Adam Cole vs Johnny Gargano is NXT's Ric Flair vs Ricky Steamboat | Smark Out Moment

Adam Cole vs Johnny Gargano is NXT's Ric Flair vs Ricky Steamboat

Posted by Greg Coleman Thursday, July 11, 2019
The year is 1989. The place is the NWA. Two men who arrived to this point from different places with different lives would meet and provide the wrestling industry with arguably the greatest trilogy of matches the sport has ever seen.

One man was the current 5-time NWA champion that was already getting mentioned in the conversation of greatest of all time. He was also the leader of what would become the greatest faction in wrestling history and future hall of famers, The Four Horsemen. He was know the limousine ridin', jet flyin', kiss stealin', wheelin' dealin' son of a gun and the "dirtiest player in the game."

The other man was 2 years removed from being half of one of the greatest wrestling matches on all-time at WrestleMania 3. He was humble, honorable, and family man.

These two men were "Nature Boy" Ric Flair and Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat.

Flashy vs Humble

Flair and Steamboat's trilogy in 1989 featured 3 of the greatest matches in wrestling history and they all happened in a span of less than 6 months. Steamboat won his first NWA title in February 1989 when defeated Flair at Chi-Town Rumble. Steamboat would successfully defend the title in a 2-out-of-3 Falls match against Flair at Clash of the Champions: Ragin' Cajun in April 1989.

Flair would regain the title in May 1989 at Wrestle War. Steamboat will go down as the winner of the trilogy in the record books winning 2 of the 3 matches. However, it was Flair who left the trilogy as NWA champion.

Greatest trilogy ever?

Fast forward 30 years to 2019. The place is NXT. Two men who arrived to the NXT title from different places have already given wrestling fans two of the best matches of 2019 and in the history of NXT.

One man is cocky, arrogant, devious, and is the leader of arguably the most popular faction in wrestling today, Undisputed Era. The other man is an underdog that has overcome all obstacles. He is bound by honor and humble. The two men are current NXT champion Adam Cole and former NXT champion Johnny Gargano.

Cole and Gargano first met for the NXT title at TakeOver: New York during WrestleMania weekend in a match that originally supposed to be between Gargano and then-champion and bitter rival Tommaso Ciampa. Unfortunately, Ciampa suffered a serious injury before the match and would have to relinquish the NXT title.

Any feelings of disappointment fans had of not seeing a proper end to the Gargano-Ciampa rivalry which is one of the greatest in wrestling history, quickly dissipated during Gargano and Cole's classic 2-out-of-3 Falls match. The match delivered on every level with great in-ring exchanges, false finishes, story-telling, and psychology. At the end of the "match of the year" contender, Gargano would finally become NXT champion and, in the process, the first man to hold every title in NXT.

Unlike Flair and Steamboat, the 2-out-of-3 Falls match was the first match of their series. However, like Flair and Steamboat, the babyface would walkaway with the title after the first match.

Johnny Champion

Gargano-Cole 2 took place at TakeOver XXV and was another instant classic that is regarded by many to be better than their initial confrontation at TakeOver: New York.

The storyline going into the the match was Gargano telling Cole that he wouldn't be able to beat him without the help of Undisputed Era and challenging Cole to beat him one-on-one. This was in response to The Undisputed Era being heavily involved in Cole's favor during the third and decisive fall of their first match that Gargano eventually won, despite the number's advantage.

This match was every bit as epic as their first match and told an excellent story. In the end, Cole would do what Gargano said he couldn't and defeat Gargano with no outside interference to win his 1st NXT title and become the second man to hold every title in NXT.

NXT Champ Bay Bay

Through two matches, Cole and Gargano are tied 1-1. However, if you drill down to the amount of falls in the current series, the men are tied 2-2 with Gargano having defeated Cole twice and Cole defeating Gargano twice.

Another interesting nugget of information is both of Cole's falls were won without any interference. With the series even a third match seems inevitable. TakeOver: Toronto is coming up in August and I can't think of a better platform to end the trilogy.

Three straight TakeOvers, three straight classics—and just for fun why not give these two 60 minutes under Iron Man rules?

Thanks for reading. Please share your thoughts. Do you feel that Cole-Gargano is this generation's Flair-Steamboat? Drop a comment below!

Greg Coleman is a long-time pro wrestling fan who aspires to be a wrestling writer. Greg is a frequent Smark Remark and Triple Threat contributor on Smark Out Moment You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram.


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