Jump to content
Pro Wrestling Only
Grimmas

Ric Flair

Recommended Posts

I'm not sure if, from 1986 on, you could've had a similar situation to what he had in 1985, where he was feuding with Nikita - as a pure babyface standing up for David Crockett, who he was in a plane crash with, after Nikita gave him the Sickle on TV - while very much not being a babyface in his ongoing beef with Magnum and Dusty. I don't even know if they could've played the America v Russia note to the same effect. After Flair and the Horsemen broke Dusty's leg there was pretty much no room for subtlety anymore. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, Loss said:

I've explored the early 80s a lot in recent months and totally agree that Flair was a different wrestler after 1985. It's not just the in-ring either -- the persona changed in a lot of ways. I'd argue the big phases of his career as:

- The days before he was champion and Mid-Atlantic (primarily) star (1973-1981)
- The world and country-traveling champion (late 1981-1985)
- The company heel champion (1986-1990)
- The guy who could still be great on the right night but wasn't quite RIC FLAIR anymore (1991-1994)
- The guy struggling to adjust to a new landscape and having mixed results (1995-1999)

I have nothing to add about him after that.

If those are the five phases, Phase 1 is the one we understand the least and have to rely on memories and myth. Phase 2 is the most fun and varied, while Phase 3 is some really high-end resume padding. Phase 4 is a compliment to his longevity, and Phase 5 has its share of ups and downs. Phase 2 has less great matches than Phase 3, but if you want to understand in 2021 why people loved Ric Flair, Phase 2 will enlighten more than Phase 3.

I would argue phase 5 isn't real, he was just getting old and his body couldn't keep up. Flair doing Flair things always worked, be it the Nitro era, late stage Russo era, the post Russo era, pre Evolution period, Evolution, post Evolution, even TNA. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think Phase 5 wouldn't just be about his working style, but also how they booked his character. Flair was very Flair-like till 1997, but in 1998-99, he was also booked like a crazy fun literally having escaped an asylum straight into the craziest locker room in wrestling history. He still had some very good performances in main events right till 1999. IIRC, the last bug buyrate WCW drew was for Flair-Hogan in 1999. But then they turned Flair heel and that was probably the death knell of the promotion. No one wanted to boo him in 1999. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's not really on him. He was performing to the best of his abilities of the garbage they gave him and was one of the very few things in WCW still getting reactions every week all the way to the end. Crazy house Ric Flair really isn't much crazier than regular Ric Flair by that point anyway. He had been acting like a lunatic on TV for most of the prior 10 years, and especially the 4-5 up to that point.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think there's a Phase 6 in 2005-06 where Flair stopped trying to have 'workrate' at all and just became as close to a deathmatch wrestler as WWE would allow. I love that year of Flair more than anything post-1993 and it actually adds to his case a little bit for me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, KB8 said:

I'm not sure if, from 1986 on, you could've had a similar situation to what he had in 1985, where he was feuding with Nikita - as a pure babyface standing up for David Crockett, who he was in a plane crash with, after Nikita gave him the Sickle on TV - while very much not being a babyface in his ongoing beef with Magnum and Dusty. I don't even know if they could've played the America v Russia note to the same effect. After Flair and the Horsemen broke Dusty's leg there was pretty much no room for subtlety anymore. 

I was actually rewatching Starrcade 1984 the other day, with the lesser-remembered Flair-Dusty main event, and it was funny because Flair got cheered more than Dusty the entire match, including after Joe Frazier stopped the match due to the cut. I am sure Dusty booked that finish to let Flair retain while giving himself a lot of sympathy, but it did not seem to work out that way because the fans loved Flair, and loved the fact that he won, and kept cheering for him. They did not boo Dusty at all, but it seemed to me that they liked Flair more. I am sure Dusty did not appreciate that at all when it happened; that was a direct challenge to him being the pre-eminent super-babyface of the promotion.

