Review: WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die: #17 Ricky Steamboat vs. Ric Flair (NWA World Title, NWA Wrestlewar 1989: Music City Showdown)

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(Here’s the link for the match on the WWE Network: http://network.wwe.com/video/v31674733/?contentId=&contextType=wwe-show&contextId=wrestlewar )

This is the final act of a trilogy between these two great wrestlers that lit up 1989. The other two take their places at #11 and #4. That’s funny, because this match was rated at the Match of the Year 1989 by Pro Wrestling Illustrated. So why is the final act of the trilogy the lowest on the Best 100 Matches…List? Of course, #17 is not anything to frown at. And I’ve not watched #11 and #4 (much to my shame). But they’ll both have to be something extra special to better their final act. Yes, Flair vs Steamboat is truly one of the all-time great matches.

It’s presented like an authentic, legitimate bout. Due to the questionable finishes of their previous two bouts, Flair and Steamboat are being judged by three panellists during the match. Lou Thesz, Pat O’Connor and Terry Funk are there to give a final score if the match goes to a draw. A final score may sound a little silly, but here it only adds to the drama. Will it go to a draw? What is the score? Of course, there are numerous (and more logical) ways to resolve an indefinite finish, but there’s a reason for the three judges. The end of this match starts off the feud between Flair and Terry Funk that culminated in the match ranked #20 (click here for my review).

To spoil things a little, the match doesn’t go to a draw. It goes for half an hour. And I’ve never seen two wrestlers going full tilt for thirty minutes without a pause. Much like Bret Hart vs Mr. Perfect at #18 (click here for my review), it’s a clinic in back and forth action. No one wrestler seems to have the upper hand for long. That and the non-stop action prevents any room for boredom or stalling spots. Yes, there are rest holds here and there, but they are all part of the story. Yes, there are a few botches, but they only add to the excitement and realism.

WOOOO!!!

Steamboat provides the high-flying entertainment and speed, whilst Flair provides the chops and the ebb and flow of the match. Some viewers used to modern era wrestling may roll their eyes at the frequent use of hip tosses and the like, but there’s still a great variety of moves on show here. There’s nothing overly complex or too dangerous here, but the lack of any “big spots” makes every attempted pinfall suspenseful. Nowadays, wrestlers almost kill each other before achieving a pinfall. They’ll kick out of finishers to squeeze a few more cheers out of the crowd, but mostly it harms the flow of the match. Finishers are supposed to finish the match! In special occasions I understand kicking out of a finisher. But kicking out of a finisher on a Raw match? Silly!

But I digress. For students of wrestling, this match should be a must-watch. For anyone interested in wrestling history, this match should be a must-watch. And if you want to compare modern wrestling to 80s wrestling, this match should be a must-watch. It combines all of the elements of a great match with two great wrestlers. It doesn’t look choreographed. The three judges add a semblance of legitimacy to proceedings. From start to finish, it’s enthralling. I just can’t wait to watch the other two matches in the trilogy!

VERDICT: 9/10. Flair and Steamboat complete their ‘Holy Trinity’ of matches with a classic. Sometimes, the last part in a trilogy is a disappointment. But this is simply brilliant.

Click here for my review of #18 Mr. Perfect vs. Bret Hart (WWE Intercontinental Title, WWE Summerslam 1991)

Does this match belong in the WWE Network’s Best 100 Matches To See Before You Die? Leave your comments below!

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