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[1994-05-14-WCW-Saturday Night] Ric Flair vs Ricky Steamboat

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Spectacular match. This worked better than Spring Stampede, because they were both in even more of a groove. It's probably the best free TV match (not counting specials like Clashes) that WCW ever had. It's Flair/Steamboat, I don't feel the need to really review it or say a ton about it, but while the '94 series isn't the '89 series, not much is, and it's definitely a pair of matches they should both be very proud of. I guess you could call this Flair's last classic, and Steamboat's for that matter.

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So the title seems to be officially held up before the match due to what happened at Spring Stampedge. Does this count towards Ric Flair World Titles? I don’t see it recognized.

 

I figure this would be a step below the Stampedge match since this is from TV. Wrong. Much better pace between the two this time around. Seems to be an added intensity also. I forgot what year it was for a second when Steamboat was taping on the mat while in the figure four. Unique finish that I wasn’t sure about at first but ended up thinking it was fine since these guys had gone 35 minutes so it is more believable. They do recognize it as another Title win for Flair.

 

Tony took at shot at another announcer for their multiple marriages. Jim Ross?

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This was pretty outstanding. The match structure was laid out really well here. It mixes scientific and brawling brilliantly. The floor spots were used as transition into the next segment of the match which I liked. I think the match started out great and slowed down a bit. It progressively got more interesting as time went by and really got good after the sleeper spot. The finishing stretch was tremendous and the finish was a unique surprise. Obviously the crowd was more invested in this as well because the pacing was more fluid and brawling was inserted in with everything else. I would probably agree this is the last classic from both guys as well.

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I agree with the general sentiment that this was better than the Spring Stampede match, but a classic? The finishing stretch felt thrown together, like they were just doing everything they could think of rather than building to specific, meaningful moments. It was very characteristic of both guys, but for me, didn't live up to the quality of wrestling in the body of the match. I also question the decision to wrestle a 35+ minute title match in front of a WCW studio crowd. They built the match around the idea that the crowd would be hanging on every nearfall during the frenetic stretch run. But the crowd mostly didn't give a shit and didn't seem notably invested in either guy. I've actually found it interesting in general how little the crowds seemed to sympathize with Steamboat by 1994. We think of him as the ultimate babyface, and he was still working at a very high level. But the contemporary fans did not react to him as the ultimate babyface.

 

I'm coming off too negative overall. This was a substantial effort and a nice capstone to their rivalry.

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I'm surprised you would say "either guy" ... I agree with you general point about Steamboat, and it's hard to dispute that when watching this yearbook. But Flair? They were as into him as they ever were much of anything at this point at Center Stage.

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You're probably right about that. I guess my complaint was more about doing a long title match in front of a crowd that was never going to be into it. I went to some of those Center Stage tapings when I was in college in the ATL and god, what a terrible environment.

 

But yes, they were just as apathetic to Steamboat in Chicago as in the studio.

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I prefer the Spring Stampede match but this was great also. I thought this lost a little steam at the end and that the overall selling was less than the SS match. Flair did better working brawling spots into this. Crowd was pretty terrible even in the ending run. Overall I think both of these matches are good bookends on their 1989 feud.

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So I watched this for the first time the other day and well… I don’t really know what to say. I’m at a point now where I really want someone to give me a different perspective on Flair because what I see most of the time is a guy running around like a headless chicken. He works hard, has good execution, and if you’re into his shit, I can see where people would consider his matches exciting. Once you get passed those elements there’s really not much there. It’s a shame too because I genuinely liked a lot of his matches, but at this point, outside of a couple here and there, I think they’re mostly trash.

 

Even these Steamboat matches. I still like them to a certain extent, but they’re really just well executed back and forth matches without much of a story. In the end they feel sort of empty to me.

 

Also, I guess I'm in agreement with some others in thinking Center Stage is a terrible place to hold a match like this.

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The edit job here jumps the gun as we miss the Flair-Col. Robert Parker confrontation where Flair further solidifies his tweener role as he decks Fuller and takes the briefcase full of cash.

 

That was after this match right?

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For the first 2/3 I thought this was gonna be better than Stampede because of the better pacing and intensity, but they lost me with the last 1/3. The match stopped building after a while and they just got around repeating spots without much rythme or reasons, and showing legit actual signs of tireness and sloppiness, especially Flair. So, no, it's not better than the Stampede match. I thought the finish was lame and anticlimatic, as with a lot of Flair wins. The match sure isn't helped by the TV crowd who doesn't understand what these two were doing. What with all the kids wearing the same shirt ? They were dead. I disagree Steamboat wasn't over as we can regularly hear a "Steamboat" chant, that being said, it might have been piped in. So, great match for the two third, and not so great at the end, which makes it very good nonetheless.

