Thank You Ric Flair!
By: Chris â<80><9c>The Authorityâ<80> Schultz
Where do I begin? Nothing lasts forever. Itâ<80><99>s a sad truth that even I have trouble getting used to. I knew the day would come when the â<80><9c>Nature Boyâ<80> would hang it up for good. I feel privileged to have witnessed so many of Ric Flairâ<80><99>s matches over these past thirty plus years on television and in person. Just like Michael Jordan is considered the best basketball player of all time, Flair can be referred to as the best professional wrestler to ever lace up a pair of boots. He has the hardware and the main events to back up such a claim. While Hulk Hogan might be a bigger household name, the 16 time World Champion Ric Flair is at the top of my list and countless other fans as well.
When Shawn Michaels made the announcement on Monday Night Raw that Ric Flair was to be inducted into the 2008 WWE Hall of Fame, it became more clear that the jet flying, limousine riding, kiss stealing, wheeling and dealing legend was headed into retirement. It still remains to be seen if The Heartbreak Kid will be the one to defeat Ric Flair at Wrestlemania 24 in Orlando, but it would be a fitting end to one of the greatest careers in any pro sport. To lose to a superstar like Shawn Michaels at the grandest stage of them all, in what could be an awesome match, is a story book ending. With Flair headlining the Class of 2008 Hall of Fame Inductees, look for ratings to be the highest they have ever been for this televised ceremony.
I was fortunate enough to meet Ric Flair on a couple of occasions, the first being a bit more memorable. I was in Sydney, Australia for the Summer Olympic Games in the year 2000 for a vacation that I will never forget. Coincidentally, WCW made their first trip to the Land Down Under that Summer and due to my affiliation with WOW Magazine at the time, Bill Apter was able to get me backstage for some interviews before the show. I remember talking with Mike Awesome, Tony Schiavone, Shawn Stasiak, Kiwi (remember him)and many others getting their take on Australia and what it means to perform in front of these fans for the first time.
The bigger names at the time were Kevin Nash, Jeff Jarrett, Booker T, Scott Steiner, and of course, Bill Goldberg. Most of these superstars were going over their matches or just cutting it up with their buddies. The scene was pretty relaxed. Then out of the corner of my eye, I spotted â<80><9c>The Manâ<80> standing by the guardrail towards the curtain by himself holding a cup of coffee. He was all alone and kept looking around the arena as if to soak it all in. I thought to myself, it’s now or never. Somehow I got the courage to get up and go do an interview with the best this industry has ever seen. I quickly introduced myself and pulled out my pad of paper to ask him some questions about the tour.
All I can remember is how nervous I was and how calm Ric seemed to be. Dressed in his Sunday’s finest, Flair answered all the questions I had for him. I felt like I was 5 years old again and wanted to stick out the pad of paper to get an autograph, but I didn’t want to seem too unprofessional. Then, I just stopped, put the paper back in my pocket and got a chance to tell him how much he has meant to the business and to myself personally. I totally marked out and I didn’t give damn. This was Ric Flair. I ended our conversation by telling him that it was an absolute honor to have the time to speak with him and something I will never forget. He then thanked me and told me that it meant a lot to him. I did it! That was my Ric Flair moment that will stay with me forever.
The other time I ran into Flair, he was with the WWE in Chicago. I was having some drinks at a hotel bar after attending a live Raw broadcast. In comes Ric Flair with suit and tie, flanked by a dozen hot women and Dean Malenko. Talk about living the gimmick! I smiled and thought to myself, Flair is still the MAN! Unfortunately, Ric was a little to busy to talk to me on this night and I didn’t blame him one bit. In fact, I was hoping to join his entourage.
Thank you Ric Flair. Thanks for entertaining us for the last thirty plus years. Thank you for the class you brought to the squared circle. Thank you for The Four Horseman. Thank you for the 16 World Title runs you had. Thanks for the Figure Four Leglock. Thank you for the blood, sweat, and tears you dropped in every corner of the world. Thank you, we will miss you, but the show must go on. Because like you said time and time again, whether we like it, or we don’t, we gotta learn to live with it because it’s the best thing going today. Thanks for the memories!