The SmarK Rant For The Ultimate Ric Flair Collection – Disc One

The SmarK Rant for the Ultimate Ric Flair Collection DVD – Disc One.

– Yes, it’s FINALLY here, as I ordered from Highspots in November, but the infamous shortage from Sony’s end meant that it didn’t ship until December, and then it got held up in Customs for two weeks before finally arriving yesterday, allowing me to anxiously tear off the wrapping like one final Christmas present and dive in. Some things are WORTH waiting for, however. Like this rant, and since this set is so ridiculously huge and I’m a media whore, I’m splitting it up into three separate rants, one per disc.

– And since I’m in that kinda mood, I’m gonna redo ALL the match recaps.

Disc One (1983-1987).

– Opening montage of Flair’s big moments and catchphrases (how come he doesn’t use “What’s causing all this?” anymore?).

– Flair talks about winning his first World title in 1981 and what an honor it was. Classic interview clips and footage from Japan is included.

– Next up, a clip of Harley Race winning the title from Flair in 1983, doing the old “double back suplex” pinfall thing. More clips of the rematch, and Bob Geigel awarding Jim Crockett the Starrcade match. Man, they’re pulling crazy shit out of their ass here. Unbelievable.

– NWA World title: Harley Race v. Ric Flair. This is a cage match, and the main event of the first ever Starrcade in 1983. Gene Kiniski is the special referee. Another cool touch about the WWE’s library is that they have the FULL match, complete with the entrances in their entirety and all the crowd reactions. Man, what a great job that would be – just sitting around in the editing rooms and going through all this old stuff. Lockup and Flair takes him down with a headlock, which gets him nowhere. Flair starts him with a chop and goes back to the headlock, but Race breaks on the ropes and gives him a knee. Flair returns the favor on the other side and chinlocks him, which turns into another headlock, but Race gets the high knee. He misses the falling headbutt, and Flair chops him down for one. Back to the headlock for Flair, but Race rolls him over a few times, and Flair rolls over into a facelock instead. He holds on and tries a suplex out of it, but Race reverses for his own, and gets two. Elbowdrop misses and Flair goes for a slam, but Race falls on top for two. Race drops a knee (all this use of the knee remind you of anyone?) and some more in the corner for the choke, but Kiniski pulls him off. Race keeps pounding Flair down and drops another knee, setting up a piledriver and an elbowdrop for two. Race sees the bad neck and drops an elbow on it, and a neckbreaker gets two. He drops more knees on the neck, drawing a count from Kiniski. Race lets him up and then tosses him into the cage, which (surprisingly) doesn’t draw blood. Shoulderbreaker gets two. Flair comes back and slugs away at the gut of Race, but a headbutt puts Flair down again and Race drops a headbutt. Back to the cage goes Flair, but he fights back, so Race puts him into the cage again, and now there’s blood. Race goes to work on the cut in the corner, but Kiniski pulls him off and Flair comes back with chops. Race sneaks in with a headbutt, however, and tries to whip Flair into the corner, but it’s reversed and both are out. Race goes into the cage and now he’s bleeding, so Flair goes to work with a kneedrop and starts going to work on the cut. Piledriver gets two. Now Flair goes for the neck, which is almost an anomaly considering his usual MO, and gets a butterfly suplex for two. Back to the cage a couple of times, drawing the ire of Gene Kiniski, but Race goes low with a headbutt to turn the tide again. Flair eats some cage in dramatic fashion, but keeps fighting back. Race keeps slugging him down, but Flair chops him down for two. Elbowdrop and he peppers Race with fists and does some strutting (and bleeding), and a backdrop suplex sets up the figure-four. Race powers him over, however, and they’re in the ropes. Race headbutts him down again, but a suplex attempt is reversed by Flair for two. Race headbutts him down again and goes up with a diving headbutt, which gets two. Vertical suplex gets two. Race keeps working on the cut, which has now turned Flair’s hair red and sends him back into the cage again, but now Kiniski drags Race away by the hair to break it up. Race goes for another suplex, which Flair reverses to a delayed vertical suplex, but he misses an elbowdrop. Race grabs another headlock, but accidentally headbutts Kiniski. They slug it out in the corner and Flair staggers Race, and goes up with a flying bodypress, as they trip over Kiniski and Flair gets the pin and the title at 24:01. This was a slower pace than most fans today would probably be accustomed to, but it all top-shelf stuff, with perfect execution throughout. The only flaw would probably be Kiniski’s refereeing job, but you can’t really hold that against the wrestlers. ***** Flair’s post-match celebration and in-ring speech is also included.

