Today marks the 73rd birthday of the greatest professional wrestler of my lifetime, “Nature Boy” Ric Flair!
When I first got into wrestling in 1985, Ric Flair was the king of the mountain and had been for a couple of years. Even though I was at the age where I mostly cheered for the good guys, something about Ric Flair made me a fan of his at the time, even though he was a rulebreaker. At my age now, I’m aware of the fact that Flair was very charismatic and that’s likely what drew not only me to him, but probably millions of others watching on television as well.
As I got older, I continued to be a fan of Flair. When wrestling hit its last boom period in the late ’90s and the nWo came along, I cheered for Flair even more. He represented the past, which as you know by being on this blog, is a thing I do. I like the older stuff. But he was the “retro” whereas the nWo was the new hip thing. In the early 2000s, he was part of the nucleus of the Evolution stable in the WWE, and it felt a lot like watching the legendary Four Horsemen again, so I was still a huge fan. Even today, I still like to keep up with his antics, and am genuinely happy that he has continued to find ways to be relevant to other generations as well.
So in honor of the legend’s birthday, I wanted to share a video of him. Something that would capture part of the essence of what made him special, both in the ring and on the microphone. Flair has had a ton of great opponents and even more great matches over his long career, so there are a lot of videos to choose from when trying to pick one.
But I’ve settled on a little gem from late 1988 that took place on the weekly NWA/WCW wrestling show on TBS where he put on a showcase with preliminary wrestler George South. The match has a little back story to it, as Flair rarely wrestled on TV in this era, but when he showed up to the studio on this day, booker Dusty Rhodes told him he was going to wrestle. Flair wasn’t really in the mood, but Dusty insisted. So Flair set out to make a point. He told Dusty to give him George South. As the story goes, just before going out on camera, Flair told South, “Today, you’re Ricky Steamboat pal.” Steamboat was one of the sports greatest performers for years, and someone whom Flair had 100’s of mat classics with.
Now South was a pretty damn good performer in his own right, but he wasn’t a guy you ever saw winning matches on television. But on this day in 1988, Ric Flair went out and made the whole world believe that George South was a world-class athlete who was more than capable of taking the world title. It’s a great example of just how damn good Flair always was in his role. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have through the years, and one more time before I go, Happy Birthday Naitch!