Thank you for your column on What Is the Big Deal about Ric Flair Anywooo? As a fan and someone who has covered the business off and on for over 15 years, I understand where you are coming from in terms of the matches you described and your opinion of history. However, there are a few things you left out in the education of understanding one of the greatest performers to ever walk into a squared circle.
With that in mind, I challenge you to dig a little deeper into the wrestling vault. Those matches you tal about with the exception of Steamboat (go back to the late 1970s) are fraudulent because the WWE and NWA/WCW had differing opinions on what a performance was. Vince McMahon for the most part wanted quicker matches with high end drama. The NWA/WCW was more classic-style wrestling and kayfabe-like angles.
You really cannot compare the two. A closer incarnation would be taking Verne Gagne and his AWA and chalk it up to 1978 in Charlotte, North Carolina or in Florida with Eddie Graham’s promotion.
Flair was the measuring stick by which all wrestlers were compared. Hulk Hogan was by no means a “wrestler” like Ray Stevens or Steamboat or Flair.
The caliber of wrestlers Flair met early in his career were better. Flair went 60 minutes with the likes of Jack Brisco and Harley Race. Flair took knife-edge chops form Wahoo McDaniel and wrestled both Terry and Dory Funk when they were NWA World Champions. And, if you look back to early 1980s, he faced Dusty Rhodes, Roddy Piper and Nikita Koloff more times than I can count.
Flair was the 60-minute man, doing it every day of the week and twice on Sunday’s. Hogan was limited. He made careers for the likes of Sting, Luger, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard and even a seasoned Barry Windham. Those wrestlers owe everything to Flair. Starrcade in the mid 1980s gave wrestlers like Hawk and Animal and Ricky Morton a chance to show of singles talent. Flair once said wrestling Morton was pure ballet, much like his hundreds of matches with Steamboat over the years.
That might be the single best compliment a wrestler can pay another wrestler. And most of all, Flair was one of the boys. He was involved after matches and traveled the long roads with Ken Patera, Bob Brueggers and Nick Gulas. He earned his time. I cannot say the same for Hogan.
The mystique of Flair was he was a 240-pounder man who put on a show and put wrestlers over. Hogan did not do that. Maybe part of the issue too is the fact you see a broken man today who is literally falling apart because of his wrestling demons, while Hogan looks like he could still hurt someone.
In wrestling – still today – perception is everything.
If you want to really know why Flair is the wrestler he is – and yes there is debate over whether he is the greatest of all time, I welcome you to look back at matches he had with the following:
HARLEY RACE – Flair said over and over again that there wasn’t a wrestler in the business as tough as Race.
WAHOO MCDANIEL – McDaniel helped train and make Flair the best. The knife-edge chop was first innovated by the Indian. Flair took it a step further.
DORY AND TERRY FUNK – The brothers dominated the NWA in the early 1970s. Both were NWA World Champions and both were great technical wrestlers.
RICKY MORTON – He was smaller than Flair and sold for him more than any other wrestler than Steamboat. They had chemistry you could not explain.
Notice I never talked about matches in the WWE or matches in the middle of the 1990s. Those watches do not do Flair justice.
All I ask is you do some more homework. Your beginning is good, your analysis is solid, but I invite you to look a little deeper.
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