The championship title links will bring you to the appropriate
The Great Hisa's Puroresu Dojo, while links for various
supercards come from
Professional Wrestling Supercards and Tournaments.
I highly recommend an extensive exploration of both of those sites.
Just in case you forget
to do so, there are some reminders at the bottom of the page.
And now, on with the show ...
And now, on with the show ...
April Fool's Day, 1989.
Ric Flair spent the day preparing mentally and physically for what could be the best match of his career, and the performance of a lifetime. He was without a manager or even any fellow Horsemen. He planned on wrestling at the very best of his ability, and doing so by the rules. Tomorrow, he would show the world what Ric Flair was made of.
And this was no joke.
Millions of wrestling fans tuned into WTBS on April 2 to watch The Ragin' Cajun, otherwise known at Clash Six. The new NWA World Champion Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat was all set to defend his title against the five-time former champion, "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, in a best-of-three-falls encounter. The New Orleans Superdome was a fitting site for this event, as it was only one in a decades-long string of memorable wrestling matches held there. One of the greatest NWA Champions of all time, Lou Thesz, had a front row seat. Another ex-champion named Terry Funk was providing color commentary for the television audience. Thousands of miles away on the very same day, two Mega-Powers were colliding for another championship, and yet this ring had the undivided attention of wrestling fans worldwide.
Seeing as how it resembled a World Title match from the 1970's, some fans consider this match to be the very last "old school" match. The pace was methodical, not slow but deliberate. Steamboat was the first man to show any aggression, as he blatantly slapped Flair in the mouth within the first few minutes. An entire page would be filled if one were to keep track of each hold and counterhold. After about 20 minutes of human chess, Flair rolled Steamboat up into a small package to win the first fall. At that point, Steamboat's position as champion became nothing more than a technicality. In the second fall, The Dragon punished The Nature Boy relentlessly for about fifteen minutes, but he failed to attempt any pinfalls. What was he waiting for? Suddenly, Steamboat ducked behind Flair's back, grasped each of Flair's upper arms, and hoisted the blond wrestler off his feet. It was a little-known submission hold called the Double Chickenwing. Flair screamed in agony, and the fans in New Orleans were witnesses of something that had never been recorded before: a submission loss by Ric Flair! The match was now tied, and Ric Flair was building a comeback in spite of what must have been excruciating pain. Returning to his gameplan, Flair worked over Steamboat's lower body, focusing on the knees. They had fought for an additional 20 minutes since Flair's submission. Steamboat believed that what had worked once would work again. He used the same Double Chickenwing, but before Flair could answer the referee, Steamboat's legs buckled. The two men crumpled backwards into a heap, but Flair was still locked in the hold. 1, 2, 3! The referee had scored a pinfall in favor of ..... who?
Both men's shoulders were pinned throughout the full three-count. They had fought a grueling contest for nearly an hour. Neither man deserved to lose the match, but it was decided that neither man had actually won. The double-pinfall had ended the match with a draw. No one at all was surprised when they both demanded a rematch. However, in spite of the great matches they had in the past, this next one would become many fans' definition of the "perfect wrestling match" - and the best one ever.
Nashville, Tennessee was ground zero for WrestleWar '89, also known as the "Music City Showdown." With neither wrestler wanting to see an indecisive result, it was agreed that there would be three judges at ringside in the event that the referee failed to determine a winner. And, unlike the situation from the first Clash of Champions, no one would vote for a draw. All three judges were former NWA World Champions: Pat O'Connor, crowned NWA World Champion in 1959; Terry Funk, who became half of the only pair of brothers to win the belt; and Lou Thesz, whose numerous World Title victories spanned from 1937 to 1963.
