My Take On 5.08.13: My Top 10 Matches of the 80s
Welcome back to the latest edition of My Take On. I would like to thank everyone for reading and commenting over the past few weeks as I fill in for Gavin Napier. Now I stated that I would accept suggestions, and got some good ones. While I actually did have something planned for this week, I have changed plans due to a great recommendation from the comments section (Leeds Jim on the Twitter machine). This week I will present my top 10 matches of the 80s. This is obviously a pretty ambitious list; so with that being the case, keep that in mind when you comment. Also, I wanted to list a few things in relation to making the list…
My Top 10 Matches of the 80s
#10. ALLEY FIGHT: Pat Patterson vs. Sgt. Slaughter (4.21.81 – New York, New York) ~****½~
This is what I call an epic resolution to a blood feud, and I love me a good blood feud. In the early 80s, Sgt. Slaughter would do shows of strength with his cobra clutch, offering $5,000 for anyone who could break it. Slaughter at one point wants to prove himself the top dog heel, calls Patterson a coward and offers him $10,000 to break the hold. They do the challenge, Patterson is about to win, Sarge is a dick heel and beats him down before he can escape. They slowly do the build and we get the Alley Fight in MSG. This is not a match; this is a fucking fight with no ref, no rules and a brutal amount of ass whooping. The blade job by Sarge is nothing short of sick and or tremendous; it just depends on your taste for that sort of thing (suck it Muta). They made you believe that they hated each other and that they would kill each other; and that’s just beautiful. This was a simple feud built on hate and taken to the extreme where they deliver in every way possible. Unfortunately today’s fans know these guys as a stooge and the guy that randomly pops up on old school Raw to wrestle. But in the early part of the 80s, this right here was the shit.
#9. The Fantastics vs. The Sheepherders (9.16.86 – New Orleans, Louisiana) ~****¾~
This right here is from the Crockett Cup 1986, and is a case to many of “strange chemistry.” But the thing is that The Fantastics and The Sheepherders had a ton of great matches. Now while a lot of people only know about “The Bushwackers,” and will be surprised that this match is on here, it completely deserves it. While I will not go the full boat ratings wise like many have for it, there is no doubt that this is a special match born in brutality. The Fantastics do their thing and constantly clean house, but the tide turns when Fulton eats the post and taps an artery. They work the hot tag perfectly with the false tag to Rogers, and then the hot tag happens and it goes insane. Everyone gets busted open, the ref gets bumped, the Herders use part of the flagpole to inflict even more damage until Fulton finally gets the weapon and starts to inflict his revenge. It breaks down into one of the wildest brawls you’ll ever see, and ends in a double DQ when the ref is finally revived. The Fantastics had a lot of great matches, and easily gave the Herders their best in ring efforts. Violence as a art form.
#8 WORLD TITLE MATCH: Ric Flair vs. Barry Windham (1.20.87) ~****¾~
It seems that when you discuss the greatest workers of the 1980s, you always get the names Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat. I am not here to disagree with that at all, which you will see later on, but I do feel that certain guys get overlooked. In the 80s in North America, when discussing the best workers I always think of guys like Flair, Steamboat, Savage, Morton, Adonis and Windham. While Steamboat, Dusty and Sting usually get named Flair’s greatest in ring rivals (for different reasons), in my opinion you have to include Barry Windham in there as well. The match that makes the list is their TV draw from Worldwide, which is on the Flair DVD set. This is your classic example of an “NWA Title Defense.” And I mean that in the best way possible. First of all, Flair and Windham are tremendous, which should go without saying. They work a break neck pace for 45-minutes, never losing the crowd. The match makes both men look good as Flair survives as the champion, while Windham is isn’t defeated. The finish is great as Windham makes the hug comeback, finally gets the big lariat, covers ONE, TWO, THR… the time expires. Perfectly timed, the crowd wanted the title change, thought they had it for a moment, but the hero just couldn’t quite finish the deal. This was the good old the NWA booking, Flair retains and looks vulnerable; the face looks like a million bucks and most importantly, they were able to came back to the match and make money. I completely feel Barry Windham is under appreciated, as most only remember his work after the injuries that completely ruined him as the great worker he once was. Spectacular match, you should own it because you really should own the Flair set.
