Category Archives: Nature Boy Ric Flair

Volume Five, Chapter Five: Starrcade ’16

Trump

Much like the Black Scorpion 25 years ago, Donald Trump is being promoted solely to lose.

Throughout WCW’s 12-year existence, Sting was what would later describe John Cena: the energetic, likable, attractive hero whose love of the business could compensate for any shortcomings in the ring, not that Sting had that many.

It’s a good thing fans were so devoted to him. Otherwise, Sting’s career would have been over after his very first World Title reign. He and the belt were at the heart of one of WCW’s worst story lines ever: 1990’s Black Scorpion Saga.

To summarize, the Black Scorpion was presented to WCW fans as a past Sting acquaintance intent on destroying him and taking the World Title from him.

Sting

Sting’s popularity saved his career, but not his first World title reign.

Sting won the WCW World Title from Nature Boy Ric Flair at July’s Great American Bash pay-per-view. The next month, a masked, fully clad man claiming to be a former tag team partner, possibly a star new to WCW, began taunting Sting.

Sting and the Scorpion finally faced off at the September Clash of Champions show. Sting easily beat the Scorpion, and went for his mask… only to have another Scorpion to appear on the entrance ramp. He had only beaten one of many Scorpion clones.

The next three months saw somebody calling themselves the Black Scorpion playing tricks, like literal, David Copperfield tricks, to rile him up. Sting played along, loyal guy that he was, but fans were getting annoyed, and just wanted it over with.

Starrcade would be the final Scorpion/Sting World Title match, in a cage with Dick the Bruiser as the referee. The mask HAD to come off the Scorpion; the storyline had run its course. When Sting won, he finally unmasked THE Black Scorpion. It was…

Nature Boy Ric Flair!?

To be fair, the match at Starrcade was fun to watch; Flair and Sting always had great bouts. But the idea that a legend like Flair would need to use parlor tricks and a mask to get a World Title match seemed ridiculous.

***

It was only after WCW’s demise in 2001 that the whole origin of The Black Scorpion Saga came to light. Originally, it was to promote an outside guy to the World Title scene and ultimately lose, which nobody who wore the mask wanted to do.

It was also WCW’s Executive Vice President Jim Herd’s attempt to get somebody, anybody, to replace his nemesis Flair as Sting’s top opponent. The potential Scorpions’ careers, the WCW World Title, and even the fans were not the top priority.

At the very least, fans expected to see a new face on the title scene, even if he did wind up losing. Jim Herd expected to keep Flair out of the main event. In the end, nobody got anything they wanted out of it.

herd

Jim Herd would wreck WCW just to get back at Ric Flair.

Herd put the belt back on Flair in January 1991. But the damage had been done; the Sting/Flair rematch drew poorly, and Herd wound up firing Flair from WCW, only to be fired for firing Flair, who took the WCW belt to the WWF with him.

Four months were spent desperately building up an alleged outside challenger. The Black Scorpion character was center stage in WCW, only to lose in the end. And the loss was taken by the only guy who could afford it.

For five months, Donald Trump’s every utterance and facial expression is treated like a prophetic word from Elijah. Some in the Political Church are afraid of him and some are on his bandwagon.

He’s apparently speaking some people’s minds. That in and of itself is not wrong, but these same people would rally around pretty much any soothsayer calling themselves an outsider.

Trump’s really just the modern-day Black Scorpion, a character being built up by talking heads solely to lose. He’ll be the easiest candidate to beat. Luckily, he’s a billionaire, so he can afford it.

I recently declined to participate in a book on minority conservatives declined, citing time restraints. That this man is capable of being center stage suggests I should stick to looking at life through the eyes of a wrestling fan. I know the story line too well.

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Volume Four, Chapter Ten: The Dirtiest Player in the Game

slick ric

At WrestleMania XXIV, Nature Boy Ric Flair, clearly crying on camera, demanded his biggest fan give him the Sweet Chin Music superkick to end his career. “I’m sorry, I love you”, replied The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels, and he did it. The dirtiest player in the game, at 59, was finally done. After 36 years of evildoing, he got to go out fair and square.

Ric Flair is arguably the greatest professional wrestler of all time. Hogan and Austin made more money. Rock and Cena have more mainstream appeal. Shawn and Bret had better matches. But Ric Flair was successful for a longer period, the bulk of that time spent as a villain… who fans loved. His ascension was a clear sign of the times.

For years, wrestling fans knew to cheer good guys, jeer villains, and whistle at the pretty ladies. But by the mid-1980’s, the deaths of brothers David and Mike Von Erich, the beacons of wrestling purity, and Vince McMahon’s televised confession that wrestling was scripted, kayfabe- keeping story line continuity, even outside the wrestling enviroment- was dying.

Vince’s confession was what most fans already knew. The attempts by Fritz Von Erich to downplay his sons’ flaws were what insulted fans’ intelligence. In this atmosphere arose the self-professed dirtiest player in the game, Ric Flair. Above all else, Flair never, not even as he faced villains, pretended to be a nice guy. He was honest about his dishonesty.

Flair on the mic didn’t hold back and enjoyed himself. He wanted the fans to be the same way. Decked out in custom-made attire, a Rolex watch, and a ten-pound NWA World Heavyweight Championship, he played the dozens with fans and opponents like the guy at the barber shop. Love him, hate him, or imitate him, Flair was the life of the party.

He ruled the industry for over two decades, but the transition from a full-time wrestling career hasn’t been easy; to walk away from a 36-year career as spectacular as Flair’s seems impossible. After WrestleMania XXIV, he continued to wrestle in other promotions besides WWE. Financial and marital woes are easier to handle with a steady income.

