Shining a Spotlight 4.19.07: The Four Horsemen (PART 1)
And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, come and see.
Revelations, Chapter 6, verse 1.
Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore, they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases.
Gartland Rice in his famous writing of the Notre Dame upset over Army, 1924.
Whether you like us or you hate us, learn to love it! Diamonds are forever and so are the Four Horsemen!
James J. Dillion.
I’ve talked a lot already of my appreciation of what WWE has been doing with their DVDs the last few years. Time and again, they give a great look at the past that shows that, deep down (okay, admittedly way deep down), Vince McMahon does have an appreciation for the legacy of the wrestling business.
Of course, they haven’t always been as clear cut as we’d like. While I’m not as down on Vince as many in the IWC, I do admit that one of his biggest failings is his inability to admit that anything he didn’t come up with is equal. It’s why Sting has been given such short shrift on WWE DVDs, because he’s the one major superstar of his era who never worked for the company (too bad, because a Sting DVD with all his old stuff would be awesome).
But there are encouraging signs that Vince may be letting that attitude slip by. The Brian Pillman DVD was an excellent look at his life, putting over his time before WWF. The AWA disc was equally terrific, really showcasing how powerful the promotion once was. It gives hope that, in his old age, Vince is starting to let the ego slip a bit and let his former rivals get the credit they deserve.
I’m quite hopeful for the World Class DVD as Vince won’t have the need to bury it as it was never a true threat to him. But before that, WWE has released a DVD on a subject that I, along with a great deal of fans, have been dying to see. A showcase on the greatest heel stable of all time, one so amazing that I’ve felt the need to spotlight it with this column.
There have been heel stables before in wrestling and will continue to be. They started in the early 1980’s, the rise in the business’ popularity and how the alliance of heels could lead to more money matches. In Texas, General Skandor Akbar’s Army kept things hopping for years. The Legion of Doom was made up of the Road Warriors, King Kong Bundy, the Spoiler and Jake Roberts. There have been many more since: The Heenan Family, the Dangerous Alliance, Hot Stuff Inc, the Stud Stable, Raven’s Flock, the New World Order, D-X, Evolution…
And then there was the Four Horsemen.
Twenty years later, they remain the greatest, most groundbreaking, most influential heel grouping in wrestling history. Four of the biggest stars the NWA had, at least two of them always wearing championship gold at any time, they rewrote the book as to what heels could do. They were flashy, arrogant, always flaunting their wealth and success. But they could back up their words all the time and their success proved it. Moreover, they didn’t seem a mix of odd names put together at random. Their entire creation was by chance but they were a true unit, no matter who was in it.
The history of the Horsemen really begins in the late 1970’s with the Minnesota Wrecking Crew. Gene and Ole Anderson were rugged veterans and two of the biggest stars in the Northeast. They weren’t brothers but the resemblance was strong enough to be billed as such and they ran roughshod over foes, winning the NWA tag titles nine times. They befriended a young up and comer by the name of Ric Flair, giving him an extra rub as he rose in the ranks. Flair never forgot it as Ole took a stint booking Georgia Championship Wrestling which was soon allied with Jim Crockett Promotions.
In 1985, Flair brought to Ole’s attention a young man he’d met in Florida named Marty Lunde. Both men were impressed not only by Lunde’s great ring work and tough style but also by the fact that, with his rugged and bearded looks, he bore a striking resemblance to Ole. Renamed Arn Anderson, the two created a new Wrecking Crew that soon had the National tag team titles under their belts.
Flair had already been introduced as a “cousin” to the Andersons and they started to work together more, partnering up several times. It was in late 1985 that the Andersons soon started to run in to help Flair out in title defenses so he’d keep the belt, setting up a pattern that would continue for a long time. Their biggest moment came when Flair was attacked after a cage match by the Koloffs and Dusty Rhodes rushed in to help. Showing no gratitude whatsoever, Flair and the Andersons attacked Rhodes, the Andersons holding him down so Flair could leap off the ropes and break his leg, giving them all wild heel heat.
