Ric Flair & The Four Horsemen DVD Review
Posted on March 2nd, 2008 by TheBigBoot
If this DVD highlights any one aspect lacking in wrestling today, it’s the way that many of the most enduring storylines and angles of the past were believable because they were based on reality. The reality here is that rather than a group of wrestlers stuck together to form a storyline ‘group’, The Horsemen in it’s original incarnation were friends who worked (“Me as a World Champion trying to go out and follow those guys every night? It was a nightmare. No wonder I drank all night getting ready for the next day. Are you kidding me? They were great.”, Ric Flair), partied (“The lifestyle of The Horsemen was just what it was. I mean, whatever I said on TV: we were doing. That’s what made it so cool.”, Ric Flair), and relaxed (“The few days we had off we hung out together… We worked out together, we went to the lake together”, Tully Blancard) together.
Length: 5 hrs 55 mins
- Ric Flair Discovers Arn Anderson
- Minnesota Wrecking Crew Reborn
- “Nature Boy” Ric Flair
- Family Ties
- A New Ally: Tully Blanchard
- Villains Unite Against A Rising Hero
- Ric Flair: The World Champion
- An American Dream Destroyed?
- Enter J.J. Dillon
- The Creation Of The Four Hrosemen
- The Original Gang
- The Four Horsemen vs. Dusty Rhodes
- The Lifestyle Of The Four Horsemen
- Ole Out, Lex In
- Ric Flair And Precious
- War Games
- Arn And Tully: The Tag Team
- Lex Out, Barry In
- The Champions
- Arn And Tully Leave
- Troubled Times
- Kendall Windham
- J.J. Dillon Leaves
- Hiro Matsuda
- Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat
- Sid Vicious
- Ric Flair Leaves… And Returns
- Arn And Sid Confrontation
- Arn vs. Flair
- The Four Horsemen – 1996
- Jeff Jarrett
- Arn’s Retirement
- The nWo And Eric Bischoff
- The Four Horsemen – 1998
- The Legacy Of The Four Horsemen
- Tully Blanchard: College Kid Buys A Rolex
- J.J. Dillon: J.J. Gets Surgery
- Dean Malenko: Meeting Arn
- Ric Flair: The Wildest Night in The Business
- The Four Horsemen Parking Lot Attack On Dusty Rhodes (NWA, 25/10/86)
- Jim Ross: Joining Crockett Promotions
- Dean Malenko: Thumbs Up!
- Barry Windham: Luger Story
- The Four Horsemen Vitamins
- J.J. Dillon’s Pre-War Games Match
- The Four Horsemen Interviews
- Arn Anderson, Ole Anderson, & Ric Flair vs. Pez Whatley, Italian Stallion, & Rocky King (NWA, 22/06/85)
- NWA World Heavyweight Championship Steel Cage Match: Ric Flair vs. Ricky Morton (Great American Bash, 05/07/86)
- First Blood Match: Tully Blanchard vs. Dusty Rhodes (Starrcade, 27/11/86)
- War Games: Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Barry Windham & J.J. Dillon vs. Dusty Rhodes, Dr. Death, Lex Luger, Nikita Koloff, & Paul Ellering (Great American Bash, 16/7/88)
- World Tag Team Title Match: Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard vs. Sting & Nikita Koloff (Great American Bash, 10/07/88)
- World Tag Team Title Match: Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard vs. Barry Windham & Lex Luger (Clash Of The Champions I, 27/03/88)
- Arn Anderson vs. Ric Flair (WCW Fall Brawl, 17/09/95)
- The Elite (NWA, 16/11/85)
- The Four Horsemen Make It Happen (NWA, 12/7/86)
- J.J. Dillon’s Ring (NWA, 16/8/86)
- It’s An All Night Ride (NWA, 13/12/86)
- We Are The Horsemen (NWA, 26/12/86)
- The Four Horsemen Gives Sting The Boot (Clash Of The Champions X, 6/2/90)
- We Are The Original Gang (WCW Nitro, 5/8/96)
- Flair Going Off On Eric Bischoff (WCW Nitro, 7/12/98)
- WCW Nitro, 14/9/98: The Unveiling Of The Four Horsemen
- WCW Fall Brawl, 17/09/95: Arn Anderson’s Drive
“It didn’t come out of a booking office. Crockett didn’t sit up, Dusty didn’t sit up, the Powers To Be didn’t sit up in a room and say ‘Hey, we need a group of guys to be The Four Horsemen’ ” (Tully Blanchard, Ric Flair & The Four Horsemen, 2007)
Even the origins of the name were an accident. Whilst Arn Anderson was cutting a promo for a local television market he said “The only time this much havoc had been wreaked by this few a number of people, you need to go all the way back to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse!” whilst simultaneously holding up four fingers. According to Anderson, “When the interview was over out from behind the camera came Tony Schiavone and basically said, ‘You just stumbled upon something. You just named your guys, and boy is it cool’ – It fit perfectly.” In that moment wrestling’s original gang was given a name and The Horsemen became the first to have a hand signal to symbolize their group, a trait later borrowed well into the Nineties by groups like the Triple Threat (in ECW), nWo (in WCW), and DX (in the WWF).
