Today In History 9/9: Ric Flair Makes WWF Debut In Wild Angle With Vince McMahon Getting Knocked Out

* 24 years ago in 1991, the WWF held an eventful Superstars taping at the Civic Center in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. As noted in yesterday's edition, Ric Flair had finally signed with the company and was ready to make his debut.

Flair was all set to wrestle Mark Thomas when, during his entrance, he spun around while posing... spotting the commentary podium with Vince McMahon, Roddy Piper, and Randy Savage in the process. So he sauntered over and started jawing with Piper. He turned his attention to McMahon, surreptitiously undid his Real World Heavyweight Championship Belt, and swung around to hit Piper in the face with it.

All hell broke loose as Flair went to town on Piper and got a chair. Randy Savage tried in vain to talk Flair into stopping, as he was in probation and couldn't get physically involved. As a gaggle of referees held back Flair,McMahon left the podium to check on Piper. A groggy Piper picked up Flair's chair, swung blindly, and cracked McMahon in the back! That was the first time he had ever gotten physically involved in an angle to such a degree. Flair took advantage of the distraction, got the chair back, and nailed Piper. The show went off the air in chaos with no commentary, maybe the first time th WWF had used that trick to get the gravity of an angle over.

It was a great angle to get over Flair as much more than just a guy with a "fake belt." As much as the fan overlap was more than the WWF liked to admit back then, there were still plenty f viewers who didn't know Flair. Up to this point, they had a vague idea that Flair and Piper had a history, but that is it, and Flair was now a hot heel ready to battle Piper around the horn. It was also the latest step in the WWF taking a more adult, serious, and dark direction in 1991 with angles like this, The Undertaker literally trying to kill The Ultimate Warrior, everything in the Jake Roberts-Randy Savage feud, etc.

On the shows produced at these tapings, the WWF debuted a series of new vignettes featuring Sgt. Slaughter. At SummerSlam, when General Adnan and Colonel Mustafa abandoned him, he realized that he had made a grave mistake. Yeah, he wanted the WWF Championship, but he got there the wrong way, turning his back on the United States of America and siding with Iraq. So he decided to, literally, turn babyface by begging for forgiveness.

So he went to various American landmarks, talking about their history, and then letting out a battle cry: "I WANT MY COUNTRY BACK!" It worked, but really just to a point. He was no longer a main eventer, instead just a midcard babyface who didn't get much farther than teaming with Jim Duggan at a point where that meant very little. At least the vignettes and the catchphrase were memorable.

Also on those episodes of Superstars, Tito Santana got his own vignettes where he underwent a transformation...he learned how to become a bullfighter. At the end of this process, he was just "El Matador." Most likely, this had to do with European tour plans. Earlier in the year, on a show in Barcelona, Spain, Santana got to beat The Undertaker in a main event by using the urn and hitting three piledrivers. The promotion was clearly banking on Santana being a big star in Spain, and perhaps the new gimmick was meant to help him out there. It didn't exactly turn out that way: He actually moved further down the card than he had been in the first place.

However, a year later, legend has it that he was close to getting that push. Santana has said that he was in consideration for the surprise WWF Championship reign that Bret Hart got as the new face of the company. Given his status on the undercard, it sounds unlikely on its face...except Hart wrote in his book that he heard the same thing when he found out that he was in consideration for the spot himself. In a weird way, it makes sense: Given the circumstances under which Hart got the title,

Santana ticks off some of the same boxes. He was a model employee without steroid scandal baggage who had some international appeal at a time where that was becoming a bigger part of the business. Hart was the better choice in 1992, yes, but it's not outlandish that Santana was considered.

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