The post-match angle again shows how much I'm not buying Col. Parker as a big time manager, I don't care for his promo style nor his character. The difference with Paul E. back in 1992 or Cornette in SMW is striking. I'm not saying Fuller is bad (although he was much more fun as Robert Fuller), just that this character doesn't cut it with me on the upper card.

Also, Heenan really isn't very good calling these kind of long wrestling match. Too much joky joky.

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Phew! Five reviews in one day.

 

Ric Flair vs Ricky Steamboat - WCW Saturday Night 05/14/94 Vacant WCW World Championship

 

Flair and Steamboat put on one last classic before Steamboat's forced retirement that contends with the Ladder Match and Bret/Owen for American MOTY. The Spring Stampede match was wrestled a little too straight for me and had its lulls. This really felt like a high-octane match with plenty of cool new spots that built on the classic canon of Flair/Steamboat. Flair playing the heel more strongly in this match avoided them playing it too straight and added more dynamic elements to the match. It also never feels like a nostalgia match. They still are wrestling at a very high level. It is a cardio tour de force and they are adding spots and nuances to their already well-developed series.

 

I love, love the amateur riding sequences that usually start their matches. They just see where it goes and when Flair picks an ankle he turns it over into a half crab, but then misses the flying knee on Steamboat's knee. It is so organic and logical, but when has Flair ever picked an ankle and gone to the half-crab. It manifested itself naturally out of the riding sequence. Flair is so good at creating movement in his matches to let his opponent shine, the press slams and armdrags were great ways to establish Steamboat's control. However when there is motion, there are times to take advantage. A well-timed Flair punch to the gut ends Steamboat's energetic work. From there, it is 1989 again, baby! Flair hits wicked chop after wicked chop. Flair has such an underrated punch. There is one punch after inverted atomic drop that just looked so picture perfect. You gotta love Flair in the corner. It has to be either Flair or Vader as the greatest corner wrestler ever. Steamboat is milking this for all its worth and I thought the Center Stage crowd was behind The Dragon during the entirety of this match. Every time Steamboat starts to light up Flair they are ready to get behind him. These are some amazing chop exchanges, lots of fire and fury behind them. One of my favorite spots ever was when Steamboat had taken so much punishment that he nearly collapses on the apron, but catches the ropes. I love, love that spot. Someone needs to crib that for a big time match. (2017 me is marking out so hard for these chop exchanges)

 

Among the many things I love about this match is they never forget the crux of the match. It is for a vacant championship. There is no championship advantage. So both men are very aggressive and very offensive. Not only that, they are always going for pinfalls to catch their man unawares, but they also work hard to negotiate their pinfalls. Flair is using amateur cradles and jackknifes (using the ropes for leverage when he can) while Steamboat is using flash. Their goal is to win the match and you win the match by pinfall. There is no wasted motion in excessively beating someone up because a mistake on a home run could cost you the title. So many times you will see a disconnect from the story of the match and the action nowadays. Flair and Steamboat always remember that is about pinning a man's shoulders down for a three count.

 

Flair looks to sap all the energy out of Steamboat with a nice long sleeper and the crowd really gets behind the Steamer at this point. They move to the next chapter of the match where Steamboat works over the knee. It begins with a Flair Flip to the outside only to catch Steamboat in the midsection when he comes off the ropes with a chop only to fall prey to a Steamboat suplex on the floor and then float over on a Steamboat suplex and Flair misses a kneedrop. Thus begins the awesome part where Steamboat builds to applying the figure-4 on Flair. So many times the babyface just slaps on the figure-4, which gets a pop, but for Stemaboat to work over the knee to build to it just made it that much better. I am still a sucker for stuff like Flair pushing Dragon away during a series of chops only to do the Flair Flop. (Im rewatching this in 2017 and sprucing up this review. I popped again for this Flair Flop.)

Back from commercial break, The Steamer misses a top splash and Flair immediately double stomps him in the abdomen. Flair is still selling so fucking well. Delayed vertical and Flair is still selling like a million bucks. Flair goes for multiple pinfall attempts, but still cant negotiate a win. Flair hits the knee crusher and now we go to school! The ref catches him using the ropes for leverage so he goes for the kneecrusher again, but Steamboat hits an enziguiri. I loved the Flair Flip where he actually ducks the chop on the apron, but gets nailed coming down from the top rope. Huge mark out moment! At about the 35 minute mark, they are still flying around and they do the bridge spot because they are Cardio Gods. Steamboat gets the superplex, but Flair foot on the ropes. Steamboat was the king of the frenetic finish. He is flying off the top rope. He is throwing a ton of cradles at Flair. I am outta breath just watching all this unfold. I loved the finish with the flying around during a criss cross 38 minutes in and Flair headbutting Steamboat in the midsection on a leapfrog attempt. It is simple but stays true to the match being about getting the pin at all costs. I think if Steamboat actually sold it more with writhing it would have helped.