Originally comprised of Ric Flair, Tully Blanchard, Arn and Ole Anderson the concept of The Four Horsemen was four wrestlers capable of thinking individually whilst working collectively toward a single goal. On-camera, they were famous for both their interviews and their wrestling ability – they were true all-rounders. Off-camera they were equally infamous for their all night parties (“You would think that anybody that trains that hard at the end of the night would be looking for the nearest bed and ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign and Ric was just the opposite.”, J.J. Dillon). Together they were the first group on a national stage to dress alike and act as unit rather than a random bunch of heels with the same manager. From the start they differentiated themselves not least by the way they dressed, as we see here from the expensive collection of suits, jackets, fancy watches (Flair’s $15,000 Rolex and Blanchard’s gold-nugget Geneva), hats (check out Arn’s fedora) and cars on display. Their mutual friendship led to competitive rivalry as behind the scenes The Horsemen would compete to see who had the best match each night, resulting in quality matches all around. That any combination of The Horsemen worked well together was also unique. As Flair put it, “We didn’t have a weak link”.
Officially, The Four Horsemen lasted in various forms from January 1986 to mid-1999 and the documentary portion of the DVD charts the rise and fall of these various incarnations. The list of interviewees is an impressive one as we hear from Horsemen members and associates Ric Flair; Arn Anderson; Tully Blancahrd; Barry and Kendall Windham; Paul Roma; Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko (who’s sit-down interview comments are strangely only featured in the various extras); The Horsemen’s original manager J.J. Dillon; and Dusty Rhodes; Jim Ross; Teddy Long; Michaels Hayes; Ricky Steamboat; Eric Bischoff; ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund; Jerry Lawler; Steve Austin; Shawn Michaels and Triple H.
Alarm bells went off when I first saw the cover of the DVD: “There’s Ric, Tully, Arn… Barry?” The problem was everything promotional seemed to be centered around the (admittedly excellent) Third Version of the Horsemen. Don’t get me wrong, Barry Windham’s one of the best wrestlers I’ve seen but that version was rather short-lived as Arn and Tully went to the WWF in 1988, shortly followed by Dillon (becoming Head of Talent Relations) and finally Windham (renamed ‘The Widowmaker’) leaving Flair on his own. Politics being what they are, I was worried that they would focus too much on this group as they were all able to appear on the DVD and either ignore or (as with the original group which they’d have to mention) brush over it quickly to favour the group they wanted you to focus on. Thankfully I was wrong with the initial version getting the most time.
