On March 8th the old timer disrobed and bared wrinkles, big breasts, and quite a stomach. A hideous sight the old Nature Boy was, but still he didn’t look half bad. His performance against Hogan seemed realer than the average match, but with the level of intensity Flair has always put into his matches, this has always been so with Flair.
Sure Flair doesn’t have the move-set he use to, but I can say more than,”he did alright for a 60 plus year old man.” I can say, “The young guys can learn from his last performance.” Flair’s in-ring shtick isn’t as long or varied or nearly as athletic as their shticks, but professional wrestling is more than just going out and doing your thing. Wrestling is story telling. Every blow Flair gave to Hogan was a story of his hatred for the Hulkster.
But this column isn’t just about March 8th. This column is about everything that proceeded March 8th, with Flair, and everything that has followed, and how and why I’m not ashamed of it. The old man indeed hasn’t looked half bad lately.
A matter of fact for an ugly old man he’s sure looked “perty.” Somehow he’s recaptured everything that I thought had been but a dream. I thought he had portrayed greed and selfishness like no other. I thought he had been hilarious with classic lines. I thought he had been a tiger with the ladies.
Then, in the past decade, watching the watered down version of Ric Flair in the WWE, I wondered if the memories I cherished of my favorite wrestler were mere dreams.
They talk of the old man’s beautiful WWE retirement. The WWE didn’t just give him a wrist watch. His past friends and foes reunited with him. The present roster celebrated him. WWE gave him so much. How could he spit on his farewell, that brought him to tears, just for money?
There’s no question that the WWE gave and gave and gave to him from his celebration is Greensboro after a hard fought match with HHH to his retirement match with HBK, but my question is when was the old man ever allowed to contribute to them? What did he give back? He grabbed testicles, bit foreheads, shouted “woos,” and elbowed his jackets like a mad man. He contributed nothing to WWE. The man I grew up on seemed to be nothing but the construes of my mind. Watching him in WWE, I wondered if I had built him up to be more than he was.
And the truth is Flair was never a Rocky story
I may have to refresh a few of you on Apollo Creed, but all of you know Rocky Balboa. Rocky’s tales are that of upsets, injuries, comebacks, and fighting to the finish even if he could only do it within an inch of his life. These same tales drive wrestling fans to their TV’s. Rocky is Kerry Von Erich, Rotunda, Windham, Dusty Rhodes, Sting, Luger, the Hit Man Bret Hart, and Hulk Hogan. But one great who never built his career on being a Rocky story is Ric Flair.
Ric Flair is Apollo Creed, the maker of the Rockys, and this is how he should go out. Apollo never received the adoration of the fans. His character received nothing at all. But what would Rocky be without Apollo making him look good? Rocky shined when Apollo needed a challenger. And through it all, Rocky had an appreciation for Creed that he didn’t for any of his other opponents. Is not this the respect Sting has always had for Flair?
Sure Flair played Rocky against Harly Race at Starrcade 83 and against Vader at Starrcade 93, but these were the rare moments. And I would have to argue that these moments were not much more than Appollo’s face turn in a later Rocky movie. Eventually you knew it would lead to Rocky being built up one more time. Flair’s win over Race led to his most heated wars against Dusty, his win over Vader to his loss to Hogan.
Let's take a paragraph down memory lane.
During the early title reigns of Flair, though he boasted of “living the life,” his job demanded him to make others look good. The NWA champion would go to a territory, defend the title against the hometown hero, and make him look good, and ride off into another territory to do it again.
One criterion for being NWA champ was having to be able to go sixty minutes on a regular basis; this is so he could help tell the Rocky story, the story of the hometown boy taking the champion to the time limit draw. Maybe this is when Flair perfected his psychology.
Throughout his entire career, he used this psychology to capture fans and deliver them to his opponents. Flair never had a king Midas touch. He couldn’t make gold out of the Sting’s and Luger’s just by touching them. He bled, sweated, and became a cardiovascular machine to turn his opponents into gold. Flair is a fucking Apollo.
WWE had him going out like a Rocky, never allowing him to do what really made him great, that is being an Apollo that builds Rockys.
Some say Flair is pissing on the beautiful retirement the WWE gave him. I say if he is, I’ll be the first to shake my snake right along with him. Flair’s character in WWE was a mild Nature Boy, his popularity had nothing to do with his present state. His character was nothing more than a celebration of the reputation he built. The problem is when you do nothing but celebrate Apollo creed, his work becomes ineffective. Apollo’s job is to build Rockys. When you don’t let him do that job and you just celebrate him, he is no longer Apollo; he is Rocky.
The WWE gave and gave to Flair, but never let him give back. He couldn’t be the same jet flying, limousine riding, kiss stealing, wheelin’ dealin’, son of a gun anymore. His character did little boasting and bragging. How often was he able to be the selfish son of a bitch that drove fans to his opponents? When did he get to brag about the name brand suits? Sure he gave some heated promos. Sure he chased HHH around with the bat, and busted his own head open in anger, but how often could he really be Ric Flair?
WWE gave Flair beautiful celebrations, DVDs, and books, but how much was Flair allowed to give back? I’m glad that he’s not going out as only delivering nostalgia. I’m glad he came to TNA, so he can go out making new memories.
Flair can still give.
What kind of new memories can a 60 plus year old man give? Week after week, his segments with AJ Styles and the women are some of the most entertaining on impact. They aren’t just an alliance, Flair and Styles are a fucking party. I’ll never forget Flair getting in the Pope’s face, which led to their Horsemen style, beat down on Dinero. What is this accomplishing? Flair is building a new Apollo in AJ Styles, and new Rockys in AJ’s opponents. God knows TNA’s young talent need life and that’s what they're getting.
Think about it. When was the last time a TNA original had such a hot title reign? The answer in this column is never. Reigns by AJ and Joe proved to be lackluster, not because the wrestlers but because of how they were presented. AJ with Flair is a force to be reckoned with. When Flair and AJ in Flair’s robe, including AJ’s own hood signature, walked down the aisle, I saw men who have been wreaking havoc week in and week out, I saw men who needed to get their asses kicked by Hogan and Abyss.
Abyss got the pin in the main event. This is where I am confused. Abyss, the Pope, and Styles are looking better than they have in a long time, and the legends are getting heat for not ‘putting the young guys over”? The older talent is being used to put the younger talent over.
To sum it up, I find Flair effective in TNA. With all the new talent TNA is establishing, it’s going to take some consistency from the company for the stars to evolve and the brand to catch on. But as this is happening, Flair has been delivering valuable entertainment in every promo and has been helping build AJ and AJ’s opponents.
I doubt Flair will go out with a celebration like he had in the WWE, but I’d rather see Flair go out making history than see him go out celebrating it.
I am in favor of Flair wrestling at 62 on up, and I won’t be ashamed of him. If his saggy old ass comes out of his trunks, his grey hair hanging from his ass-crack, oh well.
I also am not concerned about Flair’s well-being. I care about him as a performer not as a human being, and I prefer to see him pass away in the ring as long as I can see him until he kicks the bucket. He is Apollo Creed, and as the Russian said, “If he dies, he dies.” May his last Flair drop be when he drops dead! Woooooooooh!