Happy Ric Flair Day to all, and I say this not only for his birthday on February 25th, but for being the wrestler that made me watch many hours of wrestling over the last 30 years.
It all started in back in the early 80’s, when my friend Mike, (who will be referred to from this point on as Tubby) got interested in wrestling and this little known team from Chicago who went by the name of The Road Warriors. So I tried to watch AWA wrestling, but it didn’t do anything to peak my interest. I stuck with it, because after Saturday morning cartoons, another group of wrestlers showed up on my television, representing the WWF. Gave them a try, and it was a little better. Still didn’t get it, but stuck with it, because it was something Tubby and I could talk about.
Than another federation of wrestlers came, representing the NWA. How many different federations were there? So I watched this one, and something clicked. Out came a guy with long bleached blond hair, suit, sunglasses, and a set of skills on the microphone that had me hooked. Here was Ric Flair, talking smack about being the champion, and he was going to beat anyone he wrestled, and go home with all the ladies. I found my reason to tune in every week. Tubby had the Road Warriors, I had Ric Flair.
I will admit, I’m not the biggest wrestling fan. There was a time when I stopped watching wrestling, which was much of the 1990’s, which I refer to as the Doink the Clown era. Things got a little silly, and couldn’t watch an hour of programming at this point. There was no internet at this point, so keeping up with wrestling, without magazines like Pro Wrestling Illustrated and Inside Wrestling, things I knew were either what people mentioned, or news stories like the WWF steroid trial and wrestling was predetermined. Than all of a sudden, wrestling was moving to cable. At that point, I got too cool for wrestling, and stopped watching. I left Ric Flair hanging.
By the late 90’s, I was left in the dust. People were wearing WWF DX shirts, or WCW n.W.o shirts, and everyone was crotch chopping each other. No clue what was going on here, I just observed. Until the day I found myself working for a cable company, and the strangest thing happen. I’m flipping through the channels, and come across WCW Nitro. First thing I see in the ring was a guy, short bleached blond hair, talking smack and then elbow dropping his suit jacket. I was again hooked in by Ric Flair.
Then came the day I was going to finally meet Ric Flair. He was doing an autograph signing at Tower Records in Schaumburg, IL. I got there early, waited in line, and patiently waited to meet the greatest wrestler of all time. As they let us in the store, people were wooooing and holding up four fingers to symbolize the Four Horseman. So the excitement was building. We turned the corner down the aisle, and there he was. Funny thing, as I’m watching people getting stuff signed, Flair really wasn’t moving. He wasn’t talking to anyone, never lifted his head, and didn’t even take pictures with anyone. Holy hell, Ric was hungover with his tongue sticking out.
The guy I wanted to thank for getting me to watch wrestling, and he didn’t even know I was there. When I got home and people asked what it was like to meet the Nature Boy, I only said two things,
- I definitely met Ric Flair this weekend. Not the kiss stealin’, wheelin’ and dealin’ one, but the high flyin’, 8-ball ridin’ one.
- If there was no security, I could have gave Flair a spinebuster through the table, and become WCW World Heavyweight Champion. He wouldn’t have felt it, and he wouldn’t have kicked out either. Missed opportunity.
After WCW was bought out by Vince McMahon, I expected him to ride off in the sunset, and never be heard from again. Than one night in Charlotte, North Carolina, right before Vince was going to strip Steve Austin of his title and award it to Kurt Angle, the music hit, and out came Ric, who was part owner of the WWE. What a pop for Flair. The crowd went nuts, I totally marked out, and my wife thought I was crazy. He stuck around for some time, and then the super kick by Shawn Michaels and the long retirement send off the next night, I watched it all, with a tear in my eye. The end was here.
But as Ric Flair once said, he will never retire. And sure enough, he came back, in the form of a podcast. Another admission, I wasn’t going to give this a chance. I was afraid it was going to be an hour long wooooooo fest. But it was Ric Flair, I had to listen. This was fantastic. All the behind the scenes stuff, the insight, how things were done and handled, all great stories. Also, this was all done with the perfect co-host in Conrad Thompson, who is a super fan of the sport, and great line of questioning for the guests. Not bad mortgage guy!
So as I come to a conclusion on Ric Flair, just a thank you for keeping me entertained all these years, as I watched you scream Tony Schiavone’s name before interviews, have epic battles with Dusty Rhodes and Sting, and gave us a behind the scenes look of the wrestling world, as it once was. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I have a Ric Flair DVD set I need to go watch and elbow drop the packaging. Woooooooooooooooooooooo!!!