Aesthetically this is the best wrestling DVD I’ve seen. Even the menu screen, featuring the Horsemen logo as the familiar sound of a horse neighing segues into that guitar theme that perfectly suited their gimmick, is worth watching as it shows footage from all versions of The Horsemen in chronological order inside a screen shaped like a horse’s head. Popping in the DVD for the first time you are struck by something about the adverts which play before the main feature: firstly The New And Improved DX only highlights how much cooler The Horsemen were; secondly the ad for The Ultimate Ric Flair Collection (2003) is some neat product placement as whilst you don’t normally see ads for anything but the latest DVD’s this makes perfect sense since fans getting their first exposure to prime-era Flair may want to see more. I know I would. At one point during the documentary when Flair talks about defending the NWA Title around the world a graphic shows a map with a picture of Flair’s face super-imposed over each place he mentions, complete with “Woooo!” sound effect. The more you think about it the more the cover makes sense: the Windham version was the only one where all held the major titles simultaneously (Flair – NWA World, Windham – U.S., Tully and Arn – NWA Tag Team) and according to his autobiography To Be the Man (2004) it is also Flair’s favourite version of the group.
At over two hours in length, almost every important event in that sixteen year period is talked about and I was impressed they discussed every incarnation of The Horsemen. Even ‘non-canonical’ members of the group such as Kendall Windham and Jeff Jarrett (“Hopefully no-one will ever, when they think back about The Four Horsemen, no-one will ever associate Jeff Jarrett with that organisation”, Eric Bischoff) are acknowledged. As are the classic feuds with Magnum T.A., Dusty Rhodes, The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, Jimmy and Ronnie Garvin (including the classic angle where Flair won a date with Precious only to get a surprise from Ronnie Garvin), The Road Warriors, Lex Luger, The Midnight Express, Sting, and the nWo. The drawback with so much material being covered is that there isn’t room for full explanations on who/what a lot of the wrestlers and events covered were, which might be confusing to newer fans.
I was impressed by the amount of pre-Horsemen footage as it recounts Ric Flair’s 1974 arrival to the Carolinas as a “cousin” of Gene and Ole Anderson (known as The Minnesota Wrecking Crew). A few years later travelling NWA World Champion Ric Flair met Arn Anderson who was wrestling in Florida. Impressed by what he saw, Flair recommended him to Jim Crockett Promotions as a potential partner for Ole Anderson due to their resemblance. As we learn on the DVD, the Television Champion and the company’s second top heel Tully Blanchard would often team with the Andersons or Flair on house shows. On 29th September 1985, the long-running association between Flair and the Andersons took a memorable turn linking them forever when they broke Dusty Rhodes’ leg, causing a riot in the Omni. In January 1986 they officially became a full-time stable when they were joined by Tully and his manager J.J. Dillon. And the rest is history.
Much of the DVD focuses on The Horsemen’s glory years from January 1986 until 1988. Over that period the group underwent several changes first when the then-green Lex Luger replaced Ole Anderson in 1987 giving The Horsemen a “heavy hitter” (Arn Anderson) to match up against powerful babyfaces like The Road Warriors and Nikita Kolloff, and later when Crockett decided to turn Luger into their version of Hulk Hogan and he was replaced by Barry Windham, whom Dusty calls “the most naturally gifted athlete to ever step into our sport”. During these years the first three incarnations of The Four Horsemen were the nucleus around which Jim Crockett Promotions was built… and for good reason: their weekly matches and interviews were one of the highpoints of 1980’s wrestling. They were rewarded for their abilities in both in (in addition to Ric Flair’s NWA World Title reigns, Tully Blanchard, Lex Luger and Barry Windham held the United States title, Blanchard and Arn Anderson held the World Television Title, The Minnesota Wrecking Crew of Arn and Ole Anderson held the NWA National Tag Team Titles, and Arn and Tully were two time NWA World Tag Team Champions) and out (Arn Anderson and Flair both won Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards for ‘Best on Interviews’, whilst J.J. Dillon was the 1988 Pro Wrestling Illustrated ‘Manager Of The Year’) of the ring. They were part of numerous classic angles, interviews and matches, including the first War Games (“What made the War Games successful was very simply Arn Anderson. Period.”, Dusty Rhodes).
Of course during this period they also personified the ‘work hard, play hard’ lifestyle of the era and there is no shortage of tales about their behaviour outside the arena. “We made The Rolling Stones or anybody that thought they could ever rock ‘n’ roll – they couldn’t even walk behind us” says Flair as we get the incredible story of how, ‘living the gimmick’, they would stay in resorts like Las Vegas, fly into the town they were wrestling, work their match, and then fly back out to go to the casino. It’s easy to see how Flair’s financial problems started as he admits “If I made five hundred, I spent seven. Back then it didn’t matter: I was having fun”.
