Rhodes vs. Flair
Written by Canadian Bulldog
We're looking at a lot of different feuds here during Rivalries Month - some with more clear-cut reasons behind the bad blood than others. But none of them have as definitive a reason as Dusty Rhodes vs. Ric Flair.
The reason for their rivalry was clear: in the ring, they were polar opposites in every way, with their characters fundamentally disagreeing with each others' outlook on life.
Rhodes was the son of a plumber who fought for the common man. Overweight and proudly wearing scar tissue across his forehead from years of bleeding red, white and blue passion, The American Dream dressed in trucker caps and blue jeans everywhere he went.
Flair was the first to admit he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and enjoyed the finer things in life - limousines, private planes, money and custom-made suits. And if there was a shortcut, The Nature Boy would find a way to take it.
Their roots go back to 1972, when both were up and comers in the AWA (fun fact: when asked to choose his ring name, Flair offered to become Ramblin' Ricky Rhodes, the storyline brother of Dusty). But it wouldn't be for another decade that their matches together became main-event worthy.
On September 17, 1981, Flair upset Rhodes to capture his first of 16 World Championships. Although Rhodes (as the masked Midnight Rider) defeated Flair for the NWA World Championship a year later; the decision was overturned and doesn't officially exist in the record books due to what was ironically been called a Dusty Finish.
As Flair transformed into The Nature Boy we know and love, Rhodes became a frequent opponent. They battled in the main event of Starrcade 1984, which Flair won via referee stoppage. The American Dream got a measure of revenge at The Great American Bash in 1986 when he recaptured the gold -- although Flair returned the favor just two weeks later at a live event.
The issue kept going over the years with The Four Horsemen, The Road Warriors, Magnum T.A., Baby Doll and others finding their way into the feud.
While they would have other matches over the years, none would quite recreate their encounters from the early to mid 1980s. Rhodes jumped to the WWF by the end of that decade, and once he returned to the NWA (WCW by that point), Flair had his run with Vince McMahon for a few years.
Interestingly, the two had one final run in the dying days of WCW. On March 19, 2001, Dusty backed his son Dustin Rhodes in a match on Nitro with Jeff Jarrett (who was backed by Flair). The Kiss My Ass Match that followed featured physicality between the two archrivals for old times' sake -- and of course Flair was forced to kiss Dusty's donkey ("ass") at ringside.
Sweet revenge for the common man Rhodes, who literally spent decades trying to put the extravagant Flair in his place.