#7. I QUIT MATCH: Ric Flair vs. Terry Funk (11.15.89 – Troy, NY) ~****¾ ~
There are times when you look back on a year, and you say to yourself, “that was wrestler X’s year.” While Flair and Steamboat’s trilogy makes them neck and neck for the honor, the instant transition into the Funk feud is one of my favorite pieces of booking, ever. The men would feud, and while Flair would win at the GAB, it wasn’t satisfying, and they agreed on the I Quit match to settle the score once and for all. This is one of those matches that when people ask me about it I say, “it is classic NWA.” And by that I mean it has great workers, a great story, a great crowd and a great match was had. Not only that, but the match has the underlying story of Funk not wanting Gary Hart’s help, because he needed to beat Flair on his own. Flair finally getting the figure four and Funk’s selling in the final seconds “Never! Never! Oh God, never! Ughhhhhh! My leg! My leg is breaking! Yes. Yes, I quit.” is powerful, emotional and is the perfect ending. This leads to Muta attacking Flair, Sting making the save, leading to the Starcade: Future Shock PPV Iron Man Tournament with Flair, Sting, Muta and Luger. Some will say that this was on par with the Magnum TA vs. Tully I Quit match, and while I respect those opinions, we’ll have to agree to disagree on that particular one…
#6. INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH: Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat (3.29.87 – Pontiac, Michigan) ~*****~
This match I think most will agree is the first real classic in WrestleMania history. Going in I would wager that most expected a good or even great match; hell it was Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat, so that much was given. They took the match in a different direction, Steamboat wasn’t ruled by emotions; he never tried for full physical revenge by hurting Savage. No, he wanted to hurt him where it counts, his coveted IC Title that Savage held for over a year. With the story going in, the intensity of both men, hell even the history with George Steel-Liz-and Randy was a backdrop, the crowd; the match in the end it was not only a ***** match (in my opinion), but a match that stands out as one of the best matches of the 80’s. Some will criticize this match because of the story of how Savage loved to script his matches and how he made Steamboat practice with him. But to that I said so what. The work was good, the crowd loved it and in 2013 the match is still looked at as a classic. And it is also the difference in how it is worked that makes it stand out from other matches on the list.
#5. WORLD TITLE MATCH: Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat (2.20.89 – Chicago, Illinois) ~*****~
In 1989 Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat engaged in one the best trilogies in the history of the wrestling business. Many critics, myself included, have all three bouts rated five stars; this is the first of those matches. This is obviously the big part of the column where personal preference comes into play. Steamboat’s return to feud with Flair was a big deal for many, coming in as Eddie Gilbert’s mystery partner to battle Flair and Windham. The first battle takes place in Chicago, with Steamboat winning the title in a little over 23:00 minutes of awesome beginning to end work. At this time, in my opinion, wrestling was really changing and starting to move in a new direction work wise, but Flair and Steamboat (who had battled “thousands of times” in the 70s) were able to work an at the time “old school” match that was ripe with drama. If it weren’t for the fact that the other two matches were also considered instant classics and loved to this day, this would have been looked back on more than it is. But Steamboat was back; he defeated Flair and was now the champion. As a young fan I thought it was a, “just a great match that my guy won.” But now when I look back it is part of pure greatness.
#4. Tiger Mask vs. Dynamite Kid (8.05.82 – Tokyo) ~*****~
Go ahead and get it out of your system right now, here is the Japanese match for many of you to get upset over. And that is all well and good if you do not like Japanese wrestling. But if you have that thought process and do not want to watch the match, it is you that are truly missing out. In my opinion, the matches featuring Tiger Mask vs. Dynamite Kid should be required viewing along with Flair and Steamboat for all singles wrestlers. Why? Because this match happened back in 1982, and back in 1982 this shit was state of the art. Hell, not only could you put this on TV today and entertain people with it, it is way better than most things you’d see today, that’s how far ahead of their time they were. Tiger Mask vs. Dynamite Kid is the feud that got me into lightweight-cruiserweights, they set the standard for what lightweight-cruiserweight matches should be, and they are what guys of that size and style should look to for a source on inspiration. This is one of my all time favorite matches, put on by two men that should get a lot more credit than they do frothier impact on the wrestling business.
