Mike Johnson is on vacation this week. Here is his 2004 review of WWE's Ultimate Ric Flair DVD Collection. WHAT'S CAUSING ALL THIS?
I love the WWE Ultimate Ric Flair collection DVD. I realized that again last night as I looked through it, wanting to re-live some of the great moments from the Ricky Steamboat feud. I realized again that it will be near impossible for someone to come up with another DVD this great. It's more than watching something on your television. It's more like been picked up and transported back to the 1980s in a time machine.
Last night, I was back in front of my parents' couch at 6:05 PM Saturday evening with the cable TV on TBS, the Superstation and the home of the greatest wrestling then known to me, The National Wrestling Alliance. The wrestling, as it had so many times before, came to us (relatively speaking) from that tiny Techwood Drive studio in Atlanta, with Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone calling all the action as Ric Flair and Barry Windham wrestled Eddie Gilbert and his mystery partner "Oh my God, it...it's...Ricky Steamboat!
The Ultimate Ric Flair Collection is a 3 disc set which properly shows respect to one of the most endearing and loved professional wrestlers of the modern era. Broken down, there isn't a ton of WWE material on this DVD, which is ironic because when you look back at the career of Ric Flair, WWE has done more to honor the greatness of one of the best performers this sport has ever known, especially when compared to the company he to this day represents to most fans, WCW.
From the moment you open the packaging, chock full of classic photographs from Flair's career (right down to Jim Ross interviewing Flair in the late 1980s), you feel as if you are holding something special in your hands.
Ric Flair's career and great matches are represented here with tons of unedited in ring masterpieces. All the matches that were the raves of wrestling fans who appreciated the sport and athletic drama of the NWA are here. Starrcade '83 against Harley Race in a Steel Cage? Yep. Flair's 55 minute classic with Ricky Steamboat at Clash of the Champions 6? Check. The rematch from Wrestlewar '89 in Nashville? Yes, complete with the post-match angle with Terry Funk. Flair vs. Funk I Quit from The Clash of the Champions: NY Knockout? Right here, digitally remastered in all it's brutal glory. The welts on the bodies of Steamboat and Flair look almost ruby red from the raw and stiff back and forth chops. With the exception of some ring entrances being edited out, everything is here, complete with original graphics and commentary. It's an absolute joy to watch. If you grew up watching Ric Flair, this is a wrestling wet dream. If you want to learn about the true Ric Flair, you are (Whoo!) â€œabout to go to school."
Now most fans would be happy with just having these classic Flair matches on DVD. The WWE's production team goes above and beyond the call of duty as it is book ended with amazingly edited introductory pieces on all of the matches, featuring shoot comments from Flair and clips of matches (including the dramatic end of the first Sting vs. Flair title match from Clash of the Champions I, which still holds up today.) Flair comments on his time in WWF, his feelings on Sting, why Ricky Steamboat was the greatest babyface ever, the first Starrcade and tons more.
When it comes time for Flair to talk about moving on to the WWF in 1992, he discusses his poor relationship with then-WCW head Jim Herd. When we go to old Flair interviews talking about his mansion, more recent footage from Flair's home is spliced in. Dozens of interviews and matches and classic moments parade across this DVD, all looking bright and majestic compared to the aging videotapes we all have coveted in our closets and basements. It's simply fascinating material.
The DVDs are bursting with extra footage. Beyond 8 Easter Eggs on the discs, click on chapters and choose one; you'll find numerous angles, interviews and even matches waiting for you to enjoy. The Flair-Windham 45 minute classic from Worldwide Wrestling is complimented with another Flair vs. Windham match from a week earlier where The Four Horsemen, Dusty Rhodes, and The Rock N' Roll Express all surround the ring with predictable results as well as promos from both men building up matches. Forget a tribute to Flair. With Garvin, Dick Slater, Bob Orton, Steamboat, The Horsemen, Jim Ross, Harley Race, and even Bob Caudle showing up, this DVD ends up a tribute to old school wrestling as much as it does one for Ric Flair.
I AM THE REAL WORLD CHAMPION
Flair's jaunt to the World Wrestling Federation is well represented in the third disc of the collection, complete with his masterful Royal Rumble performance in 1992. Flair recounts his run in the company (oddly enough not mentioning his house show run with Hulk Hogan, but perhaps that's being saved for a later release) and the extras are filled with his angles proclaiming to be the true World champion (which in 1992 was the truth as far as most hardcore wrestling fans were concerned), his debut appearance on TV, a brawl with Roddy Piper that sees Vince McMahon clobbered with a chair nearly 6 years before he ever heard the words â€œStone Cold Stunner" and even Flair's 1976 WWWF debut in Madison Square Garden. The infamous celebration held for Flair in Greensboro is here as well, and it doesn't disappoint. The WWE Confidential pieces on Flair's plane crash and life as a member of the Four Horsemen give a nice added feel to the disc as well.
While the collector in all of us can come up with things we love to have seen included, I seriously doubt anyone will be disappointed with the money they plunk down for this set.
DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER...AND SO IS RIC FLAIR
Not to mention his DVD collection. If you are a true fan of professional wrestling, you'll want this in your collection as soon as humanely possible.
The Ultimate Ric Flair Collection can be ordered now in the PWInsider.com Superstore.
Mike Johnson can be reached at Mike@PWInsider.com.