So…Ric Flair just retired from the sport of Pro-Wrestling, and his official retirement speech, along with a standing ovation by the entire roster and some old friends and family members, was just shown on Monday Night Raw.
I don’t care what you think of it… I’ve loved wrestling since I was–well–pretty much, I don’t remember a time when I didn’t. Ric Flair had wrestled for 36 years. By comparison, I’m 27. I’ve only been ALIVE for 3/4 of his professional career.
As long as I can remember, there’s been Ric Flair…A few feuds/matches/angles I remember:
- Ric Flair vs Sting in about a thousand different combinations. (One of his longest running feuds.) This even included Flair dressing up in black tights and a mask as “The Black Scorpion” to fight Sting in the very first Pay-Per-View that I ever saw (December 16, 1990 from St. Louis in the Kiel Auditorium–which isn’t even THERE anymore).
- Ric and the Four Horsemen. Classic Line-up: Flair, Tully Blanchard, Arn and Ole Anderson, and JJ Dillon managing. Other, subsequent members: Barry Windham, Sid Vicious [sic], Brian Pillman (RIP), Sting (yep, same guy), (briefly) Paul Roma, Lex Luger, Dean Malenko, Steve “Mongo” McMichaels, Curt “Mr. Perfect” Henning (RIP), and that murdering piece of trash Chris Benoit (whose disgusting life should not be counted a blemish on the good name of the Horsemen, and I’m glad the WWE deletes him from their DVDs now–no “RIP” for him). The Horsemen were established for one reason–to keep the World Title on Ric Flair. They did a pretty good job, most of the time. One of the most memorable organizations EVER in wrestling, and undoubtedly the standard by which other groups are measured. If there had been no Horsemen, there would have been no “nWo.” …and 30 years later, people still hold the four-fingers in the air…when’s the last time you saw someone do the “Wolfpac” sign or shout “For Life?” Yep…I can’t remember either.
- Ric’s first, ill-fated run in the WWF. At the time, he had feuds with the likes of the ultra-cheesy version of the Undertaker, The “Macho Man” Randy Savage, and so on… He also teamed up with the then debuting Scott “Razor Ramon” Hall, pretty much making the guy’s career. Ric came out on TV for the first time having NEVER LOST the NWA title. He quit that company over a contract dispute. At that time, if you were the champion, you put in money and OWNED the belt. You bought it. It wasn’t just a prop (like it is now, thank you Vince McMahon), it was YOURS. Ric walked out on WWF television with the NWA belt around his waist. He kept claiming to be the REAL World Champion. The NWA eventually filed legal papers and the WWF had to blur the image of the belt on screen…but to this day, Ric still owns that belt–which he never officially lost. That’s kind of cool.
- Ric goes nuts. A personal favorite of mine, even though most people thought it was embarrassing. Ric was “checked in” to an insane asylum after going down to a WCW ring and ranting about his career. He proceeded to strip off all his clothes, fight his discarded suit, and strut around in his Florida Gators boxer-shorts. They showed footage of him “inside the asylum” wearing his boxers and his trademark Liberace-esque robe. There was a guy playing one of the other inmates who was wearing a bathrobe and strutting through the back in the same way Flair always did…by the end of the segment, it looked like he was their leader. 🙂 It was a comedy segment, and it was stupid, but I loved it.
- Arn Anderson’s retirement. Arn Anderson was/is Ric’s best friend and the name probably most frequently mentioned in tandem with Flair. Arn suffered nerve damage in his neck in the late 90s. It was so bad that when he was in the gym and someone slapped him on the back, he couldn’t hold on to his water bottle–which is the moment he knew he couldn’t continue. Anderson came out on a live edition of WCW Nitro and told that story and told the world he was retiring. Ric Flair was in the background visibly sobbing. They used the whole thing as part of a storyline to induct Curt Henning into the group. The next week, the “nWo” mocked the event by coming out dressed as the Horsemen, with Kevin Nash playing Anderson in a bald cap with a cooler full of beer. No one told Flair, Anderson, or anyone else in that version of the Horsemen that it would be happening (that’s a true story…in REAL life, Anderson retired on national television and they mocked it without telling those guys they’d be doing it–pretty classless). As you may imagine, Flair was particularly livid, as Sean “X-Pac” Waltman was dressed as him and was mock-crying as Nash gave his parody-speech. Flair came out on TV and called Waltman a “son-of-a-bitch” and said that after 25-30 years in the business if he had someone he could look in the eyes and still call a friend, he’d be a lucky man and you’re “damn right” he was crying, because THAT was real. Where’s Waltman today? Last I heard, he was featured in a celebrity sex-tape with then girlfriend and absolute manish train-wreck “Chyna.” …and he was in rehab.
- Ric Flair’s return… He’d been off TV for a long time and no one really knew why. All we knew was Eric Bischoff was coming out on TV and badmouthing him. As it turns out, he and Bischoff were engaged in a LONG legal battle over Ric essentially no-showing one show that he’d said WELL in advance that he’d be unable to attend as one of his kids had an amateur wrestling tournament that week. It went on for months and cost Flair a TON of money. It still wasn’t resolved when Bischoff let Flair back on TV, in a sound business move. Flair was re-introduced by Arn Anderson, and the Horsemen were reformed with Flair, McMichaels, Malenko, and that murdering piece of trash Chris Benoit. Though a short-lived edition of the group, Flair’s return was HUGELY memorable. He came out with tears in his eyes to a HUGE reaction from the crowd. At one point, just for the sake of “good” TV, Bischoff started wandering down to the ring to confront Flair. The other guys in the ring had to (in real life) hold him back from attacking Bischoff. I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I’d ever heard the phrase (from Flair), “You’re an asshole!” shouted into a microphone on live TV.
There are hundreds of others.
I’ll still watch wrestling, but this is the end of an era–the era I fell in love with.
There will NEVER be another Ric Flair.