Of course, that set up the main event for Starrcade with Flair defending the belt against the returning Rhodes. It wasn’t too bad a match but the ending marred it completely. As Rhodes made a comeback, Flair kicked out of a pin and Rhodes landed right on referee Tommy Young. The Andersons ran in to attack but Rhodes tossed them both. As a new ref came in, Flair went for the figure-four leglock but Rhodes small-packed him, the new ref counted the pin and the fans were ecstatic at seeing Rhodes win the title. They tuned in to the weekend shows ready to see Rhodes with the title only to have it explained that Young had seen the Andersons interfere and disqualified Flair so Flair still had the title. For anyone who wonders what a “Dusty finish” refers to, this is it.
During all this, another big heel was making a name for himself. Tully Blanchard was a Texas native who’d been breaking out in the Crockett territory for the last year. His persona was a rich and smooth lady’s man, flaunting his supposed wealth, accompanied by his valet, Baby Doll and earning respect for his great ring skills and heel mannerisms. In July of 1985, he beat Magnum TA for the US Title after Baby Doll (disguised as a cop) handed him a roll of quarters to hit Magnum with. They had their rematch at Starrcade in their classic, brutal, bloody “I Quit!” cage match where Magnum regained the title. Blanchard blamed Baby Doll for the loss, slapping her on a television interview with Rhodes coming to aid her.
To fill the void, Blanchard hired James J. Dillion, one of those guys who was a fair wrestler but found his true calling as a manager. He’d come out in expensive suits, acting the part of “associate director of Tully Blanchard Enterprises Incorporated,” but was willing to interfere to help his charge out. Blanchard had teamed occasionally with the Andersons to try and beef up house shows and they’d gotten along well but there were no serious plans to put them together.
It’s strange the amazing quirks of fate that wrestling comes up with. Promoters spend so much time, money and trouble trying to create the right situations and then something comes along purely by chance and something special is born. Such an even occurred when, needing to save some time on the flagship TBS Saturday afternoon show, the producers had Flair, Blanchard and the Andersons come out together to cut a combined promo on the various matches they had coming up at an arena show. Going on last, Arn pointed out how “so rarely in history has so much havoc been caused by so few,” that one would have to go back to the Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse for such an instance and held up four fingers.
It was meant to be an off-the-cuff remark but, like Austin 3:16 a decade later, it turned into something far more. At a house show a few nights later, the men were stunned to see Horsemen signs around the arena and people flashing the four-finger signal. Jim Crockett saw money and immediately urged the four to become an alliance. Soon, they were teaming together, showing up on TV together and presenting themselves as a united front.
It’s amazing to look back at how terrific a unit these guys were. They’d show up on TV together, Blanchard, Dillion and Flair all in nice suits, flashing how expensive they were and how much money they made over the middle to lower-class fans at the studio. Arn would be more laid-back, wearing slacks and a golf shirt or just wrestling tights with his trademark dark glasses. Ole would always be in his tights with a dark t-shirt, showing he was more the professional fighter of the group. All four would play off each other wonderfully in the interviews; Flair of course would go off on one of his wild tangents; Blanchard would show his arrogance; Arn would snap and threaten; Ole would just speak plainly and Dillion would navigate through it all with a professional demeanor while throwing out some great one-liners.
They rewrote what heels could be like. As they pointed out in those interviews, they would always back up their words in the ring and would be ready to fight at any moment. They also backed each other up so opponents found themselves facing all four, not just one. They made regular attacks on their enemies, ganging up anywhere from the ring to the locker room, even a memorable bit where they had a camera crew follow them as they chased Dusty to a parking lot and beat him down. They broke Sam Houston’s arm and ground Ricky Morton’s face into a cement floor. They were also dedicated to doing whatever it took to make sure Flair kept his World title, from beating up opponents to causing Flair to be disqualified so he’d keep the belt.