– Onto Big Dust, as Flair talks about the fun of working with him in the ring (which is funny because Dusty was the only guy who could drag Flair below *** in the 80s). Various clips of interviews back and forth (many of them out of sequence) are spliced in here. It would have been neat to have Flair talk about the switch to the Big Gold Belt in 1985, actually.

– NWA World title: Ric Flair v. Dusty Rhodes. This is the main event of Starrcade 85, and it’s the seminal Dusty Finish. If you’re talking about the absolute textbook example of what I hate about Dusty’s booking in the 80s, this is the match. They exchange struts to start and Flair takes him to the corner and starts chopping, but Dusty fires back and gets the Flip Flop and Fly right away. Flair bails. Back in, Flair starts chopping, but Dusty comes back with elbows and overpowers him. Bionic elbow and Flair backs off again and takes a breather outside. Back in, Flair tries a headlock, but Dusty reverses to a hammerlock and they go to the mat, giving Dusty his first break of the match. Flair goes for the broken foot, but Dusty backs off. Flair tries chops again and that seems to work a bit better, so he drops a knee and gets two. Back to the bad foot, and now Dusty has to take 5. Back to the apron, as Dusty elbows Flair in the neck on the way back in, and steps on his ankle. He lays down on the knee and it’s Dusty Rest Break #2. Not counting his time outside the ring. Flair comes back and tries a suplex, but the gravitational pull of Dusty’s ass is too great, and Dusty goes back to the leg again. Flair fights up, and grabs a sleeper, and you don’t have to ask Dusty twice for THAT spot. He manages to escape by ramming Flair into the turnbuckle, however, and wraps Flair’s leg around the post. Flair tries more chops, but Dusty gets his own and then takes Flair down with the most ridiculously lazy snapmare I’ve ever seen. I mean, how do you skimp on a SNAPMARE? He misses an elbow, however, apparently winded from the exertion of the snapmare, and Flair goes up, but Dusty slams him off and goes for his version of the figure-four. Flair shoves him off, and Dusty injures the bad foot again. Now Flair tries the figure-four, but Dusty shoves him off. Again, same result. Flair starts stomping the bad foot, but Dusty comes back with a headbutt and they slug it out in the corner until Flair is whipped to the other side for a Flair Flip, and they brawl on the floor. Flair eats post and Dusty elbows away on the apron. Back in, Flair tosses him, but Dusty goes up with a crossbody-flop for two. Dusty comes back (despite never really selling for Flair) and hammers away on the mat, then elbows him down and pounds away in the corner. Flair Flop results. Dusty slugs away and Flair goes down again and backs off, and it’s another Flair Flip, allowing Dusty to catch him in the gut coming down. Flair finally kicks out the bad foot again to slow down Big Dust, and NOW, WHOO, WE GO TO SCHOOL. In Dusty’s case, McDonald’s College. Figure-four, but Dusty fights back and reverses. MAD COW! MAD COW! Oh, wait, that would make him Canadian then. I retract my insult. Flair chops away, but Dusty no-sells and fights back with bionic elbows and a lariat. That gets two, and Dusty flattens Tommy Young on the kickout. He’s knocked out of the ring, just so we REALLY get the point, and Dusty goes for the figure-four. The Four Horsemen run in and Dusty looks to heroically fight them all off single-handedly, but Ole nails him from behind with a knee and second referee counts two for Flair. Dusty cradles Flair for the pin and the title at 22:07. BUT WAIT. The next week on TV, it was announced that Dusty didn’t actually win the title, because the first referee was knocked out, and Flair was given it back. And that, my friends, is a Dusty Finish. **1/2 The problem with Dusty is that Flair could work the proverbial ***1/2 match with a broomstick because he’d just plug the other guy into his formula and it didn’t matter who it was. However, Dusty insisted on working HIS match, and the results didn’t click with Flair.

– Next up, Dusty’s booking lieutenant, Barry Windham. Flair puts him over and talks about how smooth a worker he was and how he never really got his due. Apparently he could hang with Flair drink-for-drink and woman-for-woman. That’s a pretty big compliment.