It didn't help that Dusty's complaints post-match came across to me as him being a whiner and sore loser, since blood stoppages in wrestling main events had been happening for years prior to that, and Flair had opened the cut fair and square in an even fight by throwing him against the ringpost and then flipping a switch and attacking the cut like crazy. Flair's post match promo was classic "Phase 2 Flair", where he paid due respect to Dusty and put over the match, but let everyone know that he didn't care why Frazier stopped the match. As far as he was concerned, he was there only to win the match and get the $1 million check, and that's exactly what he did. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, MoS said:

I think Phase 5 wouldn't just be about his working style, but also how they booked his character. Flair was very Flair-like till 1997, but in 1998-99, he was also booked like a crazy fun literally having escaped an asylum straight into the craziest locker room in wrestling history. He still had some very good performances in main events right till 1999. IIRC, the last bug buyrate WCW drew was for Flair-Hogan in 1999. But then they turned Flair heel and that was probably the death knell of the promotion. No one wanted to boo him in 1999. 

I dunno. WCW's booking at that time really hamstrung him and he sort of had go away heat by mid 99 as did Hogan, Nash, and anybody else who had been on top. Going from Goldberg's streak ending, to finger poke of doom, to leaving Bret Hart home for reasons?, to a first blood barbed wire cagematch loser leaves town World Title match where the winner was on Nitro the next night, to Flairs heel turn, all of that in 6 months killed it. Nobody wanted to boo Flair, but nobody really wanted to see him or any of the top WCW guys on their TV by that point either.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The fingerpoke of doom did not really hurt business at all; in fact, it briefly gave it a shot in the arm. If they had done a decent follow-up on it, they could have made something of it. They fucked up the follow-up and the rest unfortunately is history. 

Flair was a big ratings draw in 1999 and as mentioned, popped the large big buyrate WCW ever did. He obviously was not the future and should have been utilised sparingly and to get a new star over. But to say that no one really wanted to see him on TV is not entirely accurate imo. While he had been booked like shit in the previous 24 months, he had not been hogging the main event spotlight continuously, so I don't think there was a lot of fatigue about his presence. But he still was a big asset. It is one of wrestling's greatest tragedies that the promotion Flair is synonymous with had no idea how to use him for a majority of its existence. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wasn't the big buy rate more to do with it being such an outrageous stipulation and a loser retires match (even though Hogan lost and wrestled on Nitro the next night)?  I dunno, I just remember by mid-99 there was a tremendous amount of fatigue around all the top guys in WCW. At that point everything in WWF and ECW felt fresh and exciting and everything in WCW felt stale and chaotic, including Ric Flair.   

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 minutes ago, joeg said:

Wasn't the big buy rate more to do with it being such an outrageous stipulation and a loser retires match (even though Hogan lost and wrestled on Nitro the next night)?  I dunno, I just remember by mid-99 there was a tremendous amount of fatigue around all the top guys in WCW. At that point everything in WWF and ECW felt fresh and exciting and everything in WCW felt stale and chaotic, including Ric Flair.   

I think both of us are remembering correctly, actually. The big buyrate was February 1999. By mid-1999, everything was crashing spectacularly and everyone, including Flair, was stale and had fatigued the audience 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had Flair at number 25 in 2016 and I'd guess he'll be about there again in 2026. Many, many words about Flair have been written on this board. Many, many words have been spoken about him in 12-hour podcast series. He had lots of good wrestling matches and I have nothing new to add on the man. 