In those pre-Internet days, in a time where kayfabe was still held sacred, they lived the gimmick as much as they could. They would always fly either first class or by private jet and be catered around in limos, staying at the best suites around while their fellow wrestlers were stuck in smaller hotels. They would actually fly down to the beach in Florida and then take the jet to Greensboro for matches. They partied all night in a way that would put rock bands to shame and Crockett was willing to foot the bill to keep it all going. Of course, such rampant spending would end up biting him in the ass in the end but at least it made for a good show. Dillion, like Paul Ellering, was a real manager, helping with finances and contracts and also the much-needed mediator to keep all those egos in check. As HHH points out on the DVD, they were the embodiment of the corporate greed of the ’80’s which was why the middle class fanbase hated them so much. They got along well with the locker room, though, mostly because midcarders would follow them to parties and pick up the women that gathered around them.
As 1986 rolled along, the Horsemen continued to dominate with Arn as TV champ and Blanchard with the National title and, as noted, Flair as the World champ. It was during this period that Jim Crockett started to consolidate power in his hopes to go national as Vince McMahon had. He had going for him the fact that his promotion was featured on TBS and so most fans began to associate JCP with the NWA. Flair’s defenses started to cut down from various territories to others in Crockett’s circle. They would even book him in feuds with Ricky Morton and Road Warrior Hawk where fans honestly believed these tag team wrestlers could take the belt. And of course, he’d defend against Dusty Rhodes, who did pick the belt up from Flair in July only to lose it back two weeks later. But Dusty did get revenge by beating Arn two weeks after that for the TV title.
Flair was building up to a big Starcade showdown with Magnum TA but Magnum’s career-ending car crash changed that. Dusty turned Nikita Koloff face, using a cage match against the Andersons to sell it. Flair didn’t think Nikita was quite ready yet for the big stage so they fought to a double-countout. The Andersons came up short in their bid for the NWA tag team titles, losing to the Rock n’ Roll Express in an excellent cage match. Tully did find some gold by beating Dusty for the TV title in a “first blood” match. Dusty actually got Blanchard to bleed first but the ref was knocked out so Dillion managed to get Blanchard cleaned and gave him an object to bust open Dusty.
As 1986 drew to a close, Ole started to take a smaller role with the team, not showing up for interviews or matches. In a mix of real life and storyline, Ole was spending more time with his family, blowing off Horsemen commitments for his son’s wrestling tournament. Blanchard called him on it during an interview, saying “if you spent more time with business and not that snot-nosed kid…” Ole responded by punching him and soon was kicked out of the group. In truth, a decision was being made that the Horsemen needed new blood. And they figured the best to bring it was with a talent who was truly raw.
It’s been a common trait among the IWC to knock Lex Luger as one of the absolute worst workers the business has ever seen. However, you take the time to watch his early stuff and he wasn’t that bad, albeit being carried a lot. The problem with Luger was that he was pushed far too soon by promoters who were more interested in creating the next Hulk Hogan and never had the chance to develop his skills. Debuting in late 1985 in Florida, he was actually put over Wahoo McDaniel to win the Florida title only a few weeks into his debut. So there was never a sense that he paid his dues but was given the push right off, which naturally led him to develop a swollen head. He also had an infamous cage match with Brusier Brody where Brody refused to sell and Luger walked out of the cage (some, like Scott Keith, have painted this as a true “shoot,” that Brody came down to the ring with fingers ready for blading and Luger ran off in fear. However, having seen video of the match on You Tube, the former theory seems more likely.
Luger was a big star in Florida with great fan appeal. He would battle with Flair, first on a TV special where they scored a fall apiece and wrestled to a time-limit draw in the third. They had another two-out-of three match, Luger taking the first fall but when Flair left for the dressing room during the break, ten guys in masks ran out to beat Luger. He was taken to the back where he was counted out, returning for the third fall but soon pinned. Not exactly the best of ways to sell Flair as a fighting champ, huh? But it did get Luger attention from Crockett who signed him on and decided to turn him heel as a Horseman.
