week before this. Shawn immediately goes after his boyhood hero, Ric Flair. Seems odd that he would do that since he’s a fresh heel and everything, but whatever. Flair bumps around for Shawn, then Shawn bumps around for Davey Boy. Shawn ALMOST gets eliminated by DBS, but he slips back in and superkicks Davey Boy down. Flair rests in the corner and lets the other two battle it out. He sneak attacks Davey Boy and tosses Shawn out to the apron, as Tito Santana comes in #7. Excuse me, he’s the EL MATADOR! It turns into a two faces vs. two heels matchup. Flair nearly eliminates DBS, but Santana saves and hits Flair with the FLYING JALAPENO! The Barbarian is #8, putting the babyfaces at a disadvantage. Barb and Flair try their hardest to get DBS over the ropes. Kerry Von Erich enters in at #9. He goes after Flair, which brings back some old memories. Repo Man is our #10 entrant. He sneaks in the ring and then makes no impact whatsoever. Lots of punching and kicking ensues.
Greg Valentine runs down as the #11 guy. Valentine had finally broke away from Jimmy Hart to start a face run, but that was short-lived as he returns to WCW in a few weeks. Heenan tries to think positively about Flair’s condition, but Monsoon tells him to just forget about it. Nikolai Volkoff draws #12 and gets booed on his way to the ring. Alright, something’s got to give. The ring is getting too full here. There’s nine guys in there right now. Big Bossman is our #13 guy. The crowd erupts as Bossman starts wailing on everybody. Valentine gets dumped out by Repo Man. Shawn gets stuck in a near-elimination spot with Bossman and Von Erich. Repo makes the save, so Bossman throws him out. Heenan’s getting paranoid and begs Monsoon to let him go to ringside. DBS places Flair up against the ropes and gets dumped out. WOO! Von Erich goes for a TORNADO PUNCH on Flair, but he ducks and sends Von Erich to the floor. Santana and Michaels dump each other out, setting up their match at WrestleMania. That gets rid of everyone but Flair, Bossman and Barbarian. Hercules, who looks SO tired, comes in at #14. Flair and Barbarian high-five each other because heels stick together. What Barbarian doesn’t realize is he just made a deal with the devil himself, and Flair immediately turns on the big guy and chops away. Barb NO-SELLS and oh boy is Flair in danger. Barbarian gives Flair a press slam and tries to send him out, but Hercules comes over and dumps Barbarian out from behind as Flair lands on the apron and slides back in the ring. Meanwhile, Bossman clotheslines Barbarian out. Flair begs off Bossman and then pokes him in the eyes, but Bossman comes back with a clothesline. Bossman’s fired up and winds up missing a charge and flying over the top rope. WOO! Now that Flair’s all alone, he finally fall on his face and rest. Surely the next guy will be some other brainless muscle-bound punk, right? Wrong! Roddy Piper is our #15 guy and boy does he want him some of Flair. This isn’t fair to Flair at all. Flair bails out, but Piper follows him and brings him back in for the ten-count corner punch. Piper slips away from the atomic drop out of the corner and pokes Flair in the eyes. Piper gives Flair an airplane spin, which is just an awesome move to do if you want to torture someone in a battle royal. He puts on the SLEEPER as Jake Roberts enters in at #16. Jake just sits in the corner while Piper punishes Flair until he turns his back on Jake and then gets stomped. Jake punches Piper down in the corner and then gives Flair the Short-Arm Clothesline to set up the DDT, but Piper stops that with a clothesline. Flair applies the FIGURE-FOUR and grabs the top rope for leverage just because he can and gets away with it here. Piper breaks that up and all three guys take turns punching on each other. Hacksaw Jim Duggan comes in at #17. We get into another hot two faces vs. two heels sequence . IRS enters in at #18. A bunch of near-eliminations follow for the faces. Jimmy Snuka, who is only here for one night to replace Marty Jannetty, is our #19 entrant. Flair and Piper go through a pretty fun exchange. Flair is just taking a beating here. #20 is Undertaker. Jake Roberts welcomes him to the match. Taker walks right in and dumps Snuka out. Nobody can hurt Undertaker here. NOBODY.
