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Fair for Flair: a mini-series

Ric Flair GOAT

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#41 JerryvonKramer

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Posted 06 October 2015 - 12:33 AM

I watched a lot of Harley and for the most part that I've seen, he doesn't really work holds much period. Even in Japan. There are exceptions, like that Andre match on Classics and the ones jdw mentions, but a lot of the time he's a bomb worker. My observation was that he was much more likely to work offensively when he didn't have the belt. When he did have the belt, he's more likely to give the opponent the lion's share of the match, with the Backlund example being the extreme case.

When I say "modern style" by the way, I don't mean modern as in now, I mean the suplex / throw / spot orientated style of the 1980s, as opposed to the mat-heavy style of the 1950s, which kind of finished with Dory and Jack. I'd agree that Terry was better at working holds than Race or Flair, but his style was also more "modern", bump and move, than previous NWA champs. Dory had his share of bombs, but bumped around less, the emphasis in his matches is less on movement (which ironically gets him criticism from some of the exact same people who criticise Flair), Jack had a more amateur base, and does more takedowns than "bombs". Ray Stevens's bumping style is probably the missing link. From what I've seen Pat Patterson worked in a similar big bumping style too.

I guess jdw and I are on a similar if not identical page on this. I just disagree with the assumption (not necessarily made by him) that a more action, movement and spot orientated style necessarily means "less psychology". See also Part 1 of this series.

Incidentally, parts 3 and 4 coming. Probably will be posted tonight.

#42 Superstar Sleeze

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Posted 06 October 2015 - 06:15 PM

I definitely oversimplified. I meant he worked what would be considered a Japanese style with a focus on offense, but he added an emphasis on heel bumping that many Japanese workers don't have. The idea that Harley strongly influenced Japanese style is a really interesting point and I agree.

#43 Bigelow34

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Posted 06 October 2015 - 06:38 PM

I really enjoyed part one. It was a great discussion and just because there was no dissenting opinion doesn't make it a wasted exercise by any means. I was given a presentation on the greatness of Flair's psychology and left to digest it and decide whether I agree or not. It was a nice dissection into things you (or me, whatever) may not always think about when watching matches so I appreciated the discussion.

 

Just starting part two, will report back.



#44 thebrainfollower

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Posted 07 October 2015 - 10:05 AM

Let me pose a question to Jerry since he seems to regard Flair's WWF run (and the promos ARE amazing).   Given that you perceive two of Flair's big kayfabe strengths to be "you have to beat the champ" and "60 minute man", how would you have adjusted his in ring style at the START of his WWF run (when neither of those things applied)?

 

I use for example what I believe was Flair's 2nd televised match against Tito Santana at Royal Albert Hall.  This was just before the El Matador change.  Tito had not won a televised competitive match in well over a year (his last being a countout against Akeem).   He was clearly at or nearly at JTTS.  Yet despite that, Flair gave him 80% of the match and won on a fluke.  I saw this match (on Prime Time?) as a 12 year old and laughed, thinking "Hogan's gonna kill this loser".  

 

Anyway, what if anything, would you have changed in ring to make Flair's run a bigger hit?



#45 El-P

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Posted 07 October 2015 - 10:12 AM

Yet despite that, Flair gave him 80% of the match and won on a fluke. 

 

Come on, that's great psychology. Well. Nevermind. ;)



#46 Loss

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Posted 07 October 2015 - 11:55 AM

El-P, are you going to listen to the shows? If not, you're not allowed to post in here anymore. This is a thread not about Flair, it's about reactions to things said on the podcast about Flair. Brainfollower is engaging points made on the show, so he's fine.



#47 El-P

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Posted 07 October 2015 - 12:18 PM

Don't worry, I won't post here anymore.

Still, one clarification before I get the hell out : how do you know if I listened to the show or not ? Right. It's *impossible* to know (and it's not like I feel I have to justify myself either). I can make the exact same comment I just made whether of not I listened to the show.

 

Then again, you just made my point actually by saying this was not about Flair. Well indeed. That's what I thought too. That's why I'm happily getting out of this thread now.



