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  1. Sleeze goes back to the greatest decade this world has ever experienced, the 1980s, BABY! We start in style with the big profile championship match as Ric Flair defends against his strongest challenger of the first half of the decade, Kerry Von Erich. NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair vs Kerry Von Erich August 15, 1982 Wrestling Star Wars Dallas, TX 2 Out Of Three Falls The below review is from my third viewing of one of my favorite matches of all times. It focuses mainly on the layout and Flair's performance and I agree with everything I wrote. However, on this viewing, I intentionally focused on the Modern Day Warrior. The common knock on men like Von Erich and Luger is that they are broomsticks that are plugged into the Flair formula and out pops a classic. It can't be further from the truth. I can understand you can be distracted by the glistening He-Man physique and that horseface, but if you watch as intently as Kerry laid one on that young girl at ringside then you will see Kerry was a phenomenal seller. Early on, Flair does his usual bridge escape out of a headscissors and watch Kerry's face, he flinches in pain. Or when he has a headscissors on Flair, he conveys the internal struggle not to ball up his fist and punch Flair to the audience. During the match, Flair is always struggling looking for an opening with short knees or chops and Kerry is great selling the immediate pain. He gives Flair these brief openings, but always fires back up. In the second fall, Kerry is just excelling at writhing in pain from Flair's leg work and really expressing how close he is to giving up. Now, Flair is no slouch as he is tremendous in his verbal selling especially when Kerry reverses the pressure. This entire match is a master class in selling by both men. Each man really is thinking shoot while they are working. They respond to each other and moments in the match in a real sporting manner. Each time, I discover new spots and elements that make it a better match. Such as during the abdominal stretch, Von Erich makes a point to exaggerate his gesture that he is looking to put on the Claw, which really whips the crowd into a frenzy. The crowd was nuclear for Kerry from the get-go and totally rabid at the prospect of him dethroning Ric Flair especially after defeating previous Champion Harley Race in a de facto No. 1 Contender’s match just months previous to this. Flair, as usual, is a cardio freak, but my favorite moment is how he slowly ramps up his heelishness. At first testing his strength and clearly being bested, he resorts to hair pulling to win an over the top wristlock. Another thing, I love is that when Kerry has Flair in a head scissors in the beginning, they do not just lie on the mat. Flair is very broadly attempting to escape the hold, but cant. This does two things, it puts over Kerry’s strength and most importantly, keeps the audience engaged. Flair does a lot of things really well, but he is exceptional at keeping the audience engaged even during perfunctory matwork. The beginning is all about putting over Kerry’s strength. This is accomplished by holding multiple head-scissors, winning over the top wristlocks and a visually impressive arm wrench that Flair bumps wells, which the crowd pops loudly for. Flair gets some offense in the corner, which is Flair’s domain. Besides Vader, I do not think there is a wrestler that is better in the corner than Flair. Flair takes over with a knee-lift and begins taking shortcuts like the aforementioned hair pull. Off a missed elbow, they do a well-executed tussle for the ab stretch I brought up earlier. I love how they made each other work for it with Kerry ultimately winning. An eye-rake (Flair shortcuts) breaks it up, but Kerry hits two pretty impressive dropkicks. Flair’s next shortcut is to hold the rope down as Kerry crashes to the floor, which leads to Flair’s big flurry of offensive: dropping Kerry across the top rope, knee drop and piledriver. Kerry catches Flair with back body drop, but Flair blocks the corner. Flair pushes the ref, but as Kerry winds up for the discus punch he catches the ref in the head. Kerry puts on the sleeper, BUT THERE IS NO REF, here he comes and now the bell is ringing. KERRY WINS THE FIRST FALL!!! Right!?!?! Right!?!?!? The original referee disqualifies Kerry for the punch much to the dismay of the crowd and to relief of a visually exhausted and desperate Flair. I liked the finish to the first fall even if it was a clusterfuck because Kerry was clearly put over as more dominant than Flair. Flair’s escape with a DQ finish in the first fall allows for Kerry to once again be perceived as the underdog as he has the unenviable task to win two straight falls against The Man. Another great element is that all of Flair’s control segments were initiated by shortcuts thus always making Kerry look better in comparison. The second fall rules all and by itself would probably be one of my favorite matches of all time. Flair is still coughing from the sleeper hold and begs off immediately. Kerry and the crowd smell blood. Kerry slaps on the sleeper, but Flair makes use of the Bret leverage move to send Kerry crashing to the floor. Flair capitalizes this by wrenching Kerry’s leg across the apron. NOW WE GO TO SCHOOL!!! Flair is absolutely crazed during this control segment as he clearly a desperate champ doing anything to take down the physically superior Kerry Von Erich. Flair hits the shinbreaker to a physically diminished Von Erich side-headlock. After Flair works over the leg, it is time for the Figure-4 Leglock whipping the crowd into frenzy. Just minutes ago, they thought their hero had the first fall in the bag and now it looks he is about to lose two straight falls. WAIT!!! Kerry had reversed the pressure and now Flair scrambles for the ropes. Flair tries to go back to the knee, but Keryr blocks with the vaunted Von Erich Claw. Flair blades like a champ off the claw and eventually is pinned. Flair’s control segment was fuckin awesome and Kerry sold his knee like champ. Then when it came to the hit finish everyone erupted when the claw was slapped on just when it seemed like Flair had this one in the bag. Flair is drenched in sweat and blood and looking for a fight with the universal sign of “Put up your dukes”. A spirited two-minute intense brawl breaks out and the ref loses control of the match. At first, I was disappointed by the finish, but in retrospect it is a really good to put over the intense nature of the match and it would ultimately setup the Huge Christmas Day 1982 Cage match. The basic idea of the Flair formula was executed, which is to make your opponent look like a million bucks and keep the audience engaged. However, Flair was not always a chickenshit heel as he vacillated among begging off, desperation and crazed. There was an urgency to each fall. Kerry felt like he NEEDED to win the first one and came out hot, but was robbed. Kerry NEEDED to win the second one or he lost, but by the same token Flair felt he NEEDED to win based off Kerry’s stellar performance in the first fall. Kerry played his part well and definitely added more than just his Texas star power. He sold well and worked hard to keep up with Flair and sell the importance of the match. I LOVE this match because there is never a dull moment and the match builds perfectly on itself until the wild brawl at the end. Just a little too much bullshit in the first and last fall to go all the way, but damn this is going to be a hard match to beat in World Class. ****3/4
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