Wrestling Review: Rick Martel vs. Ric Flair - October 2, 1985

Ric Flair vs. Rick Martel
October 2nd, 1985
Tokyo, Japan

Presented by the Pacific Wrestling Federation, the October 2nd, 1985 title unification match between NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair and AWA World Heavyweight Champion Rick Martel is a neglected gem in both men’s legacy. The Tokyo audience clearly appreciates the significance of a rare meeting between these athletes and they start this nearly forty minute match at a measured pace. Martel controls much of the first fifteen plus minutes and there’s a lot of actual working holds and mat wrestling American audience rarely saw from Flair.

A babyface comeback from Martel transforms the match into an all out brawl. There’s a tremendous amount of fire in Martel’s demeanor and the two men work a convincing hard-hitting style. It’s a common criticism of Martel’s AWA title reign that he lacked enough charisma for the role, but he commands your attention as a viewer here. He sells great for Flair throughout the entirety of the match.

There’s some excellent stretches where both men focus on the legs and match control see saws through a succession of near falls, figure fours, using the ropes, and reversals based around the leg. We get the inevitable Flair slam from the top rope late in the match, but it gets a good reaction from the Japanese crowd. Flair nearly succumbs to a sleeper, but reverses it into a back suplex.

Flair is first to his meet and sends Martel hurtling outside the ring. He goes out to attack Martel, but Martel posts him. Flair blades but returns to the ring. They go through a fiery exchange with Flair urging Martel on, but the stereotypical ten punches in the corner segues into a patented Flair face plant on the mat. Suspension of disbelief breaks down a little as Flair recovers in record time and hits him with a piledriver. The match runs through a number of thrilling false finishes culminating with a Flair cross body block that sends both men over the top rope. It’s a stunning dual bump. The referee counts both men out of the ring to conclude the match. The “Nature Boy” is a bloody mess, but retains his NWA World Championship.