Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Ric Flair: The GOAT of the wrestling world

Ric Flair
Courtesy: WWE

By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter
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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
In 1991 when he defected from WCW and signed with the WWF I was about as happy as I'd ever been with a "fed jumper." I saw him wrestle Piper live at a house show in December of that year. A month later, Flair defied the odds and won the Royal Rumble from position number 3. Not only did he win the battle royal, but also his first WWF(E) Championship.

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
That night was an emotional one for everyone at the stadium. For decades Ric Flair had entertained millions of fans. He put his body on the line taking bumps many others would decline to take. He bled gallons of blood. Sweated buckets of sweat. Cried a river of tears. And in a matter of three seconds, it was over.

Flair and the Undertaker
Courtesy: My 1-2-3 Cents
On a whim my buddy Chad and I got tickets to the send off show the next night on Raw. We watched in awe as many of our childhood favorites and current Superstars came out to pay homage to the Nature Boy. When Raw went off the air, the celebration continued and as much as I'll likely be judged for it, I found myself wiping the tears from my eyes in between my clapping. 

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.

Courtesy: WWE
I've had opportunities at different WrestleCon events to meet Ric Flair. I regret not doing that when I could have. He remains at the top of my list of Legends I must meet at some point. So while I know Flair nor his family is reading this post, I feel better sharing my feelings about a man I truly respect and hope has a full recovery. 

1 comment:

  1. these were the fathers of actually wrestling. its a shame most of the enthusiasts of this generation seem to forget that. but your blog seems to be doing an amazing job. it is sure to raise the awareness among the onlookers on what the origins really was. keep on writing