At the time, this was actually a good idea. Luger brought a fresh young energy to the time and more importantly, a power they needed to take on guys like Nikita and the Road Warriors. The other Horsemen did their best to teach Luger the ropes and he came off not too bad in interviews, usually in golf shirts and slacks as he joined the others for promo stuff. He and Blanchard teamed together for the annual Crockett Cup tag team tournament, losing in the finals to Rhodes and Nikita. Meanwhile, Flair embarked on a series of classic matches with Barry Windham, the two tearing down house shows with epic 45 to 60 minute time limit draws that put Windham over huge. However, Windham would leave for Bill Watt’s UWF, winning a tournament for the newly created Western States Heritage Title only to have Watts sell the UWF to Crockett a month later.
Back in the NWA, the Horsemen began to feud regularly with a union of Rhodes, Koloff and the Road Warriors. It built up to the first ever War Games/The Match Beyond, a truly classic encounter. I plan to cover it in more detail in a special 20th anniversary column later but the sight of all eight men, with Dillion and Paul Ellering, going at it was amazing enough. Throw in the two-ring roofed cage and the submission only rules and you had an incredible showdown. They would do another War Games later during the Great American Bash and no, I don’t know why the DVD doesn’t have the very first one on it.
Luger would score his first major win during the Bash, beating Nikita in a somewhat overlong cage match in July when James J Dillion threw a chair into the cage when the ref was out. But karma came back to haunt the Horsemen a month later when Tully defended the TV title against Nikita. With the ref distracted by Anderson, Dillion handed Tully a foreign object. Dusty came out to attack Blanchard, the object falling to the mat. As the ref broke it up, Nikita grabbed the object, nailed Blanchard with it and pinned him to win the belt.
September was an up and down month for the Horsemen. First, in a move long overdue, Anderson and Blanchard started to team together regularly. The two gelled perfectly, Blanchard’s speed and technical skills matched by Arn’s power and brutality. They would beat the Rock N Roll Express for the tag team titles after the Midnight Express attacked Ricky Morton, injuring his shoulder. Robert Gibson fought alone but Morton came down, tagged in and was pinned. Naturally, the idea came that the Horsemen had paid the Midnights to set the RNR up for them. Two weeks later, Flair lost the World title to Ronnie Garvin in a cage match, a decision that surprised a lot of people.
The truth was that Garvin was being used to set up Flair for a big title victory at Starcade ’87. Now, I covered the entire debacle that card turned out to be in my Survivor Series retrospective a while back so I won’t go into details again but suffice to say, Garvin had no credibility as the champ. Not only had he been a long-time midcarder, but the refusal by every heel to job to an obvious lame duck titleholder meant he had to take a “sabbatical” to prepare for the rematch with Flair. So Flair ended up being the face for the Chicago crowd as he took the title back. Elsewhere on the card, Blanchard and Anderson defended the tag titles against the Road Warriors in what everyone was sure would be the Warriors’ long-awaited title win. Instead, they got a Dusty finish with the champs retaining. As for Dusty, he booked himself to beat Luger in a cage match for the US title notable for Dillion throwing a chair into the cage and Luger had to take his sweet time bending over to get it since Dusty was out of position. When he did, Dusty DDTed Luger on the chair to earn the pin.
It was shortly after the show that Luger started to talk over how big he’d become and it was time for him to step to the plate. The DVD has his famous “I am an athlete!” speech, pontificating on his greatness while Dillion just stands to the side, wiping his face with an “oh, brother” expression. In December, they began a series of Bunkhouse Stampede battle royals where Luger refused to allow Dillion to win one, throwing him out and fighting off the other Horsemen. So to no one’s surprise, in January of 1988, Luger left the group and became a face. This did have the nice angle that Luger knew how the Horsemen fought and thought which gave him a great advantage over the other challengers in the NWA. Surely, marks thought, if anyone knew how to beat Flair, it was him.