Randy Savage SPRINTS to the ring as our #21 guy. He wants Jake, but Jake’s slithered out and hiding down at ringside so that Savage can’t find him. Taker nails him from behind and chokes him down so that Jake can come after him with no problem. Savage wakes up and a Running High Knee puts Jake out on the floor. Savage jumps over the top rope to get at Jake some more. Taker grabs Savage and throws him back in the ring. According to the rules in this match, the only way to lose is to be thrown out by someone else. You can’t just eliminate yourself. Flair and Savage go for a bit. The Bezerker is #22. Flair tries to suplex Savage out from the apron, but Savage gives Flair a suplex back in the ring instead. Taker then chokes Flair and Piper at the same time, as Virgil runs down at #23. He goes right after IRS. Flair suffers through another near-elimination spot with the Undertaker. Col. Mustafa enters in at #24. You know, the Iron Sheik. More punching and kicking follows. Rick Martel held the record of the longest time spent in a Rumble match at 52:17, and he’s our #25 guy. Flair goes right after Martel. Instead of trying to eliminate somebody, Duggan starts up the USA chants. Uh oh, Hulk Hogan is our next entrant at #26. He goes after Taker and finally the guy sells something. Hogan clotheslines him out, backdrops out Bezerker, and then takes time to rip off the t-shirt. Meanwhile, Virgil charges at Duggan and they both fly out to the floor. Flair chops on Hulk, but that doesn’t affect him whatsoever. He tries to eliminate Flair , but IRS saves him at the last second. Skinner is #27. He goes from being a pretty boy Fabulous One to a gator man. Only in showbiz, folks! During Flair’s last minute before breaking the time spent in a Rumble match record, he and Martel try to get Piper out of the ring. Once that fails, Flair goes back after Hogan and then takes a clothesline. #28 is Sgt. Slaughter. He’s back to being a face again, but it’s hard to bounce back after saying you love hanging out with Saddam Hussein. Martel dumps Skinner out. Hogan and Piper exchange eyerakes. Then, Piper slams Martel’s head into Hogan. What was that all about? Hogan and Flair square off once again, as Sid Justice runs down at #29. Sid goes after Flair, but gets nailed from behind by Slaughter. #30 is Warlord. Hogan and Flair go under the bottom rope to fight on the floor. Flair wants a suplex, but Hogan reverses for one of his own. In the ring, Sid tosses Slaughter into the corner for his head-first bump to the ringpost, which sends him sailing out to the floor. Back in, Hogan hits the Big Boot on Flair. IRS tosses Piper out to the apron, but then gets pulled out over the top rope to the floor by his tie. That darn tie cost him the WWF title! Should’ve wore a clip-on. Hulk and Sid work together long enough to throw Warlord out. While Piper and Martel try to eliminate one another, Sid dumps them both out from behind. That brings us to the final four.
We’re down to Hogan, Flair, Savage and Sid. Flair gouges Hogan in the eyes to get away from him so he can help Sid throw Savage out to the floor. Hogan then punches Flair out to the apron and tries to kick Flair to the floor, but then Sid comes along and flips Hogan over the top rope to the floor. The crowd goes crazy! Sid and Hogan get into an argument. Then Hogan acts like a jerk and tries to pull Sid over the top rope himself. That is, until Flair comes along and dumps Sid out over the top rope to the floor to win the Royal Rumble AND the WWF world title belt. (62:02) Flair’s record stands at 59:26. Sadly, the record was eclipsed the next year by Bob Backlund who remained in the Rumble match for 61:10. Another sad note is that Flair couldn’t even really celebrate the win in the ring, because he had to make room for the Hogan/Sid confrontation. When you try and judge a match like this, you have to look at the whole picture. You can’t divide it up and say that certain parts were better than others. In my honest opinion, you have to pay attention to the entire story being told, and that goes back to the start of Flair’s WWF tenure in August with him gloating about being the real world’s champion and making everyone hate him for that. When he finally got his opportunity to shine and show the world that what he was talking about wasn’t just him talking a big talk. He was for REAL. Some people give this the full monty for the star power and the great booking throughout. All those things I agree with, but the Ric Flair story to me is what makes this so great and so important to wrestling history at the time because not only had this guy been to the top of the mountain for ten years in the NWA, but now he was the king of the rival WWF. *****
And then, the famous Ric Flair post-match interview: Heenan and Perfect are right there to celebrate with THE man. Flair – “I’m going to tell you all with a tear in my eye, this is the greatest moment of my life.” WOO!
