Our latest Throwback Thursday video features Ric Flair vs Brian Pillman.
GG asked if I would like to write a series of articles for the site, covering some of my all-time favorite matches. I thought it would be a lot of fun and I hope to write as often as I can.
I want to focus on matches that I mainly loved and remembered on TV. Matches aired on regular or cable television usually get forgotten over time. It’s matches that aired on PPV or specials that get remembered best. I hope you enjoy this article and enjoy either discovering these great matches for the first time or enjoy reminiscing with me.
Ric Flair vs Brian Pillman
NWA World Championship Wrestling
Date: February 17th, 1990
This match took place right after The Four Horsemen turned on Sting at Clash of Champions 10. That angle was supposed to lead to Sting facing Ric Flair at Wrestle War 1990 with Flair passing the torch to Sting. Unfortunately, Sting blew out his knee climbing the cage in the main event, trying to get revenge on Flair for the attack earlier in the night. The company was in panic mode as they quickly turned Lex Luger back babyface after his great six month run as a heel. The Horsemen drew nuclear heat for injuring Sting, and the crowd at TV taping after the Clash was hot.
Brian Pillman, one of Sting’s friends was out for revenge. There was an extra added layer to this match. Months earlier, it was established that Flair had taken Pillman under his wing. It was only one promo, and Jim Ross would mention it during Pillman’s matches, but it was never the really focused on. But, wrestling was different then. Everything meant something, and even the littlest things were easy to remember because they didn’t throw a million things at you the way like they do today.
The pro wrestling I love is intense, dramatic and physical. A great match is a roller coaster ride with a lots of up and downs. Flair versus Pillman was electric. The determined look of anger and revenge on Pillman’s face right away sets the mood for the match. The crowd is going crazy as the competitors are being introduced inside the ring. The action starts and it is physical with both men laying in chops. The match spills to the outside and Pillman follows him and hits the champion with more chops, but Flair reverses it and gives Pillman a beating.
Back and forth, these two great workers continue to tell a dramatic story. The action is quick and fast paced. As a kid watching this match, I remember standing on my feet the entire time, screaming and yelling. I believed Brian Pillman was going to beat Ric Flair and get revenge for Sting. Woman, who was at ringside with Flair, interfered to break up the count.
Referee Nick Patrick scolded Woman for her interference. With the referee’s back turned, Flair threw Pillman over the top rope to try and get disqualified. But, Pillman skinned the cat and turned and stood on the apron. Pillman then hit his springboard clothesline and Flair was down on his back in the center. I lost my mind as that was one of Pillman’s big moves, but Flair kicked out in a great near fall. Pillman would go back to the top, this time hitting a flying cross body block off the top, but Flair used Pillman’s momentum off the top to reverse the move, and with a little help from holding the tights, Flair won.
As a booker, I have used that finish multiple of times. I love it, and it is all because of this match. The match was rating success, doing a 4.4. Sadly, like true WCW fashion, the momentum was never followed up on and Pillman, instead of becoming a main event talent, was back in a mid-card tag team with Tom “Z-Man” Zenk.
I always thought WCW should have gone with Brian Pillman as the number one babyface to replace Sting until he returned, instead of hitting the panic button by turning Lex Luger. Luger was on fire as a heel and was set up perfectly to feud with Sting, once he was given the title. WCW re-established the WCW United States Tag Team Championship and before Clash 10, the tournament finals was already taped with Brian Pillman and Tom Zenk winning the gold by defeating The Fabulous Freebirds. It always bugged me that they did not want to change that direction, yet they decided to change Luger’s direction and hurt the future big money program between Luger and Sting in late 1990 or early 1991.
I have watched this match many times over the years, and no matter how much wrestling has changed, this match holds up as a classic. It easily makes me suspend disbelief quickly, because both men create such a dramatic and intense environment.