There was no "feeling out" process in this one, as they went right at it with both men utilizing backhand chops. Steamboat maintained control of Flair's arms in the early portions. As a result of Steamboat's ring authority, all three of the judges gave their initial decisions to The Dragon. Soon after that point in the match, Flair began to regain control with some more punishing holds and several attempts at a pin. Fifteen minutes later, Flair's resurgence was reflected by the judges' opinions. Both Funk and O'Connor changed their votes in favor of Flair. Steamboat responded by trying to polish off the Nature Boy with the Double Chickenwing, but Flair made it to the ropes before the move could be completed. Steamboat then decided to use his traditional assortment of aerial moves, such as the karate chop from the top rope. However, when he attempted his flying bodypress, a dazed Ric Flair slumped onto the ropes. Steamboat lost his balance, crashed to the arena floor, and injured his knee. It was now time for Flair to use his own specialty, the figure-four leglock. Although Steamboat broke the hold by grabbing the ropes, Flair still held on to the foot. With Steamboat standing on one foot, Flair paused to let out one last "Wooo!" Steamboat then swung his other leg around into an enziguri kick to the back of the head! Steamboat went for a bodyslam, but his aching knee prevented him from throwing Flair with any force. The Nature Boy held onto Steamboat's left arm and rolled him into a pinning combination! Three seconds later, the only World Title reign of Ricky The Dragon Steamboat came to an end. Ric Flair was now the six-time NWA World Champion.
Immediately, any hard feelings between the two gladiators had evolved into respect. The audience, whose opinions had been split between these two greats, now cheered in unison as Steamboat himself raised Flair's hand in victory. Jim Ross stepped in with a microphone to interview the new champion. Even as Steamboat walked towards the dressing room, Flair humbly admitted that Steamboat was "the greatest champion I had ever wrestled." Repeatedly though, the interview was interrupted by the gentle but raspy voice of Terry Funk, who decided to grab the microphone several times. No matter how many times Jim Ross tried to politely dismiss Funk, he just kept on interjecting. First he wanted to congratulate Flair for having regained the title. Then he wanted to tell everybody that he was going to vote for Flair if there was a draw because he felt Flair was the best wrestler in the world. Finally, to everyone's surprise, he stated that he himself wanted to be the next challenger! As Flair quickly pointed out, Funk had been spending more time in Hollywood making movies as of late than he had been wrestling. Indeed, Funk had been semi-retired since a knee injury suffered in 1986. Flair calmly explained that he had an obligation to concentrate on the wrestlers in the NWA's Top Ten Contenders List. Funk was hurt by this comment and considered it an insult. "What you're saying is I'm not good enough, aren't you? I'm not good enough, Ric?" Flair apologized and stated that Funk was a tremendous wrestler, but "not in the Top Ten." Just before walking off, Funk again took the mic and said he was sorry ... that he was only kidding ... that he wanted to shake hands.
The two wrestlers shook right hands.
At that very moment, Flair remembered that Terry Funk is left-handed.
Thwack! Funk leveled Flair with a thunderous left to the jaw. He stomped Flair's already-sore body out of the ring and into the ringside seats. He then dragged the champion onto the judges' table and lifted him up for a piledriver! Still in this awkward position, the two bodies landed with a sickening thud onto the table. While Funk began ranting incoherently, Flair rolled off the table, screaming in pain. As The Nature Boy laid face down on the floor, Terry Funk reared back with a folding chair. Burning with years of frustration, Funk brought the chair down on the back of Flair's neck and head. On what was supposed to be the greatest night in Ric Flair's career, he left the ring area on a stretcher. This was Terry Funk's statement to the world. He was not only "good enough" to wrestle against the best - he was capable of annihilating them.
Wrestlers and fans alike were speculating on when (or if) Ric Flair would be able to return to action. Would the title be vacated? Would it be awarded to another top contender? For the next ten weeks, the NWA was held prisoner by a madman. In an effort to crack into that Top Ten list, Terry Funk began wrestling a full schedule, doling out all sorts of bizarre punishment to men like Tommy Rich, Sting, Brian Pillman, and Ricky Steamboat. Funk even insulted the hospitalized Flair by interviewing a stand-in called "Rick Flare." Sting, who himself had been through hell against Flair in 1988, put an end to that charade soon enough. Terry Funk responded by attacking wrestlers at will, even injuring them in order to intimidate Flair. Using his influence as the World Champion, Ric Flair demanded that the NWA did not suspend him for any of his actions. Flair even offered to pay any fines that Funk may incur during this time. Flair wanted Funk to remain available. It was becoming clear that when (not "if") Ric Flair returned, he wanted to get his hands on Terry Funk as soon as possible.