#48 GOTNW

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Posted 07 October 2015 - 01:46 PM

I listened to like 20-30 minutes of this (maybe more? I don't remember) and then switched to the discussion about the japanese WON HOF candidates. A few comments:

 

1)Who was the podcast aimed at? I mean I totally understand if you just felt you wanted to talk about how great one of your all time favourites is but did anyone actually make an argument Flair isn't an all time great based on his lack of psychology that you think the podcast could sway? I mean if there's a bunch of folks here that have been around forever and have fully formed opinions on the guy, criticise him for these things yet rank him as a top-20 all time wrestler.

 

2)The discussion about strategy in Flair's matches was pretty ridiculous, seemed like the pretentious blabbering you get from HHH and Shawn Michaels about "great storytelling" and something Flair obviously put no thought into. Of course you can talk about impressions and explanations of his work. Being able to explain why and how something worked in the context of time is great but just because something is logical doesn't necessarily mean it's going to translate to great art.

 

3)As expected you brought up the matwork=psychology point which seems like a really lazy undermining of Bockwinkel's fans but the idea someone isn't a worker with good psychology because they don't use x amount of matwork is mind boggling in the first place.

 

4)Praising Flair's "cardiovascular conditioning" or however it was phrased as unmatched in wrestling history is also far-fetched. You compared Flair to the All Japan guys and said they didn't work at the same pace. That may be true, but that's ignoring 1)them taking much bigger and more visually impressive bumps 2)moving at a higher speed than Flair and using spots that require more strenght 3)All Japan matches weren't workrate sprints. There are also whole genres based on this (joshi, lucharesu) so I can't but into the idea Flair was the best workrate wrestler ever.



#49 Superstar Sleeze

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Posted 07 October 2015 - 02:34 PM

I listened to like 20-30 minutes of this (maybe more? I don't remember) and then switched to the discussion about the japanese WON HOF candidates. A few comments:

 

1)Who was the podcast aimed at? I mean I totally understand if you just felt you wanted to talk about how great one of your all time favourites is but did anyone actually make an argument Flair isn't an all time great based on his lack of psychology that you think the podcast could sway? I mean if there's a bunch of folks here that have been around forever and have fully formed opinions on the guy, criticise him for these things yet rank him as a top-20 all time wrestler.

 

2)The discussion about strategy in Flair's matches was pretty ridiculous, seemed like the pretentious blabbering you get from HHH and Shawn Michaels about "great storytelling" and something Flair obviously put no thought into. Of course you can talk about impressions and explanations of his work. Being able to explain why and how something worked in the context of time is great but just because something is logical doesn't necessarily mean it's going to translate to great art.

 

3)As expected you brought up the matwork=psychology point which seems like a really lazy undermining of Bockwinkel's fans but the idea someone isn't a worker with good psychology because they don't use x amount of matwork is mind boggling in the first place.

 

4)Praising Flair's "cardiovascular conditioning" or however it was phrased as unmatched in wrestling history is also far-fetched. You compared Flair to the All Japan guys and said they didn't work at the same pace. That may be true, but that's ignoring 1)them taking much bigger and more visually impressive bumps 2)moving at a higher speed than Flair and using spots that require more strenght 3)All Japan matches weren't workrate sprints. There are also whole genres based on this (joshi, lucharesu) so I can't but into the idea Flair was the best workrate wrestler ever.

The podcast is aimed at people who think Ric Flair is an idiot savant of pro wrestling and had generally little to no psychology that he worked to get his shit in and basically forced highspots into his matches.

In your second point, you make two and maybe even three conflicting arguments. At one point, you are saying Flair put no thought into it. Then you are saying we were interpreting it like HHH or HBK and overreaching. Then you follow up with just because it is logical it is not entertaining. So was Flair being logical? Was he just accidentally being logical? What do HHH/HBK have to do with any of this? I have no clue what you are saying in that point.

 

Flair clearly put thought into his strategy otherwise why would he consistently do it just because he does not always articulate well does not mean he did think it out. His strategy was to break the rhythm of his opponents by going to the ropes, using short strikes, crowding his opponent in the corner and using other shortcuts. When the babyface succeeded overcoming this "perpetual motion" offense, he looked better for it and earned his shine/comeback. When Flair ultimately transitioned to heat, he was looked like a cheapshot artist increasing his own heat. By being able to explain it, it shows a strong grasp of heel psychology. This is not a HHH or HBK grandiose cinematic vision of pro wrestling. With a lot of dramatic pauses and overwrought moments. This is a quick-paced, real sports look at pro wrestling. So I don't get the HHH/HBK comparison at all.

