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The greatest match that time forgot

Ric Flair has had countless classics, but one forgotten gem perfectly depicts the beauty of pro wrestling.

Ask wrestling fans what’s the greatest match they ever saw, and you’ll hear answers that range from Bruno Sammartino colliding with Ivan Koloff in the Garden to Kenny Omega versus Kazuchika Okada in the Tokyo Dome.

One match that never comes up is a classic battle between “Gorgeous” Jimmy Garvin and Ric Flair at the 1987 Great American Bash. For some unknown reason, this contest is unavailable on Peacock, nor is it on a platform like YouTube. And it’s a shame because it’s a perfect example of what pro wrestling is.

By now, most fans are familiar with Ric Flair. But for those who are unfamiliar with Jimmy Garvin, the “Gorgeous One” was an upper-mid card heel who worked in several territories and whose gimmick was a modern spin on Gorgeous George, a pompous “look at me” type who thought he was God’s gift to the world.

But following an incident that saw manager Jim Cornette throw fire in the face of Ron Garvin, Jimmy’s kayfabe brother (but real-life stepfather), “Gorgeous” Jimmy found himself taking swings for the babyface team. Where he’d go next only strengthened his newfound bond with the fans.

In the summer of ‘87, Ric Flair took an interest in Garvin’s valet and wife, Precious. Despite her rejecting his advances, the “Nature Boy” couldn’t and wouldn’t take no for an answer, which led to bad blood between the two wrestlers.

So, to settle their dispute, Flair agreed to put his World title on the line in a steel cage match against Garvin. However, if Garvin lost, Precious would have to spend the night with Ric Flair.

On July 11 in Greensboro, North Carolina, the two squared off, and Garvin got the better of Flair early, bouncing him from corner to corner. If you can imagine some scumbag trying to force themself onto your spouse or loved one, you’ll understand how cathartic this beatdown was for Garvin and the ten thousand-plus gathered in the Coliseum. And it would only get worse for Flair.

Following some head-first trips into the stainless steel fencing, courtesy of Garvin, Flair was a bloody mess, and he’d had enough. So Flair, coward that he was, tried escaping the cage on multiple occasions. But in Jim Crockett Promotions, exiting the cage was not an option for victory; pinfall or submissions were the only way to win. Had Flair successfully run away, he would’ve forfeited the title.

But Flair wasn’t going to get off that easy.

Garvin halted one of Flair’s attempted breakouts by pulling the champ down by his trunks. It was a sight to behold as Flair wrestled with his bare ass exposed to the crowd. As soon as an opportunity presented itself, referee Tommy Young pulled Flair’s trunks back up while trying hard not to get the “Nature Boy’s” butt sweat on his hand.

It was the beginning of the end for old Flair until a leapfrog attempt by Garvin caused his knee to buckle. Cheers turned to squeals of horror as Flair, who was on the verge of certain defeat, now had a clear advantage on Garvin.

To the challenger’s credit, he continued to fight on, giving Greensboro hope that he could pull off a miracle. But when Flair slapped on the figure-four-leg lock to Garvin’s injured leg, hope turned to utter doom and fright.

Ronnie Garvin had now come down to ringside to encourage his little brother to keep fighting while consoling a weeping Precious. Tension was so high that a fan burst through the crowd and made a beeline for the cage before being dragged down and away by security.

Yet, the pain was too much for “Gorgeous” Jimmy, who passed out. Referee Young administered a three count, and though the match was over, Flair wouldn’t relent. When Precious confronted him, Flair got handsy with her, leading to Ronnie chasing the dastardly champion away.

As Jimmy came to, his cries of pain and disappointment rang through the Coliseum, barely exceeding the shrieks of sadness from those openly weeping for the Garvins and Precious.

Fortunately, it never rains long in wrestling.

On the night of the big date, Ronnie Garvin went to Flair’s hotel room disguised as Precious, where he knocked out both Flair and his manager James J. Dillon, who hired a videographer to record the night’s proceedings.

Ultimately, Ronnie avenged his brother’s defeat, capturing the title from Flair, which was also a steel cage match. While it made sense from a storytelling perspective, the decision to put the World Championship on “Rugged” Ron was almost as divisive as putting the title on David Arquette was, despite Ron Garvin being a respectable upper-mid card talent who could actually wrestle.

Regardless of the long-term booking, that hot summer night in Greensboro saw wrestling fans experience a legitimate roller coaster of emotions, surging to the highest highs before plunging to the lowest lows.

It was everything right about professional wrestling.

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