On July 23, Ric Flair made his triumphant return to the ring. It was at The Great American Bash pay-per-view held in Baltimore. Although he never became the number-one ranked challenger, Terry Funk's recent success afforded him a World Title match on this evening. The Texas roughneck had one more trick up his sleeve that night, as walked to the ring for the very first time with a new manager, Gary Hart. This made no difference to Ric Flair, who strolled to ringside, flanked by no fewer than six beautiful women. Once the sparklers and music stopped, Flair became a man possessed. Flair did not come to wrestle - he came to fight. He tore into Funk with a fire and determination he had not shown in many years. He gladly took the brawl to the outside, ramming Funk into the barricade and even sending him into the seating area. Funk was helpless against this man, who was described as being just "one more piledriver" away from another severe injury. Back inside, Flair executed his own piledriver with deliberate malice. He even tried to suplex Funk from the apron onto the floor. Once Flair slapped on the figure-four, Gary Hart provided the break Funk needed. He slipped him his branding iron, which Funk swung into Flair's face. Now, the former champion took over with cruel and unusual punishment. He came pretty close to piledriving Flair on the concrete floor, had not referee Tommy Young demanded that the match continue in the ring. With both men bleeding, the maniacal Funk decided to turn it back into a wrestling match. He tried to apply his patented spinning toehold, but Flair pulled him into a small package for a pinfall victory!
A battle had ended, but a war erupted in its place! Hart's other man, The Great Muta slid into the ring and sprayed his green mist into Flair's eyes. Funk, Hart, and Muta began to dismantle Ric Flair until Sting charged into the ring like a cannonball. A four-man riot spilled throughout the entire Baltimore Arena, as they used chairs, guardrails, and Funk's branding iron to beat each other all the way to the back. When Hart and his men retreated, Flair pulled Sting toward Bob Caudle for an interview. Holding the hand of one of his former enemies, Flair began by saying, "I haven't said this in ten years: Thank you, pal!" He went on to declare war on whomever Gary Hart could possibly muster up. When it came to Funk, Flair had only begun to gain his revenge. "I'm gonna dog you until I wear ... your Texas ... ass ... OUT!"
The tense feud between these four men only escalated throughout the summer. On September 12, they were scheduled to meet in a tag team match at Fall Brawl (Clash Eight) in Columbia, South Carolina. Unfortunately, Terry Funk's elbow had been injured in the weeks before the match. As a result, Gary Hart hired a mercenary to team up with Muta against Flair and Sting. Looking back into Flair's past, Hart noticed that Flair's neck had been injured by another man in 1983, so he chose Dick Slater as the substitute. In the minds of Flair and Sting, Slater was guilty by association, and they definitely wanted to get into the ring with Muta. Their only regret was that Funk would escape the beating he deserved. To everyone's amazement, Terry Funk (with an elbow brace on the outside of tuxedo sleeve) interfered in the match with disgusting intentions. While Slater and Muta double-teamed Sting, Funk produced a plastic bag and tried to suffocate The Nature Boy! Luckily, Brian Pillman led the rescue and even performed CPR to revive the gasping champion.
Funk's actions were appalling, but the duo of Ric Flair and Sting now knew that no limits were placed on this war. When Funk was fined and suspended, Flair again paid the fine and requested their reinstatement. This feud was not going to be ended through suspensions and fines. The only way things would be settled would be until someone gave up. It was along these arguments that the four wrestlers agreed to a most unusual match. For starters, it would be held inside of a steel cage, but not just an ordinary cage. The cage encompassed the entire ringside area (similarly to the WWF's "Hell In The Cell" cage), and it was fitted with an electrical current running through the upper perimeter. Anyone who attempted to get in or out would meet with truly shocking consequences! Furthermore, the match would only end when one team or the other literally threw in the towel. Gary Hart responded by saying that he wouldn't let his men give up, as he himself would be in charge of the towel. Flair and Sting agreed to have their towel (and their fate) in the hands of former Horseman, Ole Anderson. Last, but certainly not least, the NWA decided that some sense of order needed to be maintained. Although Hart and Ole would determine the outcome of the match, one more man was needed to make sure that even they didn't interfere in the action. That one man was The Living Legend himself, Bruno Sammartino.
