365 match reviews, one for each date on the yearly calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.
You may have heard or read a story about “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton being one of the nicest people in wrestling?
Whatever you’ve seen or heard, it’s probably true.
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 a friend and I helped move the ring and apparatus into the upstairs location. He even came to the house a few times for cookouts and pay-per-view nights. 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.
For all who knew him, I assure you, he is missed.
Though Eaton is known moreso for his tag work, especially in the Midnight Express, in today’s installment of 365 Wrestling, we’re taking a look at a slice of his 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 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. Flair was in the midst of a rare run as babyface champion, roughl;y 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 Peacock.)
Flair spent so much of his career, especially during his runs as champion, making his opponents look strong and gives plenty to Eaton, but Beautiful Bobby also embraces the role of making his foe look like a million bucks. Eaton makes Flair’s chops look devastating, most notably one where he’s standing on the apron and drops facefirst to the floor.
Momentum shifts on a, pardon the pun, beautiful swinging neckbreaker from Eaton and Lance Russell brings up Funk’s piledriving Flair through the table the previous May and ponders its cumulative effects. By the way, Russell puts in some stellar work on commentary. He’s calling the match by himself (which I can tell you, from experience, is a challenge) and simultaneously 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. Definitely worth studying for any current or aspiring commentators who read this.
Eaton focuses his attack on the neck of Flair, sprinkling in several of his perpetually excellent-looking punches and using a version of Flair’s signature figure-four against him, but securing the hold around the neck of the champ. Cornette plays his role to the hilt, interfering at a couple of opportune moments to whip the crowd into a frenzy and add extra sizzle to the match like a good manager should. After Flair makes an impressive and creative counter to a top rope kneedrop by Eaton, Cornette’s tactics bring down his man, as Flair grabs the loaded tennis racquet and wallops both manager and challenger before scoring the decisive pin.
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. My only real criticism is that Eaton doesn’t seem a legitimate chance to win, given the midcard status of the Midnight Express at the time of this match.
Two of Japan’s all-time greats square off in their only singles battle.