Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hey W.W.E! Be Fair To Ric Flair!

I’ve got to admit it is tough watching Ric Flair wrestle these days. I had hoped that Flair would be able to have one last great run to cap off his illustrious career, which has spanned 35 years and 16 World Championships for the “Nature Boy.”

Any list of the greatest ever by anyone would include Mr. Flair at or near the top. The man who coined the phrase, “to be the man, you gotta beat the man” has wrestled all over the world against everyone – and I do mean everyone. I look at the current roster of W.W.E. stars and can run down the list with checkmarks next to every superstar: Triple H (whom Flair will face on Raw in two weeks), Randy Orton, and “The Samoan Bulldozer” Umaga.

Then there are the past stars from every territory, every promotion, every continent: the late, great Bruiser Brody, Abdullah The Butcher, Japan’s Tenryu and the late Giant Baba, “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, Terry Gordy, Jerry “The King” Lawler, Barry Windham, Lex Lugar, Magnum T.A., Nikita Koloff, Ivan Koloff, Sting, The Garvins (Ronnie and Jimmy), Goldberg, Vader, Ron Simmons, all of the Von Erichs, and boy were Flair’s matches with Kerry outstanding, and of course who could ever forget wrestling’s version of Yankees-Red Sox, Dusty Rhodes vs. “Nature Boy” Ric Flair. Yes, Flair has faced them all and to sum it all up using the words of Joe Franklin, “the list is endless.” But, Flair has aged quickly in a short span of time.

Ric Flair, although in great shape for a 58-year-old (in February), just doesn’t have it. He looks sloppy in the ring, a step behind, and he is not carrying the match like the way he used to; his opponents are now doing the honor. Ric Flair was out of action from the spring until quite recently, so perhaps it’s going to take some time. But here’s what I don’t want to see happen: I don’t want to see Flair lose and be forced into retirement. I want to see him win the World Championship again and retire right after the bout. I don’t want to see Vince McMahon defeat Ric Flair at Wrestlemania in Orlando, Florida, which would end the “Nature Boy’s” career in front of 100,000 people. I’m getting the feeling that this is the way it will play out.

McMahon has not always been so kind to former N.W.A. /W.C.W. wrestlers. The N.W.A. ruled wrestling for years and years and quite frankly their governing body wasn’t so nice to Vince’s father, forcing the then-W.W.W.F. to pull out of the N.W.A. and crown their own World Champ, which so happened to be the original “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers. But Vince’s dad still found ways to work with his rivals. In contrast, when junior took over, that was it. No mention of the competition, no acknowledgement, no title vs. title matches. Nothing. The lines in the sand were drawn.

Vince’s father was OK with N.W.A. World Champ Harley Race wrestling W.W.W.F. World Champ Bob Backlund at Madison Square Garden in the late ‘70s. Even after disputes with the N.W.A. Yeah those matches always ended in a count-out or disqualification, but at least the fans got to see a sanctioned bout between two World Champs.

That’s why I think this Ric Flair thing is about much more than when exactly he retires – it’s about Flair going out on his own terms. It can’t be about McMahon burying Flair or making him look foolish. Again, I’m anticipating a Flair-McMahon match at Wrestlemania 24. The grandest stage of them all and a McMahon creation to boot. The picture above shows Flair having just beaten Harley Race for his second N.W.A. World Championship back in 1984. Hulk Hogan was at the time just starting his first reign as W.W.F. World Champ – which lasted over four years – but in some ways it was never really about Flair-Hogan; no I think things went further up the chain to Flair-McMahon. Vince McMahon was just taking the Stamford, Connecticut-based World Wrestling Federation national and I think Vince believed that Flair was his biggest threat to dominating the wrestling world. From Vince McMahon’s point of view it all adds up.

The storyline currently says that the next time Flair loses in the ring, he has to retire. So throw him in there and have Flair beat W.W.E. Champ Randy Orton in a non-title match, have him beat Umaga by count-out, he’ll surely beat Triple H on New Year’s Eve in one of the few taped Raws of the year. So who will come in and beat Flair when none of the top superstars of the W.W.E. could: Vince McMahon. It just stinks! This is yet another way for Mr. McMahon to try and bury and embarrass the old National Wrestling Alliance and its greatness. Vince, say it isn't so. It may be corny, but in this situation the old adage rings true, for once be fair to Flair.

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