January 19, 2005
Graham Cawthon

October 28, 1991
New York City, NY
Madison Square Garden

Roddy Piper vs. Ric Flair (w/ Bobby Heenan)

It had been nearly 16 years since Ric Flair last wrestled in Madison Square Garden. The future icon of the sport worked 2 bouts at MSG in 1976 and it would not be until this very night that the NWA mainstay would make his return to the world’s most famous arena.

Upon entering the WWF less than 2 months prior, Flair immediately targeted Roddy Piper after Piper interrupted Bobby Heenan’s appearance on the Funeral Parlor and spat on the NWA title belt, which Flair had brought with him to the World Wrestling Federation. Several weeks thereafter, Flair appeared on WWF Superstars and was to have wrestled a squash match on the program but a confrontation erupted between he and Piper which led to both Piper and Vince McMahon being knocked out by a chair.

The men continued to trade verbal insults week after week until it was announced just two days prior to this meeting that they would lead their own Survivor Series teams against one another on Thanksgiving Eve. On Piper's team - Virgil, Davey Boy Smith, and WWF IC Champion Bret Hart. On Flair's side - Ted Dibiase, the Warlord, and the Mountie. But this wasn't an elimination match, this was one-on-one. The Survivor Series could wait.

It’s worth noting that Flair’s first match with Hulk Hogan came 6 days prior to this and the highly publicized match with Hogan in Oakland was just 3 days before.

The Match:

Bobby Heenan leads the Nature Boy to the ring as the crowd gives a mixed reaction of boos and Whooos. Gorilla Monsoon makes mention of the crowd giving Flair a standing ovation. Heenan takes Flair’s robe, revealing the big gold strapped around Flair’s waist.

The bagpipes play throughout the Garden, ushering the Hot Rod to the ring. Piper, wearing a European Rampage 91 t-shirt (the tour was earlier that month), makes his way to the ring with his hair slicked back and a smirk on his face. The crowd pops big as he enters the ring and plays to the 9,000 on hand.

Piper is chewing bubble gum. Reminds me of that classic line from ‘They Live’.

The Hot Rod takes his shirt off but keeps his eyes on Flair the whole time. The two meet face-to-face in the ring, Flair having some choice words for his opponent while Piper just stares him down..

The two lock up, with Flair powering Piper into the corner. The Nature Boy gives out a Whooo upon letting go of his opponent, with Piper then spitting at his foe.

Another lock up in the corner sees Piper land a slap across Flair’s face that drops Ric to the mat. Flair holds his cheek out of pain but mostly out of shock. The crowd begins a chant of ‘Rowdy’ while Piper picks up referee Earl Hebner and sits him gently on the top rope so he won’t get between he and Flair.

From opposite corners, the two lock eyes and eventually meet in the middle of the ring. A headlock by Piper sees Flair send him to the ropes only to be knocked down by a shoulder block. At 3 minutes in, Flair lands a knee to the mid section and positions Piper in the corner for a series of chops and punches. Piper, resilient, boxes his way out of the corner and drops Flair to the mat. Flair quickly gets back to his feet but takes a trademark face-first fall a second thereafter.

The Nature Boy rolls out to the floor to regroup but Piper soon follows and rams Flair’s head into the retaining barrier. With the crowd roaring their approval, Piper sends Flair into the ringpost before dragging him back into the ring by the hair. Inside the ring, Piper continues his assault until Flair lands what appears to be a low blow (which Piper doesn’t sell until a second or two later) followed by a punch.

With the momentum finally on his side, Flair drops a knee across Piper’s face and locks on a headlock. Moments later, the move is reversed into a head scissors and then into a pinning combination. Piper bridges out of the move, then puts Flair’s shoulders to the mat with a backslide for a 2 count.

Desperate to keep the match going his way, Flair gives Piper a thumb to the eye and throws him to the floor, only for Piper to land on his feet and immediately climb back into the ring. Flair begs off before throwing Piper out the opposite side of the ring, only for Piper to once again climb back inside without missing a beat. A third attempt by Flair finally puts Piper’s back to the concrete.

Out on the floor, Flair stands Piper up against the ringside barrier and connects with a chop to the chest that knocks Piper even further in the aisle. Referee Hebner continues his count as the Hot Rod slowly crawls towards the ring. On the ring apron, Flair drops his opponent throat-first across the top rope.

Flair drags Piper in the ring and into the corner but Piper immediately fights back, sending Flair into the corner, and high into the air with a backdrop. A knee lift sends Flair out to the floor and Heenan is visibly worried.

Piper brings Flair into the ring and the multi-time NWA title holder begs off until he’s trapped in the corner. Piper climbs the turnbuckle and pounds away at Flair before setting him up for a bulldog. Flair seizes his opportunity and throws Piper into the referee, avoiding a maneuver that has taken Piper to many wins.

Piper traps Flair in a small package as Hebner is still down, then releases the hold to check on the referee. With a new referee now in the ring, Piper immediately rolls up Flair for a 2 count. The two continue to brawl as the second referee checks on the first. Piper soon sends Flair into the corner, where the Nature Boy flips over the top rope and walks into a weak looking clothesline from his opponent.

As Flair is face down on the floor and Piper is visibly tired inside the ring, the crowd gives their deafening approval of the match thus far. Flair suddenly gets a burst of energy, grabs a steel chair from the front row, and rolls into the ring to crack it against Piper’s head. Not the best chair shot. Flair held back.

With Hebner finally coming to his senses and the second referee now backstage, Flair makes a cover but - to the shock of all involved - Piper kicks out at 2. Seconds later, Piper traps Flair in the sleeper but Flair reverses into a back suplex. Flair goes up top but Piper follows and throws Flair to the mat.

Piper and Flair trade shots in the ring before the Hot Rod challenges Flair to hit him again and again and again, with Piper refusing to sell any of the blows. Flair begs off but is sent to the ropes. Flair reverses into an Irish whip but lowers his head, allowing Piper to drop him with a swinging neck breaker.

Piper goes out to the floor and takes Lord Alfred’s chair, with intent on paying Flair back for the earlier attack. Roddy corners Flair against the ropes, eventually sending him out to the ring with an uppercut, the other hand still holding onto the chair. Hebner grabs for the weapon and, in the turmoil, Flair - from the ring apron - drops Piper to the mat with a shot to the face.

Flair slides into the ring from between the ropes, keeping his feet on the middle rope as Hebner counts to 3. With 12 minutes gone, Flair is announced the winner.

After the bout, Piper throws Flair to the floor, rams his head into the barrier, throws him back in the ring and grabs the chair. Hebner takes a shot with the chair, with Flair then sustaining three before finally being knocked to the floor.

My Verdict:

Heat. Heat. Heat. This match has it.

A good, entertaining match. The crowd is into it the whole time. The finish may be cheap but, even with the feet on the ropes, Piper didn’t budge in an attempt to kick out.

Heenan at ringside hardly served any purpose whatsoever. At no point did he attempt to interfere or even climb on the apron to distract the referee.

I give it ***.

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