As The Crowd Turns: Ric Flair vs. Ronnie Garvin, NWA World Title at Starrade ’87

Back in the day, the National Wrestling Alliance’s Starrcade pay-per-view was one of the most — if not THE MOST — prominent wrestling supershows in the country! For a brief rundown of the history of the event, check out this older story I wrote.  Anyway, at the 1987 edition of Starrcade (given the subtitle of “Chi-Town Heat” since it was held in…well…CHICAGO), Ron Garvin was defending the NWA World Heavyweight Championship against Ric Flair in a steel cage match.  Garvin, who had been the champion for only two months up to this point, had previously beaten Flair on September 25, 1987 for the championship, and beforehand both men had been in a rivalry due to Flair lust over Garvin’s valet, Precious.  While the title match was the original big story, the change in the crowd’s reaction garnered the most attention in the match’s place in history.

As I briefly mentioned, this NWA World Heavyweight Championship match was memorable for more than just being an excellently executed — wink-wink, nudge-nudge to Bret Hart — title match.  During this period (and from what you may have gathered from the end of the first paragraph), Ric Flair was the heel — or villain — and Ron Garvin was the face, or good guy.  Typically in that era, wrestling fans would often cheer for the good guy while booing and heckling the villain (because reasons; LOGIC reasons), but that concept of expected crowd reaction had turned on its ear that November night. About halfway through the match, the crowd would turn on the babyface star Ron Garvin and began cheering for Ric Flair.  Matt “Spike Dudley” Hysen said in an interview that he was shocked that the Chicago audience turned on Garvin to support Flair, due to the nature of the time that heels were never EVER rooted on by the crowd.

In the end, Flair would reverse an Irish whip that sent Garvin’s head into the cage, and then Flair pinned him to win the match and the title.  Ron Garvin’s first and only reign as the NWA World Heavyweight Champion lasted for only two short months. Ric Flair had started his fifth reign as NWA World Champion, and while remaining champion for over a year, in early 1988, a young rising star named Steve Borden — or Sting — would challenge Flair to a match at the first Clash of Champions.

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