Originally reviewed here.
Greensboro, North Carolina
March 27, 1988
Ric Flair© vs. Sting [NWA World Heavyweight Championship]
JJ Dillon was locked in a cage suspended above the ring.
Sting dominated for a long time, as you would expect. For fifteen minutes, Flair basically had no offense whatsoever. Sting used a headlock and a bearhug to do the damage. Flair finally came back after avoiding an elbow drop and then hitting an inverted Manhattan Drop. Flair was then in control for a while. He was targeting the back somewhat. Sting randomly started to come back, but he crashed into a ringpost at one point after wildly going for a lariat. Flair went back to work, and now he was targeting the left arm that Sting just injured. That did not last long though, as Sting started to come back fairly quickly. He applied the Scorpion Deathlock, but Flair got to the ropes. 20 minutes remaining in the time limit. Sting hit a very sloppy diving crossbody for a nearfall. Flair went after Sting’s left leg. He eventually applied the figure four. Sting Hulked Up and then reversed the pressure. Flair went to suplex Sting to the floor, but Sting reversed it into a suplex of his own. Flair came right back, but Sting then drove Flair’s crotch into a ringpost. Sting applied the figure four. Flair survived that, but Sting had all the momentum. Sting proceeded to target the now-injured right leg. With only a few minutes remain, Sting had Flair metaphorically and literally on the ropes. Flair avoided the Stinger Splash, and Sting crashed to the floor. Flair tried to use the ropes for a pin, but the ref saw it. Sting rolled through a Flair crossbody for a nearfall. Sting started no-selling everything with one minute left (logic). STINGER SPLASH! Scorpion Deathlock! The time limit expired before Flair tapped out.
I actually enjoyed this match more than I thought I would. They managed to keep up a great pace for nearly the entire match, and the crowd was hot throughout (and arguably peaked at the end). The match was compelling the great majority of the time, exciting when it needed to be and produced great drama towards the end. It is unquestionably a great match. There are a couple of things that hold it back from being an all-time great one in my eyes though.
Instead of focusing on one clear strategy, Flair started and abandoned close to a half dozen tactics to put away Sting. Obviously, you can argue this accomplished making Sting look strong for surviving so many tactics, but I thought it mostly just served to make Flair seem stupid for abandoning proven strategies. I can easily see this not bothering other people though, and it’s certainly not the end of the world. I also didn’t like Sting’s big no-sell spot at the end, but I recognize how over it was.
Match Rating: ****1/4