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Great Post by Meltzer about Flair


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Thought I would post this. Just a great post by Meltzer at WC about the politics and ego that led to the demise of Flair as a top draw in 91/92 WWF.

 

Flair headlined from September 91 through April 92 and business was generally very strong. Much better than pre-September 91 when it was in the toilet. The Hogan-Flair dynamic was strong, not as strong as it should have been but I don't have the time to go through why but it was so obvious from day one why it would be. Short form, he was promoted as a pretender and not on the level of Hogan, and the dream match aspect was totally downplayed. Hogan in his promos even went so far as to say that some people think this match is a big deal, but it's not. That's how you promote a house show main event? Still, the early matches did very well, but it petered out because it was overdone, and because nobody did jobs in any of the matches. What killed it was Flair become just another WWF wrestler, and the Survivor Sreies, with Flair being on a WWF team instead of being an outsider sealed the fate. Hogan vs. NWA champion Flair would have drawn and did draw in September. They almost sold out the Oakland Coliseum Arena, which Hogan sold out very few times, in fact I can't off the top of my head remember once although he may have with Kamala r someone when he was really hot. But it's the biggest crowd I remember in the building until a Thunder taping in the boom period. It had no legs because Vince never believed in it and egos didn't want to do it right. I remember talking to Pat Patterson about two weeks before the first scheduled match in Oakland, and Patterson himself told me it wouldn't draw well because "our fans don't know Flair." That was their attitude, but in fact, it drew great.

 

By early 92, Hogan-Flair had been programmed all wrong and it had run 4 straight months and it's time was over. Still, Hogan & Piper vs. Sid & Flair drew very well, but I think the Hogan-Sid dynamic and the idea of Hogan & Piper as a team were the reason, and Flair was a strong name partner for Sid. Thinking back, I think it was the Hogan & Piper team idea since I don't think they had done that much at house shows by that point, and Sid was kind of over.

 

Flair lost the title to Savage at Mania which was a booking mistake of major proportions. Flair & Savage did great interviews building that match. You have to remember WWF in early 1992 was rocked with the steroid scandal and the ringboys scandal and Vince was being brutalized everywhere in the media. We all knew there were going to be problems, particularly when the guys started shrinking because they started doing real steroid tests and punshing guys in early 1992. Fans were taught for 8 years that to be a good wrestler you had to be huge and ripped, and suddenly nobody was going to look like that.

 

Additionally, there was no money in heel Flair chasing Savage, only the other way around. I don't know how much it would have helped for Flair to defend vs. Savage that summer, because business and ratings were going to die anyway. Everything had been built around Hogan and he was gone, in a scandal no less and the company had a major black eye and a bunch of smaller guys on top.

 

For the most part, from April 1992 until the rise of Austin and the dropping of steroid testing, nobody drew. Nash drew the worst of all the nobody draws, but Flair, Warrior, Hart, Michaels, Sid, whomever, none drew. I don't think anyone of them had much of an opportunity to draw. When Hart beat Nash, there was a noticeable turnaround and the company was profitable for a short period of time. Even when Hogan came back in 1993, he saw the lay and of the land, and when he wasn't drawing either, he quit to do a TV show.

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Another point Meltzer failed to mention was that by 1991, Ric Flair's stock had dropped quite a bit. Someone like Flair is always going to mean something in wrestling, but he had passed his peak as a money-drawing heel, and he'd been so damaged in the previous few years under Jim Herd that he didn't have the same aura or ability to draw that he once did. Flair v Hogan in '86? That would have drawn like nobody's business. Flair v Hogan in '91? With Hogan's star beginning to fall and Flair's best days behind him? It just wasn't going to be as big as it could have been, no matter how good the booking was.

 

I don't think Flair was sabotaged, but I do think the ever-standing WWF booking flaws were as exposed in this feud as in anything else. It's rare that a heel in WWE is protected and not portrayed in underhanded fashion on commentary. That's why I always preferred someone like 1984-1992 Jim Ross selling angles -- he was far from objective, but he at least put forth the illusion that he was *attempting* to be objective, so his opinionated rants meant more as a result when they finally did happen. EVERY announcer in WWF history is essentially a color commentator, with some favoring faces and some favoring heels. Major difference.

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