I love Ric Flair.
I’m just making that clear.
The story of Ric Flair being fired by Jim Herd is a rather one-sided story; Herd is a doofus and fires the greatest wrestler of all time.
Except, was Herd really wrong?
That’s what I’m going to examine today, and why I honestly believe that Herd was actually in the right for firing Flair. We’ve only heard one side of the story, Flair’s as Herd has more or less left the wrestling business behind after being fired by WCW. Now, I wouldn’t want to be in Jim Herd’s spot after Turner buys the NWA, you’re taking over this new company and dealing with egos, an industry you know little about and you’re now dealing with suits who know little to nothing about wrestling. While Herd had his fair share of missteps (Low-balling Ricky Steamboat, most if not all creative decisions under Ole), I’ve honestly came to the conclusion that he wasn’t wrong. I’m not the only guy has that mindset; even Barry Windham has placed the blame on Flair and it was more over money than dropping the belt.
The one problem I’ve had with Flair in this whole situation with him jumping with the belt is when you his book, he brought up Vince’s offer to Harley Race to skip Starrcade and work for him with the NWA belt in tow. Flair talks up how it would have killed business for Crockett and the NWA as a whole. Race wasn’t based in the Carolina’s, he only came in and worked the group whenever he was champion. Race had a stake in his own territory and if he wished, he could have upper and left with the NWA title and sold his stake. Vince was offering him 250k and probably a large main event run against Hogan for coming in with the belt. While some might bring up that Flair was fired, Flair showing up in the WWE with the NWA belt helped to kill business for WCW for a good while. Race showing up with the belt would have done the same thing.
The story of Ric Flair being fired has been told numerous times, but today I hope to bring you a new perspective on the whole situation. Most of you will probably disagree with me and I might have Arn Anderson hunting me down, but hopefully I can give you a different take on the whole situation. We’re starting off with reason number five right off the bat, which takes place about three years earlier, which involved Herd actually siding with Flair.
5. Starrcade 1988
Starrcade 1988 was supposed to be the blow-off to the Luger/Flair feud and it was said that Luger was going to get the big victory over Flair here. The company even used the gimmick of Flair being DQ’ed would result in him losing the title belt. The rematches between the two did good business for the NWA based on the selling point of two gimmicks: No blood stoppage (Flair or Luger gusher every night) and this would be the ONLY rematch between the two and it was taking place in your hometown. Eventually, the company fell back into the old dusty finish with one ref (Teddy Long) getting knocked out, then Flair getting thrown over the top rope, new ref (Tommy Young) comes in and counts the three. Everybody expects a title change, the refs argue and the original ref overrules the new ref and fans get pissed. With the big rematch set, Luger was booked to get the win, but Flair refused and it set off another power struggle between him and booker Dusty Rhodes. The power struggle between Rhodes and Flair had permeated throughout most of 1987 and 1988 and was now at a tipping point with Turner owning the company. Rhodes then went to plan B: Rick Steiner. Depending on what story you believe, two scenarios could have played out. First, the Varsity Club was going to attack Luger on his way to the ring and Rick Steiner would take Luger’s place and beat Flair in just a few minutes. While this made the infamous urban legend list, Flair was scheduled to work with Steiner in the beginning of 1989. Steiner was pretty over as an underdog baby face and was jockeying for position with Luger as the number two face in the company. The other side of the Steiner scenario was that Dusty was putting Steiner in the ring to shoot on Flair and take the belt away from Flair. Steiner was the runner up in the 1983 Big Ten Championship, so Steiner had some legit wrestling skills. Flair went to Herd, and the whole situation was killed off and it was another nail in the coffin for Dusty.
So, we now have an established history of Flair refusing to job to Luger. That will be a common theme in this article. Three years later, the same four men would find themselves in the same situation and I believe that Herd saw this coming.
4. Flair’s Flirtation with Vince McMahon
On two separate occasions, Flair had opened up with communication with Vince McMahon about possibly joining the big circus in New York. In 1988, during the transition of ownership, Flair came extremely close to jumping ship. He was scheduled to debut at the company’s inaugural SummerSlam card on the Brother Love Show. It made sense, Love was a heat magnet and it was the perfect way to have Flair debut in the WWE’s biggest market. Flair cuts a promo running down Hogan and Savage, setting the stage for the inevitable big feuds down the line. Flair has claimed that he was going to beat Savage for the belt in his debut but I highly doubt the company would drop the Mega Bucks/Mega Powers angle and nobody wins the belt in their debut. Plus, no Liz in her underwear so screw that. Flair would later decide against jumping to the WWE out of loyalty for the Crockett family.
The second occasion took place the previous year when rumors of Flair being in Toronto for WrestleMania weekend and met with Vince about jumping ship again. Flair’s deal was up in May and wanted a two year extension which was denied (Remember that) and was making serious thoughts about joining the WWE. Flair and Herd had already begun their most infamous clash to that point which saw Flair lose his booker job. It seemed like this time Flair would actually sign as the company began prepping for him to drop it to Luger at an April 26th Meadowlands card in a cage match with Terry Funk as the ref. In-between that point, a deal was reached as the cage and Funk was scrapped and Luger won in a DQ finish.
We now have evidence that Flair was willing to talk turkey with McMahon and even use it as a way to get a new deal.
