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The Best Pro Wrestling Year Ever…WCW 1989 – Part 3

sting flair  Starrcade 89

Hello there loyal readers. Welcome back for Part III of my stroll down memory lane going back to the magical year of 1989 for WCW. Are you still with me? If you are, then thank you for coming along for the ride. If you are just joining us, be sure to also check out Part I and Part II. Remember, as a wise man once said, “If you don’t know where you came from then you can’t know where you’re going”.

Actually I just made that up, but it sounded pretty deep didn’t it? To conclude my three part recap I will look back at the last third of the year. As Ric Flair and Terry Funk take their feud to new extremes an unexpected ally enters the picture and WCW looks to close out the year with a bang. The year of 1989 was the best wrestling year ever.

Even though late summer was giving way to fall, WCW was still red hot. In the aftermath of The Great American Bash, two new factions were formed. The first was Gary Hart’s J-Tex Corporation, which was comprised of Terry Funk, Dick Slater, The Great Muta, The Dragonmaster, and Buzz Sawyer. The other group was the most unlikely paring of Ric Flair and Sting.

Despite having an epic feud the previous year, Flair and Sting joined forces out of sheer necessity to combat the J-Tex onslaught. September’s Clash of the Champions would bring the two teams together officially for the first time. Sting and Flair would get the win after Muta was disqualified for using the Asian mist on Sting. After the match, Terry Funk ran in and tried to kill Flair. I mean LITERALLY kill him. Funk took a plastic bag and put it over Flairs head and tried to suffocate him. This was Terry Funk at his craziest, and his best.

Due to the numerous run-ins from the J-Tex Corporation, the next match in the rivalry would be a Thunderdome match at Halloween Havoc. This was basically a cage match with a twist, the top of the cage was electrified to prevent anyone from entering or leaving (little know fact, the decorations on top of the cage actually caught fire before the match started and had to be extinguished). The match pitted Flair and Sting against Funk and Muta. But the largest ovation by far was for the special referee, Bruno Sammartino. I was lucky enough to have attended Halloween Havoc in person and two memories have always remained with me.

The first was the way the Dynamic Dudes were booed out of the building. The Dudes were WCW’s attempt at being cool and hip, and they failed miserably. The fans saw right through their act and hated them with a passion. The other memory was the debut of Doom. This was the super secret tag team that was created by Woman, RIP, to destroy the Steiner Brothers. I’ll never forget the reaction of two guys sitting next to me and my buddy. When Doom came out, one looked at the other and said right away, “What the @#$%, that’s just Ron Simmons and Butch Reed in masks.” Oops, should I have put a spoiler alert out before I typed that?

For the past four months Flair and Funk had beaten and tortured each other, but the two saved their best performance for their last. At the November Clash of the Champions, Flair and Funk engaged in one of the most entertaining matches of the year, their legendary “I Quit” match. For nearly 20 minutes Flair went back to all his old tactics, and was cheered throughout. This was Terry Funk at his crazy Texas madman peak, there just was no quit in the man.

When Funk was finally forced to submit to the pain of the Figure Four Leglock, his screams of anguish seemed so genuine and real that you thought that just maybe Flair was actually going to break his leg. And once again, as with the trilogy of matches with Ricky Steamboat, Flair earned another 5 stars from Wrestling Observer Newsletter publisher Dave Meltzer. Think about that for a moment, four 5 star matches in the same year. There were only eight 5 star matches awarded in the entire history of WCW and Flair had half of them in a 12 month span. Ric Flair, you are “The Man”.

As December rolled around, WCW decided to shake thing up with its biggest pay-per-view of the year Starrcade ’89. Instead of the usual array of matches there would be a tournament to crown an Iron Man and Iron Team winner, a showcase to determine the best singles and tag team wrestlers. The singles wrestlers were Ric Flair, Lex Luger, Sting, and the Great Muta. The tag teams were the Road Warriors, the Steiners, Doom, and the Wild Samoans. The Samoans were a replacement team for the Skyscrapers because Sid Vicious was injured. Incidentally, Sid would be replaced by a young wrestler by the name of ”Mean” Mark Callous.

Mark would go on to replace Sid again seven years later when The Undertaker would defeat Psycho Sid for the WWE title at WrestleMania 13. The story of the tag team tournament was one final hurrah in WCW for the Road Warriors as they barely edged the Steiners. By the summer, the Road Warriors would be off to the WWF to expose Demolition as the imposters they were and the Steiner Brothers would be well on their way to revolutionizing the tag team division with their arsenal of innovative moves.

Over on the singles side it all came down to the two new allies, Sting against Flair for the tournament title, and the Stinger finally getting the better of the Nature Boy. But there were storm clouds on the horizon. Due to the constant interference from the J-Tex Corporation (now Gary Hart International), Ric Flair would reform the Four Horsemen with Arn and Ole Anderson and Sting. But this incarnation of the Horsemen was to be short lived. Sting was awarded a title shot against Flair due to his win at Starrcade. When he refused to back down, the Horsemen kicked him out of the group and in the ensuing fight Sting wound up blowing out his knee. This led to Lex Luger turning face once again and challenging for the title. But I’m getting ahead of myself, all that happens in the ‘90s. And that is another story for another time.

There you have it, 1989 in WCW, the best year ever. Do you have any memories from ’89 that stand out? Do you feel another year was better than 1989? Let me know what you think, I’d love to hear from you.

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.

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric's work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

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