Tonight at NXT Takeover on WWE Network, the co-main event is the NXT Women's Title tournament finals: Natalya vs. Charlotte. While the result seems like a forgone conclusion because Natalya is on the main roster, and Charlotte is a full-time developmental performer in NXT, WWE has added a layer of intrigue. Each woman will be seconded by a WWE Hall of Fame inductee: Natalya will have her uncle, Bret Hart, in her corner, while Charlotte will be accompanied by her father, Ric Flair.
Flair and Hart's history goes back to 1989. As Hart wrote in his book, Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling, Flair, in his capacity as WCW's head booker, made Hart an offer for $200,000 per year with all expenses paid (as they still do today, WWE only paid for airfare) and a substantial amount of time off. When he followed up with "a somewhat embarrassed Flair," it turned out he didn't have the authority to make any financial offers, and the decrease to $156,000 led to Hart staying in WWE.
They didn't cross paths again until Flair jumped to WWE in 1991. A couple months into Flair's run, they faced off in a dark match that was taped for eventual home video release. Hart has always insisted that, because of how crazy the WWE schedule used to be, he had never seen Flair wrestle until he got to WWE. Hart felt that Flair was too stuck in his routine and that the matches suffered for it. Years later, he even said that he felt Flair sabotaged the matches. While they had good matches together, they never quite lived up to their potential.
Still, they had some famous matches together. When Hart won the WWE Championship for the first time on Canadian Thanksgiving Night in 1992, he beat Flair. Strangely, the match never aired on television and was only released on home video a few months later. The title change was quickly acknowledged on television, though, with Hart being interviewed as champion on shows that aired that weekend.
They went on to have one of the most famous house show matches of the era when they had a 60 minute Iron Man Match in Boston, which an enterprising fan videotaped on a camera that he snuck in to the old Boston Garden. It's easily their best match together and—while it doesn't live up to what those guys going an hour sounds like on paper—it's still excellent.
Once Flair was back in WCW, Hart made a habit of bashing Flair in media interviews and his column for the Calgary Sun. Flair never really replied until long after he came back to WWE, making a point to repeatedly bury Hart in his own book. It took Hart coming back into the fold in WWE for them to reach anything resembling a detente. That didn't stop Hart from drawing and auctioning off a terribly unflattering cartoon of Flair for charity a year later, and they still snipe at each other.
Tonight, all of that emotion can be funneled in to enhance Natalya vs. Charlotte. Natalya is the best overall in-ring wrestler of the women on the main roster, and Charlotte is the best athlete. They already have a shot at a great match, but the shenanigans at ringside could bring it up another level.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!