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What If: ...The WWF Signs Ric Flair in 1988


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#1 Loss

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Posted 28 May 2017 - 06:49 PM

Here's a big one to ponder. A condition of JCP selling to Turner was that Flair would be around. Flair came close to signing with the WWF during this time, which would have changed wrestling history in many ways. Just a few things to ponder among many:

 

- Would the WWF have ended up with a monopoly as early as 1988? How does wrestling history change if WCW never exists?

- Would JCP have been able to sell off to TBS at all, possibly at lesser value?

 

All of these questions assume there is a monopoly at this point:

- What are the big money matches and just how big money are they? Hogan-Flair, Savage-Flair, Hogan-Savage vs Sting-Luger, Hogan-Luger, Warrior-Sting, Warrior-Luger, Road Warriors-Demolition, Hogan-Savage vs Flair-Windham, Hogan-Sting, and probably others I haven't even thought of.

- How does Hogan's career arc change? How does Flair's career arc change? Sting's? Luger's? Savage's? Ultimate Warrior's? 

- Who does the WWF decide they have no place for and/or the talent has no interest in working for? Do Corny and the MX end up working Memphis, Dallas and Continental, for example?

- Does the WWF still take Dusty? Does Dusty still want to go?

 

These questions assume there is no monopoly and that TBS still purchases JCP:

- How does WCW build up without Flair and make it work, recognizing that the WCW audience was different than the WWF audience? Who came closest to fitting the bill in terms of being a hardcore darling, great worker as a heel or babyface and strong promo that could fill that role?

- Would a Flair run in 1988-1989 be much different than a Flair run in 1991-1992?



#2 Jmare007

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Posted 28 May 2017 - 06:52 PM

with all these what if threads popping up, why not create a subforum?



#3 Strummer

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Posted 28 May 2017 - 08:34 PM

I swear I remember seeing that Flair was supposed to be Dibiase's protege who would try to dress and act like Ted but ultimately keep letting him down that would lead to Flair turning face. If so Flair absolutely made the right choice to stay with the NWA. I believe he was going to be Brother Love's guest at Summerslam 88 before facing Savage.

Honestly I see it being worse than the 91-93 run. Business was still strong so Vince probably would be settling scores and I could see Flair being cannon fodder for the top guys before going permanently to the mid card. The gimmick they had planned for him sort of backs that up. NWA would have struggled with no one to pass the torch to Sting or Luger. Just a guess but I bet they would would have gone with Windham in the top heel spot especially if .Dusty stayed

#4 Mr. Lacelle

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Posted 29 May 2017 - 01:00 AM

Vince was a fan of Flair, Dibiase's bodyguard was not named Richard & there was no Nature Boy spoof like an African Dream. Check out Vince's interview around this time (it was the cover story of Wrestling 88 I think)when asked about Flair he said he was a helluva talent & he'd love to have him. Heck when he did come in not much was changed & look at all the guys who's past was ignored & were given new gimmicks. Flair & LOD were the only acts that come to mind.

#5 Mr. Lacelle

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Posted 29 May 2017 - 01:07 AM

I see Flair taking Ted's role as the main heel that could always be plugged high on the cards after the initial push.

#6 supersonic

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Posted 29 May 2017 - 05:35 AM

Flair defending the WWF Title in the dream match against Hogan @ WM6? We know how much Toronto loves Hogan so imagine that atmosphere. Warrior vs. Savage underneath in this scenario.

#7 Magnum Milano

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Posted 29 May 2017 - 06:42 AM

with all these what if threads popping up, why not create a subforum?


Surely it falls under 'Armchair Booking' anyway?

#8 JerryvonKramer

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Posted 29 May 2017 - 07:15 AM

People seem to have overlooked the fact that Arn and Tully were there in 88/89 and so you could have the amazing prospect of Bobby Herman leading a Four Horsemen with Ted DiBiase in the 4th slot.

If nothing else, the prospect of a Survivor Series against Hogan, Savage, Warrior, and Jake would have been something.