Watching things develop in chronological order, one thing becomes apparent: for despite the many changes of The Horsemen the one constant was the leader, and man the group was based around, Ric Flair. As Tully Blanchard points out, having the World Champion as part of the group gave them instant credibility and elevating them above other groups. Watching this DVD you realise how important each member was to the group, particularly Blanchard himself. Their status as one of wrestling’s first groups of ‘cool heels’ meant they were often cheered and what kept them on the heel side was Blanchard: “He was the most hated guy of that group. They’d cheer for every other one but when it got to Tully they would boo Tully”, claims Dusty Rhodes. Once Tully (and Arn Anderson) left for the WWF in 1988 the group effectively disappeared, and although it was brought back time-and-time again over the next decade it never had the same impact. According to Tully, the lack of Blanchard was part of the reason why – “You can have C4 and you can have dynamite and you can have nitroglycerin and all this kind of stuff but none of it blows up without a blasting cap. That’s what Tully was: Tully was a blasting cap that tied a lot of stuff together.” (Tully Blanchard).
Whilst the positive aspects of The Horsemen’s legacy are praised, the documentary doesn’t try to gloss over the negatives. This is ‘warts and all’ and doesn’t shy away from talking about some of the more dubious choices for Horsemen membership like Sid Vicious (“He was inept in the ring. Just not capable”, Barry Windham), Paul Roma (“The job guy from the WWE”, Triple H), and Steve ‘Mongo’ McMichael (actually one of Flair and Arn’s picks and here they give him some credit); or the more controversial problems they encountered like Crockett’s sale to Ted Turner (1988); the details behind Tully Blanchard, Arn Anderson and J.J. Dillon’s decisions to join the WWF (1988); Ric Flair’s problems with Jim Herd (“He’s an embarrassment to the business”, Ric Flair); the angle where Hiro Matsuda’s Yamasaki Corporation ‘bought’ The Horsemen (1989); The Black Scorpion fiasco (1990) – complete with footage of Scorpion’s Space-shuttle; the reasons behind Flair’s decision to join the WWF… and take the NWA title with him, and the hard feelings it caused with Barry Windham at the time (1991); the infamous scissor incident which left Arn Anderson with stab wounds following a brawl with Sid in a Blackburn hotel during WCW’s UK Tour (1993); Arn’s retirement due to injury (1997) and his reaction to the nWo’s infamous parody of his retirement speech (“You know, looking back I wish I hadn’t done that one. Still to this day I feel really bad about it.”, Eric Bischoff); the problems between Flair and Bischoff that led to Flair quitting WCW (“Just like Herd, Bischoff was the same only a little more suave. Same thing”, Ric Flair), the subsequent legal battle and Flair’s eventual return (1998).