 

RIC FLAIR YOU SHOULD WATCH:

w/Angelo Mosca v Greg Valentine & Hussein Arab (Maple Leaf Wrestling, 9/6/80)

v Kerry Von Erich (WCCW, 8/15/82)

v Chris Adams (WCCW, 2/3/84)

v Ricky Steamboat (JCP Boogie Jam, 3/17/84)

v Jake Roberts (Mid-South, 11/24/85)

v Ron Garvin (JCP World Championship Wrestling, 12/28/85)

v Ricky Morton (JCP, 7/5/86)

v Barry Windham (JCP WorldWide, 1/20/87)

v Lex Luger (NWA Starrcade, 12/26/88)

v Ricky Steamboat (NWA Chi-Town Rumble, 2/20/89)

v Ricky Steamboat (NWA Clash of the Champions VI, 4/2/89) 

v Terry Funk (NWA Great American Bash, 7/23/89)

v Terry Funk (NWA Clash of the Champions IX, 11/15/89)

w/Barry Windham, Larry Zbyszko & Sid Vicious v Sting, Brian Pillman & The Steiner Brothers (WCW WrestleWar, 2/24/91)

v Mick Foley (WWE Summerslam, 8/20/06)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 5/12/2021 at 12:50 AM, joeg said:

Wasn't the big buy rate more to do with it being such an outrageous stipulation and a loser retires match (even though Hogan lost and wrestled on Nitro the next night)?  I dunno, I just remember by mid-99 there was a tremendous amount of fatigue around all the top guys in WCW. At that point everything in WWF and ECW felt fresh and exciting and everything in WCW felt stale and chaotic, including Ric Flair.   

Halloween Havoc '94 was loser must retire and was huge on PPV. Nitro didn't exist yet. Hogan won.

SuperBrawl IX was just a title match and was huge on PPV. Neither wrestled the next night.

Uncensored '99 was a first-blood match cage and was down on PPV with the heel/face reversal. They worked opposite sides of a tag match the next night on Nitro.

They did a bunch of skits in April-May 1999 with Flair being committed to a mental institution by Roddy Piper. Horrible stuff. Practically everyone in WCW was a turn-off at this point.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the big Superbrawl buyrate was partly due to Goldberg-Bigelow which was a hot program at the time. Goldberg wasn't on Uncensored and the buys were down by a third. Also should be noted that the week before Uncensored was the infamous Nitro with no wrestling in the first hour.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I feel Flair is a bit like Fujinami in that his supposed post-1989 fall from grace is way overblown. His 90s WCW and 2000s WWE runs range from decent to excellent. Nice to see KB8 list the Foley I Quit match as a must-see. That's one of my favorite WWE matches. In fact, his entire 2005-2006 garbage wrestler run was gold with the the Triple H feud, Big Show ECW match etc.

Technical wrestler Flair was good but to me that's not really his calling card. He was at his absolute best as the violent brawler, both as a heel or face, whether he was playing the psychotic bully or the fiery, vengeful ass-kicker. I had him at 43 in 2016, which seems reasonable. I can see him both gain 10-15 spots or fall out of the Top 50, but he will definitely be in the mix. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, Microstatistics said:

Technical wrestler Flair was good but to me that's not really his calling card. He was at his absolute best as the violent brawler, both as a heel or face, whether he was playing the psychotic bully or the fiery, vengeful ass-kicker. I had him at 43 in 2016, which seems reasonable. I can see him both gain 10-15 spots or fall out of the Top 50, but he will definitely be in the mix. 

I've felt this way for a while now as well. Like, I watched the 6/85 match with Terry Taylor a few years back and I didn't LOVE it, but I did love the stretch of the match where he got fed up with Taylor and tried to clean his clock. There was nothing underhanded about it, he just beat the brakes off him and the shift from him begging off earlier was completely convincing. He'll often have brief spells in matches where he rises above the hubris and looks like a total killer and they're routinely my favourite parts of Flair matches. It's why I like him so much as a Garvin opponent, because the majority of their matches are like that, but over the course of the whole match rather than a short segment of it. Then there's the Funk matches from '89 that are my favourite Flair matches ever. Flair in full "fuck it" mode is the very best. And psychotic old man Flair working ECW brawls was a hoot.