Things began to build up to the first-ever “Clash of the Champions” card on TBS, right against Wrestlemania. The main event, of course, was Flair defending the title against Sting in a 45-minute draw that instantly made Sting a superstar. Also, Luger teamed with Windham (who had returned to the NWA when the UWF went under) to beat Blanchard and Anderson for the tag titles. Once again, the Horsemen’s cheating backfired when Dillion held a chair in the corner but Anderson was the one thrown into it allowing for the pin. This led to one of my favorite Apter mag headlines: “Dillion sends another Horsemen to the chair…as Luger and Windham electrify the NWA!”
But just a few weeks later, in a rematch, Windham suddenly turned on Luger, clotheslining him down and making the four-fingered salute to Anderson and Blanchard. The DVD shows that great moment, the two as shocked as everyone else but Blanchard slaps the ropes and urges Anderson to cover Luger. Meanwhile, Dillion is pointing at Windham with a smile, indicating they had already discussed this. Windham’s turn was a surprise given how big his feud with Flair had been the previous year. However, Windham brought a new energy to the team with his tall and powerful build and great technical skills. He also showed a much meaner attitude than anyone expected that allowed him to fit in.
While all this was going on, Dusty had been stripped of the US title and suspended for 90 days after accidentally hitting Jim Crockett during a fight with the Horsemen. However, Dusty brought back an old gimmick from Florida where he would suddenly appear as the masked and cloaked Midnight Rider. Of course, Dusty made no attempt whatsoever to disguise his voice so the entire thing was a mess, with the announcers trying to sound like they had no idea who this Rider was and downplaying the accusations of the Horsemen that it was Dusty. In one of his typical high-strung interviews, Jim Cornette, ranting and raving as only he can, pretty much spoke for everyone: “Ray Charles can see who that is!” To add to the insanity, one of Windham’s first heel moves was to go to the locker room and unmask the Rider as the Italian Stallion. Of course, considering the Stallion was a good 40 pounds lighter than the real Rider, that didn’t work either. In the end, they just brought Dusty back early to forget the whole thing.
Windham soon won a tournament for the vacant US title, thus giving the Horsemen control of four of the six NWA titles. A photo of all four of them holding up their titles is on the cover for the DVD as this was the height of their power in the NWA. Naturally, there was some grumbling in the locker room over how the Horsemen were now controlling the title scene but they were the big draws for the company not to mention great workers so it didn’t come to too much. In the finals of the Crockett Cup Tournament, Sting and Luger beat Blanchard and Anderson and showed how they were now the hottest faces in the company. Flair was pushing for Sting to be put in a title feud but Rhodes had other plans.
Apparently, Luger was a bit smarter than most people believed as he had managed to schmooze up to Dusty and Crockett and convince them he could be their Hulk Hogan. However, Flair didn’t think Luger quite had what it took in either ring ability or fan heat to carry the company. They would feud, Flair carrying Luger to some good matches but still wasn’t sold. But Crockett and Dusty were and decided that at the upcoming Great American Bash PPV in July, Luger would beat Flair for the title.
However, as good as Luger may have been with backstage politics, Flair was better. The last time he had negotiated his contract, he had placed in a clause that gave him veto power over any title changes so he would only drop the belt to who he wanted to. A long argument ensued with a plan set up: Flair and Luger would have a wild match with Luger bleeding so much that an official of the Maryland State Athletic Commission would have to stop the bout due to his blood loss.
