Sunday, May 10, 2015

Ric Flair vs The Von Erichs (WCCW, 1982-1985)

Hey yo Stud Muffins & Foxy Ladies,

On this day of Love and Gratitude, we must remember the words of Mr. T that we should not just love our mothers on Mother's Day. Neigh we should not just reserve our love for our mothers on these special days like her birthday or Christmas, we must love our mothers on Arbor Day, Flag Day and EVEN ON FATHER'S DAY! Still gets me every time. God Bless All Mothers!

To the greatest Mom of all a special thanks. #HisMercyEnduresForever

It has been a long time, much too long, since I rocked 'n' rolled on the greatest blog on cbyerspace, Riding Space Mountain. Rest assured, I have not been resting on laurels, I have been diligently working on my next project, which I am set unveil now. First, the conclusion of the previous project (WCW in the late 90s) will be published on Thursday, May 14th and will take the form of the Best WCW Matches of the Late 90s list. 

For those not in the know, I have not had a lengthy existence on Earth and thus there are many who have gotten a head start on watching all this kickass, bitchin' wrestling. In fact, some even got to watch all this badassery in real time. Green is not a great color on Superstar Sleeze so instead of being envious I get even. Yes it is time for Sleeze to go back to the greatest decade this world has ever experience, the 1980s! I will be playing catch ball in the four major territories  of the United States of the 1980s that were not the World Wrestling Federation or Mid-Atlantic Wrestling/Jim Crockett Promotions (later World Championship Wrestling). All four of these territories at some point in the 1980s would make a play to go National or at the very least present themselves as a promotion claiming a World Heavyweight Champion. The four territories are World Class Championship Wrestling (Fritz Von Erich, Dallas), American Wrestling Association (Verne Gagne, Minneapolis), Mid-South Wrestling/Universal Wrestling Federation (Bill Watts, OKC/Nawlins) and Memphis Wrestling/United States Wrestling Association (Jerry Lawler/Jerry Jarrett, Memphis). 

Instead of jumping headfirst into unfamiliar land, I decided to wade into the pool of the decadent 80s with an old friend of mine, the Nature Boy! In fact, I had seen four of the seven matches that I review today before this project as Ric Flair vs The Von Erich Boys is one of my all-time favorite rivalries. In future reviews, I will be looking at whole slates that I have never seen before, but I thought for my opening salvo I would stick close to home with Ric Flair and his NWA World Heavyweight Championship defenses in World Class against the Von Erichs.

Red = Green

Ric Flair won his first National Wrestling Alliance Heavyweight Championship in 1981 from Dusty Rhodes, but more symbolically it was the transition from the Harley Race dominated late 1970s to the "too cool for school" Ric Flair. Ric Flair took up the mantle of the NWA Champion earnestly defending the championship throughout the Southern United States (Mid-Atlantic, Georgia, Florida, Continental), in Texas, Kansas City, Japan even eventually taking dates in Mid-South and the AWA (neither NWA-affiliated members). Collectively, in the first half of the 1980s, Ric Flair was the highest drawing NWA Champion of all time and was a true international sensation.  For the first half of his reign, his biggest rivalry was not in his home base of the Carolinas, but rather in Texas against the Von Erichs where he drew huge houses in the Dallas area including two massive Parade of Champions events held in Texas Stadium. 

World Class erupted onto the national scene thanks to the Von Erich hunks that captured the hearts of teenage Texan girls and had Texan boys longing to be them. Each of the classic trio had their own unique personality. 

Kevin was the oldest brother, but is often classified as a distant third star potential and is overlooked in wrestling acumen. I can't disagree more with the assessment of Kevin's place in history. Kevin was a fantastic, aggressive pro wrestler. I once read when you watch Kevin it is almost like someone forgot to smarten him up to the fact it is a work. I love his "think shoot, but work" mentality. He is the most aggressive and offensive-minded of the brothers. Where Kerry and David will give a clean break, Kevin will bull rush his opponent and fuck his shit up! When your opponents are the dastardly heels of Texas wrestling or Ric Flair, then they deserve a taste of their own medicine. 

