Thursday, December 23, 2010

"Project 33" - Match #45 - Perfect vs. Flair

Curt Hennig vs. Ric Flair
25 January, 1993
Manhattan Center; New York, NY
Loser Leaves Town Match

Part 2

This match suggested by the "Incomparable" Matt McPhatt...  

I think that in a lot of ways, Curt Hennig was overrated.  At the same time, he was way underrated.  Please, let me explain.

Most people were exposed to Curt Hennig as "Mr. Perfect" in the WWF, and only know about him from there, or from his comeback in WCW as part of the NWO.  When people talk about Mr. perfect, they tend to remember all of his vignettes and interviews, rather than his matches.  When it comes to his matches that people remember and talk about, they tend to only mention the SummerSlam match with Bret Hart.  From this perspective, to me, Hennig is overrated.  While he certainly was solid in the ring during his WWF run, he was often injured and unable to wrestle, so many of his memorable moments are not in-ring.  Plus, with him working as a hell most of the time, his awesome selling skills were not showcased as much; keep in mind most WWF programming back then were still squash matches with enhancement talent.

Hennig really does shine when he is paired up with other quality wrestlers and given plenty of time to put together a great match - look at many of his PPV matches or stuff from Saturday Night's Main Event - Hennig is usually great.  But, my opinion stands that many people overrate Hennig's WWF ringwork because of his outside-the-ring work. 

At the same time, when you see some of the matches he pulls out of people like a one-legged Kerry Von Erich or Diamond Dallas Page, or you see his great matches with Nick Bockwinkle or Tito Santana, you gotta admit that Hennig was awesome in the ring.  Hennig never really got the chance to be a top guy though.  Sure, he was the champion in the AWA, but it was somewhat in the promotion's dying days, and he was really too green to carry the championship at that point.  He matured physically and in the ring during his WWF run, but even though he was one of the most memorable performers there, was never really booked as a main event guy.  So, in that sense, Hennig was underrated.

In this match, Hennig is actually working as a babyface, a result of him spurning Bobby Heenan in the lead up to the 1992 Survivor Series.  Hennig hadn't been working in the ring a lot up until that point, mostly doing commentary or co-hosting broadcasts.  Hennig actually turned on Heenan to tag with Savage against Ric Flair and Razor Ramon - with Flair being Heenan's number one guy.  Obviously the two feuded up until this point, where a "Loser leaves WWE/Raw/Town" match took place.

The match itself is much like how I described Hennig above - there are points in the match where it is as good as any Windham/Flair match from the 1980s, but then there are some glaring parts where things go choppy, and you have to take away from the match.  Heenan does a tremendous job covering for it on commentary though, as he is head-over-heels in love with his guy Flair here.  There are a couple spots during the match where Hennig bumps from a non-existent clothesline, or leapfrogs nothing.  A lot of it is stuff that your average fan wouldnt recognize though, but a professional who knows what they are watching will.

All in all, this was a good match.  A lot of it was formulamatic Flair hijynx, but it was also full of Hennig selling and bleeding.  I was surprised that they kept Flair this strong considering he was going straight back to WCW; there were a lot of shennanigans leading up to Hennig getting the pin here.  It is just a shame that Hennig would be too injured to really capitalize on any momentum from this.  He totally could have been a major player if he got that main event run during the Bret Hart/Shawn Michaels/Diesel dominated era.

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