Ric Flair: Diamonds Are Forever
by Mark James
“Whether you like it, or don’t like it, learn to love it because it’s the best thing going today –Wooooo!!!”
Where do you start with Ric Flair? He came up in the AWA. Quickly, he went to the Mid-Atlantic territory and under Jim Crockett Promotions
became the ‘Nature Boy’. By the early 1980's, Flair had become the National Wrestling Alliance's World Heavyweight Champion and was the last of the traveling NWA World Heavyweight Champions (when that wrestling title was the most important one in the entire world). The 1990's saw Flair going over from WCW to the WWF, then back to WCW, before stints in WWE and TNA as a new millennium dawned. All in all, as most wrestling fans know, he was a 17-time world champion; but ‘Naitch’ wasn’t done.
Ric Flair went on to transcend wrestling, and today it’s not surprising to see him in a tv commercial, a rap video, at a political rally, on ESPN at a football game or even trending on Twitter. His trademark “WOOOOO!!!” is known worldwide. Ric has been one of professional wrestling’s greatest wrestlers, champions, personalities, and ambassadors. His induction into this Hall of Fame’s first class is completely warranted and expected.
Looking back over my own forty-eight years as a wrestling fan, I feel the ‘Nature Boy’’s biggest impact to the wrestling world occurred during the mid-1980s. In the 1980s, North American wrestling would experience the complete collapse of the territorial system that had reigned for most of the previous century. Gone would be the days of a local territory running cards several nights a week within their geographical dominions. What replaced it was a push by Vince McMahon’s WWF to be a national wrestling company as opposed to a regional one. By 1985, and for all intents and purposes, Jim Crockett Promotions was the NWA. Crockett had absorbed nearly all the old territories and promotions.
With most of the talent being split between JCP and WWF, it set up a last stand, (more like a war) between Jim Crockett Promotions’ National
Wrestling Alliance and Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation.
Both sides had amazing line ups of wrestlers and their respective world champions were Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan. Ric would go out every Saturday night at 6:05pm on Atlanta's Superstation TBS and give examples as to why the National Wrestling Alliance was ‘the major league of professional wrestling’. He would explain how the NWA wasn’t cartoons and kid’s lunchboxes, it was real wrestling. NWA fans knew their guys were the best. With Flair as their champion, the NWA fans were totally behind him and ridiculed the WWF. Regardless of Ric being the most hated heel during this era, setting up the hated Four Horsemen (along with Arn and Ole Anderson, Tully Blanchard and manager JJ Dillon), and being the self-described ‘dirtiest player in the game’, the fans loved him in the war against the WWF. The JCP/WWF war is where fans would buy into Flair’s famous line, “To be the man, you've got to beat the man”. Week after week, year after year, the fans vested into Ric Fair now, and he was indeed seen as, ‘The Man’.
Regardless of who might take the ten pounds of gold, or later the big gold belt, the 80s fans knew it wouldn’t be long before the strap was back around Ric Flair’s waist.
As the decade ended, times changed, companies changed, wrestlers changed. Ric Flair changed as well. What soon became evident to everyone was that Ric Flair was about being the ‘Nature Boy’ 24/7. Regardless of whether he had a title, he was always called the ‘champ’. In the same ways the NFL was synonymous with football, and the WWF became synonymous with wrestling, Ric Flair was now known as the champ. Other wrestlers called them themselves the champ, the best, the greatest, etc. By the 1990s, as a sign of respect, other wrestlers would call Ric Flair the champ, he didn’t have to call himself that. What he did call himself was the ‘Nature Boy’: the Rolex-wearing, limousine-riding, jet-flying, kiss-stealing, wheelin’ n’ dealin’, son of a gun...
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