David was the second oldest and his career was cut short at 25 due to his premature, drug-induced death kicking off the tragic story of the Von Eric family that would leave Kevin as the only surviving member of this historic wrestling family. Due to his early passing and a rumor that he was soon to be crowned NWA World Champion, his career has been romanticized that he was truly the great Von Erich and a lost star. As footage has been unearthed and the rumor gradually dispelled, there is a less rosy picture of David and many deem him mediocre, when once considered a great wrestler bubbling under. David is the brother I have watched the least of, but what I have seen has not been inspiring.

Kerry was the youngest of the original three and the Golden Boy. Kerry Von Erich looks like He-Man come to life and as the most statuesque of the brothers he was pushed heavily as the Von Erichs best chance to wrest the Word Heavyweight Championship from the nefarious "Nature Boy" Ric Flair. In my opinion, Kerry has been unfairly characterized as a mediocre power wrestler. From watching his matches in 80s World Class, I think he has been absolutely tremendous in many different flavors of pro wrestling whether it was the multi-year championship feud with Ric Flair or a blood feud with the Freebirds, Kerry excelled. Kerry understood well into how clue the fans into when a big moment was to happen especially when it came to the dreaded and beloved Iron Claw, which often triggered "We Want The Claw". On multiple occasions, Kerry has treated us to world class selling, which can be specifically observed in the Ric Flair matches of 1982. In 1984, in honor of his late brother, he finally achieved his dream of winning the World Championship from Ric Flair in Texas Stadium. It served as the high water mark of World Class Championship Wrestling and the climax to one of the greatest feuds in wrestling history, Flair vs Von Erichs.

For the opening blog, I just wanted to introduce the players and let the match analysis speak for itself. The Von Erichs are key figures in World Class wrestling and we will continue with their famous feuds against the Fabulous Freebirds and the Dynamic Duo. At some point, I want to discuss Ric Flair's perpetual motion strategy and why I think it is wicked undervalued and really break down Kerry & Kevin as wrestlers. .

Von Erich Family Photo

NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair vs Kerry Von Erich
August 15, 1982 Wrestling Star Wars Dallas, TX
2 Out Of Three Falls
The below review is from my third viewing of one of my favorite matches of all times. It focuses mainly on the layout and Flair's performance and I agree with everything I wrote. However, on this viewing, I intentionally focused on the Modern Day Warrior. The common knock on men like Von Erich and Luger is that they are broomsticks that are plugged into the Flair formula and out pops a classic. It can't be further from the truth. I can understand you can be distracted by the glistening He-Man physique and that horseface, but if you watch as intently as Kerry laid one on that young girl at ringside then you will see Kerry was a phenomenal seller. Early on, Flair does his usual bridge escape out of a headscissors and watch Kerry's face, he flinches in pain. Or when he has a headscissors on Flair, he conveys the internal struggle not to ball up his fist and punch Flair to the audience. During the match, Flair is always struggling looking for an opening with short knees or chops and Kerry is great selling the immediate pain. He gives Flair these brief openings, but always fires back up.  In the second fall, Kerry is just excelling at writhing in pain from Flair's leg work and really expressing how close he is to giving up. Now, Flair is no slouch as he is tremendous in his verbal selling especially when Kerry reverses the pressure. This entire match is a master class in selling by both men. Each man really is thinking shoot while they are working. They respond to each other and moments in the match in a real sporting manner.

Each time, I discover new spots and elements that make it a better match. Such as during the abdominal stretch, Von Erich makes a point to exaggerate his gesture that he is looking to put on the Claw, which really whips the crowd into a frenzy. The crowd was nuclear for Kerry from the get-go and totally rabid at the prospect of him dethroning Ric Flair especially after defeating previous Champion Harley Race in a de facto No. 1 Contender’s match just months previous to this. Flair, as usual, is a cardio freak, but my favorite moment is how he slowly ramps up his heelishness. At first testing his strength and clearly being bested, he resorts to hair pulling to win an over the top wristlock. Another thing, I love is that when Kerry has Flair in a head scissors in the beginning, they do not just lie on the mat. Flair is very broadly attempting to escape the hold, but cant. This does two things, it puts over Kerry’s strength and most importantly, keeps the audience engaged. Flair does a lot of things really well, but he is exceptional at keeping the audience engaged even during perfunctory matwork.

