Tito Santana vs. “Nature Boy” Ric Flair
As we were coming out of Summerslam and beginning the build to the Survivor Series, we take a quick detour as we head across the pond for this special show being held at the Royal Albert Hall. It is always pretty cool when they do shows in these unique venues and England is typically hot for wrestling given how little the WWF goes over there, and with one of their home country guys being in a big spot on the show it gave them even more to be excited about. In addition, this was also the first major show for Ric Flair who had just debuted the previous month and had already caused many waves when he brought the NWA World Heavyweight Championship with him and declared himself the “Real World’s Champion”. It was good to have him here since many of the other big stars didn’t come for this show, but in a weird decision they have him face Santana here which wasn’t the worst choice since Santana is always solid though it would’ve been hotter to see him and Roddy Piper face off.
After weeks of teasing by Bobby Heenan, Flair made his debut on Prime Time in September and declared himself the “Real World’s Champion”, and he would constantly call out Hogan to face him though he would be called out by Piper. On the 9/28 Superstars, Flair was coming out for a match only to confront Piper at the announce table, and the two men would brawl and Vince would end up taking an inadvertent chair shot from Piper. Meanwhile, Santana would be taken off TV over the summer to recharge and beginning on 9/21, vignettes would air showing Santana being trained in bullfighting as he would be dubbed “El Matador”. Again, it was a pretty interesting decision to have Santana face Flair here and given that both would return for the battle royal that night, it would be interesting to see how far they would go.
Flair cuts a solid promo before the match and he was pretty hot as a heel as he still has the NWA Title with him, and Santana gets a good pop from the crowd as he is still in his old tights. The two men lock up to start with Flair backing Santana into the corner and he gives a clean break, and they lock up again with Santana backing Flair into the corner and he slaps him in the face. They lock up a third time with Santana hooking a headlock and he knocks Flair down as Flair rolls outside to regroup, and he returns to the ring and they lock up with Santana going back to the headlock as Flair escapes and they engage in a test of strength with Flair taking control. Santana fights to his feet and tries to overpower Flair who yanks Santana to the mat by his hair and he works on the arm, and he yanks Santana to the mat by his hair again and continues to work the arm as he yanks Santana to the mat by his hair again and he drives his knee into Santana’s face. Santana fights to his feet and Flair again yanks him to the mat by his hair as he continues to work the arm, and Flair again yanks Santana to the mat by his hair and Santana nips up as Flair begs off in the corner. They lock up with Flair going back to the arm only for Santana to get a shot in and he pounds on Flair in the corner, and he whips Flair into the other corner and hits a backdrop before hitting a pair of dropkicks. Flair falls to the mat and rolls outside to regroup as Santana goes after him and he rams Flair into the apron, and he rams Flair into the guardrail as Flair rakes the eyes and he pounds on Santana before ramming him into the guardrail. Flair rolls back into the ring and pulls Santana onto the apron as he drives the elbow into the back of his head, but Santana gets a shoulder in and hits a slingshot sunset flip for a two count as Flair gets a kick in and he hooks a headlock. Santana whips him off and hits a drop toehold before working on the leg as Flair grabs the rope to force a break, and he grabs Flair by the legs and hoists him up as he slams him to the mat and he drops an elbow on the knee. Flair begs off as Santana gets a shot in and he snaps Flair’s knee back before stomping on him in the corner, but Flair rakes the eyes only for Santana to pound on him as Flair trips him up and hooks a rollup while using the ropes for leverage for a two count. He pounds on Santana in the corner only for Santana to battle back and Flair hits an atomic drop, and he kicks at Santana and drops a knee on him for a two count before pounding on him in the corner. He whips Santana hard into the other corner before whipping him back into the other corner and he pounds on him, and he hits a snapmare and uses the ropes for leverage again for a two count as the two men trade blows with Santana taking control and he pounds on Flair in the corner. He whips Flair inside out in the other corner with Flair landing on the apron and Santana hits a clothesline before hitting a suplex back into the ring, and Flair begs off as Santana gets a kick in only for Flair to get a shot in. Santana blocks a hiptoss attempt and hooks a backslide for a two count as Flair rakes the eyes, and he pounds on Santana and knocks him down for a two count before hitting a back suplex. He hooks the Figure-4 on Santana and grabs the rope for leverage until Santana turns the hold around on him and Flair breaks it, and Flair stomps on Santana’s leg as Santana knocks him down and he rams his head into the mat. He knocks Flair over the top to the floor and goes outside himself as he hits a slam on the floor, and Santana rolls back into the ring only for Flair to trip him up and he pulls him back outside before pounding on him. Santana battles back as they trade blows with Santana taking control until Flair rakes the eyes, and he throws Santana back into the ring and goes up top only for Santana to grab him and toss him to the mat for a two count. Santana misses the elbow and Flair whips him into the corner only for Santana to hit a clothesline for a two count, and then he hits the flying forearm for a two count as Flair gets his foot on the rope. Flair gets a shot in and hooks a headlock as Santana whips him off and goes behind Flair before ramming him into the corner, and he rolls Flair up who rolls through and holds the tights which gets the three and he wins the match.
The match itself was pretty good as both men worked hard and put on a solid match though it seemed like it never hit the next gear. As I mentioned previously, Santana was an interesting opponent here for Flair even though Santana was still very solid in the ring, but it was clear that he was starting to slow down by this point while Flair was really hitting his stride by this point. Considering that they were competing in the battle royal later that night, the fact that they went 16 minutes was an interesting choice and again it just felt like they were in first gear for most of the match. Again, they would’ve been better off having Flair face Piper here and Santana could’ve still been in the battle royal, but this is still a solid win for Flair and the loss doesn’t hurt Santana that bad. The crowd was into the match and Santana, but are not happy when Flair wins. Flair gets the win over Santana and both men move on.
Final Grade: ***