Hello there loyal readers. Welcome back for Part II of my stroll down memory lane going back to the magical year of 1989 for WCW. In Part I, I discussed the events of the first third of the year.
To recap, WCW was starting to feel its way as a national promotion and Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat were quite simply the best wrestlers on the planet and in the midst of possibly the greatest trilogy of matches the sport had ever seen. In this article I will take a look back at the summer months of that year, as Flair and Steamboat went to the well one more time and new challenges and challengers arose. So come with me as we journey back to WCW in 1989, the best wrestling year ever.
Those judges were NWA legends Pat O’Connor, Lou Thesz, and Terry Funk. Flair and Steamboat’s previous two matches had each received 5 stars from Wrestling Observer Newsletter publisher Dave Meltzer so these two had a lot to live up to, and once again they did not disappoint. After going back and forth for over 30 minutes, Flair finally regained the title he had fought so hard for and was once again “the man”. And once again another 5 star rating was earned, a hat trick of excellence that may never be seen again.
But as memorable as the match was, it was the post match celebration that set the tone for the rest of the year. After the match, Flair acknowledged Steamboat’s efforts and shook his hand as a sign of respect. In that one moment, Slick Ric the “dirtiest player in the game” became a fan favorite. But what happened next completed his face turn. Terry Funk, one of the judges, congratulated Flair and then challenged him for the title.
When Flair refused, Funk became increasingly aggravated until he finally snapped and attacked Flair. He concluded the attack by delivering a pile driver through the judges table that would put Flair out of action for several weeks. In the days before TLC matches and ECW, to see someone of Flair’s stature viciously rammed through a table head first was quite shocking.
In June, the Clash of the Champions broadcast had exactly the right mix of title action while also setting the stage for the next pay-per-view. The big news was that the underhanded tactics used by the Varsity Club to keep the tag titles finally backfired on them as they were stripped of the belts. A tournament was held to crown new champions and at the Clash, the Freebirds won their first tag title by defeating the Midnight Express in the finals.
Also at the Clash, two brothers teamed together for one of the very first times. They would go on to be one of the most decorated tag teams in wrestling history, Rick Steiner…Scott Steiner…the Steiner Brothers (here’s to you Gary Michael Cappetta). The main event was Ricky Steamboat trying to avenge Ric Flair’s injury by taking on Terry Funk. Funk was mauling Steamboat after the match ended until Lex Luger ran Funk off, only to beat down Steamboat himself. In one moment Lex Luger had turned heel again and thrown away a years worth of good will from the fans, a move that would become all too familiar throughout his underachieving career.
July brought the annual summertime tradition, The Great American Bash. Flair was back from his injury and ready to take his revenge on Terry Funk, which he would. But the real story was the influx of new talent on the card, some for the better and some for the worse. WCW was trying to slowly break away from the good old boy southern rass’lin image of Jim Crockett Promotions. Ted Turner had his sights on the WWF and was looking to emulate to success that Vince McMahon was enjoying. This meant branching out and creating more colorful characters and tag teams. But this is often easier said than done.
Look at the Bash lineup from ’89 and it’s a who’s who of not ready for prime time players. The Skyscrapers were two giants that were unlike anything seen in the promotion before. One of the members, Sid Vicious, would go onto greater success down the road in the WWF as Psycho Sid. At the Bash, they defeated the Dynamic Dudes, who consisted of a pre-Franchise Shane Douglas and a nobody by the name of Johnny Ace. Or at least he was a nobody until he became Vice President of Talent Relations and the interim general manager of Raw, John Laurinaitis. But it wasn’t all bad news, the Steiner Brothers had their first taste of success here as well. And to think that Scott Steiner was still a decade away from completely losing his mind.
Look for Part III coming soon. As 1989 comes to a close, WCW looks to settle old grudges and align the stars that will carry the company in the new decade. But sometimes things don’t always work out as planned.
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.