February 7, 2009
A real Flair for the dramatic
By CRASH CAMERON - Edmonton Sun

A promo poster for Ric Flair's upcoming visit to Edmonton. CLICK HERE for a larger version of the poster.

Love it, hate it, dismiss it, "professional wrestling" is what it has always been: a mad mixture of athletics and over-the-top theatre.

Over the course of nearly four decades, Ric Flair built himself from up-and-comer to star to Hall-of-Famer, using flamboyance and outrageousness to make himself stick out in a world that already operated at an outrageous level of flamboyance.

Recently retired from the ring, one of the things Flair does now is public speaking/question-and-answer engagements, armed and ready, he promises, with more than a few stories to tell about years living in the crazy, hazy life of wrestling.

Many of us -- whether we want to admit it or not -- yelled and screamed and laughed at these lunatic, larger than life people on TV, in stinky barns and sold-out stadiums across the world. Imagine being inside that fishbowl.

"I've had an interesting life," said Flair from his home in Carolina, punctuating it with that mischevious-slash-evil laugh of his. "It's been great, thank you!"

So, it's a safe bet that the first thing that comes out of Flair's mouth when he walks on stage at Myer Horowitz Theatre this afternoon will be his signature "Whoooo!"


"I wake up in the morning and say Whooo!," confirmed "The Nature Boy."

"That's the first thing I do in the morning and the last thing I do at night."

The yell fits him.

"I've had it since '74, actually. I heard it from Jerry Lee Lewis."

Appropriate since Jerry Lee swaggered across the world as arguably the first true badass of rock'n'roll.

"I just took it to a different level," he said.

The laugh again.

Some wrestlers operated in grey areas between good and evil, naughty and nice long before "Stone Cold" Steve Austin did. But, old school was black-and-white, one or the other. The inside terms for the characterizations were "heel" or "babyface." Flair has a clear preference - full-on heel.

"I'm a much better bad guy!"

Oh, about that other aspect of pro wrestling: the actual wrasslin', the actual pounding, the thing that so many used to - and some still do - love to say, "It's fake!"

Flair is succinct: "A lot of athletics involved, absolutely. We have to get that straight. A lot of athletics. A little bit of choreography, but that's all that I'll budge on that subject."

It was the epic battle in wrestling. The Atlanta-based WCW went against Vince McMahon's Monday Night Raw. Both shows were outdrawing Monday Night Football. Empires hung in the balance.

It was just before Stone Cold went off the charts for the then WWF. WCW had the Hulkster, now turned the nasty "Hollywood Hogan." They had Nash, Hitman, many next-in-liners like Benoit and Jericho.

Just as they hit their peak, WCW went trainwreck. They took the Hollywood part too literally. The beginning of the end was bringing in Jay Leno -- yes, Jay Leno -- to face Hogan at a PPV at, get this, Sturgis.

The end was when they made D-lister David Arquette -- a skinny little dweeb regardless of whatever level of celebrity he'd achieved -- their champion.

They scorched their own earth and the McMahon machine -- striding into the Austin/Rock era -- rolled right over it.

"It was awful," said Flair. "The biggest embarrassment for someone of my stature in the business. Anyone that couldn't see the problems and how bad it really was ..."

He trailed off. The biggest mouth in the biz left speechless.

In the last few years, Flair soaked up the adulation of wrestling's biggest crowds with McMahon's WWE.

As an elder statesman of the game, he'd give advice, he said, if others sought it.

"If they asked me, yeah. I didn't go out of my way to ... (but) I feel like if I gave someone that endorsement, they needn't ask anyone else.

"If I give someone advice about wrestling, it's gold. It doesn't go down in value."

But he never forgot something he was given.

"Best piece of advice I ever got? That I have four minutes on TV to separate myself. To show that I was different, unique and better than anybody else on that TV program.

"Jack Mulligan offered that on a ride home from Raleigh, North Carolina, one night," Flair said of the legendary Texas brawler known as Black Jack. He said, 'Kid, you've got four minutes. Show why you're different, show why you're better. Don't screw it up.' "

EDITOR'S NOTE: SLAM! Wrestling will have exclusive behind the scenes access to "An Evening with Ric Flair" and will have stories and photos from the event.

RELATED LINKS

  • Ric Flair bio and story archive
  • Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.


  • CANOE.CA SLAM!