 

I agree just because it is logical does not mean it is great art. Demolition matches are incredibly logical, but I think most of them fucking suck (sorry Kelly, I will be happier on TTBA).

 

I don't understand point 3. Bockwinkel is a great wrestler. I need to digest him more. Are you complaining that we perceive people to think limb selling/matwork = psychology?

 

Flair has far away the best cardio conditioning of any wrestler I have ever seen. Watch Clash VI and tell me that's basically not a 54 or 56 minute sprint. Flair's cardio is insane. The All Japan guys every rarely in SINGLES ever moved at higher speed than Flair. I could see your point in tags, not singles. Speed is not everything in terms of cardio. The Dragon Gate guys move fast, but to do it at Flair's level against a Luger or Kerry for 30-45 minutes. That's next level. 

 



#50 GOTNW

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Posted 07 October 2015 - 03:07 PM

 

In your second point, you make two and maybe even three conflicting arguments. At one point, you are saying Flair put no thought into it. Then you are saying we were interpreting it like HHH or HBK and overreaching. Then you follow up with just because it is logical it is not entertaining. So was Flair being logical? Was he just accidentally being logical? What do HHH/HBK have to do with any of this? I have no clue what you are saying in that point.

You're reading too much into it. That's where the storytelling comparison stems from. Yes, I said Flair put no thought into "strategy". I'm not saying Flair didn't put any thought into his matches, I'm saying he didn't put any thought into creating the illusion of strategy. It's a very simple and consistent argument.

 

Flair clearly put thought into his strategy otherwise why would he consistently do it just because he does not always articulate well does not mean he did think it out. His strategy was to break the rhythm of his opponents by going to the ropes, using short strikes, crowding his opponent in the corner and using other shortcuts. When the babyface succeeded overcoming this "perpetual motion" offense, he looked better for it and earned his shine/comeback. When Flair ultimately transitioned to heat, he was looked like a cheapshot artist increasing his own heat. By being able to explain it, it shows a strong grasp of heel psychology. This is not a HHH or HBK grandiose cinematic vision of pro wrestling. With a lot of dramatic pauses and overwrought moments. This is a quick-paced, real sports look at pro wrestling. So I don't get the HHH/HBK comparison at all.

That's just an analysis of the layout of Flair's matches. Your argument is good but your phrasing is ridiculous.

 

I don't understand point 3. Bockwinkel is a great wrestler. I need to digest him more. Are you complaining that we perceive people to think limb selling/matwork = psychology?

Yes.

 

Flair has far away the best cardio conditioning of any wrestler I have ever seen. Watch Clash VI and tell me that's basically not a 54 or 56 minute sprint. Flair's cardio is insane. The All Japan guys every rarely in SINGLES ever moved at higher speed than Flair. I could see your point in tags, not singles. Speed is not everything in terms of cardio. The Dragon Gate guys move fast, but to do it at Flair's level against a Luger or Kerry for 30-45 minutes. That's next level.

I watched a bunch of his matches vs the Von Erichs and his matches vs Luger (one you gave five stars and one Parv gave five stars) and I honestly can't come up with a better response other than "lol" I'm sorry. The Windham matches were more workrate-y but also largely uninspiring, even in that department. I just saw matches that went long. I'm sure I'll rewatch the Steamboat matches six years from now and offer something constructive regarding them.



#51 Childs

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Posted 07 October 2015 - 03:18 PM

Apologies for this stray thought, but Manami Toyota (whom I often dislike as a worker) displayed the most amazing cardio of any wrestler I've seen. I'd put Flair in the upper ranks with Kobashi, Danielson and some others.



#52 Dylan Waco

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Posted 07 October 2015 - 03:28 PM

I listened to part one and mostly enjoyed it even though there were objections I had throughout, and one much bigger principled objection that I won't go into right now.  

