Hello everyone and welcome to my final article on 1989. In this special piece, we will take a look back at some of the best matches in both the WWF and NWA/WCW. First of all, I will mention the top five matches for each company, followed by an overall top five list for both companies overall. After that, we will see who were the wrestlers in both company (followed by overall, much like with the matches) that got more points. This will be according to the point system I use on every show, which you can see here.
Before starting, I have one last announcement regarding the point system. I thought it would be fair to award points to the wrestlers involved in the top five matches of the year, so I will. Here’s how it will be done: the wrestlers involved in the 5th best match of their particulary company get 1 point, those in the 4th best get 2 points, those in the 3rd best get 3 points, those in the 2nd best get 4 points, and those in the best match of the year will get 5 points. As for the overall list (both companies put together), the points will double – meaning the participants in the 5th best match will get 2 points, and so on. Let’s start the top matches list with the World Wrestling Federation.
TOP FIVE WWF MATCHES IN 1989
5) Brain Busters vs. Demolition – WWF World Tag Team Championship (Saturday Night’s Main Event, July 29th)
After a really long feud with the Powers of Pain that was never that good or memorable to begin with, Demolition needed something fresh in order to get back some momentum. That would happen on the edition of SNME right after WrestleMania (the same one that saw Hogan and Bossman battle inside the cage), a match that was won by the Brain Busters by DQ, setting up a 2-out-of-3-falls rematch at the July edition. The two teams delivered a very good – not to mention historic – bout, which saw Demolition’s long reign finally come to an end at the hands of the Heenan family members. The match told a very good story of the heels cutting the ring in half in classic heel tag wrestling fashion, which got Demolition more and more upset to the point where the Brain Busters were able to walk away with the belts. Good way to kickoff our list. (Rating: ***1/4)
4) Brain Busters vs. The Hart Foundation (SummerSlam)
Look, here they are again! This shows how, quietly, Anderson and Blanchard were one of the highlights of the Federation. Bobby Heenan was able to make this a non-title match since the contract was signed before July 28th, the date when the Brain Busters dethroned Demolition to capture the tag titles. Despite the titles not being on the line, the two teams put on one of the best matches on that year’s SummerSlam. Even though they did miss the peak of the match by a while (they went 16 minutes), there is no denying the great tag team work as well as the technical finesse in this bout. (Rating: ***1/4)
3) Rick Rude vs. The Ultimate Warrior – WWF Intercontinental Championship (SummerSlam)
One of the reasons why I said the match in the prior entry was one of the best at that year’s SummerSlam, it’s because this match exists! Having already been in a really good match earlier that year at WrestleMania, Warrior had his rematch for the IC title at this show. The two managed to top their ‘Mania match while Warrior got back his belt, thanks to a distraction by Roddy Piper that would start one of the best feuds of that whole year, full of great interactions between Piper and Bobby Heenan on episodes of Prime Time Wrestling. (Rating: ***1/2)
2) Mr. Perfect vs. Bret Hart (Prime Time Wrestling Nov. 6th)
It’s now time to take a quick stop in Hidden Gem City. Here is a match that was not reviewed here on the blog, between two of the finest and most determined young wrestlers in the Federation. Curt ‘Mr. Perfect’ Hennig and Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart went at it on a random episode of Prime Time in the weeks leading up to Survivor Series, and they came close to putting on the best WWF match of that year. In what was a great showcase of their talents and a preview of what these two would do on bigger stages down the road (SummerSlam 1991, King of the Ring 1993), Curt came out on top and extended his perfect record. (Rating: ***3/4)
1) Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage – WWF Championship (WrestleMania V)
At the end of the day, when people think of 1989 WWF, this is the match that always comes to mind first. Featuring one of the best and most dramatic build-ups in the entire history of the business and the sport (still to this day), the two former Mega Powers arrived at Trump Plaza and put on a bout for the ages. With Elizabeth playing a great role and helping the participants tell an even better and more emotional story, she was helpful in making this match #1 as well. Savage was a superb douchebag throughout the whole main-event, playing the antagonist role as well as anyone ever did against the Hulkster. The result was a massive box office success along with a great match, while Hogan won his second WWF Championship. (Rating: ****)
TOP FIVE NWA MATCHES IN 1989
5) Ric Flair vs. Terry Funk – NWA World Heavyweight Championship (The Great American Bash)
Once the feud with Steamboat came to an end, which we will (spoiler!) cover up later in this list, Terry Funk made his presence felt by giving the champ a piledriver on top of a table. That took Flair out for close to a month due to a broken neck, and turned Flair babyface. Flair naturally came back looking for revenge, and he himself gave Funk a title match just so he could legally get his hands on the Funker. That match turned out to be painful for both wrestlers, with Funk obviously going after Flair’s previously broken neck, only for Flair to retaliate and hit several consecutive piledrivers during his comeback before retaining the gold with a sweet pinning reversal sequence. (Rating: ****1/2)