3. The 1990 Spat
As we talked about in our previous reason, Flair and Herd had a blow-up after Sting blew his knee out in February. Herd wanted Flair to drop the belt to Luger at that February’s Wrestle War, but Flair refused, citing that he was waiting for Sting to return. Herd fired Flair as booked and what happened was six months of the company not really making any progression. While this may not be bad, it resulted in the company trying to keep the fans interested in Flair/Luger round three. The Wrestle War match had a pretty smart finish: Luger has Flair beat and the torture rack is locked in the middle of the ring, and the Horsemen attack Sting who was at ringside. Luger lets go and gets counted out trying to fight off the Horsemen. After that, the company made one last attempt to get Flair to drop the belt, in Chicago on March 22nd. The company flew Chris Cruise, Lance Russell, and Dennis Brent along with a production crew to film the title change. Bill Apter even made the flight to Chicago to witness the title change. It seemed like it was going to happen but Flair cited “ample notice” a clause in contract that he wasn’t given enough time to be notified of the change. I really don’t know what classifies as ample notice, but it seemed like something similar to a creative control clause, as in he wasn’t doing it at all. Eventually, Flair relented under one condition that he would get his immediate release. When that didn’t happen, we got Ole hitting Luger with Women’s high heel. It also seemed like they were eying the next night, a card in St. Louis as a potential title change. A production crew was on hand and so was George Napolitano, but once again it was the same finish in Chicago.
The company had to fill another PPV main event for their Capital Combat card with a steel cage main event between Flair and Luger. With Luger losing again being a death knell for his character and Flair standing firm on not jobbing, the company found themselves booked into a corner. The solution, the first ever DQ finish in a steel cage match. As much as people point to Robocop being the worst part of that show, the first and hopefully last DQ finish in a cage match was much worse.
The big problem I always had is that if you do the drop at WrestleWar, you can go two routes for Capital Combat. You can book the title change at Capital Combat and Flair can win via cheating, Sting comes out and you set the stage for the Bash. Or, the company could bust out a match that hadn’t been seen that year, and a sure money maker: WARGAMES. Luger/Steiners/Pillman with Sting in their corner vs The Horsemen with Ole in their corner could deliver a good gate and PPV buys. You get the big rematch at The Bash PPV; Flair cheats to win in the same way at Combat if you go that route, setting up the big Sting/Flair match at Starrcade with Sting taking the belt. Havoc is Sting’s first match back in the company, teaming with Luger against Flair and Anderson. Also, if you go with the route of Sting winning it all at Starrcade, no Black Scorpion angle in 1990. The big problem is that the fans wanted to see the payoff of Luger chasing Flair and didn’t get it….again. Luger would finally get a victory over Flair in 1990, only because Stan Hansen ran in and attacked him. Not even a clean victory.
2. The Windham Drop
Heading into the Bash, Flair and Herd would have their biggest fight. Flair was scheduled to drop the title to Luger, but I’m getting ahead of myself because that is reason number one for this article. After a familiar power play by Flair saw the company getting Flair to drop it to Barry Windham at the TV taping before the Bash, and Windham would make the drop to Luger. What happens next is pretty murky water to navigate, Flair claims that he was fired before the taping. Others claim that the taping started; Flair was nowhere to be found so Herd had enough and dropped the bomb. There’s another claim that Flair told somebody he wouldn’t show up and do the drop. According to Flair himself, he was refusing to make any drop to anybody but Sting again. According to Windham, he was next in line to get the belt after the Bash which means to me that Flair was planning on pulling something or Windham is just confused about what happened. Luger has pretty much said that he didn’t get involved with that type of stuff and didn’t hold any ill will towards anybody. Even if Flair didn’t have any objection to drop it to Windham, who knows if he doesn’t change his mind midway through the trip to the taping? Or just up and leave at the taping? Flair could have pulled a CM Punk and went home until his deal expired next year.
1. Flair’s Last Power Play and Refusal to put Luger Over
Legend vs Legacy
A Steel Cage Match
If Flair gets DQ’ed, he loses the belt
Luger’s last shot at the belt.
Luger has to win right?
Maybe, maybe not.
Well, Luger was supposed to win and the marketing of the match couldn’t be any more obvious. It would be the resolution to Luger chasing Flair for three years; he even chased Flair as a heel. They even booked the card at the same arena where Luger got his first shot at Ric Flair (Baltimore Arena), it felt like the time was right.
Until Flair pulled his last power play. Flair, feeling that by not having the belt he would be vulnerable to a group of people in-power that really didn’t like him: Ole, Herd and Dusty. So, Flair wanted another contract extension before the Bash and Herd offered him one that Flair didn’t like. Flair claims that it cut his salary to 350k, but I tend to think that he wouldn’t be making Sting money (750k) but definitely over 500k. So, he told them that he would use his ample notice clause and would not put Luger over unless he got an amount he liked. So, the company had spent all this time building up the Bash card as Luger finally getting the W and they come to the compromise of doing the Windham drop. After all that, would you be willing to have faith in a guy who just pulled that type of move to drop the belt at a TV taping? You think that Flair would get away with that type of move with McMahon? Vince would have done the same thing as Herd did; I don’t even think he would offer the TV taping drop as a fix. I think he would have fired Flair on the spot with little or no hesitation.
For those that remember my Hulkamania Goes Down South series (Specifically Part 2), Flair would pull a move similar to this when he returned to WCW in 1993. Flair refused to work the career vs career cage match against Hogan until he had a new contract, a contract that he signed that night and Bill Shaw actually hand delivered the contract from Atlanta for him. It worked, because it was Eric Bischoff and he knew that he couldn’t fire Flair before the big cage match.
Well, I laid it all on the table, my reasons for believing that Jim Herd wasn’t wrong for firing Ric Flair in 1991. I hope that I have presented some interesting evidence about the situation that you may have not seen. Flair fans, don’t kill me that bad. Anderson, don’t hit my with a tire iron, my face is my money maker.
I’m Robert Goeman playing Brian Kenny but I’m actually Robert Goeman, have a good night.
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