The Enlightenment: The Best of Ric Flair in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling
Ric Flair: Mid-Atlantic 1970’s
by J.D. Dunn
This is a compilation of very rare footage from the 1970’s Mid-Atlantic region during the time when Ric Fleihr really became Ric Flair. This is just after Flair returned from the plane-crash injury in early 1976. In a particularly brilliant Flair moment, Flair trotted out all the “get well” cards on Mid-Atlantic TV and proceeded to tear them up! Classic.
All of this is clipped, washed-out 8mm footage, making it look like a snuff film, but such is the life of a fan of classic wrestling.
Flair and Valentine are carrying the belts here, so this would likely be between December of 1976 and May of 1977. This is a wild brawl as Flair and Valentine play default heels. Flair gets tossed and takes a beating from the lumberjacks, all of whom hate him. He gets tossed back in and runs out the other side hoping to escape and takes another beating from they guys on that side. Ole takes a beating but gets the hot tag to Wahoo. We’re clipped to Wahoo knocking heads with Valentine and falling to the floor. The lumberjacks (including Jimmy Snuka and Baron Von Raschke) put the boots to him. We’re clipped again to Wahoo cleaning house with chops (of course). He Butterfly Suplexes Valentine, but Flair makes the save. Sadly, the ending is cut off at around 6:45 shown. [***]
We’re JIP to Flair and Valentine isolating Gene in their corner and taunting a pissed-off Ole who’s helpless on the apron. Flair and Valentine actually hit the Death Sentence, but Ole saves. Gene avoids an elbow and rolls to the tag. Ole comes in and unleashes all his pent up rage. The ref gets bumped in the melee and accidentally trips Flair as Flair is going for a suplex. Ole lands on top and gets the pin at 2:21 (shown). Flair and Valentine are righteously pissed and lay in one of those old-school NWA beatdowns where it just goes on and on, and you think someone’s going to make a save but then they get cut off too. Eventually, a very young Ricky Steamboat makes the save, setting up his first run with Flair. I believe it’s Gene doing the stretcher job here. Assuming the tag titles were on the line, that would put this on May 8, 1977. With all the phantom title changes and lack of footage from the era, details are understandably sketchy. These titles bounced around at least eight times that year. Not enough match to get an accurate picture of how good it was, but the ending was clever, and the crowd was incredibly hot. [NR]
1979-ish. The tapelisting shows this as 2/3 falls, but I think it’s actually just three separate matches because the ring announcer declares a winner after the pinfall. That and Jimmy Snuka’s trunks change color. Orndorff was the wunderkind here, providing good ground wrestling while Snuka handled the aerial stuff. Both teams were heels, but Valentine and Flair were hated just a little bit more. Basically, this is just two teams trying to out heel each other, and the crowd loves it. Valentine gets caught in the wrong corner and double-teamed behind the ref’s back. The fall ends with Valentine and Orndorff colliding in the middle of the ring for a double KO. Snuka tricks Flair into distracting the ref long enough for Jimmy to sneak in and pull Orndorff over to his corner. When the ref turns around, Jimmy tags himself in and hits a beautiful Superfly Splash for the win at 6:37 (shown). A young Superfly doing the splash is quite breathtaking. **1/2
We’re JIP to Snuka playing slightly-less-heelish-wrestler-in-peril. Valentine cuts off a hot tag and starts dropping elbows like they’re going out of style, but as we all know, dropping elbows will never go out of style. Flair and Valentine team up for the Death Sentence, but it’s not actually a finisher back in those days, so Snuka kicks out. Flair starts wrenching Snuka’s neck and gives him a shoulderbreaker. Like all heels, though, they make the mistake of getting too cocky, and Snuka avoids a Valentine elbowdrop. Orndorff gets the hot tag and cleans house on the heels. Unfortunately, Snuka is too impetuous, and he distracts Referee Tommy Young (very early in his career). Flair and Valentine are able to swarm Orndorff and keep him in their corner for yet another heat segment. Valentine gives Orndorff a backdrop suplex and gets the three, but Tommy Young sees Orndorff’s foot on the ropes and orders the match to continue. While Flair’s busy arguing, Snuka goes up and hits a headbutt on Valentine, putting Orndorff on top for the real win at 9:16 (clipped from about 32:00). ***1/4
We’re JIP to Snuka and Orndorff working over Ole’s arm. Clipping fast-forwards us to the Anderson’s laying a pounding on first Snuka then Orndorff. Orndorff desperately reaches for a tag while Ole has him in an armbar, but he gets pulled back just shy of the tag. Orndorff powers Ole over, but it’s right into the corner where Gene can tag in. The Anderson name became synonymous with great teamwork, and you see it on display here as Ole finds himself in a waistlock and spins himself around so that he’s in between Orndorff and the tag while Gene comes in to jump Orndorff from behind. Finally, after about seven minutes of straight beating, Orndorff rattles off a few roundhouse rights at Gene’s skull and gets the hot tag, and the place ERUPTS for Jimmy Snuka. Unfortunately, the ending cuts off during a series of nearfalls. Boo! Fie on you 1970’s handheld camera technology! Around 8:54 of the match was shown, and it was all good. Not exactly sure why it’s on Flair’s compilation, but I’m not complaining. ***3/4