The beginning is all about putting over Kerry’s strength. This is accomplished by holding multiple head-scissors, winning over the top wristlocks and a visually impressive arm wrench that Flair bumps wells, which the crowd pops loudly for.  Flair gets some offense in the corner, which is Flair’s domain. Besides Vader, I do not think there is a wrestler that is better in the corner than Flair. Flair takes over with a knee-lift and begins taking shortcuts like the aforementioned hair pull. Off a missed elbow, they do a well-executed tussle for the ab stretch I brought up earlier. I love how they made each other work for it with Kerry ultimately winning. An eye-rake (Flair shortcuts) breaks it up, but Kerry hits two pretty impressive dropkicks. Flair’s next shortcut is to hold the rope down as Kerry crashes to the floor, which leads to Flair’s big flurry of offensive: dropping Kerry across the top rope, knee drop and piledriver. Kerry catches Flair with back body drop, but Flair blocks the corner. Flair pushes the ref, but as Kerry winds up for the discus punch he catches the ref in the head. Kerry puts on the sleeper, BUT THERE IS NO REF, here he comes and now the bell is ringing. KERRY WINS THE FIRST FALL!!! Right!?!?! Right!?!?!?

 The original referee disqualifies Kerry for the punch much to the dismay of the crowd and to relief of a visually exhausted and desperate Flair. I liked the finish to the first fall even if it was a clusterfuck because Kerry was clearly put over as more dominant than Flair. Flair’s escape with a DQ finish in the first fall allows for Kerry to once again be perceived as the underdog as he has the unenviable task to win two straight falls against The Man. Another great element is that all of Flair’s control segments were initiated by shortcuts thus always making Kerry look better in comparison.

The second fall rules all and by itself would probably be one of my favorite matches of all time. Flair is still coughing from the sleeper hold and begs off immediately. Kerry and the crowd smell blood. Kerry slaps on the sleeper, but Flair makes use of the Bret leverage move to send Kerry crashing to the floor. Flair capitalizes this by wrenching Kerry’s leg across the apron. NOW WE GO TO SCHOOL!!! Flair is absolutely crazed during this control segment as he clearly a desperate champ doing anything to take down the physically superior Kerry Von Erich. Flair hits the shinbreaker to a physically diminished Von Erich side-headlock. After Flair works over the leg, it is time for the Figure-4 Leglock whipping the crowd into frenzy. Just minutes ago, they thought their hero had the first fall in the bag and now it looks he is about to lose two straight falls. WAIT!!! Kerry had reversed the pressure and now Flair scrambles for the ropes. Flair tries to go back to the knee, but Keryr blocks with the vaunted Von Erich Claw. Flair blades like a champ off the claw and eventually is pinned. Flair’s control segment was fuckin awesome and Kerry sold his knee like champ. Then when it came to the hit finish everyone erupted when the claw was slapped on just when it seemed like Flair had this one in the bag.

Flair is drenched in sweat and blood and looking for a fight with the universal sign of “Put up your dukes”. A spirited two-minute intense brawl breaks out and the ref loses control of the match. At first, I was disappointed by the finish, but in retrospect it is a really good to put over the intense nature of the match and it would ultimately setup the Huge Christmas Day 1982 Cage match.

The basic idea of the Flair formula was executed, which is to make your opponent look like a million bucks and keep the audience engaged. However, Flair was not always a chickenshit heel as he vacillated among begging off, desperation and crazed. There was an urgency to each fall. Kerry felt like he NEEDED to win the first one and came out hot, but was robbed. Kerry NEEDED to win the second one or he lost, but by the same token Flair felt he NEEDED to win based off Kerry’s stellar performance in the first fall. Kerry played his part well and definitely added more than just his Texas star power. He sold well and worked hard to keep up with Flair and sell the importance of the match. I LOVE this match because there is never a dull moment and the match builds perfectly on itself until the wild brawl at the end. Just a little too much bullshit in the first and last fall to go all the way, but damn this is going to be a hard match to beat in World Class. ****3/4


NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair vs David Von Erich 
World Class Championship Wrestling 10/11/82
World Class was really obsessed with Star Wars, who knew Fritz was such a huge nerd! Flair and David both enter to instrumentals from the Star Wars movie. After Kerry came within just one controversial referee call from winning the world championship, Flair did what any champion in the early 80s would do he put out a bounty on Kerry. Gary Hart Presents The Great Kabuki did the dirty deed, but not dirt cheap by breaking Kerry's leg. An incensed David is out for revenge for BountyGate 1982.  David might not be built like his brother, but he is one big boy. This is the first David singles match I have ever watched and was intrigued to see how he would do. He has struck me as the least entertaining of three main Von Erich brothers in the six mans I have watched. I love Kerry as the golden boy power wrestler with great selling and Kevin Von Erich as the crazy, violent dynamo. Of course, i keep an open mind at all times and you can ask for better circumstances to look better than Flair in 1982.

Flair is the master tactician. He knows David is hot about what happened to his brother. So he forces David to cool down with stalling tactics to force the match into a more championship style encounter. In a short brawl, anything can happen and as the champion he can't afford that especially with a big angry Texan out for blood for his brother. He wants to dictate the pace and be in control. David points to his leg and then lets Flair know he is going to snap his. Flair is not phased strutting, pec-bouncing and letting David cool off. David know what is at stake here. If he goes overboard, he will get disqualified and not win the championship. Is the ultimate revenge the championship or breaking Flair's leg? Early on the answer to that question is the championship. That being said, who says they have to be mutually exclusive. When Flair tries a whip out of the corner, it is he who is whipped and shoulder first. Flair sells this jammed shoulder like he has been shot. David just pounces and never lets go. David tortures the arm of Flair, he is focused, but you know he is enjoying it. The strategy for Flair is to create separation, movement and chaos. He needs to get out of this predicament by any means. At first he tries rifling out of it with chops, but David tenaciously holds onto the wristlock and pulls him down into a hammerlock. Then Flair tries pulling the tights into him to get that nasty short knee (somebody needs to crib that). Flair tries to create some movement but gets caught in a drop toehold and it is back to the hammerlock. David is not charismatic, but he is wrestling a smart match. He is not getting flustered by Flair's constant cheat and his singular focus is the left arm of Flair. Flair finally scores that bit of a chaos he needed. He does a seemingly innocuous dropdown on a rope running sequence, but pops up quicker than expected and chases David down to throw him out the ring. Wow! That is a genius spot. It is worth pointing out Flair never cowered in this early portion of the match. He took an unlucky bump and paid the price. David worked a smart strategy and Flair was cheating and selling, but never cowering. Once Flair is on top, he is sadistic. He hits these nasty little hammer elbows on David's face and then gnarly punches to David's face. David really shows his first glimmer of something extraordinary. His selling of the face is just spot on and some of the best work I have ever seen. The way he is covering up and reacting to Flair's punches is so great. 

Flair's punches taking their toll allow Flair to facelock David and regain his energy. This is the slowest part of the match and where it loses a bit of steam. There is some fun stuff like Flair telling the ref to watch the hair only to pull David back down by the tights, but overall it is dull though smart work. David throws his game plan out and just starts throwing live rounds. Flair does not want to get into a slugfest with David. but he obliges and is left cowering. David throws Flair into the Flair Flip. Flair looks to stop the bleeding with a suplex, but he is reversed. Flair grabs a desperation sleeper, but David dives and Flair takes a header into the turnbuckle. David goes for his jumping knee which scored him a point early, but this time he hits the top turnbuckle. Ruh roh! An injured knee in a Flair match, Flair goes right for the figure-4, but David pushes him off twice. Flair says fuck it and sit back into a toehold then converting into a deathlock. I LOVED THAT SEQUENCE! Kerry on crutches shows up, guess it is endgame. David rolls to the outside and Kerry coached him up. At first, I am confused if this was any later this would clearly be telegraphing a Kerry heel turn, but since it is 1982, I believe he is earnest. I can't figure out what Kerry is saying. Go for a side headlock?!?!?! David rolls back in and Flair goes for the figure-4 and it is an inside cradle!!! That's what Kerry told him to do! He was playing possum! HOLY SHIT! That was so cool! Flair throws him to the outside and rams him into the post repeatedly. David is wearing a crimson mask. I really bit on the countout finish. Flair starts jawing with Kerry and then he decks him. He stomps on the injured knee! OH THE HUMANITY! David grabs the world title and smashes Flair knee with it. Sick! Flair's head into the crutch and it is a five alarm blade job that must have been one helluva splinter. David is now wrapping Flair's leg around the post. It is a knee for a knee if he can't have the championship he is going to break his leg. Of course, the ref threw this whole fracas out, but wow that was one helluva angle. I loved how you morph from a great championship match to a hot and I mean double hot angle to set up the HUGE Kerry Von Erich Cage match for Christmas. Great booking!

