Required Viewing #2: The Only Partner Ric Flair Needs

I did the first one of these nearly six months ago and didn’t care for how it went but I thought I’d take another crack at it.  If you’ve never seen the original, take a look to get the idea.

Today we’re going back to 1983 and the angle that set up Starrcade.This is actually the culmination of an angle that started a few months earlier.  Harley Race was NWA World Champion but Ric Flair was hot on his heels.  Race didn’t care for that and put a $25,000 bounty on Flair’s head.


Eventually Bob Orton Jr. and Dick Slater attacked Flair and piledrove him through a table, injuring Flair’s neck and collecting the bounty.  A few weeks later Flair came back and was MAD.



Flair would live up to his word and had his friends Mark Youngblood and Wahoo McDaniel take care of Orton and Slater.  Ric on the other hand would get his hands on Harley Race inside of a steel cage and take back his title at the original Starrcade.  Now let’s look at why this angle worked so well.


First of all: it’s simple.  Race was a cowardly villain, Flair was the good guy, and good triumphed over evil in the end.  Race hid behind his money instead of facing Flair like a man and had two minions take care of his problems instead.  The spike piledriver looked to put Flair out of wrestling and even forced him to announce his retirement.  That’s what makes the return so much better: the people were buying into the idea that Flair was gone and they went crazy when he came back to get his revenge.  It’s good coming back to triumph over evil which is a tale that has worked since stories have been written.

Second, Flair looked like a crazy man out there and the intensity sells the angle perfectly.  Look at Flair’s eyes in that promo.  He is crazed over what has been done to him and will go to any length to get back at the people that did this to him.  While he wants to get his hands on Slater and Orton, Harley Race is the big prize Flair is hunting for.  That brings us to the most important part of the whole thing.

The blowoff match ROCKED.  From Starrcade 1983 in Greensboro, North Carolina.

NWA World Title: Ric Flair vs. Harley Race

The entrances take a LONG time, especially when you compare them to the other intros tonight. Wait has anyone else had an intro tonight? I don’t think they have actually. Flair has a long light sequence with his legendary music (the song playing in the gorilla sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey) playing in the background. Former world champion Gene Kiniski is guest referee for no apparent reason and this is inside a steel cage. Race is a seven time and reigning champion and Flair is a two time champion so these are both seasoned veterans.

They talk trash to each other to start before Flair takes him down with a headlock takeover. Race sends him into the ropes for a knee to the ribs but Kiniski pulls them apart. Ric snapmares him down into a chinlock which transitions into a headlock. Race fights up and hits a high knee, only to have a falling headbutt hit the canvas. Flair goes back to the headlock and cranks away on it on the mat but has to shift over into a front facelock.

Race escapes but misses a big elbow drop, only to fall on Flair for two during a slam attempt. Race drops a knee on the forehead and it’s Flair in trouble this time. Kiniski pulls Race off again so Harley opts to hit Ric in the ear instead. A piledriver puts Flair down but Race drops an elbow before covering. Race stays on the neck which is logical given the piledriver that put Flair out earlier in the year. The champion drives some knee into the back of the neck before sending Flair head first into the cage. That’s the first time it’s been used and we’re about ten minutes into the match.

We go to that overhead camera shot again as Race hits what looks like a shoulder breaker for two. A falling headbutt has Flair in trouble again as does being slammed face first into the cage. Another shot into the steel has Flair in trouble and Race is in full control. The referee pulls Race off Flair for the third time but this time he yells at Flair as well. Ric is busted open now.

Flair tries a headbutt get gets raked in the eyes to bring him down again. Now Ric blocks a ram into the cage and sends the champion in to get his first advantage in a long time. A knee to Race’s head gets two and Harley is busted open as well. Flair hits a piledriver of his own but Race’s afro protects him, meaning Flair only gets two. There’s a butterfly suplex for two for Flair and he sends Race head first into the cage again.

Race is in trouble but comes back with a headbutt which looked very low and Flair is in trouble as a result. Kiniski interferes AGAIN before Race throws Flair into the cage. Flair loads up a punch but Gene pulls the arm back because that’s illegal. IN A CAGE MATCH. Ric gets ticked off and pounds away on the champion but Kiniski breaks up the strut. Flair puts on the Figure Four but Race turns it over, which is apparently a big deal at this time.

Race headbutts out of the corner but Flair falls on top during a suplex attempt. The champion slams him down and drops a middle rope headbutt but stuns himself in the process. A suplex gets two more for Race and there is blood EVERYWHERE. Race pounds away and Kiniski has a problem with that too. Harley shrugs off some Flair punches and sends him into the cage before choking away with his boot.

Flair counters a suplex into one of his own as the back and forth control continues. A big elbow drop misses Race and both guys are down. Flair has been in such a fight that he’s gone from covered in blood to clean again to bloody again. Race accidentally knocks the referee down and in a famous but odd ending, Flair goes up top and hits a cross body, sending Race falling over the kneeling Kiniski for the pin and the title.

Rating: A. This is the definition of an old school fight. While it was pretty clear that Flair was going to win, it wasn’t a complete lock which made the match that much more interesting. The only slight flaw is the ending as the Kiniski stuff really wasn’t needed and the build wasn’t all that strong. Still though, this was a bloody and violent match between two of the best ever. Great stuff.


This story would be used again twenty years later with HHH (the reincarnation of Harley Race, right down to the sideburns) when he put out a bounty on Goldberg and Batista claimed the $100,000.  The problem at the end of the day though was the blowoff match was pretty lame and Goldberg won the title before the bounty and subsequent ankle injury took place.  It didn’t help that Goldberg won the rematch as well, making HHH look more inept than evil.

The original is one of the first big angles on a national stage and it set up a classic match as a result.  You could still use this story today and if you use it right, the magic will come back again.  Check out the main event from Starrcade if you want to see a good old school style match.


  1. Marky-Marc says:

    I don’t know what you mean by not liking how it went. I’m the same age as you but my knowledge of product from this time period isn’t as refined as yours so my vote says keep em coming.

    klunderbunker Reply:

    It just didn’t feel right for some reason. I likely will keep doing them.