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   Wed, March 26, 2008



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SLAM! Speaks: A tribute to The Nature Boy
By SLAM! Wrestling Staff
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Whooo! Ric Flair as NWA World champion. Photo courtesy Terry Dart




It's hard to believe, but the career of Ric Flair is coming to an end.

Whether WrestleMania 24 proves to be his last match as a full-time wrestler or not, the Nature Boy will be bowing out of the ring shortly. Whether you loved him or hated him, you cannot deny that "Naitch" was one of the all-time best.

So, with that in mind, the SLAM! Wrestling crew decided to walk backward down that aisle and reflect on both personal moments with Flair and his greatest times in the ring. Here's what we had to say. Whoo!

Bob Kapur
My favourite Flair moment was at a house show in Toronto during his first WWF/WWE run. I met him outside before the show, and learning that I had third row seats, he said he'd look for me during his match. At one point, he was setting up Randy Savage for the Figure Four, saw me, pointed and said, "whooo! This is for you, daddy!" He always had the ability to make me mark out, even to this day.

Brian Elliot
To decide upon merely one moment from the career of one of the best all-round wrestlers of all-time, is quite the task for any journalist. Here, it is nigh on heresy for me to look past Flair's Clash of the Champions epic with Ricky Steamboat, or his magnificent performance at the 1992 Royal Rumble.
But in recent years, where wrestling promos have become a lost art, I will never forget Flair's return to WCW on 14th September 1998. Away from the ring, he had been sued by the company for no-showing a Thunder event, even though Flair believed he had been given permission to miss the show. When the differences were eventually worked out, the Four Horsemen were reformed, and after some typically brilliant mic work from Arn Anderson, Flair received an incredible ovation from the Greenville, South Carolina, crowd, before launching into his own tremendous promo, acknowledging the fans' undying support, and then the appearance of Eric Bischoff, the man who, in real life, had pursued the original lawsuit.
To this day I can still say that, as a whole, the return of Flair is the greatest television segment I have ever seen. Ric Flair, the "Nature Boy", is irreplaceable."

Jon Waldman
Not having the NWA on TV meant that I missed out on the majority of Ric's career, but his arrival into the WWF was huge, even for me, because his name was well known through the Apter mags. When he arrived, I'll admit it - I hated the guy, up until an appearance on WWF Superstars of Wrestling. I can't say what episode it was or who he was facing, but Naitch, unlike certain top carders (read: Hogan, Hulk) was wrestling in a match on the show usually dominated by the Brooklyn Brawler, and for some reason, he was getting a babyface reaction from the crowd. Years later I'd understand why fans loved him so much on that odd Saturday morning, but it was that match, more than anything else that Flair did in the WWF.

Greg Oliver

That's Greg Oliver's hand, right, interviewing The Nature Boy in 2005 for the story, A great Flair for Toronto.
Photo by Mike Mastrandrea
In the "living vicariously through others" file, I can remember the excitement of both John Molinaro and Stephen Laroche at the Canoe offices when they got Flair on the phone for interviews. We may be reporters, but we're still fans. When I finally got to interview Flair in person, it was everything I'd hoped and more. He talks to you, listens to your question and doesn't give glib, rehearsed answers. The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels is oodles better in part because of Flair. Thanks for the memories, 'Naitch.

Mark Xamin
Back in 1992 I was only nine years old, and I remember walking through the playground during recess with my friend. He was going on about how great the Royal Rumble was, and I was embarrassed to admit I didn't know who Ric Flair was. I went out and rented the Coliseum Home Video release and was immediately taken by him. Even as a kid I knew Flair was the best, I'd never seen anything like him. He went on to make history in what was, in my opinion,the best Royal Rumble of all time. Time sure flies.

Annette Balesteri


Cartoons copyright Annette Balesteri, the SLAM! Wrestling Editorial Cartoonist, and may not be reproduced in any manner without her permission.

Marty Goldstein
The interview he did in the buildup to his cage match with Jimmy Garvin over "the dream date" with Precious (1986 or '87 -- I have it on tape somewhere here) where he went nuts necking with a mannequin, and then the bout itself which was physical beyond belief. A mark tried to climb the cage to get at Flair. Now that is heat.

Matt Mackinder
Even though he lost the NWA World title in the process, Ric Flair's match with Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat at the Chi-Town Rumble back in early 1989 is as good a match from Flair you will ever see. The match had everything a World title bout should have, even a clean finish. Even in defeat the "Nature Boy" is still the best (and dirtiest) player in the game. Woooo!

Now it's your turn. What was your favourite Ric Flair moment in wrestling? Email us with your thoughts, and we'll collect them for a SLAM! Readers Speak down the road.

RELATED LINKS

  • Ric Flair bio and story archive
  • Mike Lano's Ric Flair Gallery
  • More on WrestleMania 24
    Visit the SLAM! Wrestling store!

    Get all your Ric Flair gear, including DVDs, figures and memorabilia, in the SLAM! Store.