#9 Loss

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Posted 29 May 2017 - 09:04 AM

I'd like to explore the bigger questions of no WCW ever existing and a monopoly as early as 1988 too. I know it's hard to imagine, but how does it change wrestling?



#10 ...TG

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Posted 29 May 2017 - 10:58 AM

I'd like to explore the bigger questions of no WCW ever existing and a monopoly as early as 1988 too. I know it's hard to imagine, but how does it change wrestling?

 

In 1988, does TBS need the viewers that JCP wrestling brought? If not, and they walk away from wrestling, there is an opportunity for another cable station to pick that audience up. But do they just treat it like ESPN treated the AWA/Global, as filler programming?  Or would they invest significant cash to try to get the promotion up if not a WWF challenger, then at least to a TNA level (running a regular house show schedule and semi-regular PPV's)? 

 

My guess would be that there would be several cable stations that would try to grab the JCP audience and still a few territories that produced weekly TV that could fill a time slot - Memphis, Continental, World Class, maybe even Portland - all of which were distinctive enough from WWF that it could get a portion of the wrestling audience that wanted a "traditional"/non-WWF product. And also there's a lot of ex-JCP talent floating around that someone (Bill Watts? Jim Ross? one of the Crocketts?) could try to re-form JCP on a drastically scaled-down basis. So if there are three or four weekly wrestling cable shows trying to grab up the JCP audience, that almost certainly ensures that none of those get popular enough that there is ever a serious WWF challenger. How many of these shows would survive into the 90s? If the companies are well-run & well-booked and stay in their distinct geographic areas, indefinitely - hell, Portland and the AWA lasted until 1991, the USWA lasted until 1997 with WCW as a 2nd national company. The danger for these companies (unless they try to go "national") isn't from WWF, it's from each other - poaching talent/towns from each other to go national and/or become the de facto #2. 

 

How would this change WWF? Theoretically, leaving these "territories" be would be good for them and the talent - essentially 2-3 developmental territories they don't have to pay for, and a (maybe) decent-paying place discarded WWF talent can land. But this is Vince we're talking about, and his need to conquer all of pro wrestling would probably cause him to crush them unmercifully.



#11 supersonic

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Posted 29 May 2017 - 11:00 AM

If Heyman doesn't sign with WWF, we're looking at ECW starting its peak legacy sooner I imagine. So many talents available to book in a monopoly. Like the indies got to thrive in the 2000s, think of all the possible talent snubbed by WWF that ECW can use - Foley, Benoit, Austin, Pillman all for much longer to be featured in major storylines. If Tully gets fired, there you go for an established star attraction.

#12 C.S.

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Posted 29 May 2017 - 03:57 PM

I'd like to explore the bigger questions of no WCW ever existing and a monopoly as early as 1988 too. I know it's hard to imagine, but how does it change wrestling?

 

If that happened, WWF would have still had a disastrous '94-'95, but without WCW Nitro there to give them a kick in the pants, wrestling spirals downward and becomes another obscure curiosity like roller derby. There is no late-'90s comeback and none of what we have now. ECW would have served a niche but that would have been the extent of it.



#13 sek69

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Posted 29 May 2017 - 04:08 PM

In 1988 JCP was still a very big part of TBS's audience at the time. There was really nothing much on the channel at that time other than Braves and Hawks games. Most of the other programming was cartoons and syndicated shows from the 60s and 70s. 



#14 Migs

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Posted 29 May 2017 - 07:36 PM

I wonder if this ends up working out better for JCP. As noted above, Turner possibly still buys it because he needs the programming. With Flair gone, Sting and Luger shoot up the card more quickly, without Flair to hold them back. (I'm assuming they at least convince Flair to put over Luger on the way out, although given what happened in 1991, maybe not.) Sting especially has an interesting shot at being a bigger deal, because his push precedes the Ultimate Warrior's. This might only work if Dusty still goes, but I think that's likely. 



