This Saturday night, a great American will be inducted into his “sport’s” hall of fame. This hero has been at or near the top of his “profession” for more than 30 years, and has been recognized as the best in the business by more than a few major publications. Am I talking about some NBA superstar? Nope. How about an MLB ace? Absolutely not! Of course, I’m talkin’ about “The Nature Boy,” Ric Flair!
“Who,” many of you not familiar with the “art” of professional wrasslin’ may be asking yourselves. And now that you know I’m talking about a wrestler, many of you are probably either tuning out or falling asleep. Please, give me a chance!
Let’s just say that Mr. Flair is like the Babe Ruth of the squared circle, or the Wilt Chamberlin of the ring. The guy practically invented “mic skills” in wrestling, and certainly was a trailblazer when it came to ring attire. He was the king of catchphrases before anybody in wrestling knew what they were. Some of his classics include “To be the man, ya gotta be the man,” and “I’m a limosine driving, jet-plane flyin’, kiss stealin’, wheelin’ dealin’ son of a gun,” and of course, “Wooooooo!”
The man successfully married charisma and wrestling in-ring skills, and made ring psychologoy an art form. He was really the first bad guy or “heel” that many wrestling fans actually cheered for. His 16 world championships, as well as many other “minor” championships speak for themselves. Sure, when you look at him now, you’ll probably say that he probably should’ve retired at least 10 years ago. Well, maybe you’re right – but the fact is, that this 58-year-old over-the-hill performer is still probably better than many other wrestlers on the WWE roster, and the reason he’s still around is to try and “teach” these punks the ins and outs of being a successful wrassler.
When I first got into watching pro wrestling in the mid 1980’s, it was right during the beginning of the “rock and wrestling” movement, with such stars as Hulk Hogan, Tito Santana, Roddy Piper, Superfly, and Andre the Giant. The WWF was rapidly gaining in popularity, while the other regional promotions were slowly wasting away. The only real competition the WWF had was a group of regional wrestling promotions that “acted” as one promotion under the umbrella of the NWA. Ric Flair was its champion when Hogan reigned in the WWF. The NWA always seemed to be more about wrestling, while the WWF was more about glitz and gimmicks.
I remember absolutely hating Flair at the time because he was a bad guy, and he always seemed to cheat in order to win his matches. In looking back at those times, Flair was a master at his craft – I was supposed to hate the guy, and man, did I ever! Only one other wrestler was able to wrangle that kind of negative emotion out of me – Roddy Piper (he was basically made in the same mold as Flair).
As time went on, I got to appreciate Flair more and more – he had this “bad guy” thing down to a science. He had the fans in the palm of his hand, and he could literally wrestle a broom-stick, and get the broomstick “over” with the fans. His legendary matches with Dusty Rhodes, Ricky Steamboat, Sting, and Randy Savage are probably still being viewed by aspiring wrestlers to this day
In case anyone is interested, the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony will be televised on USA this Saturday night at 11:00 p.m.