Recommended by Simon of Handwerk Reviews
This is Ricky Steamboat’s return match to the NWA after his stint at Uncle Vince’s hell hole in the Northeast. The look on Flair and Windham’s faces when Steamboat steps into the studio do so much to put over The Dragon here. Flair and Steamboat had already been rivals for years before Steamboat left for the WWF and although Flair typically squeaked by with his title, Steamboat had a habit of absolutely schooling Flair. The last thing Flair wants is to see if Steamboat stayed as sharp or even improved in his time away.
That question gets answered immediately as Steamboat spends the first five or so minutes of this match absolute whooping Flair and Windham. It’s such a satisfying babyface shine as Flair uses probably his most impressive skill: bumping and selling for his challengers. Steamboat looks like an absolute world killer in this match, brutal yet calm. He’s the ultimate competitor and Flair knows that he’s in terrible, terrible danger.
From there, the match plays out as your standard Southern tag formula with Flair and Windham isolating Eddie Gilbert. I love how even Gilbert feels like he’s got the number of the Horsemen in this match. It takes an eye rake and a long beating down to keep Gilbert down long enough for the Horsemen to work over. For much of the heat segment, Gilbert still fights back with a lot of vigor. It’s clear that he’s competitive with the both Flair and Windham and only the cheating got the heels their advantage.
This is such a great match. On my YouTube channel, I’ve utilized the term “chicken soup for the wrestling soul” and this match definitely falls in line with that. It’s a classic formula done simply and well with an absolute superstar in the ring making a big return to kick off a run of matches that get heralded as all time classics to this day.