Hello there loyal readers. It’s been quite awhile since we last talked. What I have for you today is stroll down memory lane for a topic that is near and dear to my heart. As an old school wrestling fan I tend to skew my opinions towards the events and the wrestlers of my youth. The stars seemed brighter, the stages seemed grander, and the moments more magical. I had not yet had the curtain drawn back to reveal the magicians secrets. I had not yet developed a cynical view of the sport.
In late 1988, Jim Crockett Promotions was purchased by Ted Turner and rebranded as World Championship Wrestling. Almost immediately, the company began to focus on the WWF and directly competing with them. The wrestling landscape was very different in 1989 compared to today. There were only a handful of pay-per-views a year as opposed to one every month like we have today. The build up for these events would take several weeks and the anticipation would be boiling over by the time the pay-per-view rolled around. Prior to 1989, WCW was the land that was ruled by Ric Flair.
He had been champion off and on for most of the decade. And his challengers were made up of the usual suspects on the WCW roster. Dusty Rhodes, Lex Luger, Ronnie Garvin, and Nikita Koloff all feuded with Flair over the title, each with varying degrees of success. With the Four Horsemen by his side, Flair was all but invincible. But in early 1989, things were changing for Ric Flair. Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard had left for the WWF, and Barry Windham was soon to follow. And a challenger had appeared that would push Flair to his limits like none before, Ricky Steamboat.
The first pay-per-view of 1989 was Chi-Town Rumble in February. This night had many quality matches, enough that even the most cynical CCB writer would have been impressed. The Road Warriors, who as much as anyone represented the ideals of Jim Crockett Promotions, were finally tag team champions and involved in an intense feud with the Varsity Club.
Lex Luger, who was not the punch line that he is today, would finally get revenge on his former partner and take the United States title from Barry Windham. But this night belonged to two men, Flair and Steamboat. For over 23 minutes, these two applied every hold and counter hold in the books. In the end Steamboat got the win on a counter of the Figure Four Leg Lock. This match was given 5 stars by Wrestling Observer Newsletter publisher Dave Meltzer and it is worth every star. But things were only getting started.
Since there wasn’t a pay-per-view every month, WCW would have filler broadcasts called Clash of the Champions that were usually held in smaller venues. Usually these shows were used to set up the upcoming pay-per-view event. But now that Ted Turner was in charge, WCW was thinking bigger.
In April of 1989 WCW ran the Clash of the Champions in direct competition of WrestleMania V. And for this night WCW brought out the big guns and held the event in the Louisiana Superdome. The Road Warriors once again met the Varsity Club with the tag titles on the line. Only this time the Varsity Club had a little something extra in their favor. A crooked referee by the name of Teddy Long, yes that Teddy Long. One very fast 1-2-3 later and the greatest tag team of all time, had their one and only reign as champions ended.
But as with most of the events in WCW in early 1989, the night would belong to Flair and Steamboat. And if you are going head to head with Vince McMahon then no ordinary match will do. Only a 60-minute time limit two out of three falls match would do. A full seven years before Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels had their famous Iron Man Match at WrestleMania XII, Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat had what I consider to be one of the greatest wrestling exhibitions ever displayed. And a second 5 star rating by Dave Meltzer bears that out.
Look for Part II coming soon, as WCW moves into the summer of 1989 nothing will be the same anymore. Good guys will become bad guys, bad guys will become good, and new faces (and one old one) will change the landscape of WCW forever.
Vince DeHoratus lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two kids. He has been a life long wrestling fan and he has passed that love onto his son. Though not quite yet “middle aged and crazy”, he is fast approaching it.
[amazon_link id=”B0016MJ6LA” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ] WWE: Nature Boy Ric Flair – The Definitive Collection[/amazon_link]
[amazon_link id=”B0039PGH9Q” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ] Ricky Steamboat: The Life Story of the Dragon[/amazon_link]