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Ask 411 Wrestling: Why Did Ric Flair Not Wrestle at Summerslam 1992?

February 6, 2023 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Ric Flair Image Credit: WWE

Welcome guys, gals, and gender non-binary pals, to Ask 411 Wrestling. I am your party host, Ryan Byers, and I am here to answer some of your burning inquiries about professional wrestling.

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Ticking Timebomb Taz just wants to be fair to Flair:

Why didn’t Ric Flair have a match at Summerslam 1992? Why not have Savage vs Warrior, winner is number one contender and Ric Flair defending the WWF title against someone else?

The June 15, 1992 Wrestling Observer Newsletter covered the lineup for Summerslam ’92 being announced, which at that point included the four top matches that actually wound up happening on the August 29 card: Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage, Bret Hart vs. The British Bulldog, Money Inc. vs. Legion of Doom, and Undertaker vs. Kamala.

Two and a half months out from the show, and it was already being acknowledged that Flair would not work, but it was not treated like anything approaching a big deal. In fact, Dave Meltzer downplayed it in the article, noting that the lack of a Nature Boy match was not “significant” because he did not have the established name in Europe that he did in the United States.

Though I will defer to any actual Europeans, I suspect this is true. The NWA and Jim Crockett Promotions did not have great television or touring penetration in that market, and, according to research I did for a prior column, the NWA World Heavyweight Title had never even been defended in Europe until March 11, 1993, when champion Barry Windham wrestled challenger Dustin Rhodes to a double count out in London.

So, there wasn’t a good, logical opponent for Flair with Savage, Warrior, and Hart otherwise occupied and Hulk Hogan not on the show. Combine that with his not being an established drawing card in the market, and the call was made to just use him in a non-wrestling capacity.

For what it’s worth, I have seen some rumors that inner ear problems that plagued Flair around this time kept him out of the ring during Summerslam. However, those rumors are easily shot down, in part because, even though he didn’t wrestle at SS, he had matches seven days before and three days afterwards and in part because you don’t put a guy with significant inner ear problems on a Transatlantic flight.

There are also rumors that he was held off the card as punishment for blading at Wrestlemania VIII, but that also makes no sense given that he still would have been paid (though probably not as well) for his non-wrestling appearance on the card.

Tyler from Winnipeg wants to discuss the 411mania comment section’s favorite person:

Will Dave Meltzer ever get physically involved in a wrestling match?

No. He’s 63 years old and has been a known quantity in and around wrestling for over 40 years now. If he had any inclination to actually lace up a pair of boots or take a bump, it would have happened by now.

Donny from Allentown is cool, cocky, and bad:

I always wondered: Was it the plan all along to have Honky Tonk Man a heel when he came to the WWF in 1986 or was it just the lukewarm responses and heavy boos he got during his babyface run that had the office make the switch? I’m sure for how much heat he got when he did turn heel someone in the office is probably saying the vote of confidence was planned all along from the beginning. So was it?

No, they legitimately thought a babyface Elvis impersonator was going to work, and Honky was only turned heel when it proved they were wrong. HTM did a shoot interview with Kayfabe Commentaries in which he discussed his heel turn, and he never once stated that the vote of confidence was planned from the start. In fact, he said that he was turned out of necessity because he was being booked against heel wrestlers and the heels were complaining because, no matter how much they tried to get heat, they would garner babyface reactions as soon as they punched Honky Tonk. Bruce Prichard did an episode of his “Something to Wrestle” podcast about the Honky Tonk Man, and he corroborated the story that there was a legitimate effort to make him a face.

If you want evidence of this from the shows themselves, the company actually had Hulk Hogan cut promos endorsing the Honky Tonk Man. Back in that era, the Hulkster was portrayed as nigh infallible, so they were not going to have him back somebody who was planned to flop with fans, as it would make Hogan look out of touch.

If anybody wants T Sawyer, he’ll be in his room:

I don’t know if it’s just me, but doesn’t Bayley’s look remind you of a grown-up Lisa Simpson? Someone should have “The Man” mention that the next time she’s describing her.

