The Dames’ Diatribe on The Ultimate Ric Flair Collection DVD (Disc 2)
First off, I would like to give a deep apology to all of my readers who have been patiently awaiting this review. I had all intentions of following Disc 1 up with Disc 2 and subsequently 3, but several impromptu trips out of state, a theft in my home, having to format my hard drive after dealing with viruses and worms, amongst countless other distractions didn’t allow me to get this up until now.
I’m going to be moving out of state in about 2 weeks, so the last Dames’ Diatribe you’ll get from me (other than part 3 of the Flair DVD) will be the February 9th edition of Raw. I’m moving from New York City to Bristol, Connecticut and I’ll be without internet access for roughly a month or so. This most likely means no No Way Out Diatribe (for now) and possibly no Wrestlemania XX Diatribe, but I will be attending Mania live.
I’ll still be working on a few projects in my spare time, so hopefully you guys won’t miss me too long. Anyway, let’s get to the review you guys have been anticipating for the better part of a month now.
Flair vs. Steamboat. Steamboat vs. Flair.
Either way you say it, just hearing that small phrase elicits thoughts of enjoyment and wrestling bliss to most long term wrestling fans in the United States. Their three match series is usually regarded as the best professional wrestling has to offer and at least one of these matches are on virtually everyone’s favorite match listings.
Flair vs. Funk.
Although their series isn’t held in the same regard as Flair vs. Steamboat, it’s long term effects are still being felt today. The first real “Hardcore” matches shown on a national level took place between these two and certain staples of wrestling derived from their encounters, such as using a table as an offensive weapon.
This was all part of the year that was 1989 and unquestionably, Flair’s in-ring peak as a wrestling performer.
Disc 2 - 1989
1989 began as a good year for Ric Flair. He was riding high in the middle of his sixth NWA Title reign and his former rival Barry Windham was now a member of the Four Horsemen. Flair’s world was turned upside down by the return of one Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat.
We’ll start this review once again in chapter order and Steamboat’s series with Flair is so special, it receives two main featurettes, the first being:
Chapter: Ricky Steamboat: The Rivalry
The feature begins with Ric Flair looking back and remembering when Ricky Steamboat joined Mid Atlantic Championship Wrestling in 1976 via a trade with Georgia Championship Wrestling, both under the banner of the National Wrestling Alliance. Mid-Atlantic gave up One Man Gang for Steamboat and there’s no question as to who received the better part of that deal. Flair recalls seeing a young Steamboat work and coming to the realization that he was a hell of a talent, even though he was still new in the business himself. He then approached the booker at the time and asked to work with Steamboat.
Flair says that he believe he’s wrestled Ricky Steamboat well over 3,000 times in his career. I’d like to believe that, but something tells me that’s a lie of Wilt Chamberlain proportions.
The feature then focuses on Steamboat’s strength’s as a babyface. Flair puts over his ability to be liked by a whole spectrum of people.
Flair speaks on the mutual respect that they have for each other, even though they’ve never been the closest of friends because they’re lifestyles were radically different. Flair would bring women to the ring, wearing lavish suits and riding in limousines while Steamboat would bring his wife and son with him to ringside.
Flair: “He’s not the best wrestler of all time cuz he didn’t work heel. The best wrestler of all time is me. But he’s the best babyface.” Flair just has to laugh as he finishes that statement up.
As footage from their Chi-Town Rumble match is shown, Flair says that it would normally take them 15-20 minutes just to get things really rolling in their matches. Today, we’d be lucky if a match goes that long on a pay per view.
Flair equates wrestling Steamboat to wrestling with his eyes closed since it seemed to come natural to them. They didn’t have to plan anything out, they’d just go.
Alright, just like Disc 1, we’re going in chronological order so it’s time to go to the extras.
Extra: Flair & Windham vs. Steamboat and Gilbert
Ric Flair & Barry Windham vs. Ricky Steamboat and Eddie Gilbert
Match Background: Eddie Gilbert (the late ex-husband to both Missy Hyatt AND Madusa Micelli) was apparently having problems with the Four Horsemen. He claimed to have a masked man as his tag team partner to face Windham and Flair, but instead…the man was revealed to be Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. After several years in the WWF, where he gained the WWF Intercontinental Title in a classic match at Wrestlemania III against the Macho Man Randy Savage, Steamboat was making his return to the NWA. However, he was returning to face the World Champion, Ric Flair and the NWA U.S. Champion, Barry Windham in his first match back…
The Match: Flair, Windham and their manager JJ Dillon are immediately flustered at Steamboat’s surprise appearance, which automatically gives off the perception that Steamboat is a threat. Amazingly enough, the fans seem to be more enamored with Eddie “Hot Stuff” Gilbert, chanting his name prior to the match getting started.
Windham leads off with Steamboat, who quickly arm drags the U.S. Champ across the ring to the delight of the fans and announcers Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone. Steamboat runs circles around Windham, causing Flair to get involved only to get tossed onto his partner and the Horsemen bail to the outside. Jim Ross (when he was still a sane, respectable announcer) is just gushing with compliments for Steamboat, pointing out that the man has it all in terms of speed, strength and technical ability.
Flair comes into the ring to face Steamboat and naturally talks trash in his face before locking up with the man. The first lock up ends with a hard Steamboat tackle and Flair retreats into the corner. He connects with a HARSH chop on Steamboat, but The Dragon comes back with a pair of his own, knocking Flair down. Steamboat then hits a press slam on Flair and once again, the champion bails to regroup.
Since the arena that the shows were taped in were so small, all Steamboat had to do to get to the interview area was walk a few steps. He walks over and gets on the mic, challenging Flair to stay in the ring with him.
