Memory lane: Ric Flair vs. Mike Jackson made my Saturday night back in ‘86
I finally, after years of searching, found a wrestling Holy Grail: the 1986 TV match between wrestling legend Ric Flair and journeyman Mike Jackson.
This is where I confess, awkwardly, to being a pro wrestling mark from way back, who watches way too much of the scripted combat theater for an otherwise sane, thoughtful, productive guy.
This confession is not something you want to do in polite company.
People are as likely to look at you as if you have a second head growing out of your neck as anything else once they find this out about you.
So be it, and then on top of that, for me, I’m not just a fan, but a connoisseur, in search of the vintage.
I still watch the current stuff, but these days, I find myself preferring the archives, particularly the wrestling that I grew up on, from the mid-1980s Mid Atlantic promotion.
Saturdays were scheduled around three TV shows: at noon, it was Mid Atlantic Championship Wrestling on channel 6 out of Richmond, then at 6:05 p.m., it was World Championship Wrestling on TBS, and concluding at 11:30 p.m., it was back to channel 6 for World Wide Wrestling.
The matches were largely what we call “squash matches,” pitting a star, sometimes a superstar, against an enhancement talent, whose job was to lose, but in the process make the star or superstar look good.
In between was what sold the whole thing: the interview segments with the names, almost every week including the two best talkers in the business, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes and Flair, “The Nature Boy,” interspersed with commercial spots with ticket information and more interviews hyping local shows, for us here, usually Richmond, sometimes also Roanoke and Norfolk.
Very occasionally, you’d get two stars in a main event, but you held out hope that you’d see a Rhodes or Flair, though they almost exclusively worked squashes on these programs.
I remember the Aug. 30, 1986 match between Flair and Jackson, billed as the Alabama junior heavyweight champion, because I was at my grandparents’ house that weekend, and my grandfather, who was also a wrestling fan, was watching that night with me.
What struck me about the Flair-Jackson match that had me searching for it all these many years later was how competitive the match was from a presentation standpoint.
This was 1986 Flair, essentially at the height of his powers, working a match with a guy, OK, Mike Jackson wasn’t an enhancement guy, because he main-evented shows across the southeast, but he wasn’t anywhere near even mid-card level in Mid-Atlantic, which was stacked to the gills in talent in 1986.
Flair, basically, didn’t need to give Mike Jackson a thing.
And yet, Jackson made it interesting, getting an early near-fall on a cross body block, before cinching Flair into the champ’s signature Figure Four leglock, which Flair was able to escape by getting to the ropes.
Flair would eventually take control after Jackson missed a second cross body block and got tangled in the ropes, which allowed the champ to work Jackson into a Figure Four submission.
The match went right at eight minutes, and the crowd was hot from bell to bell.
And it was textbook Flair the whole way. The classic heel champ, his job was to get fans thinking the upset was possible, and to do that, his opponent to look believable.
Jackson, for his part, while he didn’t have the size – he was billed for this one at 170 pounds – had the workrate.
He still works in the ring today, at age 70, and no doubt has been able to milk these eight minutes for a few extra bucks from promoters the past 34 years.
I’m thinking Flair got what he wanted out of that eight minutes as well.
He didn’t have to give away a match with a Rhodes, a Nikita Koloff, a Ronnie Garvin, but Jackson gave him a chance to mix it up, get the fans excited, then look like a champ at the end.
And for me, I was a kid on Christmas morning when I found this last night, and I watched it again just now while writing this piece.
Great memories, and it made me think of Saturdays at my grandparents’ house, so, added bonus there.
Story by Chris Graham