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Jumpin said:

I’ve been thinking about how pro-wrestling rewrites history and legacies. But much of the time these legacies and moments not only don’t match up with our memories, but looking back at the old VHS tapes, the history is more like we remember it rather than how it’s it’s later presented (or ignored in many cases).

1. Myth: The Curtain Call as some major turning point of pro-wrestling.

Reality: The curtain call was barely noticed by anyone at the time, and those who did, didn’t really care. Reason: this one’s obvious, it helps build Triple H’s legacy into something bigger than it was, make him seem like a guy who was held back when the reality was he wasn’t ready at that point in time. Triple H was a great tag team character, a good IC level guy, but a poor world champion (below mediocre) when he first landed the belt off Mankind in 1999–arguably one of the worst title reigns of the 1990s. It wasn’t until the end of 1999 that, IMO, he really became the top tier singles guy and THE major heel in the company most people know him as. His match at the 2000 Royal Rumble was his first great match, and is probably both his and Foley’s best match of all time. The reality is that Triple H’s story is impressive without trying to pass up his legacy into something bigger than it was prior to the 1999.

2. Myth: Ric Flair was one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, on the level of Hogan. That he was a highly skilled wrestler.

Reality: (and I know people hate to hear this considering how heavily he’s been respected for the last 20 years, BUT) He wasn’t that big before the 2000s—his real story is a guy who stuck in there and really made it big late in his career, but Triple H and others have re-arranged it so his earlier legacy is a lot bigger earlier on than the reality. He held world titles, but he was the least popular guy to have done so. The thing most people could pick Flair out for was as a Buddy Rogers tribute: the big feathery robe he wore and the figure four leg lock. He was mediocre in the ring, being slower than most, and having a lower arsenal of moves (mostly chops, the woo, and falling strangely). During promos, WWE makes fun of Ultimate Warrior (another guy bigger than Flair), but Flair did the exact same stuff, acting weird, yelling, and mostly incoherent. Apart from being at the bottom of the world title tier (because, let’s be real, his biggest moment prior to 2000 was as one of the transitional champions between the Hogan and Hart eras) he was viewed as one of the dinosaurs at the height of WCW, and kind of a freak show given he looked so old (he was old, but looked even older than his age) and has known mainly for that (and the loose skin). There were even world title tier guys who were more popular than Flair in the 1980s and early 90s like Jerry the King Lawler, Supafly, Razor Ramon (in the 90s at least), Roddy Piper, Jake the Snake, and Dusty Rhodes. Reason: I don’t know, I think the story of a guy who held in there at a relatively high level and reached his pinnacle long after most would have retired is a better story than the history re-write.

3. Myth: Either an insignificant Bret Hart era.

Reality: this one is one of the harder ones to hide because too many people remember Hart being the top guy for years through the 1990s and one of the most deserving guys during the 1980s. And one of the things that the Bret Hart era had on top of the popularity was that he had this level of authenticity that Hogan and Ultimate Warrior lacked. Bret was cut from the same cloth as the Steamboats, the Dynamite Kids, and the Davey Boy Smiths. The Montreal Screwjob is to this day the most infamous moment that occurred in a pro-wrestling ring aside from his brother’s death. Even when Austin and Rock were huge and Bret was languishing/injured in WCW, if he popped up in WWE, it would have been one of the biggest moments in the industry. Reason: I think this one is obvious, there was a massive break between Bret and WWE.

4. Stone Cold Steve Austin’s rise occurred at King of the Ring 1996.

Reality: it began about a half a year later at Survivor series. While in context the moment looks huge, the reality is not many people thought much about King if the Ring at the time, and Austin wasn’t really in the top tier until his feud with Bret Hart. The match that really made him was Hart vs. Austin in 1997 where he bled all over his face. Reason: just easier to communicate, I think most wrestling fans are aware of this, and WWE doesn’t try to hide it, it’s just one of those things that many casual fans remember differently because of how WWE began to package Austin’s career legacy starting as early as the Austin VHS tapes released in 1998.

I think this is really underselling Flair and ignoring a lot of what he did outside WWE, and especially stuff before the 90s. His biggest moment definitely wasn't as a transitional champion. His stuff with the Horseman was bigger, his feuds with Steamboat and Dusty, and so on. How much you like his matches is subjective (and I'm not actually a huge fan of his in ring work), but it's hard to argue that he wasn't the biggest start that was created outside WWE (at least as far as American audiences go). Only real competition would be Sting and Goldberg. The fact that he had a pretty good run towards the end of his career (or at least what should have been the end) is really just gravy.