Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes: The Greatest Feud in Pro Wrestling History

Tom Clark@tomclarkbrFeatured ColumnistJuly 25, 2011

Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes. In the 1980’s National Wrestling Alliance, one name was rarely spoken without the other. Their individual love of the business was matched only by their shared desire to put on the best match of the night every time they stepped into the ring.

They each poured their heart and soul into the feud, and their rivalry was nothing short of legendary.

You simply could not think of either man without thinking of his opponent. While being very different in and out of the ring, in many ways Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes were opposite sides of the same coin.

Ric was slick, arrogant, cocky, obsessed with being the top worker in the company and very much addicted to the spotlight. He flaunted the World Championship in the face of every man who challenged him, and carried himself with an unmatched swagger in the ring every time he defended it.

Unmatched, except for Dusty Rhodes.

Dusty was slick, arrogant, cocky, obsessed with being the top worker in the company, and very much addicted to the spotlight.

Wait, have I said this already?

Ric Flair was what Dusty Rhodes could have been, had the Dream let his ego get the best of him.

Dusty and Ric were so much alike in terms of character that they quite possibly could have switched places at any given time. They were so good at what they did, so convincing in their roles, that while it may be hard to imagine Dusty in a three-piece custom made suit wearing the Rolex, there is no question that he had the ability to pull it off.

By the same token, Ric has proven that underneath the exterior of "The Nature Boy" gimmick, that he can be soft spoken, personable and very emotional. Picturing him wearing the denim jeans and shouting about living the American Dream and fighting for the fans, sounds crazy, but if anyone had the ability to sell a gimmick as well as Dusty it was Ric.

Of course, what made the feud work, what made it red hot, was the fact that Ric was The Nature Boy, in every way. When he bragged about the countless women lined up at his door, he was stating a fact.

Every time he stared into the camera and said that he was the man, and the world champion because he was the greatest wrestler in the world, he sounded convinced, because he was right.

And every night, the plumber’s son, Dusty Rhodes, cut a heartfelt promo about taking on the world by himself, fans clung to every word.

Why? Because he was selling a gimmick that he didn’t want? Because he was stuck with a tired old routine that just wasn’t getting over? No. Fans loved Dusty because when they looked at him, they knew that he was everything he said he was.

They were each other’s perfect foil.

An important by-product of a successful feud are the storylines that grow from it. This has never been more true than in the case of Ric versus Dusty.

Magnum TA, who may never have achieved a tenth of what he did had it not been for his association with Dusty, had a vicious feud with Ric’s fellow Horseman, Tully Blanchard. Their I Quit match is still recognized as being one of the most intense, most bloody matches in pro wrestling history.

Barry Windham, the second generation star who was on the rise in Jim Crockett Promotions, gave the champ all he could handle and more. Barry’s on-air mentor? Dusty Rhodes.

This storyline deepened later on when Barry turned his back on the Dream, and became the Fourth Horseman, alongside Dusty’s most hated opponent.

The epic War Games match may have never seen the light of day had it not been for Dusty and Ric’s feud. The match drew in all four of the Horsemen with their manager J.J. Dillon, against Dusty and four others who either had heat with Flair, or were in programs with Flair’s cohorts.

Another reason why Ric versus Dusty is the best feud of all time? Because not only did it make for exciting, dramatic television, it also made a ton of money.

At the risk of sounding like the superficial fan, if a promoter is not in the business to draw a crowd and make money, then he or she is wasting their time. Jim Crockett found lighting in a bottle with Dusty and Ric, and he capitalized on it, selling out arenas in every town the NWA ran.

Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes will each be remembered for everything they accomplished in the business, for their promos, their in ring careers, and their feud with each other. They are forever linked, and despite what feud has come after, or will come tomorrow, Dusty Rhodes versus Ric Flair is on a level all its own.

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