If I asked you 10 years ago in 2001, “What do you think of Ric Flair?”, you’re first reaction would have been – “He still wrestles? Isn’t he like 60 years old?”
Sure, The Nature Boy was only half of what he once was during the last days of WCW. But stick a mic in his face and give him a ring to perform, and Flair would get the adrenaline pumping throughout the arena on his promos alone. His matches weren’t top shelf like they once were in his epic battles with Race, Rhodes, or Steamboat – to name a few. And we all knew he’d never hit that top turnbuckle move that he always got caught on and launched across the ring from. But we sure as hell popped with a loud “WHOOOOO” any time he laced into someone’s chest skin with a vicious backhand chop. The magic was that Flair was a living legend, and having the opportunity to see him perform was a privilege you’d be able to brag about years later while watching the new and inexperienced green meat cattle being rounded up by the WWE.
Now fast forward 10 years later to the present day. I ask you, “What do you think about Ric Flair?”. You’re first reaction might be, “He still wrestles? I thought he was dead!”. Then I’d respond and say, “Yeah, he’s still going strong in TNA”. Then you’d say, “What the fuck is TNA?”….but that’s another story and rant that I’ll save for another day.
It’s 2011, and Ric Flair looks like he’s a 180 years old. But for 180, he’s still in pretty good shape. The problem is, it just looks so unfair to watch somebody’s grandfather trying to keep up with these young stallions who are running (and flying) circles around him. Now don’t even try to come at me with the bullshit that he’s “passing the torch” to a younger generation. That torch was passed a long time ago when guys like Shawn Michaels were establishing themselves as icons. Ironically, Shawn Michaels put in a full career, is retired for over a year and is already inducted into the Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, Flair is still bouncing and bleeding around the ring and trying to swing his dick with the younglings for a paycheck in a bush league company.
When you think back to the all-time greats, you relive the memories that made them larger than life and better than the rest. You can easily pinpoint certain matches, promos, and feuds that are etched in our minds and helped drive the passion we had for the business. Yet everyday that goes by that sees Ric Flair still competing as an active wrestler is not only depressing, but it’s tarnishing the legacy, the reputation and the respect I had for an individual who at one time was considered a “Wrestling God”.
Let’s keep it real – Ric Flair is only still wrestling because he’s HORRIBLE at managing money. He lives his gimmick, although he may argue that Ric Flair is anything but a gimmick. Call it whatever the fuck you want – gimmick, lifestyle, it doesn’t matter. The fact of the matter is that he’s a broke old man who can’t do anything else to earn a living, so he’s cashing in on a name and reputation that is pretty much worn out and full of bad credit. Ric Flair has literally bankrupted his image.
Look at his body of work over the last 15 years. What has he really done? Keep in mind that it’s been 10 years since WCW folded – so his entire WWE run was nothing but charity work. And for the 5 years before WCW folded, Flair was booked as the n.W.o and Eric Bischoff’s bitch. So where exactly do you spot greatness? Other than his supposed retirement against Shawn Michaels, what the fuck has the great Ric Flair done in over a decade that’s worth remembering?
When I think of Ric Flair, I think of his run in the NWA and leader of the Horsemen. I think about flipping through Pro Wrestling Illustrated trying to learn more about this “real” world champion because I lived in Brooklyn, NY where our cable stations didn’t carry TBS or NWA programming. I remember him finally arriving to the WWE and getting tickets to Madison Square Garden to see the dream match between him and Hogan. I remember his return to WCW and his classic battles against Steamboat, Vader, and Rude.
But shortly after 1994, the memories stop. It was around that time, in the summer of 1994 that Hulk Hogan joined WCW. And once the red and yellow infected the WCW, Ric Flair became Hogan’s little bitch. How many different variations of the Horsemen were forced down our throat to keep Flair’s name alive? How many times was he banished from the company for misconduct only to return and have his head shaved and play a mental patient? How many wannabe wrestlers did he put over in the middle of the ring because “it was good for business”? As loved as he was and as much as he had accomplished, Ric Flair became a joke and a locker room punchline.
And if you think his in ring performances were nothing short of the shits, how about everything he’s been going through outside of the ring? What number marriage is he on these days? For a guy who claims to be the dirtiest player in the game, he doesn’t know shit about getting prenuptial agreements. Ric Flair will most likely have to wrestle till the day he dies so he can pay off these broads that pretty much own him. And for a guy who supposedly gets more ass than a toilet seat, he sure acts like a pimple faced virgin who falls in love and marries every chick who spreads eagle for him. Yeah, that’s a real “Nature Boy” – emphasis on the “boy”.
How about his road rage and constant physical altercations with random people? Is this the character of a legend? Or is it simply the reflection of a broken down old man who can’t come to terms and accept his life’s failures? Believe it or not, I’ve personally experienced being “physically victimized” by Flair over a miscommunication while working for WCW. These recent outbursts are nothing new – just an example of a man who believes his own hype and is a mark for himself.
And how can we forget his recent string of stiffing people for money. Wow! What has the world come to when the legendary Ric Flair becomes nothing but a two-bit money hustler? Ask Highspots what it was like dealing with Ric Flair who commanded an absurd $30,000 for a shoot interview and a handful of autograph appearances. Ask Ring of Honor what it was like being hustled for a large cash advance only to have the “legend” no-show or threaten to walk out unless he got more money. Let’s talk about how he nickel and dimes the fans for autographs after it was their admiration that made him the legend he thinks he is today. Let’s ask the boys in TNA how tired they’ve become of lending him money and having to cover his outrageous bar tabs. I bet it was fun doing round after round of Kamikazes until the bill came and the only thing Ric Flair felt when he stuck his hand in his pocket was his leg. It must have been nice in the beginning for the young stars to brag to their friends that they’re hanging out and getting shit-faced with Ric Flair, until it started happening all the time and he became nothing but nuisance.
I know this article was brutally honest, but those are the key elements aren’t they? Brutal and honest. Why skirt around the facts and truth? Why make excuses? Why turn a blind eye? Why? Because he’s Ric Flair? Fuck that! Because he’s Ric Flair, he should be better! Because so many fans looked up to him as such an authoritative figure, he should be better! Because so many young wrestlers want to walk in his footsteps because of the legend he should be, he should be better! Because he was the epitome of what legends and champions are made of, he should be better! He’s Ric Fuckin’ Flair, dammit!
THIS is what Ric Flair will be remembered as. A legend who didn’t know when to walk away. A financially irresponsible man who spent more than he made. A bully who used his name and celebrity to strong-arm and manipulate those he encountered. A man who was endeared by the world and given an elaborate farewell by Shawn Michaels and the WWE, but whose ego and financial woes led him back into the ring to re-neg his retirement promise….
I’ve followed the legend of Ric Flair for over 30 years. I know what he was, but now I have a five year old son who’s heard me talk about Flair, and sadly, the only thing he’ll remember the legend as is a really old man who’s always yelling and looks like he needs to wear a bra in the ring. For me personally, I know how I’d like to remember Ric Flair…but I’m afraid that that he’ll go down in my memory as one of the saddest stories pro wrestling has ever told.