In a tradition that would follow every October since then, Halloween Havoc combined wrestling excitement with an aura of the mysterious. Gary Hart walked to the ring accompanied by members of his group, calling themselves the J-Tex Organization. Not only did they now have the assistance of The Dragon Master (Kendo Nagasaki), but Terry Funk's partner The Great Muta was now the newly-crowned NWA TV Champion, having won the held-up title from Sting in September. History was made when Ric Flair was accompanied by Ole Anderson for the first time in two years. As the cage was being lowered, some of the Halloween decorations on the cage caught on fire. Muta dutifully responded by putting the fire out with his green mist! The bell rang, and all hell broke loose. For the first fifteen minutes or so, Sammartino tried to confine the match into a traditional tag team bout, but it eventually degenerated into something resembling a Texas Tornado match. After pairing up into two seperate brawls, the four men only stopped beating on each other to trade opponents! At one point, Sting used a decorative rope to swing into Muta from one cage wall to another. When Muta tried to climb out over the top of the cage, a firey spark reminded him that the electrical wiring was in place! After about twenty minutes of warfare, Sting and Flair managed to isolate Terry Funk. As Flair held him in the figure-four, Sting conected with three big splashes from the top rope. Even at that point, Gary Hart refused to throw in the towel! They had all but lost the match, and they became desperate for a way out. Muta decided to test Bruno's skills by throwing a martial arts kick at the Italian's head. Did Bruno still "have it?" You bet! Bruno ducked and replied with a bruising right hand! Gary Hart himself tried to enter the ring, but he was knocked down by Ole. In the process, Hart's towel landed in the ring. Bruno saw that Ole still had his own towel, so he had no alternative than to award the match to Flair and Sting.
By the end of that night, Terry Funk was a bloody and battered mess. However, it was Gary Hart who was the most bitter. To some extent, he was justified in his anger - he never intentionally threw in the towel. On the other hand, it became clear that he had no sympathy for the condition of Funk. He wanted to orchestrate a victory over Ric Flair, even at the expense of Funk's career. Nonetheless, even Halloween Havoc failed to fully satisfy the blood lust between Flair and Funk. They wanted one more shot at each other. In the truest test of manhood, they signed for an "I Quit" match. Although he was still the champion of the world, Ric Flair stated that he would retire if Funk makes him submit. In reply, Funk said that he would do the unthinkable if he were to lose: he would shake Ric Flair's hand. It should be noted that Gary Hart was considerably miffed by Funk's pledges of honor.
It was the grand finale of one of the greatest fueds in wrestling history. Ric Flair met Terry Funk in the "I Quit" match held on November 15 in Troy, New York. The match was part of New York Knockout, the ninth Clash Of Champions event. Although some speculated that Flair had a natural advantage in this match due to his familiarity with the figure-four, commentator Jim Ross noted that Funk may be able to use his piledriver to win through a technical submission - that is to say, Flair would submit involuntarily if Funk could piledrive him into unconsciousness. Seeing as how disqualifications and countouts were not in effect, the two men had no qualms about using anything about the ringside area as a weapon. At one point, Flair even sent Funk sliding head-first through a table full of TV monitors! Although Funk did manage to connect with the piledriver, Flair maintained his focus and verbally denied any sort of surrender. The end came when Flair stopped focusing on punching Funk out and instead concentrated on the lower body. Even as Funk tried to retreat back up the aisle, Flair followed him to deliver a kneebreaker on the floor. Back inside, once the figure-four was applied, everyone knew it was only a matter of time. Funk held on as long as he could, but eventually gave up.
