Re: Classic Wrestling General Discussion: Review & Recommend Wrestlers/Matches/Shows
Ric Flair vs Ricky Steamboat: The Trilogy
Match 1: Chi Town Rumble: February 20th, 1989
We see Flair entering the ring with his manager Hiro Matsuda, amongst a plethora of women who proceed to kiss and give roses to Flair, while Steamboat previously entered with his wife and son. They are really playing up the whole "Womanizer vs Family Man" story here. The match begins and steamboat gets a very nice shoulder block on Flair, which leads us to believe that Steamboat has the strength and speed advantage over the champion. They begin to chop it out here, and MAN are those chops loud. Flair, of course bails because he has no idea what to do with Steamboats physical advantage. We get some beautiful mat wrestling by both men, until at one point Flair has Steamboat backed into a corner and we hear a smattering of "Steamboat sucks!" chants, which cause Steamboat to get EXTRA intense with some crazy chops and a beautiful headscissors takedown. A double chop gets a near pinfall.
This scares Flair, who bails out of the ring again. I love the psychology here, as once Flair realizes that he can be caught at any moment and lose the title, he decides to go all full blown HEEL mode, throwing Steamboat outside of the ring, raking the eyes, and various other Flair heel tactics. Flair takes the advantage until Steamboat counters back, which of course makes the crowd EXPLODE. More beautiful chops occur until Flair comes off the top rope in a crossbody, but Steamboat turns him over for the near three count. Flair locks the figure four out of nowhere, and holds it for quite sometime, but gets caught using the ropes as leverage. I love how that sequence sums up this match in a nutshell. Flair knows he must cheat to beat Steamboat, but he cannot cheat without getting caught, thereby compromising himself in a particular position.
Some absolutely wonderful chops and suplexes by both men here, as the workrate is off the charts. Both men are selling the wear of this match superbly, and wrestling at an ubelieveably fast pace, one that I don't think I've ever seen before. Top rope cross body gets three but the referee is down. Flair gets a rollup for three as well, but there is no referee to count. Steamboat is spent (being in semi-retirement for so long), and misses a top rope dive. I absolutely love this character driven end sequence, as Flair realizes that Steamboat is tired and loads up for the Figure Four. Steamboat counters this into a cradle for the three count and the victory. Wow, even better than I have remembered, this is probably the greatest paced match of all time. The build up paid off, the storytelling and psychology are amazing, and the workrate is some of the greatest of all time. What a matchup.
Match 2: Clash of the Champions VI: April 2nd, 1989
After watching the Chi-Town Rumble and hearing how Cal said this was the best of the trilogy, I was interested in seeing how this match would pan out. This is a very different match than the Chi-Town Rumble encounter, as that matchup I believe was based more off fast paced emotion and hard hitting moves, whereas this encounter is slightly slower paced, but at 3 times the length, can you really blame them ? This match features maybe the greatest matwork of all time, as the first two falls consist of beautiful headlock takedowns, front facelocks, etc. The diversity of the holds are better in this match also, as Steamboat uses variations of the Boston Crab, standing double armed chicken-wing, and even Flair's own figure four.
The psychology in this match is top notch. before Steamboat locks in the figure four, he makes sure to deliver SIXTEEN elbows to flairs left leg before applying the hold. When Flair begins his work on Steamboats legs in the third fall, Steamboat has some excellent selling that complies with the story that these two men are trying to tell inside of the ring. The logic used in this match, and the throwback to the previous match is great, as at one instance Flair is going to run from turnbuckle to turnbuckle and deliver a cross body like he did in the last match, but Steamboat catches him with a stiff chop instead. That's another thing about this match, the chops are just as solid as the Chi-Town match. The build up in the first two falls to the final fall is tremendous, as I will actually go out and say that the final fall between these two might be the greatest twenty minutes of wrestling ever. MAYBE.
The way that Flair's leg work leads us to the improbable finish is awesome, as Steamboat goes for the chickenwing hold that made Flair tap out earlier, but his legs just won't allow him to do it, leading us to our non-clean finish that sets up the final match in the trilogy. The Psychology and storytelling are off the charts here. While not as flashy and loud as the Chi-Town Rumble encounter, what it gives us in terms of matwork and storytelling is even better. I didn't want this match to end, seriously, and at 56 minutes of pure greatness, you can't really ask for very much more out of a professional wrestling match. Even better than Chi-Town Rumble.