No. I tried some google image searching, but I really have no idea what parallels you’re seeing here.

IMissMarkingOut, appropriately, asks a question that sounds like it comes from the perspective of somebody who is no longer marking out:

I wanted to get your opinion on a common spot that occurs in matches. There comes a moment where someone is hit with a move and the person who receives it goes down, but then pops right back up with a surge of adrenaline and delivers a move of their own before going back down. Does this diminish the first move? I know in reality there are times where adrenaline can mask the pain due to endorphins being released, but does this translate well into a match and add realism or is it just bad selling?

Let’s talk about realism first. Is this spot realistic? No. MMA is the closest thing that we have to “real” pro wrestling. I’m hesitant to say something like this has never occurred in MMA, because the second I do somebody will find one obscure example of it happening in YAMMA Pit Fighting or something, but it certainly does not happen on anything approaching a regular basis. Thus, we can say that this is near impossible in a real fight.

That being said, pro wrestling doesn’t have to be 100% realistic 100% of the time. As has been pointed out on many occasions, if wrestling had significant concerns about realism, there would be no such thing as an Irish whip. There are unrealistic moves, though, that fans have managed to accept.

However, there are also certainly spots so unrealistic that they slap you in the face, destroy your suspension of disbelief, and make wrestling less likely for new fans to accept. Think about grown men acting like they’re afraid of Bray Wyatt because he can do a back bridge.

Where does this particular spot land on that spectrum?

At the risk of giving what may sound like a cop out answer, I have to say that it depends.

The first person that I can remember doing a spot like this is Toshiaki Kawada, who overall is one of the best in-ring performers of his generation. When Kawada does the spot, he doesn’t cartoonishly flop down to the mat, pop back up, and then collapse unmoving. He usually does something like taking a lariat but rolling through it instead of taking a hard bump. Then he hits his responsive move, and he collapses more lightly than a standard flat-back fall. That approach lets you believe that he was rocked by the move that hit him but not so much that he shouldn’t be able to do something in response.

Unfortunately, some have taken the spot to extremes, and that is where I think you start to run into problems. Perhaps not surprisingly, the people who do take it to those extremes are, overall, nowhere near as capable as Kawada was in the ring.

Scott A. is stealing R-Truth’s gimmick:

Since it’s Royal Rumble season, what are your 5 (or more if you want) favorite Survivor Series 8- or 10-person elimination tag matches? Match quality, entertainment value, nostalgia, it doesn’t doesn’t matter, have fun with it!

In no particular order, I’m going with:

1995 Women’s Survivor Series Match: This was a big one for me as a fan, because, even though I’d already seen Bull Nakano, this match let me know that there were entire promotions of Japanese women wrestlers out there. The style captivated me and lead to me hunting down joshi tapes when I had the means to do so a couple of years later. It was my favorite genre of wrestling for several years and one of the reasons that I don’t have much patience for mediocre women’s wrestling now.

Team Bischoff vs. Team Austin (2003): This is an excellent example of Shawn Michaels wrestling as an underdog babyface and, at least in my mind, did a lot more for establishing that Randy Orton could hang with main event wrestlers than it gets credit for.

The Hart Family vs. Shawn Michaels & His Knights (1993): It’s hard to go wrong with legendary performers like Bret, Owen, and Michaels, to say nothing of their talented supporting cast featuring the likes of Barry Horowitz and Greg Valentine. Plus, it’s a great example of how you don’t need promos and backstage skits to tell stories in pro wrestling, because this match did more to advance the story of Owen Hart’s jealousy of big brother Bret than any interview did.

1988 Tag Team Division Survivor Series Match: Outside of a battle royale, this was the first time that I saw this many wrestlers competing in the same match at the same time, and it definitely made an impression.

The Royal Family vs. Clowns R’ Us: This is on the list for two reasons. First, it is one of the earliest memories that I have of matches being actively bad. Second, when I was young I was weirdly captivated anytime the WWF brought in performers who were not part of their regular roster, simply because it was such a rarity – and this match had plenty of them.