#15 sek69

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Posted 29 May 2017 - 07:45 PM

With Flair gone, Dusty probably stays, which might not sound like the greatest result but perhaps without the ongoing power struggles more guys end up getting elevated without being turned into potential political pawns.  What's really interesting is with Flair leaving on less harsh terms there wouldn't be the backlash from him getting fired in 1991, which would make WCW not in a position to want to bring in Hogan when they did to turn things around. Say what you will on what killed WCW, but IMO the ball was set rolling by bringing in Hogan and catering to his every whim past the point where it made sense to do so. So with a potentially more stable environment, maybe Bischoff doesn't end up in charge to plant the seeds of the downfall.

 

Of course the flaw in that scenario is that Flair wasn't really a fit for WWF at that time when he did go, so I don't know if arriving a few years earlier would have made too much of a difference. If he leaves for a year or two and goes back to WCW, then history probably plays out like it did only with things happening a little sooner. 



#16 ohtani's jacket

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Posted 30 May 2017 - 05:25 AM

What happens if Flair signs with Vince in '88? We don't get the Steamboat matches, the feud with Funk or the Luger series. We also don't get any WWF matches better than the ones DiBiase had from '88 to '90, or Savage or Tito or Hennig or Hart. In other words, we lose. 



#17 Cox

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Posted 30 May 2017 - 10:17 AM

Without 1989, that also hurts Flair's claim as the best wrestler of all time. It might also hurt Funk's claim as well. GWE on this board turns out completely different!



#18 WingedEagle

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Posted 30 May 2017 - 10:21 AM

Is there any reason to think Turner buys Crockett without Flair in the picture?  If we assume for a moment the answer is no, what other promotion have a chance of making any impression on TV?  Watts is out of the picture by this point -- can he quickly come up with a compelling proposal for Turner to counter program Titan?  Does Turner care enough about ceding the market to Vince that he even entertains other options?  

 

Curious how territories develop and die off absent WCW, and whether ECW ever takes off, and in what form.



#19 Migs

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Posted 30 May 2017 - 01:02 PM

Is there any reason to think Turner buys Crockett without Flair in the picture?  If we assume for a moment the answer is no, what other promotion have a chance of making any impression on TV?  Watts is out of the picture by this point -- can he quickly come up with a compelling proposal for Turner to counter program Titan?  Does Turner care enough about ceding the market to Vince that he even entertains other options?  

 

Curious how territories develop and die off absent WCW, and whether ECW ever takes off, and in what form.

 

Pretty much every other major promoter got a shot at national TV in some form in the 80s. I just don't see any of them being successful in 1988 (you can create other counterfactuals for periods earlier in the 80s). Verne, Fritz, Jerry Jarrett... they're all going to be disasters.

 

The idea of Watts coming in is sort of interesting, but I just don't think his philosophy works nationally, or in the Turner corporate structure, based on how badly things went in 1992. 



#20 WingedEagle

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Posted 30 May 2017 - 02:40 PM

 

Is there any reason to think Turner buys Crockett without Flair in the picture?  If we assume for a moment the answer is no, what other promotion have a chance of making any impression on TV?  Watts is out of the picture by this point -- can he quickly come up with a compelling proposal for Turner to counter program Titan?  Does Turner care enough about ceding the market to Vince that he even entertains other options?  

 

Curious how territories develop and die off absent WCW, and whether ECW ever takes off, and in what form.

 

Pretty much every other major promoter got a shot at national TV in some form in the 80s. I just don't see any of them being successful in 1988 (you can create other counterfactuals for periods earlier in the 80s). Verne, Fritz, Jerry Jarrett... they're all going to be disasters.

 

The idea of Watts coming in is sort of interesting, but I just don't think his philosophy works nationally, or in the Turner corporate structure, based on how badly things went in 1992. 

 

 

Many had an opportunity in the 80s, but who hadn't flamed out by this point?  I believe the AWA was still on ESPN, but that wasn't going to list.  Not sure who else has the product, presentation and relationships to turn up a fresh opportunity.






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