Ric Flair v Terry Taylor (5/3/85)
Honestly, I wasn't really in the mood to be watching a 35 minute Flair match, but this was the next match on the disc I had sitting out and I'd have to watch it at some point if I'm gonna finish this project (because it's obviously vital that I do), so I saddled up and went for it. And I'm glad I did, because I thought it was really great. Flair is sporting initially, full of handshakes and clan wrestling. Terry outwrestles him and wins the early exchanges, spinning and rolling out of takedowns when Flair tries to ride his back. Flair throws a knee because he's getting frustrated, but then he offers up another handshake as an apology. This is still a gentleman's contest, and he acknowledges that he lost his temper a bit there. Terry accepts the handshake, but he keeps right on top of him and continues to win exchanges. I like Flair trying to maneuver Taylor's leg into position to hoist him up for the shinbreaker, and Terry constantly shaking him off by really grinding the headlock was cool as well. They really only come up for air to hit the ropes once, and of course it ends with Taylor back working the headlock. I'm not sure if there was a clip job in there somewhere, but I was shocked by the announcement that ten minutes had gone by, because it never felt like that at all. Flair kind of reaches up for a hair pull at one point, almost like it's a force of habit, but he's still in sportsman mode and pulls back. There are definitely signs of him getting ready to drop the nice guy nonsense and let loose now, but he even gives Taylor a clean break at a point in the match where he'd normally have slipped a shot in (I actually expected him to throw a chop or something). Flair strings off some offence with a couple hip tosses and a body slam, but Taylor comes back again so Flair starts a shoving match. That ends with him getting slapped and landing on his butt, then he hangs out the ropes for some breathing space. That basically rounds out the first fifteen minutes, and you know it'll only be so long before Flair gets too annoyed to keep allowing things to go this way. Sure enough he draws Taylor in and throws some chops and rabbit punches, then chucks him out to the floor. Flair gets surly as fuck for a bit after this and the strike exchanges are great, but pretty soon he starts begging off and drops the first Flair Flop. The Flop was actually pretty great here, because whether he intended for it to come off like this or he just wanted to get in a Flair Flop (don't doubt it's the latter, but it doesn't matter either way), it worked in drawing Taylor in so Flair could drill him in the guts with a knee (and Flair has great knees to the guts, which I'm pretty sure I've said a few times). Even though he's begging off and using Fergie to sneak in a cheapshot - Taylor throws a punch, Fergie grabs the arm, Flair goes "lower abdomen" while Fergie is distracted - he's not in full on "Aw god no, please no!" bitch mode. He actually comes across as a guy that'll use any and every trick he can, but when it comes down to it he'll genuinely kick your ass. Flair is fucking awesome after taking over, posting Taylor, clubbing him over the ropes and going after the arm for a few minutes. I really dig Flair arm work because he'll just punch a guy in the armpit and it always looks super nasty. He's also started yanking the hair and using the ropes now, so nice guy Flair has vanished. In a nice break from the norm, when Taylor comes back by reversing a whip into the corner, Flair doesn't go upside down like I figured he would and instead goes shoulder first, which leads to Taylor doing some brief revenge arm work (doesn't last long, but it was still cool). Flair goes to the sleeper, which Taylor eventually reverses into one of his own, and it all keeps with the theme of Taylor being Flair's equal and doing everything Flair can do. There's another great Flair cheapshot when he backpedals into the ropes then lunges at Taylor's stomach with a headbutt, which is another Flair spot I love. Last stretch is total Flair on the Ropes, so you know you get all the stock spots -- the slam off the top, the upside down turnbuckle bump, etc. You're wondering just how he'll be able to hang on, then...oh. That's how he'll hang on. Well, he IS the dirtiest player in the game. I don't even think my low expectations had anything to do with how much I liked this, because I was totally into it after only a few minutes and all of my reservations about a 35 minute match were quickly forgotten. I don't know who it was that wrote this about Flair or even where I read it, but it was something along the lines of "he never goes away long enough for us to miss him." That's something I can definitely relate to personally, but I think the fact I've watched barely any Flair in the last few years helped this a little. Either way, I dug it a ton and it's one of the best matches I've re-watched so far.