#3. WORLD TITLE MATCH: Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat (5.07.89 – Nashville, TN) ~*****~
Hey, it’s Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat once again on the list! This would be the third match from the famous 1989 trilogy we’re discussing this time around. The match, that went just over 31-minutes, closed out their trilogy in a great way and the match ages very well. That is a common thread in this list. While a match can be great in the moment, not everything ages well. Sometimes what appears to be great and special (for me an example is the AMW vs. Triple X cage match, still good, but not the classic I one thought it was) eventually becomes the norm, but the classics are given that title for a reason. The work is crisp and clean, Steamboat appears on another level as far as intensity and speed, Flair bumps like a freak for him, little things like Flair getting a small package to finish the feud similar to how Steamboat won against Savage and won against Flair to win the title. When it is all said and done, you simply feel as if you were part of a special moment. It was a fitting end to the trilogy that many look back on so fondly, and with good reason. Ad din the fact that it perfectly transitions into the Funk feud, and this is special. And to think, we have two more matches left to discuss…
#2 I QUIT STEEL CAGE US TITLE MATCH: Tully Blanchard vs. Magnum TA (11.28.85 – Greensboro, North Carolina) ~*****~
While I love a great wrestling match with good work, a great story, possibly some flippy shit and superkicks, man I like superkicks; I do have a wide variety of things I enjoy in wrestling. Tully Blanchard vs. Magnum TA is a match that has that different stuff, much like the Slaughter vs. Patterson match I discussed earlier. I love a good story, a good feud, a reason to get to a match and a reason to escalate the odds. And I like a blood feud, and by that I mean a match between to mother fuckers that hat each other and want to do everything they need to destroy their foe. Magnum TA was one of the hottest baby faces for the Crocketts, and at the time of this match was about a year away from the rocket being strapped to his ass. The popular thinking is that he could have been their Hogan. Anyway, Tully and Babydoll screwed Magnum out of the US Title, and the feud escalates and we get a US Title match, in a cage, under I QUIT RULES to make sure that shit goes down proper like. “Five letters, two words, I quit.” This is a stage production in beautiful violence, with revenge and the ultimate climax. Magnum overcomes the odds, fights back after Tully’s beat down, and then, using the chair that was tossed in by Babydoll, grabs the broken portion that now appears to be a spike and starts to DRIVE it into Tully’s forehead and eyes demanding he quits, and finally, in that beautiful moment, Magnum gets his revenge and his title back as Tully yells, “YES! YES! YES!” to the question of quitting. I mean, that’s some next level shit when you’re trying to gouge out a man’s eye with a spike fashioned from a wooden chair.
#1. WORLD TITLE MATCH: Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat (4.02.89 – New Orleans, Louisiana) ~*****~
Coming in at #1 is Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat! While I am sure that many of you expected one of the Flair vs. Steamboat matches to snag the top spot, I think that some may be surprised at which one I selected. This is the second match of the 1989 trilogy, and while many will say that the third was the best (and I wouldn’t really argue that fact because all three are great) this is what tops the trilogy and this list for me. I do believe that the final match closes things out nicely, but this match, this match I can watch each and every day of the week and be in love with what I am watching. The match goes nearly 55-minutes, which while I do not always subscribe to longer is better, when you have Flair and Steamboat it works. Fall one beautifully plays off of the first match, where Steamboat goes for a small package (how he won the title) only to have it reversed and Flair go up 1-0. Fall two sees Steamboat beat Flair at his own game, making the Nature Boy submit to the double chicken wing to tie things up at 1-1. The intensity, at times the violence of the action, the cardio and ability of both men and the overall storytelling is spectacular as Flair woks the leg in the final fall. The finish sees Steamboat again get the double chicken wing, but he cannot hold Flair due to his knee buckling and they fall back for the double pin. Steamboat retains, but the referee doesn’t see that Flair was able to get his leg on the ropes. It is that booking that sells how evenly matched they were, and sets the stage to close out the feud in a third match.
In my opinion, this was not only the best match of the 80s, but also one of the very best matches to be wrestled in North America. Ever.
And I am spent. I’ll have something for next week, I have two options, just depends on what I feel like taking on first. Or maybe Gavin will be back. You’ll have to tune into see.
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Larry Csonka is a Pisces and enjoys rolling at jiu jitsu class with Hotty McBrownbelt, cooking, long walks on the beach, Slingo and the occasional trip to Jack in the Box. He is married to a soulless ginger and has two beautiful daughters who are thankfully not soulless gingers; and is legally allowed to marry people in 35 states. He has been a wrestling fan since 1982 and has been writing for 411 since May 24th, 2004; contributing over 3,000 columns, TV reports and video reviews to the site.