In the fall of 1991, ‘The Nature Boy’ Ric Flair made his shocking debut on WWE television and claimed to be the actual World Champion. Flair’s appearance in the WWE led many critics and fans to believe that Flair would finally wrestle Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania in a dream match that nobody thought would happen. Instead, Flair and Hogan wrestled several times on house shows, but by the end of 1991, ticket sales for their matches weren’t meeting expectations, and WWE had to pivot away from the dream match for WrestleMania VIII.
LEADING INTO THE WRESTLEMANIA MATCH
At the 1992 Royal Rumble, Ric Flair won the vacant WWE World Championship by last eliminating Sid Justice with help from Hulk Hogan on the floor. Shortly after the event, there was a press conference to announce the number one contender, and Hogan earned the chance to compete against Flair at WrestleMania VIII. However, within a week, the match would be switched to Flair defending against Randy Savage because Hogan wanted revenge on Sid Justice for turning on him on Saturday Night’s Main Event leading into WrestleMania.
Meanwhile, Randy Savage finished 1991, returning from retirement to feud with Jake Roberts. Roberts had spoiled Savage’s wedding ceremony with Elizabeth by gifting a snake to the couple. Roberts also struck Elizabeth at This Tuesday In Texas in a controversial angle at the time for WWE. Savage was sensitive to anyone provoking him by using Savage’s wife.
‘SHE WAS MINE BEFORE SHE WAS YOURS’
With the announcement of Savage becoming the number one contender, there wasn’t a personal issue between Flair and Savage for their title match. However, Flair ensured that didn’t last by claiming on WWE television that he had a romantic relationship with Savage’s real-life wife, Elizabeth. Flair shared pictures of himself and Elizabeth at the poolside and claimed that Elizabeth was “damaged goods” since Flair had been with her before. Flair decided to go with mind games to mess with Savage leading into their title match at WrestleMania. ‘The Nature Boy’ promised to reveal the centerfold at WrestleMania VIII.
Savage couldn’t contain his emotions and attacked Flair on the floor before the bell sounded. However, Mr. Perfect, Flair’s assistant, pulled Savage off to help the champion. Savage controlled the early portion of the match with clotheslines and strikes but was stopped by a backdrop over the top to the floor. Flair followed up on the advantage by working over Savage’s lower back by ramming Savage into the apron. Next, Flair delivered a vertical and back suplex, but it would take much more than that to keep Savage down. Flair methodically worked over Savage with chops throughout the bout, as well.
Flair focused on Savage’s lower back and tried for several pin attempts showing desperation to put Savage away. Savage displayed a flurry of offense with jabs and a swinging neckbreaker to show that Macho Man wasn’t close to being out of the match. Savage press slammed Flair off the top to the canvas, followed by a backdrop and a series of clotheslines. The Indianapolis crowd became more invested in the action when Savage nearly won the match after a clothesline to Flair coming off the top rope. Savage hit his trademark axe handle off the top to the floor, sending Flair face-first into the guard railing. Flair developed a cut on his forehead as Savage sent Flair into the ring steps and post.
Savage was out for blood, hitting a vertical suplex on the floor. Savage brought Flair back to the ring and punched the champion with right-hand blows. Macho Man connected with another axe handle off the top for a two count, and the crowd nearly erupted, thinking the title had changed hands. Savage flew off the top rope to hit the flying elbow drop, but Mr. Perfect pulled Savage off of Flair. Perfect got into the ring and tossed Flair brass knuckles. Flair dropped Savage with a shot to brass knuckles to the face, but Savage’s desire for revenge for his wife was far too strong, and he kicked out at two!
Flair is in panic mode choking Savage and distracting the referee allowing Mr. Perfect to jab Savage on the knee with a steel chair. Elizabeth couldn’t handle the action anymore and went to ringside despite several officials attempting to stop her. Flair focused his onslaught on Savage’s knee and locked in the figure four submission, but Savage refused to give in to the pain. Savage shows heart and manages to counter the figure four for a moment. Savage can hardly stand on his injured left knee and damaged lower back. Flair delivered a knee breaker and had Savage on one leg but missed a right hand, and Savage took Flair down with a rollup and a handful of tights to win his second WWE World Championship. Still, more importantly, Savage successfully fought for Elizabeth.
Right after losing the WWE World Championship, a bloodied Ric Flair kissed Elizabeth and attacked Randy Savage, signaling that the feud was not over by a long shot. A few weeks after WrestleMania, Savage proved that Flair’s pictures with Elizabeth were photoshopped, thus revealing that Flair was lying about any previous relationship with Elizabeth.
For months on the house show circuit, Savage would routinely defeat Flair in title matches. Their feud would continue throughout the summer, and in early fall, they squared off in a title match aired on Prime Time Wrestling. Finally, on September 14th, 1992, Ric Flair regained the WWE World Championship from Savage with help from the newly debuted Razor Ramon.
Savage’s title win at WrestleMania VIII is one of the best feel-good moments in WrestleMania history. By this time in Savage’s career, he was beloved by fans, and Flair’s heel work was incredible to draw interest in a second-option match. Savage’s storyline arch from WrestleMania VII, where he reunited with Elizabeth following his retirement to recapture the WWE World Championship, is an underrated year’s worth of storytelling.