 

I will say that the strategy discussion sounded like a couple of PWI writers getting together and trying to organize their thoughts on how to approach an article dealing with Flair's talents in a kayfabe context.  I really enjoyed it, even if I left entirely convinced that the bulk of the argument was about what the hosts read into Flair's performances, and not Flair's intent.  



#53 WingedEagle

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Posted 07 October 2015 - 03:40 PM

Why does intent matter? 



#54 Dylan Waco

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Posted 07 October 2015 - 04:00 PM

It doesn't (necessarily).,

#55 jdw

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Posted 07 October 2015 - 05:53 PM

It does is one is projecting onto the performance, rather than being realistic about it.



#56 JerryvonKramer

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Posted 07 October 2015 - 06:15 PM

Listening to Flair on his show, there are times when he talks about work or working with other guys where he seems to show real awareness of psychology and strategy, but we only get glimpses because he tends to prefer to keep things more upbeat or gets onto a different track.

I was thinking listening to a recent one when he was throwing out his habitual hatred of working in Kansas going an hour with Rufus R. Jones or Bulldog Bob Brown whether any of those kinds of matches made tape. Might be interesting to sit and watch something like that. I think Flair sees the first duty as ensuring that the fans who paid money to come to see him are entertained and come away wanting to see him again. I also think, as I said somewhere (maybe on part 4, not yet uploaded), that that ability to go an hour with a total stiff can't be sold short. It's an asset and something only a handful of workers could do.

But against more skilled opponents you will see Flair break out other ideas. Someone mentioned the Undertaker in 92, Flair probably saw him as a stiff and gave him the Sting / Nikita treatment. But there are so many other opponents who don't get out into that match. And you know the one I mean.

Just seems a bit strange to assume that the intent is not there. How do you know the intent is there with Misawa or any other guy?

-----

Brain, you asked about WWF run in terms of work, and I think Flair was booked and worked very weak in that promotion. But pretty much all heels were. Even guys like DiBiase and Savage would squeak wins against the Koko B. Wares of this world, but WWF was a babyface company, where every heel was a bitch. Lawler worked the same way in 93.

Any heel that wasn't a monster was a chickenshit, and they didn't make an exception for Flair. Although you could say the Rumble win out him over pretty huge.

I have wondered if the reason they ended up programming him with Savage and then Bret is because Vince might have thought the average fan wouldn't have bought him as a legit threat to Hogan.

Whatever the case, I agree with you that in general he'd had his offense nerfed in WWF, and got his ass kicked a lot.

#57 thebrainfollower

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Posted 07 October 2015 - 08:28 PM

Hmmm not sure I agree with that.  They might squeak out a win but they took more than half the match.  Even against Hogan, Savage and Dibiase took more than half the match.



#58 thebrainfollower

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Posted 07 October 2015 - 08:30 PM

And Lawler in 93 was brought in as a joke that was gonna get crushed.  Flair was brought it as the heel GOAT and acted like a punk.  He failed to adapt to his role in ring.



#59 The Man in Blak

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Posted 08 October 2015 - 12:05 AM

Sean Waltman mentioned on the latest Austin podcast that he felt Flair was the greatest champion of all time, but he also felt that being the greatest champion was still a different category from being the greatest performer; I feel like that concept really plays into the discussion of Flair's idiosyncrasies in the first episode (and discussions about Flair's career as a whole).

 

I don't know that I buy Sleaze's "perpetual motion" argument as a satisfying explanation to some of these familiar spots, especially when you expand the parameters of the discussion to analyze his work within a larger context of his entire career. (How many times did those tactics still lead to Flair losing the match? Why did he continue to incorporate these spots later on in his career when he didn't have the same cardiovascular advantage over his opponents?)

 

That said, I think the discussion helped illuminate both why Flair was an incredibly effective champion (particularly in the territory days where those idiosyncrasies might not be so easily over-exposed) and why his capabilities as champion didn't necessarily guarantee a great match, even if it raised the baseline of most of his defenses to being "merely" good.



#60 funkdoc

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Posted 08 October 2015 - 11:37 AM

re: the cardio thing, i'll throw out tamura as potentially the best ever. but he's a shootstyle guy so he wouldn't be on parv's radar, which i totally understand.







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