Jim Ross has discussed the tension between Dusty Rhodes and Ric Flair in 1988, and how Dusty wanted Rick Steiner to beat Flair for the title at Starrcade.
Speaking on his Grilling JR podcast, JR and co-host Conrad Thompson were discussing the career of Rick Steiner. Steiner began working for Jim Crockett Promotions in 1988, while Flair was NWA World Champion. Rhodes served as booker for the territory at the time, making matches and deciding on the creative direction of the company.
Ross was asked about the potential plan for Steiner to beat Flair in less than five minutes for the title at Starrcade:
“I didn’t believe it. Was Dusty that big a fan of Rick Steiner or that big an enemy to the Nature Boy [Flair]? It was shocking to hear that. There was no build-up to a programme to where you’d have a blow-off in a cage. All it was, was just a match.”
“The thing about Steiner is, and all due respect to Ric [Flair] is that if Steiner wanted to beat Flair, he’d beat Flair. There would not be any discussion about it. […] But that’s not the game we play here, it’s pro-wrestling. It’s a theatrical presentation and the casting is done by the booker in a fictional storyline.”
Jim Ross continued:
“There was some discussion about it. I never took it as seriously as some did because it just seemed to me to be implausible. I couldn’t wrap my arms around it and Ric [Flair] needed to be rebuilt. He’d been booked down, his perception had been harmed. […] Would Rick Steiner have been a good champion at some point in time? I think so but it was not time.”
At Starrcade 1988 Flair would successfully defend his NWA World Heavyweight Championship against Lex Luger. Earlier in the night, Rick Steiner would defeat his former tag team partner Mike Rotunda to win the NWA World Television Title.
Jim Ross had a lot more to say about Rick Steiner during the episode. Including telling a story about Steiner getting in trouble for saving people trapped in a burning car.