It has been one of those weeks in the cheery world of professional wrestling. Rather than one large story upon which any copy-seeking writer can hang his hat, various stories – each with varying degrees of relevance – have emerged to fill the void and pass the time. Therefore, this will be something of an addendum to last week’s piece. For those who missed it, I authored something of a dressing down of both TNA Wrestling and more specifically, Ric Flair. As I stated last week, I adore Flair, and to this day would quite happily name him as one of the foremost people to contemplate drinking with. Nevertheless, the industry that made him (and to which he contributed so much) has quite simply passed him by.
I took the liberty of highlighting the rather unfortunate damage that has been inflicted on the once popular AJ Styles via his association with Flair. This awkward and incongruous alliance worked only as long as Flair’s aura was subjugated to Styles’ phenomenal characteristics. The most recent Impact played host to Flair castigating his so-called meal ticket via an entertaining but exceedingly indulgent rant disguised as “motivation”. In truth, the whole episode was chiefly designed to lay the initial groundwork for a Kurt Angle/ Ric Flair feud.
Flair has broadly hinted (in both the media and associated press) that a feud can and will happen. Flair craves it more than anything, as a feud with Angle means insatiable spotlight and the chance to delude himself into believing he can still “go”. Angle, for his part, doubtless welcomes the challenge of carrying the utterly broken-down and geriatric Flair to something watchable. The mercurial Shawn Michaels was the last person to accomplish the herculean feat of making Flair look capable again. Kurt is similarly gifted and he might very well follow in Michaels’ footsteps and provide Flair with one more golden moment. It might very well represent the apex of Angle’s illustrious career if he succeeds.
Amazingly, less than one week after I finally succumbed to the need to address the Flair issue, Naitch took it upon himself to provide fresh meat for the journalistic grinder. In case you didn’t read the reports, the self-appointed “guardian of kayfabe” decided to attack the merits of mixed martial arts (Flair lumped all the practitioners together under the MMA banner) labelling it “irrelevant” and proffered his opinion of the form’s ability to both manufacture stars and maintain longevity. Naturally, ex-wrestler Brock Lesnar was roundly praised by Flair as a product of a different situation.
The purpose of this commentary is entirely lost on me. If MMA is as irrelevant to wrestling as Flair says, why is he talking about the subject in his capacity as a professional wrestler? Flair’s ego and sense of self-importance was running riot again, clearly. If we take UFC as the most prominent example, then the idiocy of Flair’s argument becomes clear. UFC is a violent contact sport, which like boxing survives on its ability to manufacture new stars. Flair cited the truth of wrestling producing stars “that last” as evidence of the wrestling business’ superiority. It figures a malingerer like Flair would make such an observation.
In truth, UFC is the same as any legitimate sporting endeavour, where physical prime is limited and one’s standing as a box-office attraction can be affected by any fight that occurs. The difference is these real sports are thus forced to perpetuate their existence by aggressively cultivating new and marketable stars to replace the outgoing selection. In theory, wrestling is charged with the same responsibility. Sadly, a pseudo-sport that is governed by image and presentation (as wrestling is) very often elects to hide the weaknesses of a long-standing performer, rather than replacing them.
This scenario is acceptable only as long as the star remains capable. The egocentric Flair was undoubtedly using himself as an example of wrestling’s “unbreakable” powers of star creation. Unfortunately, a star’s standing is based on his moneymaking ability and his success at infiltrating new, avarice-laden markets. Ric Flair has no name value whatsoever outside of professional wrestling, and sadly for him very little clout within the modern wrestling business. Flair’s decline as an athlete and mainstream overexposure has destroyed his so-called “star power”; as the awfully low rating for the debut Monday night Impact forcefully attested.
Real sports (such as MMA) have no choice but to consistently produce new stars, as kings can only reign for so long before they are forced to abdicate their thrones. It’s a pity Ric Flair remains oblivious to this truth; otherwise he might have spared us the sight of his decline. Contrary to Flair’s asinine observations, professional wrestling still has a lot to learn about sentiment and reality.
The attitude of Ric Flair is shared by many paranoid and embittered wrestling fans, and it represents a major obstacle towards progress. Flair mentioned (in the same interview) his aversion to a wrestler’s union, saying the “time had passed”. It’s truly sad to hear the insular musings of the dinosaurs as they defend the indefensible. Professional wrestlers are a wonderful breed; comprising the skilful, intrepid and dedicated. They embody passion and are part of a wonderful morality play that is so often thrilling in its execution.
Alas, the industry that governs them is a despicable, fascistic and capitalistic system that has destroyed countless lives. It embodies a dismal joke that is utterly void of mainstream credibility and is an embarrassment to the modern civilised world. No greater evidence of Ric Flair’s insanity is required than his holding up “the business” as a shining beacon of progress. As assertions go, it is both dead wrong and a total F’N joke.
The ultimate, insidious truth of this little game is Flair comments reek of the jealously and hypocrisy that typifies the old-school generation. On the surface, Flair’s comments represent a robust attempt to champion the wrestling industry. In truth, they are the desperate ramblings of an old man and his cronies; ashamed as they are that their legacies reside within an utterly inconsequential goldfish bowl. It’s the same old chip on the same old shoulder, and it’s pathetic.
Wrestling has enjoyed attention, affection and enduring popularity, but it never has and never will be accepted as credible sport. No amount of tarty asides and vindictive comparisons will change that. Facts are paramount, boys and girls, and the facts tell us Ric Flair is finished and UFC 100 (headlined by that ex-wrestler fella) drew a larger buy rate than any Wrestlemania in history. It was around this time that Vince elected to re-cast WWE as “family friendly” entertainment. Truth is, he had very little choice in the matter.
Now, somebody find Ric Flair, take him to Savile Row, and apologise on my behalf. I truly revere the man, but like I said last week this one-time emperor has no clothes on. That sort of chicanery used to be his party piece, but now it’s just a sad reminder that everyone has their day and very few things enjoy the luxury of eternity. I hope when I have reason to speak of Flair again, I can do so wrapped in the cocoon of his legacy. That would be splendid…
Daniel R. Browne.