Flair doesn’t back down and meets Steamboat in the ring, locking up with him and taking him to the corner where he unleashes some LOUD chops and short punches. Steamboat fights back with chops of his own and the two men exchange blows for a couple of seconds before Windham gets involved…but Steamboat is able to keep him at bay as well. Flair once again connects with some of the loudest chops I’ve EVER heard, but Steamboat takes them like a MAN and retaliates with loud chops of his own. Flair backs away from Steamboat, still talking trash, before going to the outside once again to gather himself.
Once again, Steamboat challenges Flair to come back into the ring and he does so. They lock up and Steamboat takes control of Flair before tagging out to Eddie Gilbert. Flair backs him into the corner and nails him with a hard chop but Gilbert fires back with rights and lefts to the midsection. He sends Flair across the ring with an armdrag and hits an old school flying head scissors, causing Flair to tag out to Windham finally.
Windham comes in…but this is a Flair DVD, so it’s clipped a bit. Gilbert is now down in the center of the ring and Windham misses with a top rope elbow. Windham tags out to Flair, but Steamboat is tagged in again and the small house crowd roars for him. Steamboat comes in and quickly CLEANS HOUSE, completely dominating both Flair and Windham. Steamboat press slams Flair and heads to the top, hitting his beautiful flying body press to pin the World Heavyweight Champion in seemingly easy fashion.
Winners: Ricky Steamboat and Eddie Gilbert
My Opinion: It’s incredible when you realize that the beginning to this epic series took place just a few days shy of 15 years ago. This was a case of Steamboat coming in and simply DOMINATING over Flair and Windham, who were practically unstoppable then. The guy became instantly over and with good reason, became the number one contender for the World Title just like that. The fans, who were chanting Eddie Gilbert’s name before the first lock up, left cheering wildly for Ricky Steamboat and his push towards the main event (which he was never close to in the WWF) had finally arrived.
I’m disappointed that the match was clipped because I can’t honestly tell you how good the match truly was. I’d never seen Eddie Gilbert in the ring (I didn’t watch much of the NWA back then) and I was looking forward to seeing more than the small 15 second snippet I got to see.
As for the match rating, I can only go by what I saw, which was practically Steamboat vs. Flair & Windham. Windham just bumped for the man and Flair spent a majority of the time either on defense or regrouping. However, the work involved was extremely crisp, the selling was supurb and the blows were stiff and realistic. This is nothing more than just a taste of what these two men will provide down the road. **
Steamboat’s Three-Man Workout – Now, Steamboat was in line for a World Title shot against Ric Flair and needed to prepare for his match. To train for the match, Steamboat decided to hold a work out in the middle of the ring against three men who would be using Flair’s maneuvers so Steamboat could study their counters. The first man Steamboat faced is Dustin Rhodes, son of Flair’s long time rival Dusty and the man who would come to be known as Goldust in the future.
Dustin snap mares Steamboat to the mat and looks to deliver Flair-esque knee drops in succession, but Steamboat is able to get his hands up and block the move each and every time.
Dustin goes for a back suplex, a move that Ric Flair loves to utilize, but Steamboat flips out of it. Dustin then takes Steamboat down and puts on a spinning toe hold, the first step to the Figure Four leglock. Steamboat counters it in different ways before moving onto the next man to step up and prepare Steamboat for Flair.
The next man comes in and looks for a vertical suplex, but Steamboat blocks it and delivers one of his own. As Steamboat continues, Flair joins the announcers looking on and immediately talks trash about Steamboat.
Steamboat then takes it to the mat with all three men and successfully escaping each predicament he’s in. Steamboat hip tosses all of them as Flair lets Jim Ross know that “you’re making me hot!” for comparing Flair’s execution of maneuvers to any man, let alone the three guys in the ring. The workout ends with Steamboat shaking the hands of all three men, but the segment isn’t over as Ric Flair is still hovering around ringside.
When the show apparently came back from commercial break, Jim Ross and the then retired Magnum T.A. speak about what just occurred. The footage is shown as Steamboat was greeting the fans at ringside, only for him to spot Flair and ask him to come into the ring with him, which Flair obliges.
Instead of wrestling the man straight up, Flair gives him a thumb to the eye and takes him to the corner, where he delivers some of the HARDEST CHOPS OF ALL TIME. Steamboat actually battles back and quickly takes the advantage, once again dominating Ric Flair inside the squared circle. Steamboat then rips Flair’s shirt off of his back and sends him packing as the build up for their first encounter for the World Title is just getting started.
My Two Cents: This is a perfect example of a segment that adds depth to an upcoming encounter and feud. Instead of just cutting a promo and saying something like “Flair, I know everything you’ve got, I’ve studied tapes, etc”, you can actually SEE Steamboat countering these moves and therefore, it accomplishes a few things.
First off, it drives into people’s minds that not only has Steamboat pinned Flair once, but he can take and possibly reverse anything Flair’s going to dish out.
Secondly, it allows the fans to anticipate Ricky’s counters and build up anticipation for spots in the Title match, getting the fans more vested in the actual holds and maneuvers going on in the ring.
Last but not least, it says to the fans that we have a real shot at seeing Ricky Steamboat walk out with the NWA Title when he faces Ric Flair, so we should buy the pay per view to see that take place.
This was a total money segment and just another reason why I regret not watching the NWA when I had the chance as a youngster.
Extra: Clash of the Champions V: Flair Calls Out Steamboat – February 15th, 1989
I think maybe the "jobber squash" has merely been replaced by a non-finish match between the actual PPV participants. Whether it's by DQ or whatever, everyone still knows that a TV match will not resolve anything and the PPV match (usually)