Refreshingly, it’s not one-sided either. Roma and Bischoff are able to give their side of the story on why they didn’t ‘fit’ into The Horsemen (“I mean that whole Horsemen thing it was an ego trip . You know, you have the Pillsbury Doughboy Arn Anderson, you have ninety seven year-old Ric Flair – they’re riding this drug that they don’t want to come down off of. I didn’t go out and drink and party and, you know, act the fool or jump on a table and pull my pants down and dance. I didn’t do that, okay Ric? So I didn’t fit.”) and the decision to sue Flair (“I felt perfectly justified in the position I took and I’d probably take it today” ), respectively. Heck, it even offers some criticism of their opposition at the time the WWF, with Flair’s (very valid) point that “They couldn’t match up with us in terms of in-ring work. They could match-up with us in terms of characters ‘cause we didn’t know how to market” and (highly unlikely) one that with The Horsemen on top Hulk Hogan would have been in the first match. J.J. Dillon gets in perhaps the most astute comment of all, in relation to Flair’s jump up North: “There’s always that thing at the back of my mind that Vince puts the most emphasis on things that he created and here’s Ric Flair that was the Champion in NWA for all of those years and he wasn’t Vince’s creation.” That it’s taken this long for a Horsemen DVD to be released is evidence enough of that. The more things change, the more they stay the same…
As brutally honest as it is at times, the DVD is not without its faults: that Arn Anderson stays in kayfabe throughout, talking about angles as if they were 100% legitimate will be annoying to many and the choice of interviewees could have been even more comprehensive: Considering how much time is dedicated to the original version, it suffers from missing Ole. To be fair, although he’s apparently not on good terms with McMahon (or Flair) the portrayal of Ole isn’t a negative one: at one point Triple H and Austin praise the Anderson tag team, with Austin specifically putting over Ole; Whilst Ole was never likely to be on it that doesn’t explain the absence of Sid Vicious – who’s on good terms with McMahon and could have offered a rebuttal ala Paul Roma; Woman – the late Nancy Benoit could have commented on tension with Debra McMichael that Eric Bischoff and her husband talk about; or even Vince McMahon himself – who appeared on the ECW and Dusty Rhodes’ DVDs talking about their influence in opposition to him and could have done the same regarding The Horsemen. The penultimate chapter is slightly misleading as it implies that The Horsemen ended because Benoit and Malenko jumped to the WWF in 2000, whereas the truth is the group just fizzled out in 1999.
Those problems aside, this is an excellent release that makes good use of tons of classic clips from the JCP/WCW archives combined with photos from Pro Wrestling Illustrated, to detail the entire history of The Horsemen. It’s not quite The Rise And Fall of ECW but if you’re an NWA/WCW fan then this is as close to it as we will likely get. Easily one of the best official WWE documentaries they have done so far.
“Very simple the interviews in that era, they were real interviews” (Dusty Rhodes)
All but three of the Extras on the first disc are longer extracts from sit-down interviews conducted with J.J. Dillon, Tully Blanchard, J.J. Dillon, Dean Malenko, Ric Flair, and Barry Windham. The interviews with Tully, Dean and JR give an insight into the legendary Horsemen lifestyle (and in Ross’ case the hostilities encountered by those who joined the company after Crockett bought Bill Watts’ territory – “I’m not going to tell you I was greeted in that organization with open arms”); Flair’s gives an even better one with a story about partying during Crockett Cup ’87 (and what I found humorous was that having compared The Horsemen to The Stones earlier, he now turns to their Sixties rivals and claims “We were like The Beatles, it’s unbelievable”); Windham talks about breaking Lex Luger into the business and the injuries he suffered as a result (“It took a lot of my ability and a lot of blood… he was so stiff and uncoordinated”); and Dillon’s two stories cover firstly working a cage match with Dusty Rhodes the night before Dillon had plastic surgery, then going on TV covered in scars and blaming his appearance on Rhodes (another neat use of combining reality and storyline); and secondly about why regards his pre-War Games match “as one of the best matches I ever had because I wrestled as a manager.”
The other three Extras are: 1.) The classic (and very violent for the time) angle where the Andersons broke Dusty Rhodes’ arm in Crockett’s car park. On the surface it may look similar, but this is a world away from the out-of-the-ring Sports Entertainment skits of today. Everything including the presence of the camera-man and his reluctance, and how it was shown on television even though the announcers (and promotion) supposedly found it despicable are explained; 2.) A hilarious advert for Four Horsemen Vitamins (“Ya wanna know how you can stay up all night long? Heh heh heh! With the HELP…Right here! >shoves vitamin tablet in his mouth< Right there!”, Ric Flair) – yes that was a real product; 3.) A ten minute section on interviews complete with lots of studio clips starring the original version of The Horsemen with comments from Flair, Anderson, Hayes, Windham, Dusty, Lawler, Gene, Steamboat, Triple H, and Ross. This looks like it was originally part of the main documentary, regardless it’s actually one of the better chapters on the entire set and highlights the versatility of the original group and there ability to be funny, serious, arrogant and intense all at the same time. “There were four guys who could wrestle and talk. Unheard of!” reasons Ric Flair. Well actually there were five as Jerry Lawler (one of the greatest promo men of all-time) puts over J.J. Dillon as “certainly one of the best talkers ever in the history of wrestling”. As the Dusty quote at the top of this section alludes to, this was in the days before scripted promos and it’s amazing how much better things were when the guys “ were allowed to be ourselves, we were allowed to be spontaneous” (Tully Blanchard), than have their words handed to them by comedy writers. Seriously, when was the last time you heard something as good as the following: “I could have beat him just by mailing him a letter across the dressing room” (Arn Anderson)?