This was an excellent match that accomplished so much in a quick 30 minutes. David looks like a viable challenger. He kept his cool and wrestled a strong match early. Not very charismatic, but Flair is so good at keeping things moving that it was still very exciting and dramatic. His selling of Flair's punches to the face was his standout moment. The finish run was awesome with David rearing back and going for broke, but hitting the top turnbuckle with his knee. He did everything he could to keep the figure-4 off him and then some great coaching from Kerry  almost got it for him. Flair was just the man in this match. Seriously, why do people need drugs when you have Ric Flair. I get a personal high watching his matches. I feel like I can take on the world after watching him kick ass in that ring. The angle was pitch perfect to get you pumped for the rematch and give the Von Erichs a taste of revenge to whet your appetite. On to Christmas at the Reunion Arena in the CAGE! ****1/2  


NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair vs Kerry Von Erich 
Christmas Star Wars 12/25/82 Steel Cage match, Michael Hayes Special Guest Referee
They had two different gimmicks to establish in this match plus they needed to get Kerry's revenge in,  needed to have a championship style match and run the one of the biggest angles in the history of pro wrestling. I think that was the biggest hindrance to this match was they were trying to accomplish so much in one match. With three lesser men, this would have been a clusterfuck. In the hands of Flair, Kerry and Hayes, they still manage to present an excellent match even if it is at the level of the first Kerry vs Flair bout. 
Unlike David, Kerry does not have to worry about disqualifications and he goes after Flair's leg immediately in retribution. Flair establishes he has nowhere to run due to the cage. Something I have noticed in watching five Flair vs Von Erich matches already is that he does not take many walks to break rhythm. He does beg off or back into a corner, but is not powdering as much as I remember from him. He definitely fight back more at this point with more hair pulls, tight-pulling and eye-raking to set up his chops and short knees. The other gimmick gets established early and often that is even if there is no disqualifications, Michael Hayes will not let one wrestler beat the other senseless in the match to the point where they can defend himself. So Hayes is very forceful in pulling the men off. This is a more logical and better approach than the fucking Kinski performance a year later. Hayes was introduced to the territory in mid-October as a friend of the Von Erich, but he has been even in actions.

Kerry Von Erich grabs the sleeper and a huge pop happens because they remember that was the move that should have won him the first fall. Flair becomes incensed at getting his ass kicked, but Kerry is looking CLAW. They did a good job establishing the cage as nowhere for Flair to hide, they did not tease going into the cage. Regardless, when Kerry sends Flair head first into the cage and grates his forehead it gets a huge pop. This is Flair in his element bleeding and hollering. The verbal selling here is just top notch. Hayes throws Kerry off, but he still signals for The Claw and the crowd is pumped! Flair goes to his best weapon kicking Kerry in his bad leg and he takes Kerry to school. Kerry is pushing Flair off as a last ditch effort and throws him into the cage. It is around this time that it feels haphazard. They want to get Kerry's revenge in on Flair because he is not going to win the title tonight, but at least he will get his licks in. Yet, Flair is still trying to work in a championship style and perpetual motion. Again, trying to accomplish too much. 
Flair finally applies the figure-4 and when it is reversed we get some really classic Flair selling. He is so great at selling the struggle and then upon reversing it, just wow! Kerry Von Erich is just beating Flair senseless now and it does not look like the champ has a chance to survive. Hayes is trying to keep thing somewhat safe by pulling Kerry off. CLAW! Flair drapes his leg over the rope and Hayes pulls him off to big BOOOS! That was lame. One thing to keep Flair safe another to force a rope break. While Hayes and Kerry get into it, Flair hits a high knee sending Kerry into Hayes. Flair and Hayes go at it and Hayes decks Flair. Kerry won't take the pin and Hayes pulls him by the hair on top of Flair, but Kerry won't take it. Again Flair gets a high knee that makes it seem like Kerry shoved Hayes out of the cage. So the "Guardian of the Gate" (TM HHH), Freebird Terry Gordy has had enough of Kerry's shit and blasts him with the steel cage door! With that shot the Freebirds vs Von Erichs begins! Flair covers Kerry and Hayes comes back in counts a quick three even though Kerry had kicked out. 

