Ric Flair: Stylin’ n’ Profilin’ Since 1949
Wrestling legend and star of Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA), Ric Flair, is as iconic as he is charismatic as he talks about the upcoming European tour with shows in the UK and beyond
Never have his immortal worlds “to be the man, you got to beat the man” been more relevant, as wrestling legend Ric Flair reflects on a career spanning over four decades. This January, for a fourth consecutive year, TNA Wrestling will be making the journey to the UK for the company’s annual European tour as the popularity of the company with British fans continues to grow rapidly.
“I love coming over here. The fans are so respectful of what we do and of us as performers in general. In January those that are familiar with TNA will know what to expect. Those who don't watch TNA will see the best athletes currently available in the wrestling world today without a shadow of doubt.”
The self-proclaimed “dirtiest player in the game” is a 16-time World Champion and has been involved in a number of the most pivotal moments in wrestling history. Most notably is his time in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) where he contributed to the company’s staggering success before its demise and takeover by Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) in 2001. But his success can also be attributed to his presence and charisma. His whole wrestling persona of the 'Nature Boy', from donning custom-made robes on each entrance to his trademark phrase “Woooo”, has captivated wrestling fans for decades in what can be described as a cult-like following.
The wrestling industry has created a number of memorable characters but it is those such as 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin, who played caricatures of their own personalities, that have enjoyed success and Ric Flair is also proof of this. The likeability of Flair as one of the great heels of wrestling is no surprise. His ability to cut a promo in an animated but convincing style proved it takes more than in-ring talent to achieve success in a cut-throat industry and has set the standard for the current generation of wrestlers to aspire to.
“What people see on TV or at shows is the real me. I think that’s why fans have loved me so much over the years because I am not playing a character. I am going out there and simply being me. I once described myself as a ‘stylin', profilin', limousine riding, jet flying, kiss-stealing, wheelin' n' dealin' son of a gun’. That pretty much defines who I am. There will never be another Ric Flair. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A lot of guys at TNA are doing their own thing, creating their own characters and are doing really well. I am different for a number of reasons. It's my longevity and ability to stay healthy that make me special. I am the only one who has literally wrestled everyone there is to wrestle over a four decade career.”
Now at a point in that forty year career where he no longer has to prove his wrestling talents, Ric Flair is one of the few forefathers of wrestling still putting his body through the gruelling punishment for the pure love of the industry. His passion is obvious and testament to his character after a plane crash in 1975 left a young Flair with a broken back that proved to be a defining moment in his life.
“I was told I would never be able to walk again let alone wrestle. I was truly blessed and I thank God that I was able to recover and get back into the ring. That has driven me and made me more determined to succeed. I get asked a lot why I am still doing what I am doing. Do you know what? I do it because after all this time I still love the industry. That love has kept me going over the years, I just love it. The only reason I’ve been able to enjoy longevity in this business even with all the injuries is because I’ve stayed very healthy and the two go hand-in-hand.”
At the age of 62 it is evident that Flair’s career is beginning to wind down where performances in the ring are few and far between. But it is Ric Flair the man, the legend and the charisma that have been able to draw crowds for TNA even when he is not wrestling. With TNA the only organisation considered competition to WWE [World Wrestling Entertainment] inevitable comparisons have been made to WCW [World Championship Wrestling]. A suggestion Flair does not take lightly. “I don’t think it’s fair, you can't really make comparisons. TNA is different and more importantly it is still in the process of growing. For the company to be the size it is right now is amazing considering it was only founded nine years ago. It's amazing to see the company grow and take strides in a positive direction. The management of Dixie Carter is brilliant. Dixie is a person that truly loves the business and the wrestlers. TNA continues to grow because of the great leadership of Dixie Carter.”
With the dawn of a new era for the wrestling industry the emergence of TNA Wrestling has offered an alternative to WWE not only for fans but also for the new upcoming wrestlers. Flair’s role within TNA is one which is less oriented on wrestling but instead more focused on offering guidance to the young stars of the company.
"When I first came to TNA I was just so surprised at how talented some of the guys on the roster were. We have without a doubt the best wrestlers the industry has to offer today. Not only are our main event guys the best but also our tag-team and the women’s ‘Knockout’ division. It is the girls that TNA get the most mileage out of because of how hard they work. I think they work harder than some of the guys, they are out there proving themselves every single night that they are serious about competing in this business. They are just great wrestlers.”
On the topic of retirement it seems that many of the veterans of the industry are being told when to hang up their boots by fans and the online fanatics. For Flair it seems that this is an afterthought when his energies are focused on improving TNA but he does play up the concept by revealing what life may hold when the right time comes.
“To be honest I have no plans on retiring from the industry anytime soon. I feel that I still have so much to give to TNA. If the time ever comes that I cannot contribute anything to the company that is when I would have to consider my position within TNA. I am privileged that I have a limited schedule in TNA so my time in many respects is my own. Just now I like to spend time with my family and love to do some fishing. When I retire I’ll be doing more of the same.”