The Extras on Disc 2 include seven matches, none released on DVD before and there is some good use of the Crockett master tapes here since two of the matches (Flair vs. Morton, and War Games) were previously unreleased commercially altogether. The only drawback to these matches is that there is no commentary. The lack of commentary was a missed opportunity and would have benefited from having Jim Ross sit down beside Arn Anderson and/or Ric Flair to give some background into the build-up and (in the case of War Games) rules for these matches. Still it’s great to see all these matches in crystal clear picture quality after all this time. Of the seven matches, six come from The Horsemen’s mid-80’s glory days in Jim Crockett Promotions and the final one comes from mid-90’s WCW. Five of them are excellent. Of the two which aren’t, one is a squash and the other involves Dusty Rhodes.
The six-man tag from 1985 is your standard TV squash, featuring guest commentary from Magnum T.A. Whilst it’s hardly essential viewing, it’s a good example of basic body-part psychology in battle of youth versus experience. If nothing else it’s worth watching just to see the late ‘Pistol’ Pez Whatley’s dropsault! If you thought Paul London invented the move, you should see a guy Pez’ size execute it over twenty years ago; Both of the ‘unreleased’ matches came from Great American Bash tours (in 1986 and 1988, respectively).
For those who don’t know, prior to 1988 The Great American Bash was like a rock tour with a series big stadium shows throughout the summer (later on it just became an annual pay-per-view ala WrestleMania). This is appropriate because in the case of Morton/Flair it really does feel like a music festival atmosphere. The big baseball stadium setting gives the bout that ‘Big Match’ feel as Flair arrives via helicopter, wearing an extravagant robe (“I wish all the kids could wear these but at $15,000 a pop it’s a little hard to do”), steps onto a red carpet and strolls to the ring to Thus Spake Zarathustra. If anyone asked me why Ric Flair is regarded the way he is by long term fans: I’d recommend this match. He makes Morton, who dons a face-protector (following a violent angle where the Horsemen rubbed Morton’s face into the studio floor on an episode of World Championship Wrestling breaking his nose), look like the next NWA World champion in this story of a very over pretty-boy, playing the underdog against the conniving, veteran champion. Compare this to Triple H’s match with Jeff Hardy at Armageddon and it’s like night and day…and Hardy won that match! Technically this match has been available before but I believe it was previously only available on Japanese release of Great American Bash ’86. I thought it was an excellent match when I saw a version of it then, and seeing it here in DVD-format it’s even better. It’s one of those matches that really does have it all featuring nice stalling, some smooth wrestling exchanges, excellent selling and babyface fire from Morton, comedy, blood (both men bleed), violence, bumps into the cage and a P.A. announcement after the match advising “Fans, don’t go away – fireworks momentarily”; The ‘First Blood’ Match between Tully and Dusty from StarrCade ’86: Night Of The Skywalkers is the weakest match on the set but does work as an example of how to have a fairly entertaining match without it being good … or really doing much at all.
The previously unreleased house show War Games is an exciting match with blood, low-blows, and weapons aplenty but not quite up to the level of the original due to Williams and Luger not looking as comfortable in this environment as The Road Warriors did on The Superpowers team; The two NWA Tag Team Title Matches differ from each other significantly: the opening match of Great American Bash ’88 is an example of why Arn and Tully were the ‘Thinking Man’s Team’ – trying to work a methodical match against two intense powerhouses, who themselves are trying to out-think The Horsemen by preventing tags. Also look out for the agility show by Sting on his plancha!; the second is an all-action affair from the first Clash Of The Champions special which was shown on free TV in the States opposite WrestleMania IV. Horsemen Blanchard and Anderson take on the ‘Twin Towers’ of Lex Luger and Barry Windham two men who would also call themselves members of that elite group. All four men are on top form in a match full of big moves and false-finishes. You would be hard pressed to find a better non-PPV, non-Midnight Express, U.S. tag match that lasts under ten minutes.
