Category Archives: Von Erichs

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.