This is one of the more infamous bloodbaths in history from Novemberish of 1979. The match is JIP to a heel Snuka savagely biting chunks of Flair’s forehead off. A piledriver gives Flair another excuse to blade. Flair stumbles around ringside while Snuka’s evil manager (not sure who it is, but it doesn’t look like Buddy Rogers, who was his manager around this time). Back in, Snuka misses a flying headbutt and sells it as if he just landed on a set of football cleats and had pickle juice dumped in his eyes. Flair dives on top of Snuka and alternates between ripping at the wound and choking him. He tosses the ref down a few times and goes back to what he was doing. Flair finally just goes ape, tossing Referee Sonny Fargo into the corner and choking Snuka unconscious. Snuka’s evil manager tries to make the save and gets the crap kicked out of him for his trouble. More choking and the Masked Superstars run down to save Snuka, but Flair knocks them out too. That provides enough of a window for Snuka’s manager to pull him out and get him to the locker room. Flair gets on the house mic and screams, “We haven’t even started yet! WE HAVEN’T EVEN STARTED!” Snuka picks up the win by DQ at 7:50 (of 12:00), but he loses the war. Flair would regain that U.S. Title a few months later. Not much as far as great wrestling is concerned or anything, but a wild, bloody brawl reminiscent of Tully and Magnum T.A. ***1/2
Back to May of 1977 just after the cage match with the Andersons. We’re JIP to Steamboat making a big comeback after Flair has been holding a front chancery. Flair rakes the eyes to avoid an Indian Deathlock and starts dropping the elbows. Flair senses another comeback, so he tosses Steamer to the floor and posts him. Steamboat slugs his way back and gets a little revenge by tossing Flair to the floor and posting him. Back in, Steamboat busts out the Airplane Spin for two. Now, Steamboat gets that Indian Deathlock and cranks back on it. Unfortunately for Steamie, he yanks back so hard that it catapults Flair into the ropes. The ref pulls them apart, allowing Flair to pull a foreign object from his pants and blast Steamboat with it for the win at 6:24. Even then, these two had great chemistry together. ***1/4
We’re JIP to Steamboat firing away and nearly getting himself disqualified. Blackjack Mulligan is at ringside, apparently as a troubleshooting ref. Mulligan gets on the apron as the ref is admonishing Steamboat, but nothing comes of it. Flair comes back with rabbit punches to the ribs. Suddenly, Ricky explodes with a reverse rollup for two. Flair avoids an elbowdrop, though, and goes to work on the arm. Steamboat goes up over the top off a corner whip, slamming his shoulder into the buckle. Flair slaps on a keylock. Steamboat rolls out of it and into a pinning combination, forcing Flair to release the hold. Both men collide, taking the ref down with him, so Mulligan climbs in to replace the original ref. We’re clipped ahead, and the ref has recovered enough to do his job, so Mulligan returns to his outside position. Flair gets several two counts off a suplex and several more with his feet on the ropes before Mulligan informs the ref. Flair rolls through another reverse rollup to one of his own and grabs a handful of ropes, but the ref catches him on his own this time. Steamer blocks an atomic drop and reverses to a backdrop suplex for two. He pummels Flair in the corner and hits a chop right between his eyes. Steamboat bites Flair’s forehead, busting him open, and the place is on the verge of a riot, hoping to see Ricky take home the title. Then, in a pivotal moment, Steamer misses a bodysplash off the top, and the match cuts off at 17:00. D’oh! Wild stuff. A precursor to their 1989 series. ****
JIP to Flair dropping a knee right between Steamboat’s eyes. An atomic drop sends Steamboat over the top rope, and Flair jaws with Referee Gene Anderson about it. Steamboat climbs back in and hits an INSANE chop to Flair’s chest. Steamboat get one off a sunset flip and blocks another atomic drop and gets a backdrop. Don’t you just love continuity. Flair tosses Steamboat to the floor but winds up going into the post himself. Beautiful. Steamboat chases Flair around the ring, yanking down his tights. Not beautiful. Back in, Steamboat is on a roll, hitting a series of jabs and a double thrust punch. A double ax-handle gets two, and Steamboat rightly questions Anderson’s slow count. A suplex gets two more, and again Anderson gives Steamer a slow count and dubiously breaks the pin because Flair’s leg was allegedly under the ropes. Steamboat gives Flair another suplex and goes up for the flying crossbody, but Anderson pushes Flair out of the way! Flair falls on top for the win and retains his title at 7:59 (shown), nearly causing a riot in the arena. Anderson gets pelted with garbage on his way out. ***
