Hey Scott - I read your recent topic about Ric Flair/Lex Luger from 1988 and how you were arguing that Luger should have won the World Title either at Great American Bash or Starrcade. I disagree, noting how Luger's career only saw a measure of drawing power when he returned to WCW in 1995 and then went after Hulk Hogan/NWO in 1997. In 1988, he was still very green in the ring and lacked personality to draw as a face.
In my opinion, I'm glad that Ric Flair kept the title away from Luger during 1988. It made 1989 much more special when Ricky "the Dragon" Steamboat arrived and actually defeated Ric Flair at Chi-Town Rumble 1989. By escaping loss in 1988 against Luger, it made him a stronger heel champion and made Steamboat's title victory much more satisfying. Placing Luger back in the midcard to fight over the U.S. Title was a better fit for him.
I also believe that Luger not winning in 1988 helped Sting in 1990. Sting overcoming Ric Flair in 1990 was credible because only Steamboat defeated Flair for the World Title from Flair's Starrcade 1987 title win to Sting's win at Great American Bash 1990. I'm not sure where you're seeing the $$$ for Luger provided how the rest of his career didn't quite pan out until his return to WCW in 1995 and his 1997 World Title victory over Hogan on Nitro is still one of my favorite moments in wrestling.
See, but you’re looking at a lot of that stuff with the benefit of hindsight. Yeah, they might have known Ricky Steamboat would be available for early 1989, but at the time they were pushing Luger they had no idea he would be coming in. You can 100% say that Luger shouldn’t have gone over at Starrcade because they were waiting for Steamboat, but you can’t make that argument with Bash 88. The promotion was dying, literally. They had managed to engage a large number of fans with the Windham turn and Horsemen storyline in a way that Dusty hadn’t managed in a long while, and the natural progression of the storyline was for the screwed-over and underappreciated Luger to beat the hell out of Flair and win the title. End of story. You could argue that backing away from that finish was the last nail in the coffin for Crockett as far as building a replacement for Flair. Luger winning and then defending against the Four Horsemen and building to turncoat Windham running up the ladder to finally get his shot might have carried them for a while longer. But then it just turned into another Flair challenger losing by screwy means, and Windham had nowhere to go with Flair already a heel on top, and that was that.
1990 was a different kettle of fish, of course. They really backed into a corner on that one, but there wasn’t much that could be done given the thinned-out roster for budget reasons. They were waiting on Sting to return, and needed a challenger for a few PPVs who fans would buy as a threat, but they didn’t want to change the title. So it’s either turn Luger or Windham in that case, and Luger made the best business sense. I don’t fault them there at all for making that call. Not surprisingly, after that Luger stopped giving a shit, but it’s hard to blame him.