Barry Windham and Ric Flair have done it all together, and for the second time, the two men appear on the list of Dave Meltzer’s Five Star classics. This time we are in 1987 and the match is taking place at the Crockett Cup for the World Title.
Even more than the last Windham vs. Flair match, this feels like Ric at the peak of his powers. He’s wooing and strutting all over the place and yet whenever Windham shows fire he instantly backs into the corner, desperate to stay away from those blows. It means that when Barry finally gets going, you are behind him every step of the way. To the extent that there’s a moment when he slips out of a wristlock, and you can hear the crowd pop for it.
When Flair takes control, he is at his preening best. Stalking Windham around the ring and almost treating him with contempt as he does everything in his power to keep that control. It’s that cheating that eventually comes back to bite him as the ref catches Flair holding onto the ropes during the Figure Four and forces him to break the hold. It’s an incredibly simple piece of storytelling, but it is executed wonderfully.
I’ve spoken a lot over these two articles about Flair the heel, so I think it’s only fair to give some credit to Barry the babyface. Windham stands out in these matches for the fire he shows. When he’s selling it’s like every blow he receives is the hardest one yet, and when he’s on offence, it feels like he is throwing everything at Flair. There’s a moment where he misses a move off the top that perfectly encapsulates both those aspects. He flies through the air desperately only to crash to the mat with a bang.
This match might also be unique in that it is one of the few matches where Flair actually hits a move off the top rope. Sure, Windham rolls through from the crossbody but Flair even managing to get to the point where he leaps is an unusual sight.
The finish comes after Windham has thrown everything at Flair. Figure Fours, a dropkick from the top and a huge suplex aren’t enough as Flair’s foot snakes out onto the ropes or he kicks out at the last second. Of course, the dirtiest player in the game always has a plan and when Windham goes for a roll up he rolls through and grabs himself some tights for the win.
Like many of the matches we’ve covered so far, I doubt this would be a five-star fight today. Wrestling has moved on and this rather simple style has been left behind. However, there is no questioning the psychology on show here. It’s the crafty heel versus the fiery babyface and that formula works. It works even better when you one of the greatest heels of all time in the ring with a bloody brilliant face up against him.