The match actually continues, which I think is all for the better because we get some amazing staggering Kerry selling. You really get a sense of how much Kerry is hurt. I am not sure you would get the same feeling if it was Kerry knocked out, Flair pin and then Von Erich brothers swear revenge. Here you get to see Kerry's injury plus how sadistic Flair is in this situation. I love Kerry flailing around in the cage trying to get away from Flair and try to mount a comeback, but he is just too injured. Kerry is able to get a last resort Discus Punch, but he collapses and David Manning has not choice, but to call it. The announcer is worried about a concussion and the Von Erich brothers are worried and pissed. It was a great finish to keep Kerry looking strong and really show how much the Freebirds cost him the match. The world famous angle and the finish stretch ensures this match's place in history. There is never a boring moment in this match, but early on there is just too many things going on for this to be considered on the level of the first Flair vs Kerry match. I still think it was an excellent heated championship match. I have just slightly below the Flair/David match. ****1/2


NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair vs Kevin Von Erich - WCCW 4/1/83
It is always Kerry, Kerry, Kerry and David, David, David, what about Kevin Von Erich!!! Kevin is an aggressive offensive dynamo. He is not going to take any shit and quite frankly does not give a shit. He is going to punch and claw his way through any situation. He does not wait for Flair to cheat, he just attacks. I love it! Kevin Von Erich does not believe in clean breaks. He believes in winning goddamnit! I love that spunky, high energy babyface of the 80s and Kevin was probably the best because he had the cool moves, he laid his shit in and he had the aggression. Kevin is telling Flair to put up his dukes early and is totally crowding the Nature Boy. I think Flair the master of the corner in setting up a transition is really thrown off by Kevin not giving him a clean break. Their brawl out of the corner is a great heated exchange. Kevin also adds dropkicks and flying headscissors to make him a dual threat. Kevin was definitely the best brawler of the family. Flair punches Kevin right in the face and Kevin yelps "I think my nose is broke!"  Flair is in the ropes and Kevin calls for the Claw. The other brothers would be dissuaded not Kevin who applies and yanks Flair out! Flair desperately gets out only to be put in a sleeper, he rakes the eyes. Great selling by Kevin! We get our first Flair press slammed off the top rope. On a kick out, Kevin lands on Bronco and when he moves Flair elbows the ref. Flair sends Kevin over the top and they do a great job teasing the countout. Flair works in his high impact blow like that nasty elbow. In the middle of a backbreaker, Kevin just punches Flair in the side of the head. This is a fight! Kevin kicks him legs up, but Flair has it scouted. Kevin starts teeing off on Flair. I love when the Von Erichs grab Flair by his mane and just start going off. Kevin runs through the ref. Kevin sends Flair over the top, but that is not the right side because the ref ain't over there so Flair gets him to toss him over the other side. Back in, Kevin hits a tremendous reverse crossbody. 1-2-3! THE CROWD GOES WILD! I am so confused and excited at the same time! Of course, Bronco reverses the decision since he saw Kevin dump Flair over the top. 

