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Greatest Matches of All Time - Ric Flair vs Ricky Steamboat

This match took place in WCW on 20th February, 1989. It was the first of the three matches that made up their now legendary trilogy as they fought over the NWA Championship.

This match was presented as working class hero, Steamboat versus entitled private school educated elite, Ric Flair.

This match is an entertaining bout that shows of great wrestling from a different time in the industry. Dave Meltzer rated it as a five star match and Grappl users have rated it as 4.86 with 56 votes.

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Match Stats

It wasn't just a clash in backgrounds as Flair defended his championship against Steamboat, it was also a clash of styles and principles.

Steamboat wrestled a clean match based around impactful strikes and calculated risk. Flair preferred to take an short cut he could create and aimed to use submission to break down his opponent.

In the end the difference between these two men was tight. A 2% gap in offence dealt and neither man able to dominate for long. Ultimately, Steamboat would win via technique and timing as he used a well-place reversal to pin Flair.

This match was a relatively lengthy affair as both men proved a match for the other. The match ended up going 23 minutes and 14 seconds before Steamboat was able to earn the coveted NWA Championship.

This bout contained a plentiful 136 offensive manoeuvres; 67 from Steamboat and 69 from Flair. The pace of the match was a swift 5.8 offensive manoeuvres per minute. The majority of this comes from submission time. (5 seconds of submission time is counted as a manoeuvre, the equivalent of 1 strike).

This match was a titanic struggle for dominance, neither man was in control of their opponent for long. There were 68 tide changes, 2.9 per minute as the competitors exchanged reversals and pin attempts.

Flow of Offence and Tide Changes

Throughout the match, Steamboat was able to string together short bursts of offence but rarely more than a couple moves before Flair reversed or evaded. Flair on the other hand had one notable period of dominance as he punished his opponent with his famous Figure Four Leg Lock.

This match was notable for it's high rate or reversals and pin fall attempts as the two technically savvy wrestlers jostled for superiority. Hence the lack of larch accumulations of offence.

Flair proved his grappling and submission prowess in this match besting Steamboat in these categories. Whereas Steamboat bested Flair in striking ability, reversal ability and dives.

Flair's desperation to win was characterised by the fact he made 6 more pin attempts than Steamboat.

Flow of Offence - Periodised

Diving a bit deeper now, we see Steamboat was worn down by Flair's grinding offence over the course of the match but recovered to pick up the win. On the other hand Flair peaked before fading as Steamboat recovered.

The first five minutes of this match saw Steamboat repeatedly get the better of Flair and saw Flair get more and more frustrated as he was knocked down time and time again.

The second five saw a striking battle before Steamboat, again, took control via grapples and submission.

The third five saw more back and forth, a string of almost desperate pin attempts from Flair before he was able to cinch in the Figure Four.

This hold went into the fourth five before Steamboat was able to escape. Another strike-battle ensued before Flair took advantage again via dirty tricks before going for no fewer than 8 pin fall attempts. Many of these involved his feet on the ropes...

The last five minutes of the match saw a reversal of momentum. Steamboat started to land more strikes, took to the sky and eventually out-foxed Flair to pick up the win.

Time in Control of the Contest

The reversals came thick and fast in this match up! To be considered in control of your opponent, you have to land a series of strikes without reply or hit two big moves. This rarely happened.

Flair was able to disrupt Steamboat's momentum so much that the victor was only in control of his opponent for 57s! Less than 1 of the 23 minutes.

Flair on the other hand controlled Steamboat for a quarter of the match. He did gain this advantage, often, by nefarious means. A lot of this time was characterised by Flair subjecting Steamboat to submission holds.


This match contains one of the, if not the, best wrestlers of all time. Seeing him wrestle at his peak is an attraction in itself.

The action does hold the attention of a millennial, such as myself. There is enough story and theatrics alongside technical skill, so that the more advanced performances of today doesn't undermine it completely.


This is a good match, it was a great match in it's time. I enjoyed watching it. It was interesting, well-performed, lengthy and had a satisfying finish.

It made me want to watch the other two matches in the trilogy!



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