Saturday, July 30, 2016

Summer of Flair

Courtesy: WWE
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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Summer of 1991 I was in Florida on vacation. It was right before the Great American Bash and Ric Flair was set to defend the WCW World Heavyweight title against Lex Luger. I was watching WCW Saturday Night in the hotel room when a scroll went across the bottom of the screen, effectively saying Flair was no longer with WCW and would not be defending the belt at the Bash. I quickly wondered what was next for Flair, but hoped he'd be going to WWF.

The original Bash poster
Remember it was 1991 and there was no internet and no Monday Night Wars. Raw wasn't even a show at that point. The only live programming was the big four pay per views from WWF and the handful WCW was doing. I couldn't wait to find out what was going to happen next.

A few weeks later as I was preparing to leave for college. I was casually watching Wrestling Challenge and when the show was coming to an end and Bobby "The Brain" Heenan whipped out Flair's WCW championship belt. He informed his broadcast colleagues the man who owned the belt was the real world's champion and could be coming to the WWF. Gorilla Monsoon asked "does the guy have a name?" Then jaws dropped everywhere, at least in my house, when Heenan said the belt belonged to Ric Flair. To my knowledge it was the first time WWF had ever acknowledged another wrestling company or wrestler who wasn't already on their programming.

Up close for a WWF house show featuring Flair
I'd long been a fan of Flair and news of him coming to WWF was more than welcomed by me. I love wrestling, but always preferred WWF to WCW. The Nature Boy was coming to "our side" and I was ecstatic. A few months later I was in the second row watching Flair battle "Rowdy" Roddy Piper in the main event of a house show on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University. 

That moment with Heenan, the belt, Monsoon and Jim Neidhart is one of my favorite wrestling memories of all time. I still get goosebumps watching it and I've incorporated the audio of that into my podcast open. Part of what made it so special was there was no internet to spoil the surprise. But that's a conversation for another day.

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