(Of course I understand why he never worked like that every time)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, Microstatistics said:

Technical wrestler Flair was good but to me that's not really his calling card. He was at his absolute best as the violent brawler, both as a heel or face, whether he was playing the psychotic bully or the fiery, vengeful ass-kicker. 

This 100%. People remember preening, stooging, cartoon bumping Flair, but he always had a core of steel when truly challenged.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, Flair in 1995 was not at his best in the ring, but he was doing his best character work since probably his face run against Funk. That Savage feud is super underrated. It has some excellent matches and IIRC, it was the feud that actually turned WCW's business around, before the nWo formed and took it to the next level

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm currently doing a book club deal rewatching and rating segments on early Nitro and PPVs (personally I'll probably stop at the end of 1997 but maybe push through 1998 if Thunders are up by the time we get to it) and I'd say his ring work was actually very good during the time as well. His body looks like absolutely dog shit, though. I didn't remember him looking that bad physically until 1997 after the shoulder surgery. However he's going 100%, maybe 110% every time he's on screen no matter the person on the other side of the ring, or what or who the promo is about. He's pulling out every trick he has every time he's on screen and is wildly entertaining. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a question about Flair's candidacy. 

The conventional wisdom seems to be that in the 80s, apart from having great matches with his best opponents, Flair developed a formula that allowed him to go from territory to territory, night after night, and drag good matches out of whatever stiffs the local promotion offered up to him. 

My question is: who were the stiffs? Are these kind of matches on tape, or is it just part of the Flair legend? Meltzer said on Twitter the other night that nobody in history is close to Flair as a night-to-night house show wrestler, and I don't doubt it. But I'm just trying to get a handle on the historical basis for that reputation. I looked back over Loss's fantastic posts from 2014 outlining the peaks of Flair's title reigns, and I definitely see names that don't jump out as top workers; but also a lot of names that people have defended as actually being quite good (Kerry Von Erich, Butch Reed, etc.)

Who were the proverbial broomsticks?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Check out his 1982 World Title Defenses alone 

https://www.cagematch.net/?id=5&nr=179&page=4&year=1982

You've got matches against Dusty, John Studd (27 minutes against John STudd in Greensboro, my goodness), Ole Anderson, Rufus R Jones, Harley Race, Bob Brown, Mr Wrestling II, Sgt Slaughter, Tommy Rich, Mike Graham (60min draw), Dory Funk Jr (30 min), Dick the Bruiser (24min in 1982), DIck Slater, Butch Reed, Kerry Von ERich, Jay Youngblood, Blackjack Mulligan, Leroy Brown, Ricky Steamboat, Ron Fuller, Jimmy Golden, The Spoiler, Paul Jones, Wahoo McDaniel, Bob Armstrong, Brett Sawyer, Rocky Johnson, BUddy Rose, Al Madril, Dewey Robertson, Michael Hayes, Gene Kiniski (in 1982), Angelo Mosca, Terry Gordy, Jack Brisco, Jumbo Tsuruta, Terry Allen, Ted Dibiase, Jake Roberts, Bob Backlund, Paul Orndorff, Brian Blair, Sweeet Brown Sugar, Barry Windham (in 1982), BUzz Tyler, Mike George, Jerry Lawler, Jimmy Valiant, Pierre Martel, Invader I, Carlos COlon, Tommy Gilbert, Ron Bass, Terry Gibbes, Stan Hansen, Manny Fernandez, David Von ERich, Roddy Piper, Ken Patera, Austin Idol. That's 1982 alone. And its not like all of these matches were one off. There are multiple matches against Big John Studd, Ole Anderson, etc. 

Not all of those guys are "broomsticks." The majority are good, but they're all different and to be able to walk in the door and have a good & competitve title match against any one off that list on any particular night regardless of who it happens to be that night is pretty impressive. There are some notorious broomstick guys who would have helped make that reputation that aren't on this list either because he worked with them later. I'm thinking of Nikita, Road Warrior Hawk, Lex Luger, Sting those musclehead types who didn't have a ton of experience working in long singles matches. 

