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I know to some people it's weird to be so obsessed with professional wrestling and even more strange to idolize the men and women in spandex. I can't tell you how many times I hear "You know it's fake, right?" I'm not going to defend my fandom here because I've done that before. Instead, I'm going to honor my all-time favorite professional wrestler Ric Flair.
Over the weekend "The Nature Boy" ended up in the hospital. As of this writing on Tuesday he had undergone successful surgery but is not out of the woods yet. Many times we wait until our heroes or even loved ones are gone before we honor them. I didn't want to make that mistake with Naitch.
As a young fan in the mid-80s, I hated Ric Flair like no one else. Outside of "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, he was the hottest heel on my TV. When he wrestled my then favorite Kerry Von Erich (who still ranks pretty high with me), I booed loudly. I actually saw the two wrestle in person in St. Louis a year after Von Erich became NWA World Heavyweight Champion. Flair lived up to his "dirtiest player in the game" moniker and go himself disqualified that night, hence retaining the title.
Despite booing Ric when he was in there against my favorites, somewhere along the way I gained a ton of respect for the Nature Boy. I believe it was probably around the time the Four Horsemen were formed and I was starting to develop an eye for the bad guys. There was something about the way Ric Flair talked, walked, dressed and of course wrestled. He was a pompous ass, but I loved everything about it.
|Ric Flair in Cape Girardeau|
I was sad to see his first run in WWE come to an end as soon as it did. I enjoyed his work in WCW as well but when he came back months after the company was sold, I popped big time. There couldn't have been a better foil for Vince McMahon in that time period than Naitch. Then when he agreed to wrestle again, it was even better. I was privileged to see him live at WrestleMania 22 and two years later at WrestleMania 24 in what would be his final match with the company.
|Flair's final WWE match|
Courtesy: My 1-2-3 Cents
|Flair and the Undertaker|
Courtesy: My 1-2-3 Cents
My love for Ric Flair carried over into my wedding plans. In 1997 after my wife and I said "I do," and we entered the reception area, 2001: A Space Odessy blasted as the emcee introduced the new Mr. and Mrs. Hunsperger to the guests. I let out a loud "WOOO!" as we made our way through the door. That was 20 years ago and my fondness for Naitch hasn't wavered a bit.