Match 3: Wrestlewar: May 7th, 1989
Here we go, I've heard many individuals (including Triple H) claim that this is the greatest match of all time, lets see how it holds up. The build to this match was greater than any other match in the series, as everyone knew this was the final encounter. They take the womanizer vs family man story to a whole new level, as Flair has about FORTY women accompany him to the ring for his entrance. The first thing I notice about this match is it's pace, they're working at that insane Flair vs Steamboat pace that is unmatched by any two competitors in the industry. The beginning of the match gets the fans more involved than the previous match as well, when Flair and Steamboat duke it out in a chop battle. The chops still aren't as vicious as Chi-Town Rumble, but there are about 10 times more of them.
Now we get to my favorite part of the match; Steamboats arm work. In the previous match, Steamboat made Flair tap out to the standing chicken wing submission, and in this match, Steamboats offense is centered around working on the left arm of Flair to set up the chicken wing once again. I love how they throwback to the previous matches and add certain elements to it. For instance, just like the other two matches, Steamboat teases a dive outside of the ring onto Flair, but the referee stops him everytime. However, in this match when the referee goes to stop Steamboat, Steamboat pushes the referee out of the way and begins to get aggressive. The drama in this match is at a greater high than the other two matches because we know this is the last encounter, so that adds to the match.
Where this match isn't as good as the other two varies. For instance, this match has better psychology and matwork than Chi-Town Rumble, while it isn't paced as good and the crowd isn't as hot. When comparing it to the COTC battle, this match has better drama and better nearfalls, but the matwork and psychology of the Clash battle triumphs over it. At the end of the day though, that 's what makes the series to special; every match is near-perfection and tell the same story in different ways. This is more of a face-face encounter than the previous two, where Flair goes full heel mode. One last thing: Steamboat's selling and Flair's bumping are phenominal, and are some of the best in the entire series. Flair takes back the title in a nod to the Clash match, where Steamboat goes for a slam and his injured knee buckles. Amazing storytelling. Do I think this is the greatest match of all time ? No, as a matter of fact it's my least favorite of the trilogy, but that obviously dosen't make it the worst.
It's a work of art and ONE of the greatest matches of all time.
and as a bonus...
Ric Flair vs Terry Funk: I Quit Match: Clash of the Champions IX
If Ric Flair vs Ricky Steamboat was an indication of what wrestling as an art form is supposed to be, than Ric Flair vs Terry Funk is an example of what wrestling violence is all about. Flair shows his versatility in this brutal match, that honestly reminds me of an older version of the WM XXVIII end of an era match between The Undertaker and Triple H. Not that the matches have anything in common, but what makes both matches so great are the SUPERB storytelling and intense violence. The story here is simple: Funk is insane, and broke Flair's neck, now Flair needs to do what seems impossible; make Terry Funk say I quit.
For 1989 standards, and even by today's standards, this match is stiff and brutal. The psychology complies with the storytelling PERFECTLY, as Funk beats down on Flairs neck and sets up for a piledriver, but before he pulls the trigger he asks Flair does he want to quit. The way Funk says "Remember your neck Ric ? You don't want me to hurt your neck again do you?" is storytelling and drama so compelling, but it's actually congruent with the storyline. What can I say about some of the spots in this match ? A piledriver on the floor, steel barricade shots, and one of the most brutal suplexes to the outside that I've ever seen puts the icing on the cake for this match.
For a long time in this match we believe that Funk might actually win this, because lets be honest; Did anyone visualize Funk actually saying I quit ? Funk takes some absolute brutal bumps in this match while protecting Flair very well, an all around fantastic job. Flair uses some leg work and after trying for a long time, actually manages to hook the figure four to make Funk quit. Better storytelling and drama than the Steamboat series, and incredibly violent, if the build was a little better it would get the full five stars from me, but nonetheless, this is probably my favorite Ric Flair match. Fantastic.
"He's not the biggest. He was never the strongest. He was never the fastest. He was overlooked. He went in the sixth round. So with that being said, all of the intangibles that a quarterback is supposed to have, they overlooked it with him because it was burning from inside of him" - Ray Lewis on Tom Brady