As Funk, Flair, and Gary Hart were all being seperated by the official, Funk grabbed the microphone. "You're a hell of a man, Ric Flair, and a better man than me." The brutal feud ended, just as it began, with a handshake. To spoil the moment, Gary Hart kicked away at Funk's twisted knee. Flair then protected his former foe by belting Hart! Soon the ring was filled by Muta, Dragon Master, and Sting. Just as Flair and Sting seemed to have the situation under control, who should arrive on the scene but a chair-wielding Lex Luger! He battered both fan-favorites with the chair, making them easy prey for Hart's men. The reason for this? Pro Wrestling Illustrated Magazine had held their awards ceremony earlier in the evening. Much to Luger's dismay, the Best Wrestler and Most Popular awards went to Ric Flair and Sting, respectively. It had always been a well-known fact that Lex Luger is unaccustomed to losing, hence he felt it necessary to "congratulate" Sting and Flair in his own special way.
In spite of the fact that he had been of great assistance to Gary Hart, Luger had no allegience to the manager. He stood alone, his United States Title as his only friend. Likewise, the undefeated TV Champion, The Great Muta, was willing to take on all comers. Although World Champion Ric Flair and Sting had been partners for months, even they had no second thoughts about wrestling each other if necessary. As a matter of fact, Ric Flair began to show signs of ending his relationship with The Stinger. Not only was Ole Anderson back in town, but Arn Anderson returned from the WWF in December. With the execption of Sting, Flair, Luger and Muta were all champions in the NWA. All four wrestlers were main event stars, but who was to face whom in the next big main event? Soon after the incident at the Clash, it was announced that there would be a change in the format of Starrcade '89. Instead of a conventional card of wrestling matches, there would be two round-robin tournaments involving the four top singles wrestlers and the four top tag teams in the NWA. To the winners, there would be no championship except the right to claim victory in these tournament of iron men. In spite of whomever had been on top of the heap in years gone past, this event would be the starting point for the men who would rule the sport in the future, hence the subtitle for the event, Starrcade '89: "Future Shock."
To start things off, Sting went head to head with his former friend, Lex Luger. For a while, it seemed as though Sting's agility was about to give him a victory here, but Luger managed to use the ropes to score a pinfall (and 20 points) for an illegal victory. Next up was Ric Flair's match against The Great Muta. Although Gary Hart and The Dragon Master were there for the TV Champion, Flair was accompanied by his own backup: Ole and Arn Anderson! In the chaos that ensued, Flair gave Muta his very first taste of defeat. Muta's bad luck continued when Sting defeated him with a superplex. As a result, there was a three-way 20-point tie between Flair, Luger, and Sting. In a rematch from the previous year's Starrcade, Ric Flair and Lex Luger fought to a draw, earning them 5 more points each. Luger's last match was against The Great Muta. Since it was impossible to win the tournament at that point, Muta did not hesitate to get himself disqualified, giving the lead to Luger for a total of 35 points. The final match saw Flair and Sting compete with the entire tournament on the line. Time was running out on these two men. If there was a draw, neither man would exceed Luger's score. Even if Sting won by a DQ or countout, Luger would still be the winner. Only seconds before the time limit expired, Sting managed to reverse Flair's figure-four into a small package for a 20-point victory!
Sting's night was not over yet. Although he was the Iron Man champion, the fans all wondered what was to become of him as Ole and Arn Anderson entered the ring. Sting cautiously rotated around the ring, realizing that he now shared the ring three men who may be his enemies. He was prepared to repel an ambush. Instead, Arn Anderson raised Sting's hand. It was not an ambush, but an induction ceremony. His months of support as Flair's partner, combined with his display of superb wrestling skills (even at Flair's expense on this night) were enough to convince Ric Flair to reinstate THE FOUR HORSEMEN with Sting as its newest member!
First of all, there's the Ric Flair FAQ compiled by T-Bo. Some of the specific facts in this page are, of course, found in that file. If you have a Flair question, chances are you'll find the answer (and a whole lot more!) right there.
Also, try to recall (with some sadness) the match in which Hulk Hogan forced Flair into "retirement." This was the Fall of 1994. At about that time, Herb Kunze, the presenter of the weekly Wrestling Tidbits, gave the readers of RSP-W a knowledgeable account of Flair's contributions to the sport accompanied by his own personal commentary. In contrast to my recap, his article focuses very little on specific angles and instead sheds a little light on the circumstances in which Flair rose to the top of the business and played the part of its savior on more than one occasion.