Flair’s youngest son, Reid, died of an overdose at only 25 in 2013. Afterwards, Flair seemed to enter the darkest stage the public had ever seen him face. Yet he managed to survive it, just as he had all those years with the NWA belt. In the last few years, he’s seen his youngest daughter succeed in WWE, and made peace with old business rivals, including Bret Hart.

For all the triumphs and tragedies, Flair accepts the consequences of his own actions, and makes no excuses or expresses guilt or regret, which would change nothing. He may try to make amends with those he may have wronged, but he doesn’t justify his deeds with some fake, selfless motive, either. Richard Morgan Fleihr lives to be Ric Flair, and he admits it.

I can deal better with people who just say or do as is than somebody who pretends to be virtuous, and the Flair persona seems to play a role in that. He didn’t hide or get trapped behind some great and noble cause; he was Ric Flair,and he enjoyed being the villain, as did his fans.

Volume Four, Chapter Six: The Squared Circle Orthogonean

Savage and ElizabethThe Macho Man Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth in their greatest hour: WrestleMania IV. (Photo courtesy of WWE)

For years, the WWE Hall of Fame induction has been the chance for longtime wrestling fans to honor and possibly even meet the legends of the industry they grew up with. The key to receiving induction hinges on a wrestler’s relationship with WWE Chairman Vince McMahon. This has led to some notable exemptions and inclusions.

Chyna, the first female Intercontinental Champion, was fired from WWE in 2001, and went on to slam the company at the height of the Chris Benoit murder-suicide media blitz. Neither are often mentioned for Hall induction. Bruno Sammartino refused induction for years. Yet many people at odds with Vince have ended up inducted, often at fans’ behest.

Bret Hart, The Ultimate Warrior, Bruno, and even former business competitors like AWA promoter Vergne Gagne had major issues with WWE, but are all Hall of Famers. Abdullah the Butcher never even competed in WWE, but was enshrined nonetheless. And then there’s the case of one “Macho Man” Randy Savage.

David Shoemaker, a.k.a the Masked Man of deadspin.com, did an obituary of sorts for Savage just after his May 20, 2011 death. It’s also the source of the Hofstadter quote from last time. Shoemaker’s “Dead Wrestler of the Week” articles are written by a longtime fan of sports entertainment from a real-world view. The article piece pretty much sums up why people loved Savage.

He had the perfect woman (as of 1984, his real wife, Miss Elizabeth), and was jealous. He had the zany ring gear that still sells. He was believably brutal and agile in the ring. And that intensity in matches came through in spades when he was on the mic. The dream match between Savage and the Rock would be a hit if only for the promos between the two.

But there always seemed to be that underdog trait to Savage. He was the wrestling Orthogonean, the striving up-and-comer nipping at the heels at the elitist Franklin WWF Champion, Hulk Hogan. Much like the most famous Orthogonean, Richard Milhous Nixon, he would finally be the man, but he didn’t soundly beat the man, and was haunted by it.

Savage and Ricky Steamboat stole the show at WrestleMania III in their Intercontinental Championship Match. (Savage reportedly went over every single detail of it for days prior to the match.) Vince decided that Savage deserved a chance to be WWF Champion, and prepared him to replace Hogan, who was about to become a new dad.

Savage won the WWF Championship at WrestleMania IV after Hogan’s interference. He lost the belt to Hogan at WrestleMania V. Savage then replaced Elizabeth with Sensational Sherri Martel. He tried to establish himself without two key figures in his career, but it just never felt right. WrestleMania VII saw the Liz/Savage saga come full circle.

Minutes after a “retirement match” loss to the equally nutty Ultimate Warrior, Savage and Elizabeth reunited to tears and cheers from fans. The couple had a “wedding” at SummerSlam 1991, and Savage won a second WWF Championship, and defended his wife’s honor, from Ric Flair at WrestleMania VIII. Liz divorced him the same year.

In 1994, he up and left the WWF to join Hogan in WCW, where he got to play a sidekick- again. He even got to reunite with Elizabeth for a spell. Only when he signed with the upstart TNA did Savage, with his career nearly over, truly fly solo. His final televised match at TNA’s Destination Point event in December 2004.

Randy Savage was actually promoting his upcoming WWE action figures and video game appearances at the time of his death. Yet at the Hall of Fame Induction prior to WrestleMania XXVIII, the first after his death, he wasn’t included. Almost instantly, conspiracy theories exploded.

Was Macho Man Randy Savage being denied a shrine because he took the Slim Jim commercial deal to WCW with him? Did Savage refuse to be inducted over the WWF’s “Nacho Man” parody of him? Or was it because of the most bizarre, and therefore most popular, conspiracy: that Vince caught Savage trying to hit on a then-teenage Stephanie McMahon?

Savage’s brother, “Leapin'” Lanny Poffo alleged that the Macho Man only wanted to be inducted if Lanny and their late father, Angelo Poffo, could also be included. Since Lanny is only vaguely remembered for his short stint as the poetic Genius, and hardly anybody remembers Angelo’s Poffo’s ICW promotion, the induction was a no-go.

Vince refused the request, just as Elizabeth Ann Huelette’s family refuse to allow her to be inducted. They feel the wrestling industry killed her (she died in 2003 after an accidental drug and alcohol overdose). As the only surviving immediate family members, Lanny and the Huelettes get to make the call. Lanny finally decided to allow only his brother in.

Savage’s longtime frienemy Hulk Hogan is inducting Savage in the Hall, which loads yet another conspiracy regarding their association at Savage’s death. Meanwhile, fans and non-fans are all celebrating the career of one of the greatest wrestlers ever.

If Hulk Hogan was what kids wanted to be, then Macho Man Randy Savage was who many of us knew we ultimately were. Intense, talented, but too insecure to appreciate what we could do in full.