All well and good in theory but the actual match turned out to be a failure as Luger messed up the blade job, producing the tiniest of nicks on his forehead. I have literally cut myself worse shaving. Despite his efforts, Flair couldn’t open it up more so it ended with Luger getting Flair into his backbreaker submission move, the ref ringing the bell and everyone cheering at the apparent title win. But as the wrestlers flowed in to congratulate Luger, the “athletic commissioner” announced the match was stopped due to blood loss. Given that 90% of the arena couldn’t see any cut on Luger and the 10% who did saw it was only a few drops, this did not go over well. Even the smarts came to the conclusion that this was the plan all along, that the Horsemen had bribed the Commissioner and thus Flair came off weaker.
Indeed, it was here that a problem that had popped in the last few years became even more prevalent: More and more, Flair was leaning on the Horsemen to help him keep the title, which just made him, and the belt, look even weaker. More problematic was that Dusty was intent on Luger getting the belt, thus giving birth to a vicious cycle. Time and again, from house shows to TV matches, Rhodes would put Luger over and each time Flair would veto it. As the feud dragged and the fans began to realize a title change wasn’t in the cards, revenues and attendance started to drop, a bad thing as Crockett was already facing major debts. By the fall, the writing was on the wall and Crockett knew the only chance he had to avoid complete financial ruin was to sell to Ted Turner.
During this entire period, Blanchard’s mood had worsened. Blanchard and Rhodes were never quite friends. After the horrific “Bunkhouse Stampede” PPV in January of that year, after Dusty booked himself to win the main event, Blanchard (after a few two many at a bar) made the infamous remark “Dusty should just book himself against Dusty” and got into a shouting match with Crockett. But Blanchard was also annoyed at how Crockett handled the business end of things with his wrestlers. The DVD has a good thing with Flair commenting that if Crockett just had the marketing and creative skills the WWF did, he would have taken Vince down with all the talent he had. As it was, while guys like Luger, Sting and of course Dusty were making loads, Blanchard and Anderson were far less well off. Indeed, for that Bash show (which Crockett had boasted beforehand would be a $20 million maker), Blanchard and Anderson were paid a pitiful $1000 each.
Think about that. The world tag team champions, the nucleus of the Horsemen, two of the biggest heel stars in the company, were getting paid less money than most independent workers. Hell, Dillion was getting $3000 so one can understand why Blanchard was so pissed. Unable to get more money out of Crockett, Blanchard didn’t help his case when some of Turner’s representatives came to discuss things and Blanchard (in a move he now admits he shouldn’t have done) was totally honest about the backstage politics and moods of the workers, which almost screwed up the entire deal. Realizing he wasn’t going to get more, Blanchard basically went to Dillion and asked when they should drop the belts. The Horsemen had been set up for a feud with the newly face US Tag champs, the Midnight Express. Actually, the Midnights were going to be transition champs for the newly turned heel Road Warriors. The laughable part was that, despite brutal attacks on Dusty and Sting, the Warriors were still getting huge pops yet sold as heels. So in September, the Horsemen dropped the belts to the Midnights and Tully got ready to leave. He figured he’d be going alone and was thus as shocked as everyone when Arn announced he was going with.
Their leaving was a shock to the entire wrestling world. Two men who had been mainstays of the NWA, champions and mega-stars, had leaped over to the WWF, it was really shocking at a time when such high-profile defections were rare. In the WWF, the two retained their old names but were hooked up with Bobby Heenan and named the Brainbusters (a nice Easter Egg on the DVD is Dusty comparing that to his polka dot outfits). The two were given a good push, winning the tag titles and holding them for three months while having awesome battles with the Hart Foundation, Demolition, the Rockers and others.
Back in the NWA, Flair knew the Horsemen were done, that no one could replace Tully and Arn. Of course, the NWA disagreed and actually tried to sell Barry’s little brother, Kendall, as a heel and possible Horseman. However, even Barry knew Kendall wasn’t at that level. However, more important things were happening with the NWA as the takeover by Turner meant the company was now a corporate entity headed up by Jim Herd, whose previous job had been managing Pizza Hut. To no one’s surprise, Rhodes, never known for playing well with others, did not get along with his new structure. After being told he had to pull back on the on-screen violence, Dusty did an angle where the Road Warriors jammed an iron spike into his eye, causing him to bleed a gusher on the Saturday afternoon shows, sending Herd into a frenzy.
