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[1989-04-02-NWA-Clash of the Champions VI] Ricky Steamboat vs Ric Flair (2/3 Falls)


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Steamboat is more cocky than the last (televised) encounter. He slaps Flair twice in the opening feeling out process. They still get a loud gasp from the crowd after Steamboat nearly gets pinfall from a headlock. Crazy.  Flair takes apart Steamboat leg throughout the three falls and Steamboat's selling of his injured leg is top-tier stuff. They do a neat callback to their Chi-Town match when Steamboat catches Flair on the apron with a chop after Flair attempts to rush up the top rope after being whipped over the turnbuckle. After claiming the first pinfall, Flair dominates the second fall for over 15 minutes and it never gets boring. Steamboat makes Flair submit, and the final fall is all about seeing if Steamboat can hang in for the remaining time limit and retain his title. 

It feels like heresy to not give this the perfect score, but I feel that the action in the Chi-Town Rumble match was much more compact and this match didn't need to go as long as it did. It's still Flair vs Steamboat, so it's still well worth your time. 


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  • GSR changed the title to [1989-04-02-NWA-Clash of the Champions VI] Ricky Steamboat vs Ric Flair (2/3 Falls)
  • 4 weeks later...

NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ricky Steamboat vs Ric Flair - Clash of the Champions VI Two Out Of Three Falls

It feels weird writing Steamboat as the champion and Flair as the challenger. 

First Fall: We see Flairism at its peak here with the shifting gears and the perfect blend of movement and story. Flair shows five different strategies in the opening 15 minutes. The first two are readily quashed by Steamboat and end up with Flair embarrassed, slapped and on the outside. As is typical, Flair tries to wrestle at the outset of a match. He bested both in an amateur riding sequence and a top wristlock test of strength by the champion. Thwarted by these two, he tries two of his more successful strategies: crowding in the corner and creating movement via rope running. The heavy chop in the corner definitely stings the Champ. Steamboat sells this so well, great facial expression and his arms lock up as he tries to push Flair away. Ultimately, Steamboat starts rifling Flair with his own chops and overwhelming him. In the movement game, Steamboat proves to his superior, not falling for a drop down he drops into a side headlock or he is able to pull off a headscissors/dropkick combo or he converts two shouldertackles into nearfalls. Flair tries his last go-to strategy: begging off. He successfully breaks Steamboat's rhythm and even gets a boot to the midsection, but Steamboat quickly rallies. Flair does get an inverted atomic drop that looks like it could lead to something, but against Steamboat snuffs out the rally. We see Flair use the powder twice, but both only serve to delay the inevitable Steamboat offense. Steamboat has used the headlock and front chancery as his primary touchstone hold. The kneedrops to the back of the head have been sold exceptionally well, great verbal selling. Steamboat has been able to transition out of the headlock into uptempo offense. A very strong opening 15 minutes that shows Flair at his best trying out different strategies, but getting bested at every turn while Steamboat has done a great job mixing it up between holds, highspots and firefights. Steamboat's first mistake is a splash that eats knees. Flair hits a heavy duty chop and follows that up with a great double stomp. A butterfly suplex gives Flair his first pin attempt. Look how good Flair's pin is. One hand in the lateral press, the right arm hooking the leg and the shin covering the near arm. Any one who says Flair is not detailed oriented is a moron. Great 3/4 nelson follow up. You can see how valuable the first fall is to Flair, he switches a knucklelock, but Steamboat has a great display of strength and powers out. Steamboat misses the follow up dropkick, another mistake. Figure-4...NO...Inside Cradle...1-2...REVERSAL 1-2-3! Nature Boy Goes up 1-0. Strong first fall that lays the foundation without blowing their wad. It is nothing Steamboat cant come back from. He should be pissed. He dominated that first fall, but made two late mistakes and it cost him the fall. Flair tried a lot of things, but until Steamboat made the mistakes it looked like a rout. 

Second Fall: Steamboat comes out breathing fire! Press slam! Top rope chop! 1-2-NO! Love this attitude from Steamboat. He is challenging his frustration.  He gets a bit overzealous and Flair executes a back suplex. Flair up 1-0 slows it back down going to his patented, measured kneedrop. First one hits, second misses, and Steamboat takes him to school. Repeated elbow drops on the leg and you know what that means...FIGURE-4! Flair makes the ropes and kicks Steamboat off a second one, but he goes for the Boston Crab. Great selling here by Flair. Now here's a strategy that does well for Flair and that is take the match to the outside. He powders to break the momentum, but Steamboat gets too close to the apron so he drags him out. He whips him hard into the steel railing twice and then he Steamboat tries to re-enter the ring he stomps him hard because he is now King of the Mountain. Flair looks good up 1-0 and employing his best strategy. He gets his best nearfall off a vertical suplex from the apron back into the ring. He applies an abdominal stretch (Steamboat's midsection has been worked over since the missed splash and railings). Goes into the banana split rollup. Watch the different pinning predicaments he applies. Great struggle here and a great sense of the objective of pro wrestling, hold your opponent's shoulders to the mat for a count of three. Simple but effective. Steamboat rattles off two quick nearfalls: O'Connor Roll and Jacknife. Flair seems to get worried by this and unwisely heads up top. Steamboat meets him there and SUPERPLEX! The momentum has swung to the Dragon! Flair is hollering and selling the back. Steamboat smells blood and attacks the back vigorously. Double Chickenwing! which I dont think I have seen applied before or since even though I think it should be a finish today. Flair does a fantastic job selling this and I love his head shaking and then we get the head nod. It is all tied up!

