Before the match starts, Flair cuts a pre-tape promo in an expensive looking suit. It’s a very professional one. More confident than cocky, sporting if anything else. The consummate World’s Champion come down to Texas to defend his title. By the end of this match, he’ll be reduced to a bloody, raving madman. 

What facilitates that is this really punchy, concise TV main event with Kevin Von Erich. Of course, Flair seems himself as so thoroughly above the Von Erichs and their ilk, which makes it so embarrassing when Kevin Von Erich shows him up in the babyface shine here. This isn’t a matter of David Von Erich clinging to a rest hold for five minutes either. Kevin is dynamic, fiery, and forward moving. He’s throwing some really good strikes in this, moves with a much more explosive energy, and his headscissors genuinely flummoxes Flair’s ability to build any momentum. 

Kevin’s real great on the sell here too. Flair’s first heat segment gets built around trying to punch out Kevin, and there’s an earnestness to something as simple as Kevin gasping, “My nose is broken!” It’s also the kind of targeted pettiness from Flair that makes Von Erich’s application of the Steamboat rule so satisfying. It feels good to see him fight back, and it feels good to see him make progress against this bastard. So many neat touches when Kevin’s selling like using the fabric of his knee pad to wipe at his eyes when Flair scrapes them.

The back half of this match is based around two referee bumps. 

First, Flair inadvertently drops an elbow on the ref after aiming for Kevin. This allows Flair to really bust out some bastardry, not only tossing Kevin over the top rope (illegal at this time) but also ramming Kevin face first into the ringpost. I sort of wish Kevin bladed here, I feel it would have added a lot to this final act especially as Flair’s control feels a lot more threatening after the post shot. 

The second sees Kevin accidentally crash into the referee by the ropes, interrupting his big comeback. This gives Flair the room to punch away at the nose he’s been working on again, but it also lets Kevin get a measure of payback by sending Flair over the top rope twice this time. Kevin gets to post Flair, and the champ blades which is at least some nice karmic justice that this scumbag has to bleed instead of our hero.

If you guys are familiar with this era though, the ref bump situation likely tells you where this is going. It’s a classic Dusty finish. Kevin gets a pin off of a crossbody when a new ref enters, but the original ref revives to disqualify Kevin instead for tossing Flair over the top. It’s familiar to us now, but this might just be one of the better examples just for how everyone involved plays into it afterwards.

Kevin and David’s dejection at the title being ripped from their grasp (yet again), but especially Ric Flair becoming this screaming lunatic reveling in this highway robbery. If that wasn’t good enough, there’s a fantastic post-match interview where Flair is forced to watch his shoulders get counted down and then he delivers a talking to to the replacement referee as well.

Fantastic pro wrestling television, a real classic example of why this era is so beloved. Dramatic at every turn, genuinely crushing at the finish, and everyone’s true faces revealed by the end.

Rating: ****1/4

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