(Here’s the link for the match on the WWE Network: http://network.wwe.com/video/v32297671/?contentId=32297671&contextType=wwe-show&contextId=clash_of_the_champions )
This is the second battle between Flair and Steamboat in their Holy Trilogy of matches. We saw the third match at #17 (click here for my review) and the first match at #11 (click here for my review). There’ll always be debate about which match is the best out of the three. For me, I’d say it’s a tie between this bout and the concluding part. They’re both on the same high level but a dodgy ending lets this one down a little. After nearly an hour’s worth of quality wrestling, the ending seems like a bad joke. But what happens before is nothing short of spectacular.
Wrestling for an hour and keeping things fresh, exciting and relevant is a major task. We saw it fail at #10 in the inaugural WWE Iron Man Match between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart (click here for my review). This 2/3 Falls match feels like it could go on and on without becoming boring or repetitive. Yes, it’s that good! Like any great story, there’s a beginning, middle and an end (split into each pinfall). Yes, Flair and Steamboat are telling a story, both with their own strategies to win the battle. It’s uncluttered, with a clear babyface and a clear heel. But both fight to the point of near-exhaustion.
If you’ve read my reviews of the other two bouts, then most of my thoughts about this one will be familiar. They fight full tilt for most of the near hour bout. There are rest holds, dotted throughout to give the wrestlers time to breath. But they fit into the story and psychology being told. Even when both are sweating and visibly exhausted, the pace fails to decrease. You are taken on a journey, going through the emotions that the wrestlers want to take you on. In modern times, occasionally the journey wrestlers are taking you through can be unclear and confused (especially in this era of heels who are loved by the crowd and babyfaces who are hated by the crowd). But you simply despise Flair for his heelish tactics and love Steamboat for his relentless attitude.
What really discourages me from picking this as my outright favourite is the ending. Yes, it’s done to give us controversy that will lead us into the third and final bout between Flair and Steamboat. But surely there was a less ridiculous way of doing that? It made me shake my head in disbelief. There are ways of setting up a rubber match without having a silly finish. But that would be my only niggle.
Flair and Steamboat fight for nearly an hour without giving us pause for boredom. They set out the story they will tell early on, and stick to it religiously. Lines between heel and babyface are never crossed. Both wrestle to the point of exhaustion but just keep on going. At the same time, they manage to keep heat at boiling point and excitement high. To some jaded eyes who want high spots and death defying leaps, it may seem outdated and dull. But for those who like wrestling as it should be, look no further. I’ll hesitate calling it my favourite of the Holy Trilogy due to the naff ending, but it’s still a true classic.
VERDICT: 9/10. A true classic that’s let down by a dodgy ending. But the fifty odd minutes before that are some of the most pure and clear wrestling you’ll ever see. Flari and Steamboat were at the top of their game, and this deserves to be in the Top 10.
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 #5 Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio (WCW Cruiserweight Title vs. Mask, WCW Halloween Havoc 1997)
Click here to view my list of reviews of the WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die