Sports

Ric Flair: Respect The Man

Chris Surrency

There have been moments over the years where ESPN went outside of the “live sports” realm and wound up with something magical gracing their network. A show like Playmakers comes along and it’s literally a must see show every single week, well up until the NFL stepped in and said to pull it from the air. You see, it seems the show was far too close to reality for The League to handle, and as a result they basically told ESPN take it off or they’re done with the NFL. Time has gone on and if you look back on that one magical season now, it’s damn near like the NFL looked at the scripts and said “hey, let’s give this a shot.” While I could go on forever about how awesome Playmakers was, this whole deal is about something else on ESPN that is usually beyond amazing. Beginning back in 2009 the documentary film series 30 for 30 began running, and as time has run on it seems that many of the films become a bit iconic, getting insight on people, teams, even entire sports organizations, it’s absolutely enthralling. This week we got the next installment, and as promised, it was simply amazing.

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Last night the subject of the documentary special was quite possibly the greatest name in the history of professional wrestling, the one and only Ric Flair. Flair had one of longer, more storied, and most decorated careers anyone could hope for as a pro wrestler. He defined an era and was the unquestioned face of the NWA and WCW for multiple decades. This is a man who absolutely epitomized what a pro wrestler is, was, and ever should be in between those ropes. Legendary stamina, unmatched selling skills, and charisma for days, it’s easy to see why Flair was so successful when you take even the slightest look at his career. You look at everything he’s done, and it’s insane to think that one man could have experienced so much and still lived to tell about it, although he almost left us just a few weeks back. Luckily The Man was able to pull off yet another last second victory, this time against the Grim Reaper. In typical Flair fashion he took the worst beating he could while putting over his opponent, but he got that figure 4 in at the end and came out on top.

People already knew quite a bit about Flair’s career, he lived out most of his life in front of the camera in the name of wrestling. What we didn’t get to see was all the things going on in “real world” for Flair, when the cameras weren’t running. This special went deep on that side of The Man, you got to learn about his inability to be a monogamous man, and how heavily he would drink while out on the road. He just couldn’t bring himself to be a stay at home family man, but the whole staying home thing is tough for most wrestlers who had extended times on the road. Steve Austin tells about a time when he came off the road and would spend his time driving hundreds of miles just to keep his head cleared. Nobody would ever make the mistake of saying Flair was a great father or great human being outside of the ring, his own family backs that up completely, he even admits there are some serious flaws to him outside of his on camera persona. Basically The Nature Boy took over once he was birthed and Ric Flair hasn’t looked back. It’s caused issues for him, and seeing him tell the stories of the strained family life, it absolutely humanizes the man. At least he’s aware of the problems, even if he hasn’t been able to find a way to correct them, he knows they exist and can admit to them as a man.

The track that Flair took in his career is insane, but is enough to make you respect the man and his drive, if you somehow didn’t already. Hearing about how he and Steamboat started off, having to run up 21 flights of stairs, then fireman carry one another, then wheelbarrow crawl, all as a prelude to getting in the ring and taking repeated bumps and running the ropes. It’s enough to give any of the “it’s all fake” crowd pause, honestly I would love to see anyone who wants to degrade pro wrestling get in and take a week of “basic training” to become a wrestler and tell me how “fake” the pain felt at the end of the day. Knowing it was so hard that Ric tried to quit, only to be knocked on his ass by Verne Gagne and dragged back to camp, clearly Gagne saw something in the man, and in the end all the hard work and dedication paid off as Flair eventually became the face of a generation for pro wrestling. Starting off as a heavyweight with brown hair, it wasn’t until after the plane crash that Flair took on the look that would become so iconic within the world of professional wrestling, and adopt the Nature Boy character as his alter ego.

Whether you’re a wrestling fan or not, this is a documentary that you just can’t miss. The 30 for 30 specials are almost always amazing, but this one just seemed to be a cut above, some may say my opinion is clouded by the fact that I’m a wrestling fan, but even if you’re just looking at it from the standpoint of a study in human psychology, this is an absolutely enthralling watch. From the adopted parents who were too busy for the child they adopted and couldn’t relate because he was a “jock” and that didn’t fit their lifestyle. What seemingly grew from a man hoping to desperately impress his father, spiraled out of control. From missing most of the childhood for his children, to losing his son to addiction, to finally getting to celebrate a world championship in the ring with one of his children in Charlotte. Looking at the career that Flair had, it’s heartwarming to hear him state that the greatest moment in a ring for him was being there the night his daughter won her first major championship. Flair is the ultimate dichotomy for a wrestler, he’s the shining example of everything you need to be between the ropes, but also the perfect cautionary tale of what not to do outside the ring. I highly recommend you check out this special, you may not come away with any more respect for Ric Flair the man, but you will certainly have more respect for him as The Man.

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Chris Surrency

Chris Surrency is an aspiring author and article writer with opinions on many different topics. He fell in love with writing as a child in elementary school and has taken any occasion possible to let the words that roll around in his head come out whether it be in a notebook or on a computer. Chris got his first opportunity to write online at WWENews.net, a subsidiary site for Wrestling News World, posting opinion pieces. He later joined the Yahoo Contributor's Network, covering many topics from science to video games and back to sports, and almost all points in between, he posted well over one hundred articles up until the moment Yahoo dismantled the network. Since that time he's provided content to different sites online, written his first novel, and eventually made his way to MCXV where he's finally capturing the enjoyment he once found while writing at Yahoo once again.