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! That is just cruel to do that with your fanbase. I hate, hate, hate those finishes. I am usually very open minded when it comes to a finish if a DQ or countout sets something up that is a good finish. This is cruel and stupid. Great match otherwise, I am so, so, so looking forward to more Kevin Von Erich. Everything he does is perpetual struggle. Him and Flair could have some Flair vs Garvin level encounters if they really let them go. I love the dynamic with Kerry being able to wrestle that long championship style while Kevin wrestles these high energy sprints. Flair is of course a master of it all. The finish brings the match down, but the work beforehand was World Class! ****1/4


NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair vs Kerry Von Erich - Parade of Champions 5/6/84

Great match? Not really. Awesome moment? OH HELL YEAH! I have seen this match a handful of times, but watching after seeing the other Von Erich bouts in order really hit home for me last night. I was as excited as every one of those 32,000 people in Texas Stadium (announcer claims 50k and the largest audience ever in attendance to watch pro wrestling) to see Kerry Von Erich capture the World Championship achieving his dream and honoring his late brother. The entrance was perfect with Kerry coming out with the Yellow Rose and wearing "In Memory of David Von Erich" on his jacket and the yellow trunks. The crowd starts up with a Go Kerry Go! Even though they are in stadium, the crowd is just as rocking as an intimate arena crowd. Flair does not seem psyched out, but maybe he he brings the fight to Kerry trying to go for amateur takedowns. Or maybe it is the fact that he can lose title by DQ thus stripping him of his champion's advantage and forcing him to wrestle more like a challenger. I think he understands the moment and he needs to hush the crowd and bring Kerry down. On May 6, 1984, Kerry would not be denied. Kerry in a criss cross stops on a dime and hits a nice dropkick. Flair breaks his rhythm by retreating to the corner. We are getting the more standard Flair vs power wrestler here. Kerry gets the big punches and huge press slam that is such a great picture and gets a huge pop. It makes sense to work a bigger match in front of a stadium crowd. They work their usual spots like the sleeper and the tussle over the ab stretch. Flair tries to create motion to get something going, but Kerry gets the CLAW out of nowhere for the big pop! Flair knee to gut and then press slammed off the top and Flair Flip as we get now trademark Flair spots. He is desperate looking for the figure-4 with no prep work to salvage this match, but Kerry kicks him off twice. They go through the hiptoss sequence, but Kerry gets a backslide and 1-2-3! WOW! WHAT A POP! One of the loudest pops you will ever hear. Just an amazing moment for Kerry and his family after the heartbreak of the loss of David. It serves as the climax to the first half of Flair's reign as he transitions away from the travelling champion to Horsemen Flair. It is also a satisfying conclusion to the Flair/Von Erich program. Of course, Kerry would drop title back in Japan and Flair/Von Erich would continue in other territories, but this was the climax for this series. ****


NWA World Heavyweight Champion Kerry Von Erich vs Ric Flair - WCCW 5/11/84  

Coming off his recent loss of the World Championship to Kerry Von Erich, Ric Flair is out to prove he is still The Man. Wow, does that give this match a totally unique feel compared to other Flair vs Kerry matches. Flair is wrestling with a challenger's mindset even if this is non-title and he is here for a fight. He establishes this with a slap to Kerry in the corner. He is here to fight. People want to talk about matches that do not follow the Flair Formula, well here you go because this is a sprint where Flair is crazed and desperate. His hyper-offensive mindset is a double-edged sword as we will see. More often than not, he is rushing and like my mother always says "Haste makes waste" and in his haste Flair was giving Kerry openings. It was creating his own too. We see Flair crowding Kerry early and often. He is bringing the fight to Kerry. When he sends Kerry to the outside, he is right there with a hammer elbow and then crowding him in the corner. This leads to these spirited skirmishes in the corner with each man fighting through each other. Flair's offensive control seems tenuous because in his haste he leaves himself prone to dropkicks and press slams. He is keeping the powerful Kerry off-balance with his perpetual motion. Kerry looks to put Flair to sleep, but he gets a kneecrusher. Flair quickly looks for the figure-4 again haste makes waste as it leaves him prone to the Iron Claw! He fights through it, but then here comes press slam and discus punch. The loss of the championship is clearly eating away at Flair who is not consolidating advantages, which he has had in this match. It is a very frustrating match if you were a kayfabe Flair fan. I am loving the narrative they are building here. Flair jabs at Kerry's bad knee and this time he gets the figure-4. I love how when it gets reversed, he immediately gets out and limps over to chop Kerry. There is no rest in this match he is out to prove something leg be damned! Flair goes right back to the figure-4 and Kerry shoves him off. Flair back with the hammer elbow, Flair is not giving up. Flair runs right into a press slam and now a cross body. Flair tries a hiptoss, but Kerry falls back into a banana split cradle for the 3. Flair needs to stop trying to hiptoss Kerry that's two times in a week Kerry has gotten a pinfall from that situation. He has it scouted Flair. Awesome little sprint from these two. Flair worked like a madman and Kerry was with him every step of the way. Kerry thwarted him at every pass and it just frustrated Flair more and more. I loved all the heated exchanges and there was another after the match. Flair is just ripshit he is not champion. It is awesome. Really great TV match! ****1/4 


NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair vs Kevin Von Erich - Parade of Champions 5/5/85

Kevin Von Erich is my favorite Von Erich! Dude is just fucking relentless. Talk about "thinking shoot, but working" he personifies it. I watched this match on a plane to Italy last summer and I was floored by it then and still am. This is just nonstop fighting between two wrestlers who hated each other and wanted to be champion. The entire match is Flair trying to figure out a way to get through Kevin's perpetual motion, which is his usual strategy. Kevin Von Erich is the epitome of a good offense is a good defense mantra. He is just always coming forward and attacking. Every other Von Erich would break on the ropes or not use a closed fist. Kevin Von Erich just flies with reckless abandon. In the beginning, Kevin frustrates Flair with an O'Connor Roll, besting him in a test of strength and fire right back at him in the corner (Flair's domain). Quickness, strength and aggression, what the hell is Flair going to do? Flair just keeps going at it and Kevin traps him in the sleeper. Flair might be the best ever at selling a sleeper at this point in his career. He looks to be at a total loss. "WE WANT THE CLAW" is the chant goes up and Flair does all he can to avoid that. Flair catches him with a running atomic drop that buys him some time, but not much as Kevin Von Erich puts on the best abdominal stretch ever I mean he hooks his foot behind his own foot. Finally, I know what Gorilla was talking about! There is a great struggle over the Irish Whip out of a corner. Everything in this match is earned. Flair is putting forth a kickass effort and is just being beaten by someone who is wrestling like a man possessed.

There is two rings at this event. Flair does his Flip in the corner and falls into the other ring. KEVIN HITS A SPLASH FROM ONE RING TO THE OTHER! HOLY SHIT! There is no rest for the wicked, Flair! Kevin kicks some more ass and Flair can just Flop. Iron Claw, oh so close! Flair gouges the eyes and throws him to the outside. Finally, Flair gets a chance to recuperate. This has been a war! Wait, here comes Kevin again. Oh, hell! Flair tries to escape into the other ring. Flair gets his short knee. He is going up top, oh no, this is not going to end well. Press slam off the top! Kevin just takes his foot presses Flair's face up against the ropes. Kevin might be the most underrated asskicker of all time. Goes for the Iron Claw so Flair goes for his bridge sequence, which ends in a backslide that is how Kerry won it 1-2-NO! Texas Stadium erupted for that nearfall! IRON CLAW! They tumble to the outside. There is a melee with Flair restraining Kevin from returning to the ring triggering a double countout and retaining his title. Kevin loses his fucking shit. He decks the ref and that puts the Iron Claw on Flair and will not let go. It takes David Manning, his brothers Kerry & Mike and his father Fritz to finally convince him to let go before he kills Flair. 
Wow! Kevin Von Erich kicked the shit out of Flair, but it never felt like a squash or an exhibition. Kevin was determined from the outset to win the match. You truly believed that this was the most important thing in the world to Kevin and he was going to do whatever it takes to win. It was never a squash because Flair was just as invested as Kevin. He wanted to win the match and was constantly fighting back, but Kevin was fighting through his offense. It was a truly great brawl by these two badass wrestlers. ****1/2

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