|Ric Flair shortly after arriving in the WWF in 1991.|
"This happens to be the real championship belt." That sentence was uttered by WWF manager and commentator Bobby "the Brain" Heenan in the summer of 1991 at the end of a WWF Superstars show. Heenan stood there holding the giant gold belt held by then WCW world champion Ric Flair. Heenan went on to say to compare the two men who held the world titles was like comparing ice cream to horse manure. Fellow announcers Jim Neidhardt and Gorilla Monsoon stood by, totally dumbfounded. Awesome stuff. Go to Youtube and search Ice Cream and Horse Manure if you want to watch it. I can't figure out how to embed it.
I remember that moment very well. I still argue it's one of the greatest moments in the history of wrestling. This was in a day long before the internet provided spoilers on what was going on with wrestlers' contracts and comings and goings. While the NWO angle was great, we all knew that Scott Hall and Kevin Nash weren't really under WWF contract and invading WCW. Maybe not all of us, but those who were online and reading the various reports knew their WWF contracts ended and they were heading south.
Ric Flair signing with the WWF was huge. Plus, he was still the world champion for rival company WCW. And now, that company's belt was in possession of the WWF. In my opinion pure genius. There was no disrespecting the belt or the man who held it. He was coming in as "the real world's champion." Every fans' dream was about to come true. The WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan would finally meet the WCW World Champion to see who really was the best.
While the delivery of Flair's arrival was far better than any current wrestling angle, the actually booking of Nature Boy was a bit lackluster. I only say that because as a WWF mark all my life, I really wanted to see Hogan vs Flair at Wrestlemania 8. But instead the two met in a series of house shows, events that aren't televised.
If I remember correctly, the two never met one on one on TV during Flair's first WWF stint. Instead Flair feuded on TV with Roddy Piper, Randy Savage, and Mr. Perfect. Flair and Savage had a great match that year at Wrestlemania. This coming after Flair went more than an hour in the over the top rope, winner take all Royal Rumble match. One of the best rumbles in the 20+ year history of that event. I'd actually call it my favorite. Flair entered third of 30 combatants. The fact that he outlasted everyone else was unheard of at that time.
Flair didn't stay long in the WWF that first time. He was there just over a year, maybe 18 months. He brought something different to the fed. Classic battles with Savage, Piper, Perfect, and Bret Hart, who he eventually lost the title to for a second time. It wasn't long after that Flair lost a loser leaves the WWF match to Mr. Perfect and he was back in Atlanta working for WCW.
Flair's second stint with the WWE saw a couple of tag team title reigns with Batista and Roddy Piper. He also won the Intercontinental title. He also had a memorable retirement match with Shawn Michaels that I've blogged about already.
So in closing, I enjoyed Flair's first run in the WWF, but wish things could have been a bit different in terms of that money match for Wrestlemania. I also wish they could have worked something out that would have kept him there longer.