Shane Ryan of ESPN spinoff GrantLand.com has written an absolutely fascinating profile of WWE Hall of Famer "Nature Boy" Ric Flair. Flair is currently under contract to TNA Impact Wrestling and hadn't been used for a while until recently.
Flair's personal and financial problems had gained infamy in recent years, most notably with the lawsuits filed against him by wrestling merchandise company, Highspots for not repaying a loan and independent wrestling promotion Ring of Honor for not refunding deposits for cancelled appearances.
Some of the information in Ryan's article, called "The Wrestler In Real Life," is not new. I wrote up a timeline of the more well-known recent issues at Cageside Seats in May when he was charged with contempt of court for not paying Highspots as agreed to in a settlement, but that was just scratching the surface. Ryan has mined public documents covering Flair's downfall over the last two decades and the resulting article paints an ugly picture of him.
I urge everyone to read the full article, but here's just some of the new information contained within:
- Flair suffers from alcoholic cardiomyopathy, a form of congestive heart failure caused by long-term alcohol abuse. In spite of this, he still wrestles occasionally and takes all of his trademark bumps in those matches. He also suffers from panic attacks and has had at least one nervous breakdown.
- This past April, Flair was evicted from his home in Charlotte, North Carolina because he was unable to pay rent.
- While it was generally well known that he ignored his taxes throughout the '80s, it wasn't that his first encounter with the IRS over the owed taxes went relatively smoothly. In 1990, he paid $62,000 on back taxes from 1982, 1982, & 1988.
- In November of 1990, Flair had to apply for a restricted driver's license that only allowed him to drive for work reasons after driving 95 miles per hour in a 65 miles per hour zone.
- Many details of his near-decade long issues with stalker Deann Siden (who later had an affair with and stalked Kurt Angle) are covered. She started stalking him in 1990, following him everywhere, getting kicked out of arenas, and, by 1992, claiming they had an affair that resulted in a child named Tiffany. In 1998, Siden threatened to kill Flair and her daughter.
- Flair finally had his lawyers press charges against her on his behalf, and she countered by filing a domestic violence complaint that claimed he threatened to kidnap and beat her if she didn't bring "his" daughter to visit. When she told Flair she'd drop her charges against him if he did the same in the case against here, it didn't work, and the whole mess ended with a judge issuing an injunction against her.
- In general, there are a ton of debts and lawsuits we didn't know about. They're not surprising, but there are lots of specific cases that previously hadn't been reported. In one, Flair lost a judgment for unpaid tuition that his son's private school had sued for. He also has a variety of liens on his property.
- While it doesn't absolve Flair at all, second wife Beth Harrell was also far too free-spending and contributed a lot to the deterioration of their finances.
- Some of the ugly details of his divorce from Beth I remember being reported at the time, like Ric opening up wounds on his forehead when the police came during arguments so he could make her look worse. Others don't seem as familiar, and they're pretty messed up.
- According to Beth, Flair would expose himself to friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers. I knew he did this around wrestlers, but not in his personal life. He would hang out with his mistress around the kids, he got into a fistfight with their son Reid at a wedding reception, use racial slurs to refer to her friends, brag about his penis size and demand sex from her.
- Beth claims that Ric raped her when she refused to have sex with him.
- Flair countered by claiming that, among other things, Beth cursed like a sailor, would assault him the provoke fights, encouraged him to have sex with other women, and was "mentally and physically slovenly."
- The IRS started seizing Flair's earnings from WWE in April 2005.
- When Flair and third wife Tiffany Vandemark met with a local restaurateur Greg Leon about a loan, Flair offered the engagement ring on her finger as collateral. A "female friend of Leon" urged him not to go along with it, so instead he took a Rolex watch, a boat, and a motorcycle.
- Neither vehicle had a proper title, and thus Leon has been unable to sell them to get his money back. He won a judgment against Flair for the full amount owed but not all of it has been repaid.
- Financial advisor Scott Storick bilked Flair and his family out of a lot of money in a situation way too involved for me to explain here. Again, everyone should read the original article, as scarily I'm just scratching the surface here.
- "Ric Flair Finance," a disastrous online business that referred customers to lenders, was shut down because the "business model… turned out to be completely illegal."
- Flair and Vandemark had their own ugly divorce. I had known that she had taken some of his possessions like an old ring robe and sold them to wrestling fans, but that was just the start of it. I'll just quote the article here:"She allegedly broke into the home using a shovel. In the process, she destroyed five "Flair Bear" stuffed animals and took 25. Also taken from Fliehr's house were 12 action figures, two handguns, three robes, a ruby necklace, and Fliehr's dog. One of the destroyed Flair Bears was found in a 'lewd and lascivious' position in Fliehr's pool."
- Flair had inherited the necklace from his mother when she passed away.
- He filed a complaint of stalking and assault against Vandemark when she hit him with a cell phone charger while trespassing on his property.
- As of February, Flair was making about $22,000 each month in TNA, but they hadn't paid him any royalties in six months.
Like I said earlier, this is just scratching the surface, there is much, much more in the Shane Ryan's article, including more stories and a lot more details about what I mentioned here. Shane Ryan did an amazing job, so everyone should go check out the piece.