(Here’s the link for the match on the WWE Network: http://network.wwe.com/video/v31348403?contextType=wwe-show&contextId=wrestlemania&contentId=67734570&watchlistAltButtonContext=series )
The match every wrestling fan wanted to main event WrestleMania VIII was Hulk Hogan vs Ric Flair. It’s the dream match that many thought might never happen. Would Flair ever go to WWF? Go to WWF he did, but Hogan and Flair never fought on TV during Flair’s first turn in WWF. Instead, we received the awful main event of Hogan vs Sid Justice. However, we were still treated to one of the all time great WrestleMania matches: Flair vs Randy Savage. With two of the best wrestling talents ever going one on one, could we expect anything less than greatness? Bolstered by a blistering feud, Flair vs Savage was everything a wrestling fan wanted…
Yes, it helped that the match had one of the best builds to a match in ‘Mania history. Flair claimed that Savage’s wife (both on and off screen) Elizabeth was an old flame. He also insinuated that Elizabeth still had feelings for him. He even provided photographs of himself and Elizabeth in happier times. In Flair’s words, “Elizabeth was mine before she was yours!” Check out Flair’s acclaimed ‘damaged goods’ promo. Flair almost frothed with glee. Savage often frothed with fury. This was more than just a good guy/bad guy clash; this was a man fighting for the honour of his wife!
I always thought this match was underrated, but as its on this list, I was obviously wrong! Even before the match begins, Flair gives a promo stating that after he wins, he’s going to show a centrefold picture of Elizabeth on the big screen! What follows it basically a brawl with pitch-perfect in-ring psychology. Savage just wants to tear Flair apart. But his eagerness to beat the hell out of Flair often works in Flair’s favour. With his various heel tactis, Flair takes the offence. He targets Savage’s back and knee to stop the onslaught of offence. Flair ends up a bloody mess. At one point, Savage doesn’t want to pin Flair; he just wants to punch his face in! It’s a match where the interference at the end of the match is the icing on the cake, rather than a ham-fisted fist in it.
Intensity, brawling, superb psychology, a blistering feud leading into it…this match had it all and more. Like I often say, if a match from the 80s/early 90s holds up today, then it’s a damned fine match. Flair, as ever, heeled it up to extraordinary levels. Savage as the courageous face, fighting for his wife’s honour and struggling through a knee injury, had the crowd on his side from the beginning. It’s an example how to build a feud for WrestleMania, which seems to have been forgotten about in recent times. Think about it: when’s the last time you looked forward to a match at ‘Mania that had a cracking feud behind it? It’s also two wrestlers nearing the end of their peak talent period putting it all on the line.
(Also, check out Bret Hart vs Rowdy Roddy Piper for the Intercontinental Championship. Piper’s finest match!)
VERDICT: 9/10 One of the greatest ‘Mania matches ever between two of the greatest wrestlers ever. Flair and Savage easily outshone the terrible main event and put on a tour de force.
Click here for my review of #25 Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels (WWE World Heavyweight Title, Ladder Match, WWE No Mercy 2008)