Amazingly, it wasn’t even the second best match on that show; Jumping forward to 1995, for the much-anticipated Flair/Anderson collision, the lighting and graphics look state-of-the-art compared to other matches. Whilst it’s a big jump in that respect, it isn’t in terms of wrestling. In some ways a throwback to the 1980s, I consider this one of the most underrated WCW matches of the 90’s. This is a slow-paced, psychology-based old school match where both men play off their conflicted emotions as they are semi-reluctant to fight their best friend but their competitive nature makes them want to do whatever it takes to win. It’s one of the times where Bobby Heenan (“Maybe Arn isn’t as good as we think…>Anderson catches a running Flair with an elbow to the mush < Maybe he is”) and Tony Schiavone worked well together in terms of explaining the thinking behind each move, and little touches like Arn blocking the figure four with his arm make this match feel much more real to the extent it’s one of the last times I really got caught up in a match and no suspension of disbelief was necessary. It’s a little annoying that the fourth, fifth and sixth matches are shown in the wrong order as well but overall the match quality is very high.
Following the matches we get more interviews (and by “interviews” this time I mean wrestling promos rather than out-takes from the documentary) ranging from great to legendary: The studio promos only serve to back up Flair’s claim on the previous disc about them being four guys who could work and talk and you’ll find yourself laughing at the classic one-liners “I don’t want to blow our own horn but TOOT TOOT!”, “Diamonds Are Forever, and so are The Four Horsemen”, etc. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore; The classic angle where Terry Funk interviews The Horsemen at Clash of the Champions X only gets better with time. Ole Anderson is on top form here (“Pay attention!”) as he lays out an ultimatum to Sting, who had signed to face NWA World Champion Ric Flair -“You go to the promoter, you go to Mr. Jim Ross or whoever you gotta talk to and you tell ‘em you’re going to cancel that contract with this man” – in a calm but intimidating manner; The angle from 1996 where The Horsemen beat up The Booty Man (Brutus Beefcake) as ‘Slic Ric’ yells “There’s your best friend!” to send a message to Hogan, the week after the nWo sent (Flair’s best friend) Arn Anderson to hospital features intense promos that could easily work today; As could Flair’s promo hyping his match with Eric Bischoff at StarrCade ’98 (“Bischoff wherever you are, get off you girlfriend! Get off your treadmill! And hear the ‘Naaaaaature Boy’! Because, pal! Your DICTATORSHIP is about to come to AN END! Woooooo!”); At this point the order of the promos becomes a little strange being chronological until the last two. The only reason I can think they’ve done this is to save the best until last… Which brings us back to my starting point: Flair’s homecoming on Nitro and the crowd reaction worked because it was rooted in reality, as Bischoff says in the documentary “Of course it was believable because 98% of it was real”. One of the highpoints of the entire Monday Night War, this must rank as one of the top ten live interviews of all time. Included here is the entire segment, uncensored. If you don’t have this in your collection then it’s almost worth buying the set just for this!; We finish with Arn Anderson giving the promo of a lifetime as he lays-out his motivation heading into his match with best friend Ric Flair at Fall Brawl ’95. As with Flair’ homecoming, the emotion here means this is as believable as it gets (Anderson even tells us he was sick directly after the interview, the only time in his career that happened).
Of course there are some Easter Eggs with extra comments about the Horsemen (including Dusty Rhodes’ take on Blanchard and Anderson leaving the NWA) but I’ll let you find those for yourselves.