– NWA World title: Ric Flair v. Barry Windham. This is the famous “one-hour” draw from World Wide Wrestling, where they devoted the ENTIRE show to the one match. Windham grabs a headlock and overpowers Flair to start, and he backs off. Flair gets his own headlock and they reverse off that on the mat, leaving Windham in control of the arm. He holds an armbar and gives Flair a clean break in the corner. Flair gives him a “Whoo”. But a tentative one. Back to the headlock, and Flair takes him into the corner again and chops away. Windham comes back with a hiptoss and a slam, however, and calmly goes back to the headlock and gets two. Smart move. Flair fights out and chops him down, but Windham takes him down and goes back to the headlock again. Tommy Young, greatest referee ever, slides out of the ring to check on it, in order to remain in position. I love stuff like that. They exchange shots and Windham won’t bite on Flair’s bait, backing off and waiting for him to lock up again. Back to the headlock and Flair forces him back to the corner again and goes back to the chops. Windham fires back double, however, and hiptosses him into a dropkick. Flair backs off and tries to sucker Windham in, but Barry sucker-punches him first and Flair takes a walk. Back in, Flair takes him down, but Windham goes right back to his headlock, controlling the match. Nice thing about Windham’s headlock spot is that he’s constantly kinetic, readjusting his ring position and moving. Flair hotshots him as they go to commercial, and return with Windham holding a headscissors. Flair rolls him to the ropes, so Windham takes him down with the headlock again. Windham pounds away and slugs Flair down, but gets tossed and abused outside. Windham gets sent into the railing as Flair starts to take over and Barry bumps all over outside like a ragdoll. Flair necksnaps him on the way in and sends him into the post, and works on the arm on the apron before snapmaring him in. Armbar, as Dusty Rhodes on color explains the basics of wrestling to us: “You break down one part of a man’s body, then another part, and pretty soon he’s broken down completely, and that’s when you go for your finish.” That about sums it up, actually. Flair works on the arm and starts chopping in the corner, but Windham keeps fighting back, so Flair takes him down with a hammerlock on the mat, which gets two. Back to the chops in the corner, but Barry won’t go down and keeps fighting back. They slug it out bigtime and Barry gains control and pounds away with the pummel in the corner, triggering a Flair Flop. Flair chops back, but Windham hangs with him all the way and Flair goes down again. Windham hammers on the forehead, but Flair takes him down with a pin in the corner for two. Using the ropes, of course. Windham sends him out of the ring and they brawl outside as we take another break, and return with Flair getting two in the ring. Flair drops a knee and chops away, and then elbows him right out of the ring. Back in with a suplex, but Windham counters and slugs him down. That gets two. They slug it out again and Windham grabs the headlock, but Flair shrewdly gets the backdrop suplex out of it and slaps on the figure-four, positioning himself between Windham and the ropes. Which means he can use them, of course. Young catches him and breaks the hold. Flair goes back after him with a kneecrusher and back to the figure-four, but Windham reverses for two. They fight in the corner, but Flair tosses him again, so Windham gets pissed and sunset flips in for two. Flair grabs the sleeper, but Windham slips out and kicks Flair in the face, then follows with a lariat from the second rope for two. Windham slams him and goes for a splash, but hits the knees. Since when did Windham ever use a splash? They fight over a suplex and Windham gets it, but can’t make the cover. He opts to go up instead, but misses a flying elbow, and Flair goes for the knee, and misses THAT. Windham decides to go for the knee now and then slugs him out to the floor, which is actually to Flair’s advantage because it’s a timout. Windham follows and pounds on the leg outside, and back in Windham gets his own figure-four and slugs Flair down for two. Flair makes the ropes, but Young kicks him off because you have to be IN the ropes, not REACHING for them. He makes them properly, however, and Windham breaks the hold, but stays on him. Good man. Flair goes to the knee, however, and they slug it out, but Flair goes down. Another break as Flair gets another kneecrusher and we return with them slugging it out again. Flair’s hiptoss is blocked with an abdominal stretch, but Flair finishes the hiptoss and Young is bumped. Windham goes up with the missile dropkick (and that was state of the art offense in 1987), which gets two. Windham grabs a sleeper, but Flair escapes with a backdrop suplex and comes in via the top rope with a high cross, but Windham rolls through for two. Flair overpowers him and Windham gets another sleeper. Rollup gets two. Flair goes back to the knee and Windham slugs away in the corner and gets two. They slug it out again and Windham explodes out of the corner with a lariat and gets a delayed vertical suplex and a kneedrop for two. One minute left. Flair tries a hiptoss and Windham reverses to a backslide for two. Flair goes up and gets slammed off with 30 seconds left. Powerslam gets two. Another lariat gets two as time expires at 30:52 aired, 45:00 total counting the stuff that was cut out for commercials. Literally non-stop action, and they didn’t even cover HALF the stuff they were capable of. These two used to do NINETY-minute draws! Friggin’ AWESOME and in a world without Wrestlemania III it would have been MOTY for 1987. If you ever want to see 30 minutes fly by in what feels like 10, check this out. *****

Bonus Features:

Okay, when you go to the Chapter menu and select one of the three matches, you get a list of bonus materials for each match. Under “Harley Race”, there’s the following stuff:

– A Race promo building up to the match, where he puts a $25,000 bounty on Flair’s head (sound familiar?) and offers anyone who can get rid of Flair the money.

