Great write-up BruiserKC! I enjoyed watching that feud transpired and how it eventually led to them eventually getting back together and forming a brand new Four Horsemen.
Here's MORE Flair!
“Nature Boy” Ric Flair vs. Barry Windham
NWA World Heavyweight Championship Match
Battle of the Belts II (February 14, 1986)
The match-up between Ric Flair and Barry Windham is a perfect example of a classic showdown between an 80’s style heel and baby-face. It’s a natural story of flamboyance and arrogance along with high success facing the humility and fight of a real “good guy.” Windham is white meat baby face yet he still has that slight edge about him that makes him cool. It’s probably due to his Texas/cowboy roots but this man has a presence about him that indirectly or not makes you want to cheer for him.
He has great chemistry, timing and poise that connect to the audience so well. Like that fighting stance he does while challenging Flair to come fight him. Windham doesn’t need to pose to the crowd because he already has them going with his big punches to the head of Flair in unison with their cheers. It feels like the crowd is vicariously fighting Flair through Windham and this young challenger is fully focused on winning the gold.
Flair will use every trick in the book to retain his gold. Flair probably does respect his opponents which is why he shook Windham’s hand at the start of the match, which also shows the pride of competing in a NWA World Title Match. However, Flair will still cheat and play dirty any opportunity he can get because he loves being champion more. This is a brilliant way of showing the various motivations his character possesses.
The ropes were Flair’s best friend the entire match it seemed all the way up to the finish. Flair is the master at holding the ropes to gain leverage over an opponent be it in pinning combinations or in submission holds. It’s a play I’ve never seen fail for him that draws tons of heat. After a great catch-as-catch can, chain style start both men took it to the mat where we see Flair channel his amateur skills and wrestle Windham on the mat. Flair is simply a brilliant wrestler on the mat no question about it. I love how he turns pure wrestling yet again into something dirty by grabbing the ropes in an attempt to pin the challenger.
One of my favorite moments is when Flair turned a botch into yet another intricate part of the clash in personality and his willingness to do anything to win. So Flair gets his head and neck caught in the ropes and he sells it right at that moment yelling in agony and holding his neck as he lies in the corner. We then see Windham in an act of being a fair competitor allow Flair to get up but Flair deceives him and takes him down instead!
This in turn leads to Flair dominating and busting Windham open building the heat of the match as Barry looks like a warrior in peril fighting to make his strong comeback. Also, great job on Gordon Solie’s part in describing the potentially lethal effects a move as simple as the sleeper hold could have. Mike Graham is not so bad himself on commentary either putting both men over as true athletes of the sport of professional wrestling.
Windham eventually made his comeback busting Flair opening too and then it’s back and forth to the end from there. The finish is excellent and maybe the best way to end the broad way of the evening.
I probably hold this match and their match in January 1987 on the same mantle. Windham is one of the best opponents Flair has ever had. The chemistry Flair has with him is almost as good as with Steamboat and that says a lot about the super talented Barry Windham.