(Who is Leroy Brown and why did he get 4 NWA title shots in 1982)?

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From the looks of it, he was a popular midcarder for the southern territories. Brown had quite a few matches against the likes of Jack Brisco and Ricky Steamboat. Had a Mid South Tag Team Title reign with Ernie Ladd, who was a big name. He's probably not that much out of place compared to the other names. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, elliott said:

Check out his 1982 World Title Defenses alone 

https://www.cagematch.net/?id=5&nr=179&page=4&year=1982

You've got matches against Dusty, John Studd (27 minutes against John STudd in Greensboro, my goodness), Ole Anderson, Rufus R Jones, Harley Race, Bob Brown, Mr Wrestling II, Sgt Slaughter, Tommy Rich, Mike Graham (60min draw), Dory Funk Jr (30 min), Dick the Bruiser (24min in 1982), DIck Slater, Butch Reed, Kerry Von ERich, Jay Youngblood, Blackjack Mulligan, Leroy Brown, Ricky Steamboat, Ron Fuller, Jimmy Golden, The Spoiler, Paul Jones, Wahoo McDaniel, Bob Armstrong, Brett Sawyer, Rocky Johnson, BUddy Rose, Al Madril, Dewey Robertson, Michael Hayes, Gene Kiniski (in 1982), Angelo Mosca, Terry Gordy, Jack Brisco, Jumbo Tsuruta, Terry Allen, Ted Dibiase, Jake Roberts, Bob Backlund, Paul Orndorff, Brian Blair, Sweeet Brown Sugar, Barry Windham (in 1982), BUzz Tyler, Mike George, Jerry Lawler, Jimmy Valiant, Pierre Martel, Invader I, Carlos COlon, Tommy Gilbert, Ron Bass, Terry Gibbes, Stan Hansen, Manny Fernandez, David Von ERich, Roddy Piper, Ken Patera, Austin Idol. That's 1982 alone. And its not like all of these matches were one off. There are multiple matches against Big John Studd, Ole Anderson, etc. 

Not all of those guys are "broomsticks." The majority are good, but they're all different and to be able to walk in the door and have a good & competitve title match against any one off that list on any particular night regardless of who it happens to be that night is pretty impressive. There are some notorious broomstick guys who would have helped make that reputation that aren't on this list either because he worked with them later. I'm thinking of Nikita, Road Warrior Hawk, Lex Luger, Sting those musclehead types who didn't have a ton of experience working in long singles matches. 

(Who is Leroy Brown and why did he get 4 NWA title shots in 1982)?

 

Wow, thank you for sharing this -- that's an extraordinary list! I was curious how this would look in comparison to a modern candidate, so here is the list of John Cena's opponents in title matches, including house shows, 2006 - 2007:

Umaga
Mr. Kennedy
Edge
Randy Orton
Shawn Michaels
The Great Khali
Bobby Lashley
Shawn Spears
Carlito
Jeff Hardy
Chris Masters

I'm not at all trying to pick on Cena here, but the difference is kind of staggering. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

THere are some amazing looking matches from that year I'd fucking love to have.  

24 minutes against Roddy Piper in Greensboro, NC

2/3 Falls 30+ min against Ken Patera. 

60minutes against Barry Windham in 1982 in Florida

38 minutes against Paul Orndorff

33 minutes against Buddy Rose 

38 minutes against Sweet Brown Sugar

46 minutes against Butch Reed No DQ, 2 Referees (for a No DQ match lololol!)

So many 40+ minute matches and 60minute draws against Butch Reed

30 minutes against Ted Dibiase at a Terry Funk promoted show in Amarillo 

60 min against Ron Fuller 

So many matches against Wahoo McDaniel 

He closes the year going 47 minutes against Tommy Rich.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×