– Clips of a Race-Flair match from 1983, as Dick Slater tries to claim the bounty by doing a run-in, and then brings Bob Orton with him, as a beatdown results. They give Flair a spike piledriver, and Flair sells it like death. Roddy Piper makes the save. Backstage, Race pays out the money, as promised.

– Ric Flair, with a neckbrace, from his house, announces his retirement as a result of the piledriver. DON’T DO IT, RIC! Oh, wait.

– Soon after, Slater & Orton are squashing a couple of jobbers, when Ric Flair makes his return and lays them out with a baseball bat. That’s the spirit! He gives an impassionated promo afterwards, tearing off the neckbrace and declaring his return to wrestling, promising to bring Orton & Slater to their graves, because the baseball bat is the only partner he needs now. Now THAT’S a wrestling promo!

– Finally, the NWA press conference in October 83, to announce the site for the Flair-Race rematch. These people should NOT be attempting to act. This runs about 10:00.

– Pre-match interview with Harley Race, as he hangs out in the dressing room with the Briscos and Greg Valentine.

– Pre-match interview with Ric Flair, as he hangs out with Steamboat & Youngblood, and he responds to Race’s comments.

– More pre-match comments from Race, as he’s now with Orton & Slater, and they all give their two cents.

– One last pre-match interview, this time with Flair & Wahoo.

– Onto the post-match interviews, first up Flair and his newly-won belt. The races give him a champagne bath, but of course Dusty Rhodes has to butt in and make it about himself.

– Harley Race gives his thoughts after losing his last World title. He says that he’s not packing it up and going away, but he did just that, jumping to the WWF soon after.

– And finally, Flair, Steamboat & Youngblood all show off their new belts.

Next up, stuff pursuant to the Dusty match:

– The most glorious moment in Horsemen history, as the Four Horsemen break Dusty’s ankle in an awesome angle. Flair was being double-teamed by the Koloffs in a cage match after beating Nikita, but Dusty makes the save. After he clears the ring, the Andersons storm in and destroy him and Flair locks the cage. Never trust a Horseman. Flair puts Dusty in the figure-four until he breaks the ankle, and the babyfaces finally break into the ring and chase off the Horsemen.

– Flair gives his side of the story, cementing his heel turn, pointing out that he may be a jerk, but he’s still got the belt. He puts over Tully and the Andersons, foreshadowing the official formation of the Horsemen.

– Dusty Rhodes is interviewed about his injury, and basically he’s upset because Flair lives the jetset lifestyle and other people are out of work. Dusty’s one to talk.

– Tony explains the controversy behind the supposed title switch, and Tommy Young even gets promo time as he gives his side of the story. In a banana yellow jacket. Well, it WAS the 80s.

– Flair gives a very dated promo about “Who Shot JR”. He respects Tommy Young’s call in getting him the belt back. Your basic classic Flair promo.

– Finally, Dusty’s rebuttal to Flair. He promises to mess Flair up, real bad. Them’s strong words.

And of course, all the stuff surrounding the Windham match:

– Tony interviews Windham & Garvin after defending the US tag titles, as we flash back to Windham saving Tim Horner from Tully, and a Four Horsemen beatdown is the result. He promises REVENGE.

– Flair issues his rebuttal, calling Windham a whiner and showing off his new suit.

– Another interview with Windham, as he rolls video of a match with Flair (and a REALLY good one at that) that turns into a huge brawl between the babyfaces and the Horsemen. About five minutes of the match is shown before it degenerates into a schmoz.

– Dusty Rhodes analyzes the situation in the closing segment of the hour-long Flair-Windham show.

– And we finish with Flair’s dressing room comments to Windham.

Plus EASTER EGGS!

– Highlight the Barry Windham: Keeping Up With The Champ selection from the Chapter menu and press right, and you get a bonus Flair interview where he goes off on whatever is on his mind at that moment in a crazy manner.

And that’s just the first disc! Be back tomorrow for the SECOND one, as we get to 1989 and the classic Steamboat and Funk matches!