I also spent a lot of time playing the Survivor Series mode on WWF Raw for the Super Nintendo back in the day, with Luna Vachon and Owen Hart usually anchoring my team and Yokozuna and Bam Bam Bigelow being their most frequent partners.

Oh, I see Elway Horseface:

In the past winning the Intercontinental Title was typically an indicator that someone was being groomed for eventual main event/world title status.  Am I wrong in my belief that is no longer the case?  How many IC champs went on to become World Champs?  How many World Champs went straight to the top of the mountain without winning an IC title?  In your opinion – which IC champs that didn’t win World titles should have had a run with the top belt?

As of this writing in late January 2023, there have been an even 89 different individuals who have held the Intercontinental Championship. In addition to Elway’s question about how many of them later became a world champion, I am also going to chronicle those who were world champs before becoming IC champ, which does happen from time-to-time. Also, for purposes of this answer, I am counting only world titles held in WWWF/WWF/WWE, as I believe that is consistent with the spirit of the question, even if it is not explicitly stated.

The IC Title was introduced in September 1979. Between the 1970s and the 1980s, there were 11 people who won the championship for the first time. Of those 11 people, one of them had already been a world champion prior to being Intercontinental Champ and two of them went on to become world champions later. That’s 9% of IC Champions previously having been world champions and 18.2% going on to be world champions.

In the 1990s, 27 people held the Intercontinental Title for the first time. Of those individuals, none had previously been a world champion and eight went on to become a world champion at a later stage of their careers, which equates to 29.6%.

The 2000s were similar to the 1990s in terms of number of first-time IC Champs, with 26 in total. However, in that decade, there was a spike in prior world champions who later became IC champions for the first time. There were five such individuals in the 00’s, accounting for 19.2% of first-time Intercontinental Champions. On the flip side, there were 10 first-time IC titeholders who later held word titles, which is 38.5%.

That brings us to the 2010s. There were only 19 new Intercontinental champions that decade, with three (or 15.8%) having been prior world champions. Six of those 19 were later world champions, equating to 31.6%.

Of course, we currently find ourselves in the 2020s. The decade has not been ongoing long enough for us to gather the same sort of data that we have about the prior decades, but, for the sake of completeness, we have had seven first-time Intercontinental Champions this decade so far, with one having been a prior world champion and one being a later world champion. That’s 14.3% in each instance.

Again, there have been 89 IC champs in the history of the belt. Only 10 of those were world champions prior to being IC champion, which is 11.2%. Of the 89, only 27 have become world champions later, which is 30.3%.

Moving on to another component of Elway’s question, how many world champions have there been who did not win the Intercontinental Title on their way to the top of the mountain?

Preliminarily, let’s make it clear that by “world title” in this context, I am referring to only three championships: the original/historic WWE Title, the “World Heavyweight Title” that was represented by the Big Gold Belt beginning in 2002, and the WWE Universal Title. Counting all those belts, there have been 38 men who became world champions without ever having held the Intercontinental Title.

So, what can we take away from all this?

Winning the Intercontinental Championship isn’t always a stepping stone to being a world champion. In fact, more people have won a world title without winning the Intercontinental Title than have won a world title after winning the Intercontinental Title.

Also, Elway is not really correct that, in modern wrestling, fewer wrestlers win a world title after winning an Intercontinental Title. In the 1980s, only 18.2% of IC Champs became world champs at some point later in their career. Int he 1990s, that increased to 29.6%. In the 2000s, the percentage increased again to 38.5%. Admittedly, the number did decrease to 31.6% in the 2010s, but I would call that in line with the general trend as opposed to being a sharp decline. I do think that one of the reasons the IC Title feels less like a belt for up-and-comers than it used to is because the 2000s and 2010s saw a rise in former world champions who took a step back and became Intercontinental Champion, something that had happened only once from the belt’s introduction in 1979 through the end of 1999.

We’ll return in seven-ish days, and, as always, you can contribute your questions by emailing [email protected]. You can also leave questions in the comments below, but please note that I do not monitor the comments as closely as I do the email account, so emailing is the better way to get things answered.