Sunday Night ShowDown! - 1989: Ric Flair vs Ricky Steamboat
Welcome to the fourth edition of “Sunday Night Showdown!”. This will be a weekly series that will highlight a selected match from any wrestling federation, past or present, to review and dissect for you great wrestling fans across the globe.
This week, we check out one of the greatest NWA World Heavyweight Championship matches of all-time, in my personal opinion. We have the reigning and defending NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat defending the title against “Nature Boy” Ric Flair. This match is the pinnacle of what professional wrestling was (and still can be) all about.
At ringside, we had Terry Funk, Pat O’Connor and Lou Thesz at ringside as the judges for this match in the event of a time limit draw. The match began with Steamboat giving Flair a quick arm drag. Flair taunted Steamboat as they began circling each other into the collar & elbow tie-up, side headlock by Flair into the arm drag by Steamboat. Both men exchange slaps in the corner. Knife Edge Chop by Flair in the corner, followed by a straight right hand. Both men exchange chops, as Steamboat gets the advantage temporarily. Back body drop by Steamboat, as Flair rolls outside the ring and attempts to shake off the cobwebs. Side headlock by Flair countered by Steamboat into a struggle of strength, as Steamboat takes him down into the armbar. Flair screams in pain as Steamboat drives the knee in the arm and shoulder area, then begins twisting the arm. Driving the elbow drops into the arm then continues twisting the arm of Flair as both get to their feet. Steamboat connects with a quick arm drag and continues to work the arm. Hammerlock on Flair by Steamboat. Flair counters into the drop toe hold but gets reversed into the hammerlock by Steamboat into a half nelson. Flair hits the knife edge chops on Steamboat. Steamboat slides under Flair and takes him down into a double leg takedown into a chicken wing like submission hold.
Steamboat drives the knee into the shoulder of Flair and continues with the armlock. Flair gets a cheap shot in on Steamboat, taking advantage as he nails steamboat with a series of forearm shots and knife edge chops. Both men exchange chops and right hands. Steamboat starts wailing away and chops down Flair as he falls to the mat, then applies a standing armbar. He continues working on the armbar to weaken him for the Chicken Wing, if Steamboat can pull it off. Flair picks Steamboat up and sets him on the top turnbuckle. Flair charges in as Steamboat jumps down and nails Flair with a dropkick, sending Flair to the floor.
Flair enters the ring with Steamboat. Flair catches Steamboat with several kicks to the midsection, but Steamboat catches Flair with the arm drag. Steamboat begins twisting the arm of Flair, as Flair is shoulder tackled by Steamboat. Flair takes Steamboat down with the hip toss, followed by an elbow drop misses. Steamboat takes Flair over with the arm drag and the armbar, continuing to work on and weaken the arm.
Flair with the shoulder thrusts into the corner, followed by a Knife Edge Chop on Steamboat. Flair continues with the series of knife-edge chops on Steamboat in the corner. Steamboat fights back with chops of his own. Flair hits the shoulder tackle on Steamboat, then sends Steamboat outside the ring temporarily. Steamboat charges back in and takes Flair in the corner with the 10-punch combo. Then sends Flair upside down into the turnbuckle into the tree of woe. Flair gets out of that predicament, as Flair sends Steamboat flying over the top rope on to the floor.
Both men outside the ring as Flair chops Steamboat and sends him flying over the railing. Flair enters the ring, as Steamboat tries to regain his composure. Flair exits the ring to go after Flair, as Steamboat gets fired up, chops away at Flair a chases him back inside the ring. Steamboat hits the Flying Chop from the top turnbuckle, then sends him flying over the top rope and gets nailed with a judo chop on the apron. Back in the ring, Steamboat takes Flair down with a snap mare into the armbar.
Steamboat sends himself over the top rope as he misses a Flying Crossbody onto the floor. Steamboat climbs to the apron as Flair catches him and tosses him back inside the ring, then follows up with a Knee Drop across the forehead. Flair with a series of knife-edge chops and right hands then begins to choke Steamboat out as he places the foot across the throat of Steamboat momentarily.
Both men exchange blows as the crowd gets behind Steamboat. Flair hits the Belly-to-Back Suplex on Steamboat, goes for the pin but can only get a near fall. Flair hits another Knee Drop across the head, followed up by a big “Woooooo!!!” to the crowd. “The Nature Boy” connects with a Double Underhook Suplex, goes for the cover and gets a two count. Flair with a knife edge chop. Steamboat dives and Flair catches him in mid-air driving Steamboat across the top rope, stun gun style. Flair and Steamboat exit the ring. Flair catches Steamboat and connects with the Vertical Suplex on the floor. Both men enter the ring. Flair attempts a suplex but is countered into a roll-up for a two count. Both men exchange a series of Irish whips. Flair dives onto Steamboat and both men go falling hard onto the arena floor over the top rope.
Both men enter the ring, slowly but surely, battered and fatigued. Flair heads to the top rope and is slammed to the mat by Steamboat. Steamboat is fired up, as the crowd gets behind him. Steamboat opens up on Flair with a series of karate chops to the forehead in the corner, then hits the back body drop on Flair out of the turnbuckle. Flair begs for mercy, as he catches Steamboat with the cheap shot. He goes for a Belly-to-Back but is countered into a roll-up by Steamboat for a two count. Flair is straddled on the top rope, as Steamboat hits a standing vertical suplex from the top rope. Steamboat follows up with the Chicken Wing submission, but Flair gets into the ropes to break up the hold.
Steamboat climbs to the top rope and connects with a diving karate chop. Steamboat ascends to the top rope, as Flair pulls the top rope, causing Steamboat to fall from the top rope to the floor on his knee, badly. Flair proceeds to work on the injured knee of Steamboat, as he suplexes Flair in a Vertical Suplex from the apron and sends him crashing down back inside the ring. Flair begins to work over the knee, as he applies the Figure 4-Leglock. The crowd rises to their feet as they anticipate that Steamboat may submit to the Figure-4. Flair continues to apply the pressure. Thirty minutes has now gone by in the match, as both men continue to wear each other down and fight each other, tooth and nail.
Steamboat fights out of the hold, as Flair proceeds to kick away at the knee and the leg of Steamboat, then hits a knife edge chop on Steamboat. Both men exchange blows, as Steamboat fights back with all he’s got, hitting a standing karate kick to send Flair down.
Flair counters an inside cradle by Steamboat into a pinning predicament to get the pin fall and the victory. “Nature Boy” Ric Flair has become the new NWA World Heavyweight Champion!