Whilst it’s hard to criticise what is here, it’s easy to criticise what isn’t: The most obvious omissions are the first two War Games matches from 1987. Don’t get me wrong, I can understand why they wanted to put the previously unreleased War Games on there to give us a ‘new’ match, but this was the fourth opportunity to feature the original War Games – following The Ultimate Ric Flair Collection (2003); Road Warriors: The Life & Death of Wrestling’s Most Dominant Tag Team (2005) and The American Dream: The Dusty Rhodes Story (2006) – which makes me wonder just when they will release it; When I first heard they were putting this together (and what it was going to be called), I expected them to use it as more of a ‘sequel’ to The Ultimate Ric Flair Collection in terms of matches by using it as a chance to use some previously-unreleased-to-DVD matches against Barry Windham (an uncut version of the 25 minute match from Crockett Cup ’87 would have been a strong addition), Brian Pillman, Magnum T.A., Ricky Morton (okay, so we got one of those), Sting (preferably Clash of the Champions I) or Lex Luger (StarrCade ’88, WrestleWar 1990 or the Cage Match from Capital Combat ’90 would have all been ideal at showcasing Ric’s abilities); Although the Anderson and Blanchard team is represented in two matches there were other matches they had that were equally good / better / more historically important like first Tag Team Title win over The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express (September 1987), the house show rematch with Windham and Luger that led to Barry’s classic heel turn or the Tournament Final versus Sting and Lex Luger (Crockett Cup ’88, April 23, 1988); Even outside Arn’s team with Blanchard it would have been interesting to see his teams with other Horsemen such as with Ole Anderson versus The Steiner Brothers (WrestleWar 1990), Barry Windham versus Doom (Streetfight, StarrCade ’90) or Benoit versus The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express (Nitro, June 24, 1996); In fact, considering the release was put together before the Benoit tragedy (he not only appears on the DVD but Arn Anderson says “I couldn’t say anything negative about Benoit if I was lying”) there’s no reason a match from the later versions of The Horsemen wasn’t on there to ‘bring things up to date’. Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko’s matches Curt Hennig and Barry Windham (SuperBrawl IX; Strap, Uncensored ’99) or Raven and Saturn (Spring Stampede ’99) or Benoit’s singles match against Randy Savage (Nitro, February 5, 1996) would have fitted in perfectly; It’s not just matches either: the DVD is noticeably missing Arn’s emotional retirement speech from Nitro; Since it’s referenced in the main feature a few of the promos, angles and clips from house show footage from Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard’s final NWA feud with The Midnight Express would have been welcome (with it being the greatest series of promos ever).
Missed opportunities? Or maybe we just need to wait? With Ric Flair being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame this year I wouldn’t be surprised to see a third Flair compilation featuring yet more of his classic matches (and interviews) released some time in the future.
TheBigBoot’s Best Match: NWA World Heavyweight Championship Steel Cage Match: Ric Flair vs. Ricky Morton (Great American Bash, 05/07/86) * * * * ¼
TheBigBoot’s Most Memorable Quote: “Embarrassing. Describing Sid Vicious as a member of The Horsemen? It was embarrassing. No talent, bad attitude, never should have been there. Please put this on the DVD ‘cause it’s how I feel. He was so far from what we were when we were good… Ridiculous” (Ric Flair on former Horsemen team-mate Sid Vicious)
Ever since McMahon bought WCW in 2001 there have been requests, rumours and speculation on the possibility of a Four Horsemen DVD. So now it’s finally here, was it worth the wait? For the most part, I’d say ‘Yes’. The documentary section is top-notch and actually surpassed my expectations due to its brutal honesty and the depth of its coverage. Whilst the DVD contains plenty of extras, the most frustrating thing about the whole set is just how much more it could have used, particularly when it comes to matches. Really given the talent involved in The Horsemen, this deserved to be a three disc set. Ultimately, the positives outweigh the negatives and if you were a fan at the time who wants to get the inside story on the greatest wrestling group of all time or a new fan wondering why the name ‘The Four Horsemen’ is still fondly remembered I’d recommend Ric Flair & The Four Horsemen as a slice of U.S. wrestling history.
All things considered it does an excellent job highlighting why The Horsemen were successful (and they did draw sell-out crowds, particularly in ‘86), what went wrong (on-screen and off) and the influence it continues to exert on the groups/factions/gangs of today. As Jim Ross put it, “Without The Horsemen there would damn sure be no nWo or D-X”.
Points: 8.5 / 10