Given all that went down later, it’s surprising that Flair and Herd actually got along well at the beginning. Flair could sell Herd that Dusty was hurting things with his push for Luger, especially with Starcade coming up. After the debacle of the previous year, Crockett had already decided to move the show from its traditional Thanksgiving home to December. When Flair refused to job the belt to Luger, Dusty (according to many reports) booked him to drop it to Rick Steiner, then a mid-carder in a five minute squash. Herd stepped in and removed Dusty from his booking duties with Flair allowed to book himself. Flair would face Luger in what was billed as Luger’s last shot, with the stipulation that if Flair was disqualified, he would lose the belt. But it didn’t matter as, with Flair in the Torture Rack, Dillion hit Luger in the back of the leg with a chair so Flair landed on him for the pin.
Dusty soon left for the WWF and Flair and Windham continued to work as a heel team. But Flair knew a Horsemen reunion was not in the cards, instead deciding to bring in someone he knew he could get a killer feud out of. Flair and Windham had been feuding with Eddie Gilbert, who challenged them to a tag match against himself and a mystery partner. The two accepted and were shocked as the partner turned out to be Ricky Steamboat. Steamboat pinned Flair to win the match and become contender for the title. Afterward, Flair blasted Dillion for not being able to find out it was Steamboat he’d be facing and fired him. This was actually a way to excuse Dillon’s sudden decision to take an office job for WWF.
For some bizarre reason, the NWA decided Flair and Windham still needed a manager. For an even more bizarre reason, they decided that manager would be Hiro Matsuda. While a top star in Japan, Matsuda had no standing at all with American audiences. The fact he could barely speak any English seemed to hurt as well as he couldn’t do promos. Any manager following Dillion would be in a tough spot but Matsuda just couldn’t fit in and it seemed they just wanted to capitalize on the “evil Japanese businessman” stereotype that was starting to build at the time.
The Chi-Town Rumble PPV was pretty much the end of it all. Windham lost the US title to Luger in a match that had Windham legitimately breaking his hand after hitting the ring post, putting him out of action for a while. In the main event, Steamboat pinned Flair for the NWA title in what would have been the match of the year if they hadn’t ended up topping themselves twice more in the next few months. The match’s ending seemed to be a deliberate tweaking to Dusty’s booking as Steamboat had hit Flair with a flying bodypress that knocked out referee Tommy Young. Flair attacked Steamboat, getting ready for a figure-four but Steamboat small packaged him and Teddy Long (then a simple ref) raced in to make the three count. Brought up on years of Dusty finishes, the crowd was uncertain and it was only when Young also raised Steamboat’s hand that they cheered the victory. When Windham left for the WWF, it appeared the era of the Horsemen was finally all over. Flair’s transition to a face and feuding with Terry Funk seemed to settle the matter.
But as 1989 drew to a close, a new era for the Horsemen began that would be even wilder than the once preceding it. Which will be the focus for next week’s column.
Also on 411mania:
The Shimmy wonders if it’s time TNA got a new alternative, a quite excellent article.
That Was Then examines the classic Taker-Mankind Hell in a Cell match.
O’Dog wonders if it’s time to end the brand extension.
Tiger talks about negativity in one’s work.
Just S’Pose examines a different take on Hulk Hogan in the AWA.
Quick Talkdown looks at Backyard Wrestling.
Ari returns to wrest control of Column of Honor.
Julian counts down the Top 10 Undertaker matches? Hey, where’s the 1994 Royal Rumble?
Can They Be Champ? Examines the Lethal Lockdown participants.
Don’t forget Ask 411, Fact or Fiction, Navigation Log, Three R’s, Triple Threat and the rest.
I’ll conclude my Horsemen chronicle next week. For now, the spotlight is off.