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   October 21, 2014



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COMMENT





Whoooo! It’s the ‘Nature Boy’
By JON LAW - Niagara Falls Review


Whoooo! Ric Flair is coming to Niagara Falls! Photo by Bill Otten, B&B Productions.

The interview was with Ric Flair. What you never know is which Ric Flair will be on the other end of the line.

The brash wrestling legend? The troubled superstar? The icon whose exploits both in and out of the ring span decades?

Flair's PR person doesn't want more drama, e-mailing a request before the interview to avoid personal questions and not to ask about the recent death of The Ultimate Warrior (along with the always popular 'Can we read the story before it runs?' request).

Likely because Flair's life has been so unbelievable, it might be two hours before wrestling even enters the conversation. Even in semi-retirement, he creates huge ripples -- when longtime WWE announcer Jim Ross was fired last summer, it was revealed Flair's behavior at a video game event was the catalyst. Ross was moderating a conference of wrestling legends, but allowed Flair to go off on several tangents.

Flair had just recently buried his son Reid, who died of a drug overdose in March 2013. Ross admits he shouldn't have booked Flair for the event during such a traumatic time.


But the Flair who phones on a Wednesday morning is in good spirits. He's found a new passion -- the blossoming wrestling career of his daughter Ashley -- and it has the 'Nature Boy' beaming about her prospects.

"I didn't encourage her," he says. "She just went to Wrestlemania with me. She was making a real nice living running a personal training centre ... (WWE's) John Laurinaitis saw her and said, 'Why aren't you wrestling?'"

Two months later, under the name Charlotte, she signed a developmental contract with the WWE, currently performing with NXT Wrestling. He expects her in the WWE "real soon."


Charlotte in NXT is Ric Flair's daughter, Ashley.
Expect Flair to be behind her "every step of the way," bringing him back to the company in a new role: Dad.

He's already been the hero and villain. The Horseman, the World Champ and the 'Dirtiest Player in the Game.' He's the only person inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame twice, and is routinely named one of the top two or three wrestlers of all time.

As he heads to the Niagara Falls Comic Con June 6 and 7, Flair is eager to talk about 'the biz,' both past and present. His wars with Ricky Steamboat, Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage are now decades old, and his last official match with the WWE was his loss to Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania XXIV in 2008. But he's hardly a stranger, frequently showing up on RAW to help get the next generation of wrestlers over.

"I love those kids," he says. "I'm a huge fan of John Cena's and I'm very close to Randy Orton. I love Dave Batista. Daniel Bryan's doing a great job -- who saw that coming?"

Flair has been through every wrestling trend of the past 40 years, from the '80s explosion to the 'Attitude Era' '90s to, more recently, the 'Smark Era' -- a culture of fans who feel above the scripted nature of wrestling, but watch anyway. They're so critical of the product, they'll devote web pages explaining how they can do it better.

Flair thinks otherwise.

"I don't pay any attention to that," he says. "The internet thinks they're smarter than we are, but they're not. If you read the internet, it's like watching Fox News ... you don't know what to believe.

"They all want to predict what they think will happen, but nobody ever knows for sure," he adds. "As an example, 42 years in the business and I never thought Daniel Bryan would win that match (at April's Wrestlemania XXX). I didn't think he was going to beat Hunter, and I'm attuned to it!"

Likewise, former foe The Undertaker having his Wrestlemania winning streak snapped at 21 was a shocker to everyone in the company.

"I wanted to see (the streak) go on, but I understand. Times change, it is what it is. You saw how quiet the fans got. They weren't ready for that, so obviously they didn't foresee that."

Soon after savouring Wrestlemania, the WWE was bombarded with more headlines about the early deaths of wrestlers. The Ultimate Warrior, inducted into this year's Hall of Fame, died the day after appearing on the post-Wrestlemania RAW.

"The problem is, we have so much attention on us," says Flair. "But in real life, I've got a friend with Leukemia. Another friend just died at 41 six months ago.

"It could be a lawyer that died the same day, but because he's not on TV..."

"I didn't know the Warrior, I only wrestled him twice actually. I didn't even see him at Wrestlemania, he kept pretty secluded from what I understand. I hadn't seen him in years."

As for meeting the fans, Flair says they have to be pretty sharp to catch him with something he's forgotten. Even the stuff that wasn't in his books.

"It would have to be a very rare instance that I wouldn't remember," he says. "It's usually about my career, who was the toughest wrestler, which company I liked better. It's all good."

RELATED LINKS

  • Ric Flair bio and story archive
  • niagarafallscomiccon.com

    John Law has been the Niagara Falls Review's arts and entertainment writer since 1990.