- WCW World Heavyweight Championship: Big Van Vader (c) (w/Harley Race) vs. Ric Flair – (WCW Starrcade, 12/27/93)
If Flair loses, he vows to retire. Oh, but the ‘Flair for the Gold’ segments will still go on. Vader tells Jesse to get comfortable, because he’s going to hurt Flair slowly. Naturally, some HUGE love from the crowd going out to Flair during this match. You can see Flair is holding back the tears as he waits for Buffer to say his name. Such a mark! For Flair fans, the “big match feel” is at its peak. Vader shoves off the tie-ups to start. Flair runs around the ring to screw with Vader’s head. Vader grabs a knucklelock and headbutts Flair down. Flair tries to turn it around in the corner with some chops, but Vader is not impressed and shoves Flair away. Flair takes a breather and comes back in only to get stuck in the corner, which is where you don’t want to be with Vader. He beats him down in the corner and press slams Flair in the middle of the ring. Flair heads to the floor and Vader follows him out to drop him throat-first on the guardrail. Vader misses an avalanche up against the guardrail and Flair starts chopping. From there, Flair sends Vader into the ringpost. Just when Flair gets an opportunity to gain the advantage over Vader, Harley Race nails Flair from behind. Vader gives Flair a pair of suplexes. Vader pounds away some more in the corner. Flair tries to chop back, but Vader standing powerslams him instead for two. Vader comes off the middle rope with a clothesline and then tries a splash, but nobody’s home. Flair connects with THREE flying fist drops to put Vader down. He hits the Rolling Knee Drop, but Vader’s back up with a clothesline. Vader follows up with a superplex and then drops an elbow between the legs. Flair sells it like DEATH. Vader connects with a Vaderbomb and tosses Flair out to Harley Race for some stomping.
Back in again, Flair chops away like a madman. Vader slows him down with an avalanche. Vader brings Flair out of the corner and Flair starts firing back. He punches Vader down to his knees and then all the way down until he falls flat on his back. Flair posts the leg and while Race is arguing with the ref, Flair beats Vader’s knee with a chair! Flair continues to pound away on Vader’s face. Harley Race continues to bark at the ref, so Flair grabs the chair again and hits Vader in the head. Back in they go, Flair keeps on pounding and actually resorts to biting the champ! Flair drops down on the knee and tries for the FIGURE-FOUR, but Vader kicks him off. He tries a Pump Splash, but Flair moves and applies the FIGURE-FOUR! He’s got Vader in the middle of the ring. Harley Race is going insane on the apron. He’s begging Vader to get the ropes, and he does. Flair runs into a boot in the corner and takes another elbow drop in between the legs. Vader heads up top for the MOONSAULT, but Flair moves again. Flair covers, but Vader presses him off as Harley Race comes off the top with a Diving Headbutt. Not the Benoit kind, he just falls down and lands on you with his head. Ref Randy Anderson shoves Race out of the ring. Flair hits a running forearm and chops some more, but then comes off the ropes into another Vaderbomb. Vader turns away to regroup, but Flair grabs a leg and trips Vader up. He gets enough of a rollup for the 1-2-3! (21:08) And the Independence Arena no longer has a roof. At the time, this was really satisfying to finally see SOMEBODY beat Vader for the belt. The match delivered in spades by telling a great story and it kept you in total suspense the entire time. They finally gave the WCW fans what they wanted and that was another Flair title run. It proved to be the right direction to go as we get set for Hogan to enter WCW in about six months and change all of that. ****½
- Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels – (WWE WrestleMania XXIV, 3/30/08)