4) Ric Flair vs. Terry Funk – I Quit Match (Clash of the Champions IX)
Now comes the difficult part, as these next four matches are legit four of the greatest matches of all time, personally. So it will tough for me to rank them. I will start with the I Quit match, simply because it was non-title… and it had to be one of them!! With the gold not up for grabs as I already mentioned, the two made up for it by each promising to raise the winner’s hand, with Flair even saying he’d forfeit the gold if he lost. In what was an ugly affair (in a good way) that saw Funk once again viciously going after Flair’s neck, perfect callbacks particularly the piledriver through the table spot that started the whole rivalry in the first place, Gary Hart getting paranoid over Funk losing and starting to turn on him, the story was simply done to perfection. Flair was able to turn things around and win with the figure four, while Funk turned babyface after the match after his humiliated manager Gary attacked him. Funk shook Flair’s hand as promised, and this spectacular feud was done – much like Funk’s wrestling career. Well, kinda! (Rating: *****)
3) Ricky Steamboat vs. Ric Flair – NWA World Heavyweight Championship (WrestleWar)
Once again, I have no idea why this match is in third place and not higher, but one of them had to be here! In what would be their and final meeting of the epic trilogy, then-champion Ricky Steamboat and challenger Ric Flair put on another beautiful classic match. Their original rematch at the previous Clash of the Champions saw Steamboat controversially pin Flair in the last fall, hence the need for judges at ringside in this final encounter. In what was an intense, physical, fast-paced technical affair like their other two matches, Flair captured the World title back. And then came the legendary angle with the Funker, who broke Flair’s neck in the judges’ table with the piledriver, setting up their own amazing feud. (Rating: *****)
2) Ricky Steamboat vs. Ric Flair – 2/3 Falls Match for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship (Clash of the Champions VI)
In what was Ric Flair’s original rematch against Steamboat after losing the gold at WrestleWar, this match featured a special two-out-of-three-falls stipulation with a one hour time limit. Both wrestlers brought back some spots from their Chi-Town Rumble meeting, reversing them in order to show that they were ready this time, knew each other better and/or studied the tape. Flair won the first fall and spent the next number of minutes trying to kill time and keep the 1-0 lead (in order to win via time limit), getting more and more confident with each minute while Steamboat took the punishment like only he can. Steamboat was able to tie things up with a double chickenwing submission, and then the frustrated Flair went after the legs which didn’t allow Steamboat to lock in the hold again in the final fall. Awesome! Steamboat managed to retain with a controversial finish (Flair had his leg under the bottom rope). Another epic match between the two with a lot of callbacks, psychology, emotion and logic. (Rating: *****)
1) Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat – NWA World Heavyweight Championship (Chi-Town Rumble)
Finally, here’s the number one. The very first match of the incredible trilogy. With Flair as the reigning champion and Steamboat looking to capture a World Heavyweight belt for the first time, the two created pure magic inside those ropes. The physical and intense brutality in each spot, the smooth wrestling sequences and reversals left the whole crowd in awe, including a very young Dave Meltzer sitting in the front row. In the end, Steamboat won and got his much deserved moment in the sun as the World’s champion. Amazing! (Rating: *****)
TOP 5 OVERALL MATCHES IN 1989
5) Ric Flair vs. Terry Funk – The Great American Bash (NWA)
4) Ric Flair vs. Terry Funk – I Quit Match, Clash of the Champions IX (NWA)
3) Ricky Steamboat vs. Ric Flair – WrestleWar (NWA)
2) Ricky Steamboat vs. Ric Flair – 2/3 Falls Match, Clash of the Champions VI (NWA)
1) Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat – Chi-Town Rumble (NWA)
TOP 5 WWF WRESTLERS OF THE YEAR
Note: this is based on my point system used throughout each and every show of the year
5) Mr. Perfect (23,5 points)
Coming up at number five is someone who’s slowly climbing up the ranks in the World Wrestling Federation. A flawless win/loss record certainly helped Mr. Perfect make this list, with Hennig yet to taste defeat on television as he gets closer and closer to the main-event scene and the Hulkster.
- Mr. Perfect’s best match in 1989: Vs. Bret Hart (Prime Time Wrestling)
4) Randy Savage (26,5 points)
The previous year’s #1 WWF wrestler drops three positions, yet he’s still able to make the list. Despite slowly falling down the card after WrestleMania V, there is no denying the greatness of Randy Savage. The ‘Macho King’ gimmick couldn’t have come at a better time for Savage, as hopefully we can keep him on the top five list in years to come, where he deserves to be.
- Randy Savage’s best match in 1989: Vs. Hulk Hogan (WrestleMania V)
3) Tully Blanchard (30,5 points)
Like I mentioned during the Brain Busters’ matches that made the top five list, Blanchard and Anderson were easily 1989’s “silent assassins”. They put on a number of solid matches throughout the year, particularly with Demolition, The Hart Foundation and The Rockers, won the tag belts and were pretty much featured on every card. Surprising? Perhaps, but they certainly deserve to be here, they put on a good effort consistently.
