Unfortunately young wrestling fans tuning into TNA Impact watching Ric Flair have been mislead. The crazy old man in TNA Wrestling today was once one of the greatest pro wrestlers of all-time. Today I pay tribute to the Nature Boy and look back at Ric Flair’s Greatest Matches by decade.
Growing up as a wrestling fan in the 1980s I was fascinated with Ric Flair. The first tastes I got of the NWA world champion were through wrestling magazines. I read in awe about the bloody, brutal, and spectacular battles Flair had with the Von Erichs, Dusty Rhodes, Wahoo McDaniel, Rick Steamboat, Bruiser Brody, Harley Race, Barry Windham, Dick Slater, Billy Jack Haynes, Lex Luger, and on, and on, and on. In my eyes, Ric Flair was a legend before I ever saw him step into the ring.
Jim Crockett Promotions started airing in my town in 1984 so it wasn’t long before I got to watch Flair on a weekly basis. Later I would become an avid tape trader with one goal in mind, scooping up any classic Ric Flair match that I could. Now years later a lot of those great battles have become readily available on WWE Classics and WWE DVD. No matter what he looks like today, most of those matches still hold up some up to 30 years later.
I could write a book (not a bad idea) on all of Ric Flair’s great matches. He rarely had a bad one. So today I will cherry pick various points in his career and look at great matches during that particular run. Later I will attempt to revisit more of these chapters in closer detail. With that said, I present Ric Flair’s Greatest Matches by decade.
I started with the 1980s and bypassed the 70s. As a tape trader, I have seen quite a bit of Flair in the 1970s, but I am in the minority. Additionally, most of Flair’s great matches came in the late 70s against Ricky Steamboat on house shows. Films of the matches are around, but none are distinctive from the other. So rather than nitpick house show dates, I thought it would be best to skip the 70s yet mention his classic series in the Mid Atlantic region with Ricky Steamboat.
This was the third match in the 1989 trilogy and in my opinion their best. Most fans and experts point to their New Orleans, LA Clash of Champions 2 out of 3 falls match as their best, but not for me. This one was action-packed from bell to bell, told a hell of a story as the fallen champion fighting for his last chance at the world title, the defending champion who only needed one more win to end the rivalry, and of course the post-match angle with Terry Funk. For me, this was Ric Flair’s greatest match of the 1980s and my favorite Ric Flair match ever. 40 minutes of the best action you will ever see in pro wrestling.
December 27, 1993 Ric Flair vs. Vader Starrcade 93 - Ric Flair was up in the down in the 1990s for a lot of reasons. No doubt that Flair had very good matches, but a philosophical change in pro wrestling from the longer more dramatic matches that Flair was an expert in creating to a shorter, faster pace with less emphasis on psychology left Flair struggling in my opinion for an identity. On December 27, 1993 the only struggle on that date was from every fan watching live and at home from having a tear run down their eyes when Flair pulled off the upset.
The irony of this classic match is that it was never supposed to happen. I think it is fair to say that the change in matchup was quite an upgrade from the original Sid Vicious vs. Vader match. Up to this point, Flair was bouncing around from main events to mid carder and was looking less like the legend WCW fans remembered him as before he jumped to the WWE. It was this match that in my mind, cemented Flair into legendary status.
On paper this was a serious styles clash. Vader was the hard hitting, brutal, giant against the graceful, often heel, grappling Ric Flair. Credit both of these guys because they made this work. The combined Flair’s fantastic wrestling and storytelling with Vader’s brutality and presented a match that would have made Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen proud. A badly beaten Flair clipped Vader’s knee and rolled him up for the win and the world title. A classic David vs. Goliath showdown and a night that Ric Flair reminded everyone in WCW trying to keep him down that he was still the man.
March 17, 2002 Ric Flair vs. The Undertaker WrestleMania X8 - The last decade was quite a bounce back for Ric Flair. After getting buried by the politics of WCW, Flair returned to the WWE older, wiser, and hungrier than he was in 20 years. Even as the old man out, Flair was determined to steal shows and cement his legacy in the WWE.
This was a tremendous brawl. Ironically this match resembled a lot of the Flair vs. Vader match from almost a decade earlier. Once again, powerful, brutal, big man against the smaller, older, crafty wrestler and once again, these guys made it work. Flair was tremendous here, running to the ring and immediately attacking the Undertaker, dispelling any myths that he was afraid of getting down and dirty with the big man.
This was a back and forth brawl until the Undertaker caught Flair and drove his spine into the outside ring post. From there, the Undertaker just continued to inflict punishment on the veteran and wrestled like the baddest heel in the business. At one point the Undertaker just went crazy with punches on Flair to the point that you actually started to feel sorry for the Nature Boy. The Undertaker bloodied Flair so badly that if it were a UFC match, the fight would have been stopped.
The end of the match still remains a classic WrestleMania memory. Flair bloodied and beaten constantly kicking out of the Undertaker’s finishes (see WrestleMania 25). At one point Undertaker got so frustrated he attacked the referee which was just tremendous. Unfortunately Flair had nothing left after a Tombstone and went down 1-2-3, extending the Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak to 10. This was one hell of a war and an underappreciated classic.
So there you have it, the greatest Ric Flair matches from three different decades in the Nature Boy’s great career. I won’t dignify this blog with anything from Flair in 2010. For me, I’d rather remember the Ric Flair I grew up with and watched for 30 years. Picking three matches in itself is doing Ric Flair no justice, but like I said, I could go on all day.
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