(Here’s the link for the match on the WWE Network: http://network.wwe.com/video/v31572841/?contentId=&contextType=wwe-show&contextId=chi-town_rumble )
We saw the concluding bout of Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat’s “Holy Trinity” of matches at #17 (click here for my review). We all are familiar with a trilogy: the first part is very good, showing lots of promise. The middle part is spectacular, the best of the trilogy. As for the final part: more often than not, it’s a disappointment in relation to the second part. Think of the great film trilogies: most end with a whimper, not a bang. However, #17 was something rather special. If that was the concluding part of the trilogy, the other two would have to be mind-blowing. Flair and Steamboat left little on the table in their first bout, but I still preferred #17…
Back in 1989, this was a dream match (they’d fought before, but with Steamboat going to WWF no one thought they’d see the match again). Steamboat appeared on WCW after a stint in WWF. He entered as Eddie Gilbert’s mystery partner in a tag match against Ric Flair and Barry Windham. Steamboat scored the pinfall over Flair, thus sealing himself a title shot against the World Champion. Steamboat, the babyface, wanted the title to prove that he was worthy of being a top guy. Flair, the heel, wanted to prove he could beat a top contender.
The two guys start off slow, Steamboat grinding out the early advantage. He constantly outsmarts, outwits and out-wrestles Flair. With the crowd heavily in his favour, Steamboat shows he can hang with ‘The Nature Boy.’ It takes the typical Flair cheating to turn the match in favour of good old Ric. This is one of the aspects of the match that irks me. The referee turns a blind eye to Flair’s cheating. For instance, Flair locks on the Figure Four and uses the ropes to gain leverage in front of the referee. Mr. Referee can see the illegal rope hold, but refuses to do anything! Another aspect that irks me is the referee’s involvement in the controversial ending of the match. It didn’t need a ref bump or anything like that. In fact, that deducts something from the ending of the match.
However, there’s not much to dissect in this opening chapter. Steamboat and Flair wrestle, fight and chop each other to death without surcease. It’s literally non-stop action after the first few minutes. There are occasional rest holds, but they mostly pop up at the start. There are points where it becomes a punch/chop fest, in lieu of anything else. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it seems to be the last resort when Steamboat and Flair don’t know what to do next. It’s good to compare the concluding part against the opening part. They are more comfortable with each other, after wrestling each other frequently between the opening bout and the concluding bout.
But I’m nitpicking for the sake of nitpicking here. Yes, the concluding part is superior to this match. Yes, the shenanigans with the referee detract from the thrill of the closing moments. It may descend into a punch/chop fest. But it’s still worthy of being part of a “Holy Trinity.” Flair and Steamboat punch, chop, suplex and batter each other without a spare breath for twenty minutes. It’s a lesson in psychology from two legends in the industry. But it also sets the stage for something greater.
VERDICT: 8/10. A few notches below a true classic, this first bout of the famous “Holy Trinity” between Steamboat and Flair sets the pace and tone for their further two matches. It’s great in its own right, but pales in comparison to their other two bouts.
Does this match belong in the WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die? Leave your comments below!
Click here for my review of #12 The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (WWE Title, No Disqualification Match, WrestleMania X-7)
Click here to view my list of reviews of the WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die