 

The constant thread throughout the entire match was two champions trying to win the match by throwing out everything they had in their arsenal. From beginning to end, it was about negotiating a pinfall. They occasionally lost their way in order to fit in Flair signature bumps and spots, but overall they stayed true to the match. I thought right up to Flair's figure-4 at 30 minutes they were wrestling at insanely high level and had me totally hooked. The first Flair press slam was when they kinda lost it and it started to peter out. I think if they went 32 minutes instead of 36 minutes this would be a perfect match. That's my nitpick complaint. I loved how Steamboat was just pouring it on at the end. Top rope chops, constant motion. You see Flair throw these wicked chops and then nearly collapse. Steamboat had Flair down from almost sheer exhaustion. He was trying to sap Flair's energy with a barrage of quick cradles, but his plan backfired because when he is not able to get high enough on his leapfrog and Flair is able to get the win. They were such equals in every way that it was just a small mistake that separated them. I have this ahead of the Ladder match, just behind Bret/Owen as the number two match in the US during 1994. It is just an excellent championship style match that I wished still existed to this day. ****3/4

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Agree on this petering out towards the end--all those rollups and shoulderblocks and dropdowns were indicative of two guys who were seemingly out of things to do. I actually did like the finish as it was a nice subtle heel method for Flair to win, and the body of this match is pretty great. Flair busts out a kneedrop off the turnbuckle and a monkey flip here, which is about the only new offense I've ever seen from him from this time period onward. One of the best North American bouts of the year, but I hesitate to call it the best at this stage.

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I'd forgotten that they had back to back matches in 1994. This was taped on 4/21, just 4 days after Spring Stampede. The first one ruled. The second one ruled. What a great rivalry this was. I'd say this one shaded it though you could lean either way.

 

A TV match with 37m shown. Yeah you read that right. I guess they just clipped out a handful of moves in the breaks. Isn't it amazing what you can achieve with a commitment to match quality? Having Flair and Steamboat doesn't hurt either. Neither of these veterans had lost their athleticism or stamina. Great workrate and there was never a dull moment. High quality technical wrestling, showcasing some of the best that the American style had to offer. They worked even more smoothly having had recent ring time together. A wide variety of moves were utilised as they kept changing things up. Plenty of stiff chops were dished out. They smartly held back the leg work for quite a while. Then some excellent damage and exhaustion selling down the stretch.

 

As people have mentioned the big downside was the closing minutes. You could see that they'd run out of ideas at the death. The finish itself was strange and anticlimactic for such an epic contest. Had they brought it home 5m earlier it would've been a level higher. Still a US MOTYC. It was unfortunate that Steamboat didn't go out on his own terms. Yet lots of guys go on too long and the Dragon never had the chance to suck.

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I gotta say, it has a special feel to it when Steamboat first walks out and says - one more time, you and me etc... It really got me hyped for the match.

 

I love the chop/slap exchange in the early stages of the match. They both look fired up. I'm sorry, but the lone foot on the top rope does not give the visual that Flair would have more leverage on a pin. Steamboat starts working on the left leg down the line, and before he puts on the figure four, he levels Flair with huge slap to the face. It really looked brutal. You never get the feeling they are running through the motions here. They are out for blood. They are focused on the championship. The match doesn't have the feel of, let's give them one more classic match. It looks like they want to win, and that's part of what makes this so great. I actually watched Stampede 94 a few months ago, but it's not fresh enough in my mind to fairly compare them. I think they are both great. I may like this one a little more, because it has such a different feel to it. It's different, but in a good way. I see some are down on the finish, but that's how I felt about that too (different in a good way). I liked the story they told. I loved the match.

 

****1/2

 

#395 - placetobenation.com/countdown-top-500-matches-of-the-90s-400-351/

Making an edit here - I came back and watched this in November of 2019.  I'm even higher on it.  I do prefer it to the Spring Stampede match, and truly feel like it is a MOTYC for 1994.  FANTASTIC.  I don't like star ratings anymore, but if I did them I'd go higher than I did three years ago....

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I've been really down on Flair's post 1990 in-ring work. He streamlined his spots to a pretty basic, repetitive sort that still worked for him and popped the crowd but I mostly haven't enjoyed it save for a few matches here and there. To put it bluntly he seemed like a shell of himself but it was clear that he could still get up and go which was impressive for his age and the wear and tear hes experienced.

 

But I gotta say he went all out here. It wasn't just go go go, he and Steamboat mixed it up a bit and tried some new things. It felt fresh. One thing that bothered me was the double stomp on Steamboat that set up flair injuring both of his legs. I liked it but they didn't follow through and do anything with it. And some of Flair's OH GOD selling was off-putting. I get the criticism people have of the last section where it seemed like they ran out of things to do but I felt it worked. They were playing up how they were equals and had thrown everything they had at each other and we're completely work out to the point that the first to slip up would lose. Great match.

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