Third Fall: They saved the best for last besides the Double Chickenwing there has not been many bells and whistles. It has been uptempo and lots of great chops, but it has been sound wrestling. Now they go all out. We see the first eye pokes and chop blocks from Flair early in the 3rd fall. It is desperation time. There is no more wrestling with 25 minutes to go and one fall left, it is time to throw everything including the kitchen sink at Steamboat. I love how Steamboat keeps fighting back. There is some amazing chop exchanges. There were some BRUTAL Flair chops. There is one that almost knocked Steamboat clear over the top turnbuckle. Flair ends up getting the kneecrusher and now it is looking bad for the Champ. Still he presses on, gets the ropes quickly on a Figure-4 attempt. I love the Flair Flip into the chop on the apron. It is better than the press slam finish. Steamboat wrenches his knee on a tree of woe spot and now things have gone from bad to worse. Flair gets the lengthy Figure-4 he was looking for but cant force the submission. Great selling and love Flair slapping Steamboat in the hold. Flair Flip against but this time he finishes the frantic run down the apron with a top rope crossbody for TWO! Huge reaction to that. They are peaking at the right time! Desperate Steamboat tries for a bodyslam, but his knee cant hold Flair's weight and Flair falls on top of him for two! Flair tries to go a motion-strategy late in the game. They are at the 45 minute mark and they are doing criss-cross sequences like they are only 5 minutes into the match. Their cardiovascular conditioning is awe-inspiring. Steamboat wins these criss-crosses even getting a top rope crossbody the move that won him the title in Chicago. Flair does end up winning one with a sleeper which stops the Steamboat rally, but Steamboat drives Flair's head into the turnbuckle. Again, Steamboat goes back on offense and Jim Ross notes that Steamboat could try to milk the clock for a draw but he is here to win the match. He misses a flying bodypress from the top and Flair goes back the leg. AMAZING SELLING BY STEAMBOAT! AMAZING CHOP BATTLE! THIS IS SCINTILLATING! There is a great moment where Steamboat goes for a pin and hooks the leg but he is so exhausted that Flair is able to force his leg onto the ropes to break the count, great facial reaction by Steamboat there. Flair gets a back suplex, but instead of going for Figure-4; he goes for a move off the top. Oh no! Press slam and Steamboat goes back to the Double Chickenwing which won him the second fall, his knee buckles and both men's shoulders are down. Thus necessitating the rematch at Wrestlewar. 

Incredible match on so many levels from a physical standpoint to go 54 minutes and still be wrestling so fast and so quickly speaks to their conditioning. From a booking standpoint, this is a great way to sell the PPV rematch with the draw finish that still ties back to the pure wrestling. From a psychology and pacing, just great with Flair trying so much at the beginning, but Steamboat having an answer for everything. Flair winning the first fall even though Steamboat dominated was smart booking because he made the second fall that much hotter and this was a much longer second fall than in most 2/3 falls matches. Flair got some solid heat and I really liked the run up to the Double Chickenwing. I loved the pacing hey wrestled an excellent 35 minutes, but really kicked into high gear in the last twenty minutes, HUGE chop exchanges, great Steamboat selling and big nearfalls. It is an easy ***** match, but it it not perfect. There are some times when there could have been a bit more struggle and the finish stretch which while exciting could have been more efficient and some of the spots lacked consequence. I think it is non-obvious which is better Flair/Taylor 6/1/85 in regards to the best long NWA championship match. I think it is non-obvious whether this or Chi-Town Rumble is better for best Flair/Steamboat. I am going to wait until I see Wrestlewar again before I do any rankings. Regardless, as someone who likes their wrestling to be between 15-25 minutes for a 54 minute match to hold my attention, feel breezy and exciting means it is an all-time great match and it still holds up today. *****

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  • 1 month later...
Borderline excellent lengthy old school epic. I always love the rope running exchanges these guys work into their matches. To be honest, the first fall wasn't brilliant, but it sets the tone and the match never slowed down. As with Chi-Town rumble, love everytime Steamboat gets Flair with the chops. The 2nd fall was the best as it was just this great struggle with Flair trying to seal it and Steamboat desperate to stay on top. Flair flopping after fighting out of an abdominal stretch is how you sell. Steamboats endless elbow drop series to Flairs leg has to be one of the greatest uses of such a simple move ever. Steamboat crashing and burning repeatedly and having to fight through an anguishing Figure 4 is the stuff of a classic. Pin combo trading felt like a struggle aswell. Unfortunately neither guy put in a super deep selling performance considering how much limbwork there was here, maybe they felt like they had to keep the pace up with rope running etc. I thought you really noticed the length down the stretch and some of the pin attempts felt like filler.
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  • 1 year later...

Rewatched this for the Greatest Match Ever project and I think I like this less every time I watch it. The first time I saw this, I was enthralled and had it at the full five. This time I watched it and it struggled to keep my attention. Don't get me wrong, I'm impressed by their conditioning and the fundamentals show here are some of the best ever. You're not going to see basic stuff like headlocks, arm drags, chops and basic pro wrestling body language done better than in this match. I also dug how Flair transition from a unsure challenger who's clearly doubting himself to the slick, arrogant Nature Boy once he scores the first fall. The finishes weren't exactly great, with the final fall  feeling like a bit of a cop out after nearly an hour of action. Still a very good match, I just think I prefer the Chi-Town, the Landover house show and the Spring Stampede match over this. 


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