- Tully Blanchard’s best match in 1989: w/ AA vs. The Hart Foundation (SummerSlam)
2) Arn Anderson (33,5 points)
There’s not much to add from the prior entry. Anderson has more points than Blanchard because he got more falls and was pinned less times.
- Arn Anderson’s best match in 1989: W/ Tully vs. The Hart Foundation (SummerSlam)
1) Hulk Hogan (52,5 points)
Surprised? Don’t be. Even though Hogan is in this spot thanks to a lot of victories, a lot of main-event appearances and a lot of wins in title matches, he’s worthy of being here. Hogan did a great job in the famous feud with Randy Savage and deserves praise for having to carry a non-wrestler (Zeus) throughout most of their matches in the second half of the year. And then there are also some other highlights, such as the bouts with The Big Bossman – inside the cage – or The Genius. And also being a part of the #1 best WWF match! So yeah, at the end of the day, he deserves the spot. Now let’s see if he’s able to keep it in 1990.
- Hulk Hogan’s best match in 1989: Vs. Randy Savage (WrestleMania V)
TOP 5 NWA WRESTLERS OF THE YEAR
5) Freebird Michael Hayes (31,5 points)
Now here’s another one I wasn’t expecting, kicking off the NWA list. Hayes had a brief reign with the US belt in the first half of the year, ultimately designed to put over then-babyface Lex Luger. Hayes would move back to the tag division afterwards, capturing World Tag Team gold as a member of the Freebirds. A surprise because I was totally expecting Terry Funk to be on the list, but he wasn’t around for long. Hayes is certainly worthy of being here, as he was one of the highlights of NWA’s 1989.
- Michael Hayes’ best match in 1989: WarGames (The Great American Bash)
4) Sting (36,75 points)
Now here’s an entry who is everything but a surprise. Sting organically climbed up the NWA ranks throughout 1989, as the World’s TV Champion running through enhancement talent or older wrestlers (ie: The Iron Sheik) in short matches, getting more popular with each win. A number of barnburners with The Great Muta – particularly at The Bash – was the launching pad that Sting needed, with the energetic up-and-coming babyface wrestling in main-events for the rest of the year. The highlight of that year came at StarrCade in December, which saw Sting cleanly pin the World Champion Ric Flair.
- Sting’s best match in 1989: Vs. Ric Flair (StarrCade)
3) Lex Luger (44,25 points)
Here’s a man who had one hell of a year in 1989, and was certainly one of the highlights of the whole industry. While he did have a solid enough run as a babyface working with the likes of Michael Hayes, it was after the heel turn that his work truly began to shine. With some superb heel work, a fantastic look, an all-time great US Title reign and numerous classic matches with the likes of Ricky Steamboat, Ric Flair, The Great Muta, Flyin Brian (Pillman), Tommy Rich and others, Luger was unquestionably one of the best.
- Lex Luger’s best match in 1989: Vs. Ricky Steamboat (The Great American Bash)
2) Ricky Steamboat (54 points)
There isn’t much to say about these two final entries, I think the history and their actions speak for themselves. There is obviously the work with Flair and the World title win as the clear highlights from the Dragon’s year, but some of the matches he had with workers such as Terry Funk and Lex Luger were also classics. A great year for the legendary Ricky Steamboat.
- Ricky Steamboat’s best match in 1989: Vs. Ric Flair (the whole trilogy)
1) Ric Flair (79,5 points)
And finally, the man. No gimmick, no nickname, simply the man indeed. There was no one able to even come close to being on Flair’s level in 1989, and that picture up above is a great way to describe him stylin’ and profilin’ his way to the top of the NWA (and overall) list of top wrestlers in 1989. Steamboat came close, yes, but ultimately longevity is what gave the big edge to the champ. Steamboat left after the Bash, while Flair kept on putting barnburners with everyone. To name a few – Terry Funk, Sting, Lex Luger, The Great Muta, etc. No one deserves the #1 spot in 1989 apart from Ric Flair. WOOOOO!
TOP 5 OVERALL WRESTLERS OF THE YEAR
5) Sting – NWA (36,75 points)
4) Lex Luger – NWA (44,25 points)
3. Hulk Hogan – WWF (52,5 points)
2) Ricky Steamboat – NWA (54 points)
1) Ric Flair – NWA (79,5 points)
And that’s it for 1989. The NWA was by far superior and more consistent to the WWF, and that is shown in the year-end lists of top matches and wrestlers.
We now leave the 80s behind and move on to the 90s and 1990, starting with the WWF’s Royal Rumble PPV. Let’s see who will be able to make the lists at the end of this next year! Until then, stay safe and thank you for reading!