JIP to Flair beating Steamboat from pillar to post on the outside. He gets a series of two counts back inside, and suddenly Steamboat springs to life with a series of chops. A flying double fist puts Flair down, but while the ref is admonishing Steamer, Flair pulls out a foreign object and waffles Steamboat with it for the win. The audience runs down to ringside to tear Flair apart, but as he’s prancing around the ring with his title, he drops the foreign object. The ref sees it and restarts the match. Ricky schoolboys Flair for the win and (finally) the title at 5:13 (shown out of 22:00). [**3/4]
So, this is Flair’s inevitable rematch. Steamboat comes out strong and confident now that he’s champion, chasing Flair to the outside. We’re clipped to Steamboat hitting his double thrust punch, but Flair goes low to turn the tide. We’re rapidly approaching the TV time limit as Flair hits a suplex and elbow drop. Just to explain, back in the early TV Title days, you often had a 15-20 minute TV title time limit during which the challenger could win the title. If the time limit came and went, the match would continue, but it would be non-title. It was a clever way of having the champion lose without losing his title. And, of course, you could always set up the rematch with the audience saying, “Well, if he could just shave 20-seconds off that time, he’d win the title.” The TV time limit expires as Steamer hits a double ax-handle. Steamboat gets overanxious, prompting the ref to pull him back. Flair loads up the fist with a foreign object and knocks Steamboat out for the win at 5:41 (shown). The crowd starts to riot again, but Steamboat finds the foreign object in his trunks and goes to town on Flair with it. Flair skedaddles before any more wackiness from the crowd can ensue. **1/4
September of 1978? JIP to Race dominating. Steamer wasn’t really on his level yet, so that’s not surprising. Race gets two off a piledriver. Steamboat blocks an atomic drop, turns, and LAUNCHES Harley through the air with a chop. Another chop gets two, and Steamboat grounds Race with a sleeper. Race tries to ram him into the buckle, but Steamboat slips off his shoulder and rolls him up for two. We’re clipped to Steamboat hitting a series of jabs. Race gets his foot on the rope, though, to break up the count. Steamboat catches Race going up and slams him off. Then, we’re clipped ahead to Race hitting a diving headbutt. More clipping as Ricky makes the comeback but gets sent into the referee by a desperate Race. A second ref replaces him With five minutes left to go n the time limit, Race misses another diving headbutt, and Ricky comes off the top with a flying crossbody for the win and the title at 4:55 (shown)! Oh, but Race’s foot was on the rope, which the original ref saw, so the match is restarted with two minutes left to go. Race attacks from behind, but Ricky makes his own save and peppers him with jabs. Ricky gets several more two counts, but Race keeps getting his foot on the ropes. A piledriver puts Race down, but again, his foot is on the rope. Ricky spends the next 30-seconds getting nearfall after nearfall, but Race falls through the ropes off a double ax-handle, spelling doom for Ricky’s title chances. (8:08 shown out of 60:00). What was here was really good, and the full match, assuming it exists, looked to be around ****1/4.
November 1978. We’re JIP to Jones pleading his case with the referee over some infraction. Harley brutalizes Jones for a while before posting himself. Jones lays in a few chops while the champ is tied up in the ropes. Race bellyflops off an atomic drop and accidentally rams his own head into the turnbuckle. The ref gets bumped and falls out of the ring, so a second ref comes in to replace him. Jones suplexes Race for the win and the title. Oh, but Race’s foot was on the ropes. Where have I seen that before? Yep, they’re doing the exact same match as Race versus Steamboat only Jones doesn’t have Ricky’s talent or penchant for playing a desperate babyface. They also make the mistake of doing the false finish way too early, so that Jones has to fill eight solid minutes of going for nearfalls. Jones gets one last desperation gutwrench before the match cuts off (time expired) around 12:00 in. **1/4
The 411: This was a great time and place for those who like their stories told in the ring. Sure, there is a fair amount of cliché and nonsense (lots of ref bumps, lots of reversed decisions), but the action is much more intense and furious than you see today, giving you the feeling of heavyweight title fights. Flair's brilliance was apparent here, even though he hadn't yet refined his game to be a heavyweight champion. Oddly enough, he would learn a number of the tricks Harley Race used here, and incorporate them into his style to become a better all-around wrestler.
Solid thumbs up if you can find it (and if you don't mind 8mm footage with no commentary).
|Final Score: 7.0 [ Good ] legend|