I have to mention that Flair’s robe is just tremendous here. I believe the WOO signs stretch out all over the arena. What an atmosphere for the man. As you reading already know, this is a “career threatening” match for Flair. If he loses, his time in WWE will be over. Hammerlock exchange to start. They head over to a corner where Flair tries to intimidate Shawn shouting, “Old Yeller, huh?”. Shawn returns fire with a slap, which busts open Flair’s lip. Shawn wants Flair’s BEST tonight. Flair wins a chopfest and delivers the Rolling Knee Drop. Michaels gets slammed off the top, while Flair FINALLY lands that flying bodypress he’s always to do. To be fair, babyface Flair actually did come off the top rope. Shawn kicks Flair out to the floor when he tries the Figure-Four. With Flair up against an announce table, Shawn delivers an Asai Moonsault and misses, hitting his mid-section on the edge of the table! OUCH. Back inside, Flair ravages Shawn with whips into the corner. Back suplex is followed by a butterfly suplex. Hourglass suplex gets two. Back to the floor, Shawn takes another crazy chance by hitting Flair with a moonsault press! He didn’t get all or even most of it though. They make it back inside at the count of nine. Another chop exchange leads to the Flying Forearm from Shawn. He mounts the comeback, hits the Flying Elbow, and “tunes up the band”. Reluctant to be the guy who ends Flair’s career, Shawn stops himself from kicking Flair and gets scooped up into the FIGURE-FOUR! WOOO! Shawn reverses out though. They try the headlock-headscissors sequence into a backslide, but Flair doesn’t seem to be able to help out with Shawn bridging up.
Flair whips Shawn in the corner for the Ray Stevens bump. With Shawn staggering, he catches him with a nasty chopblock. Michaels counters the next attempt at the Figure-Four, but can’t stop the second shot. He tries to reverse, but Flair rolls with the momentum. Oh, but Shawn makes the ropes. Flair walks away to ‘style and profile’, but turns back around into SWEET CHIN MUSIC. Slow cover gets 1-2-NO! Michaels wants to nail him real good with Sweet Chin Music, but Flair won’t get up. Shawn goes over to help him up only to catch a low blow! Flair crawls on top for 1-2-NO! Shawn applies his Inverted Figure-Four. Flair quickly reaches the ropes and very easily pulls off the bottom turnbuckle pad. While Robinson is taking care of that, Flair pokes Shawn in the eye and rolls him up for 1-2-NO! Another chop battle culminates with another SWEET CHIN MUSIC. Now Shawn “tunes up the band”, tells Flair that he’s sorry and that he loves him, and puts him down with SWEET CHIN MUSIC. (20:25) It’s not a technical masterpiece, but what a strong and emotional story told here. I don’t think they capitalized enough on the two high-risk spots that Michaels tried though. Normally I wouldn’t think it would have been necessary in a Flair match, but it does give you the idea that the bumps he took looked brutal and they give Flair an advantage that he could potentially pull this off and keep his career alive. There couldn’t possibly be a better sendoff for him. Like any other wrestling fan, I just wish he had made better money and relationship decisions in his life so he could just sit back and enjoy the fruits of his labor like someone like Roddy Piper has done, for example. ***½
Final Thoughts: This episode of the “Best of WWE” series has a VERY fitting title. These are defining matches of Ric Flair’s career with three of his world title wins and his final WWE match with Shawn Michaels. We could argue all day long about why this match or that match is missing, but you can’t deny this is a great 4.5 hours of Flair matches. Thumbs up.
Posted on December 27, 2022, in NWA, WCW, WWE and tagged Barbarian, Big Bossman, Big Van Vader, Bobby Heenan, Col. Mustafa, Davey Boy Smith, Gene Kiniski, Greg Valentine, Haku, Harley Race, Hercules Hernandez, Hulk Hogan, Irwin R. Schyster, Jake Roberts, Jerry Sags, Jim Duggan, Kerry Von Erich, Marty Jannetty, Mr. Perfect, Nikolai Volkoff, Randy Savage, Repo Man, Ric Flair, Rick Martel, Ricky Steamboat, Roddy Piper, Sgt. Slaughter, Shawn Michaels, Sid Justice, Skinner, Sting, Ted DiBiase, The Bezerker, Tito Santana, Undertaker, Virgil, Warlord. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.