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Friday, August 12, 2016

DVDVR Puerto Rico 80s Set: Disc 1: Ric Flair vs Carlos Colon (10/16/82)

Disc 1, Match 3: Ric Flair vs Carlos Colon (10/16/82)

I have a bit of a hard time going back to longer Flair matches after watching Bockwinkel. Therefore, I may not be completely fair with this. There are a few things I want to talk about and they don't do the whole of the match justice, so let me try to get to focus on the big picture first.

This was incredibly heated. I think Colon looked excellent in it. His early armwork was varied and aggressive. The fans responded perfectly to him pumping the arm in various hammerlocks and holds. Ritualistic, repetitive, crowd interaction is so huge and doing that (or the repeated pumphandle you see more in Portland) is an easy way to engage them. Was some of his spots with Flair as smooth as you'd get from other opponents? No, but they always recovered well. Nothing seemed flubbed. Flair, especially would be quick to throw in an extra punch on something like the late Sleeper attempt when he didn't quite get around him. It made everything seem grittier and better for the setting. You could tell they made multiple audibles on the finish, but that just made everything more chaotic and emotional.

As always, it's frustrating to watch 82 Flair and see the things he dropped from his act later on. Here, the two snake eyes style hotshots were just great and helped to cement a long-in-coming transition into heat. It was also a hugely appropriate use of the King of the Mountain to destroy Colon's momentum. Obviously, in this setting, he wasn't going to take very much of the match, so it was important they came up with a way to definitively let him take over, at least for a little while, to build towards a comeback and finish.

Unsurprisingly, my biggest issue with the match was the arm work. It wasn't that Flair didn't sell it between holds as well as someone like Bockwinkel would have. It wasn't JUST that, at least. You can't criticize someone for something no one does. People do sell early matwork better, though, especially when going in and out of it. Once or twice Flair would give a little bit of lip service to it, and that was nice, but it wasn't hardly enough. In this match, it was a problem because it took up so much time, sure, but it was a bigger problem because it created a massive inconsistency. Flair spent ten minutes barely selling an arm as Colon went every which way on it. Then, after one elbow drop to the leg, he spent the rest of the match, more or less, selling his leg. Was that a more important part of the match? Sure, but the inconsistency between the two was frustrating. It took me out of the match because the leg selling didn't feel at all earned in comparison to the ten minutes of offense on the arm we'd just seen that Flair didn't really feel like selling.

Two working theories: The first is that Flair simply cares more about selling the leg because that builds into his own offense. He has every interest in making even a few seconds of a figure four reversal matter more because that's his move. It also allows him to do things more visually and take bumps, like the top rope one more believably. That'd interest him more as well. The second is simply that Flair cares far more about the back half of a match than the first. His selling (and by selling, I mean the broader sense of reacting to things) was perfect during the comeback, highlighted by the sunset flip attempt by Colon and his massive desperation in trying to reach the ropes to prevent it or even in Colon starting to punch back and Flair pressing his body against him in the corner to try to stop it. Both attempts were futile but they made the moment seem like so much more. That's valid, but it's not necessarily mutually exclusive. It's the difference between a match that has clear, unrelated act breaks, and one that builds from beginning to end. This was far more the former than the latter. This was still a very good match. I just think it could have been better.

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