Harley Race, one of the most influential men ever to set foot in the ring, ended Ric Flair’s first NWA World Heavyweight Championship by beating the Nature Boy in a two-out-of-three falls match in June 1983.
Of course, history records that he would drop the title back to Flair at the very first Starrcade at Thanksgiving in 1983, subtitled A Flair For The Gold. By this time, Race was a twenty-three year veteran and this was his (at the time) record-breaking, seventh NWA world title. He’d even get an eighth, eventually… but this was Flair’s time.
Race didn’t want another piece of the Nature Boy, and offered a $25,000 dollar contract on his opponent, open to anyone that wrestled for a living. Take out Ric Flair and the money was theirs. In the end, ‘Cowboy’ Bob Orton and Dick Slater took him at his word, delivering a spike piledriver that took Flair out for months and teased his retirement… that is, before he dramatically returned in September ‘83 to take out Orton and Slater and set his sights back on Race’s gold again.
Race wouldn’t be the first heel to offer a bounty on a babyface he didn’t want to fight, but he was the most notorious: Harley freakin’ Race was one of the most intimidating men in the history of the sport, and everybody knew it.
If Harley Race needed Flair taken out, that said more about Flair than a hundred promos could. Starrcade ‘83 was the night that Flair, already a top guy in the NWA, became a real star, and it was Race that put him there.
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