365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.
Every story you hear about “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton being one of the nicest people in wrestling?
To quote Han Solo in The Force Awakens, it’s all true. All of it.
In the 2000s, Bobby lived in my hometown for a little while. I got to meet him through a mutual friend. He had a wrestling school downtown, for a little while, and I helped move the ring and apparatus into the upstairs location. He even came to the house a few times. Years later, after Eaton had moved on and I was working as a commentator for an independent promotion in the area, Eaton had been booked as a manager. Not only did he remember me, but when I said something about being tired (I was loading trucks at FedEx in the wee hours of the morning at the time, as my writing work had slowed down), he offered me a coffee.
In addition to being an all-around good guy, Eaton also is a fantastic wrestler. He’s known best for his tag work, especially in the Midnight Express with Stan Lane and Dennis Condrey, In today’s installment of 365 Wrestling, we’re taking a look at Eaton in singles action, as he challenges Ric Flair for the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Title from a 1990 Episode of WCW Main Event.
You can find this match on YouTube.
This is the second title shot for Eaton in a span of about a month. In the first, Flair won by DQ after Eaton’s ever-present manager Jim Cornette interfered to keep Beautiful Bobby from getting ensnared in the figure-four leglock. Cornette cuts a pre-match promo for his man, and hints that this time Stan Lane will be watching as well.
Flair was in the midst of a rare run as babyface champion, less that two months removed from settling the score in a feud with Terry Funk that remains one of my favorites of all time. (Note: if you haven’t seen it, go and watch his matches with Funk from the 1989 Great American Bash [arguably one of the best pay-per-views of all time] and Clash of the Champions IX, both available on the WWE Network. About a month after this match airs, Flair flips back to the heel side, when he and the Andersons kick out Sting from the Four Horsemen.
Flair spent so much of his career, especially during his runs as champion, bumping and selling and doing all he good to make his opponents look strong. Flair gives plenty to Eaton, who centers his assault around the neck of the champion, but it’s Eaton who embraces the role of making his foe look like a million bucks. Particularly, Eaton makes Flair’s chops look devastating. Flair does his part by laying them in (evidenced. by Eaton’s rapidly reddening chest), but Eaton takes some huge bumps off them, most notably one from, the apron that sends him facefirst to the floor. It’s not just the chops; around the five-minute mark, Eaton takes a shoulder tackle from Flair at center ring and spills all the way out of the ring. Eaton puts his body on the line in the final minutes, taking a backdrop on the concrete floor.
Let it be clear, this is a showcase for both wrestlers. One recurring theme throughout the match is the battle of strikes between Flair’s chops and Eaton’s punches (which always look excellent). Flair busts out his “Flair flip” over the turnbuckles twice: once when he tumbles to the floor and again when he dashes down the apron, scales to the top, and clobbers Eaton with a forearm smash.
Meanwhile, Cornette plays his role at ringside well, interfering at a couple of opportune moments to whip the crowd into a frenzy and add extra sizzle to the match. Ultimately, Cornette’s tactics bring down Eaton, as Flair shows his “dirtiest player in the game” rep, cutting off another attempt at interference by Cornette, grabbing the tennis racket, and using it to wallop both the manager and his challenger before scoring the decisive pin.
Lance Russell puts on a tremendous performance as the commentator for this match. He’s calling the match by himself (which I can tell you, from experience, is a challenge) and does an altogether excellent job. Simultaneously, he builds the story of the match, reacts organically to major events as they happen, and gives a straight call of the action without delving too far down any one path. Russell makes a side headlock by Flair around the five-minute mark of the video sound devastating. Later, when Eaton starts to take control, he makes a callback to Flair’s previous neck troubles from Funk piledriving him through a table the previous May.
Final Rating: 7.2
This is a very good TV main event with significant stakes and sees two of the best from their era facing off in a rare one-on-one encounter. Both men come out of the match looking strong. My only major complaint is that, in spite of his skill, you never really buy Eaton as having a legitimate chance to become champion, given the midcard status of the Midnight Express at the time of this match.
We get a second look at Minoru Suzuki in his only singles battle with one of Japan’s all-time greats.
Got a match you’d like me to watch as part of this 365 Wrestling project? Agree or disagree with my take on this match? Let me know by using the contact form on this site, or reach me on Twitter.