Tuesday, August 15, 2017
NWA World Heavyweight Championship: Ricky Steamboat [c] vs. Ric Flair – WrestleWar 5/7/89; Nashville Municipal Auditorium
It’s widely considered the greatest trilogy in wrestling history. At Chi-Town Rumble in February, Ricky Steamboat won the NWA World Title from Ric Flair in an absolute classic. However, there was a ref bump, so it was controversial. Steamboat retained against Flair at Clash of the Champions VI in an amazing 55 minute 2 Out of 3 Falls match, but again, there was controversy since the referee missed Flair’s foot on the bottom rope.
This was the rematch to end all rematches. There were three judges to determine a winner if there’s a draw. Lou Thez, Pat O’Connor and Terry Funk. I loved the details of their entrances. Flair came out with a bunch of women by his side, while Steamboat was with his family. Very telling of both men.
In the opening minutes, there were some brutal chops thrown, with neither man backing down. Ricky went to work on an armbar and I marveled. Something so simple was used in perfect fashion and it completely engaged me. Their struggle on the mat and the exchanges all mattered. It was clear I was watching two masters. Since something as small as that worked so well, the crowd pops even bigger when they go for even the slightest of bigger moves. Ricky attempted the cross body a few times, but failed. Flair had it scouted and maybe Ricky was too married to it. With that, Flair took control and did the little things. He’d argue with the referee about a count, all the while leaning on Steamboat’s throat for added damage. I liked that the judges gave score tally updates throughout this. It made for a real sport feel, like this was boxing or something. Steamboat used an O’Connor roll, right in front of PAT O’ CONNOR. Not a bad way to sway votes.
More callbacks came when Steamboat tried the double chicken wing, which was how he won at COTC. He was, to that point, the only man to make Flair submit. Flair reached the ropes and then came back with some leg work. He locked in the Figure Four as the thirty minute mark was reached. It was Ricky’s turn to use the ropes for a desperate escape. Ric pounded on the leg, but he stopped to “WOO” and ate an enziguri for it. From out of nowhere, Flair reversed a slam into a pinning combination to win his sixth World Title at 31:31.
This worked as an epic conclusion to an all-time great rivalry. It had a big fight feel that is hard to duplicate. This had lots of energy, a wild crowd and everything they did mattered. No stone was left unturned. The things you may overlook at first had attention to detail paid to them. I think I prefer their COTC match and even may slightly like the Chi-Town Rumble outing better, but you can’t go wrong with any.
Voting is now open for tomorrow’s match at strawpoll.com/9ay7fsz5