This weekend was one of the most memorable weekends in wrestling in quite a bit as we witnessed firsthand the fall of not one wrestling legend but two the first you already know was Mitsuharu Misawa and while I could do a piece upon piece upon the Japanese legend I would rather you read the pieces that many of my colleagues here on wrestleview have written as they have paid tribute to him. The legend that I am referring to in this piece is one that really let me down last weekend and who is just starting to let me down in general and that my friends is ?Nature Boy? Ric Flair?you?re reading ?Wrestling Rumblings?.
I have to tell you all that I really write this column with somewhat of a heavy heart Ric Flair is my favorite wrestler of all time and up until last weekend I felt he was the last good link to the old school days of wrestling. However after last weekend I feel they got him, the new school age of thought that has taken over wrestling has finally caught up with him and I am afraid that my hero may be lost forever. You see I always took Ric Flair as someone who would do what was right for business and all in all was a team player. It was that attitude that Ric had that kept him relevant throughout the 90’s when many in WCW’s hierarchy felt he was washed up. You see the fans knew better we knew that Ric had more in the tank so when WCW tried to make us forget him by booking him in silly angles that had him in mental institutions we cheered him on anyway because Ric Flair wasn?t the primadonna that we felt the Hogans, Halls, and Nashes were. Ric Flair was different he was about the business and if it meant looking stupid on TV he was going to do what he could to help his company succeed. You see in today’s era its easier now more than ever to go up to a promoter and say ?I?m not going to do that? after all we have the internet running rampant and tho usands of fans willing to rally to the side of their favorite wrestler. It was harder to do what Ric did back then and suck it up and deal with it and turn chicken shit into chicken salad. That’s why no one batted a eye when he got that terrific sendoff over a year ago because Ric Flair wasn?t and still isn?t a glory hound who was holding people down. He was all about the business.
Let’s bring it back to last weekend. Ric Flair was booked to be the guest referee for ROH’s Manhattan Mayhem show in NYC. To say this was a big show for ROH is a understatement after all for those who are not aware ROH actually paid for commercial spots advertising Ric Flair for this show and while they have done that on occasion for the most part it is a rarity and well truth of the matter is when you are paying a guy like Ric Flair $10,000 not to wrestle it should be a big show. Of course we all know by now that Ric Flair basically hosed ROH that night and didn?t do the job he was paid for to do. Nope instead he sold overpriced autographs and I don?t care what anyone tells you those autographs are overpriced. When I met Ric Flair on the night of the 2008 Royal Rumble he did a signing here in NYC for free o n behalf of WWE. He has done about 2 or 3 signings since then and I believe has pretty much at this point milked every NYC fan out of money for autographs but I digress as I am getting off topic. He sold overpriced autographs and cut a half hearted promo in the ring putting the roster over and left. Ric Flair was the marquee that night and he didn?t care. He can say what he wants but the man who we have seen shed tears time and time again about respect for the business didn?t show any of the fans who paid their money to see him ringside that night any respect at all and he certainly didn?t show the promotion or any of the guys who worked for it respect by bailing.
I got to tell you people while I am a fan of ROH I am not exactly a fanatic I think ROH does a lot of things wrong and well in print I?ve probably buried them more than I have ever praised them. I didn?t think PPV was a good idea and it looks like that is at its end and I didn?t think TV was a good idea either and as time winds down that may run its course but of all the stupid ideas ROH has come up with the idea to pay Ric Flair $10,000 a night to basically cut promos probably took the cake. At the time it was announced I privately derided Cary Silken as20a moron who just wanted to rub shoulders and hang out with Ric Flair and I thought the money that he wasted could have been better spent on strengthening his product. In the end that was my own personal thoughts and who knows the thinking that went into bringing Ric Flair into the company. It was apparent from day one that Flair was only doing it for the money and well who could blame him? If you gave me $10,000 and told me say my company is great even though you have never seen a match from our show I would do it in a heartbeat. Ric Flair was getting paid to do a service and as overpaid as he was and as stupid as it was to even have him there I never once had a problem with him getting work outside of WWE. My problem was when Ric Flair stopped doing what he was paid for well in advance because WWE starting batting their eyes at him.
There is a fading concept in the wrestling industry and that’s doing what’s right for the promotion and the business in general. It’s about as old school of a thought as going 60 minutes every night. We see it every day as more and more talent go into business for themselves and put themselves and their needs before that of the company they work for and the industry they make a living in. I can?t say if the thou ght process is right or wrong as I am sure there are arguments that could be made for both sides. After all while many now sour at Hulk Hogan for not knowing how to step out of the limelight the truth of the matter is what other wrestler his age could step into the ring and get a six figure payday for one match? Hogan got there by protecting his value and by being shrewd and putting his own wants and needs first and well speaking truthfully I am sure that before this whole saga that has enveloped his personal life he could give a damn what the fans thought while he was counting his money. Even still with all that being said I thought Ric Flair was different.
I can understand Ric Flair not wanting to do ROH on HD NET I really can. The timing of his departure from that show may have been fishy as ROH wasn?t really given advance notice on that either and didn?t really find out until almost the last minute that Ric Flair was no longer planning on appearing on their show even though he was already paid to do just that. When that situation happened I gave Ric Flair a pass after all Ric Flair has done I figured he deserved one and maybe the timing of the situation was really just unfortunate. Ric Flair has always been a pretty emotio nal guy and maybe he felt deep down that even though he was paid and agreed to do the job and even though WWE was OK with it (reportedly) that it just was a conflict of interest and he should remove himself from the situation immediately. It might not have been the most popular decision at the time but if that was his ethics I did my best to understand them. After all who amongst us hasn?t had to make an unpopular decision in the past? When it was announced that Ric Flair would continue to make his non televised appearances until his agreed upon deal with ROH expired I had no problem with that. After all isn?t it right in the business to finish up with whatever bookings you have before going somewhere else? We have seen other wrestlers do it in the past with ROH such as Eddie Guerrero, Matt Hardy, Ricky Steamboat, Mick Foley and even CM Punk who all finished their ROH commitments before going to WWE without incident. Why should I expect anything different from the man who symbolized those old school ideals Ric Flair?
Then came this weekend and well Ric Flair let me down. I didn?t go to the ROH show last weekend partly because I felt this was going to happen but I wanted to believe different and well Ric disappointed me. If it was just me he disappointed well it would be one thing but I think he disappointed all of us from the fans in attendance to the wrestlers in the back who grew up watching him and considered it a privilege that they could be on the same show as Ric Flair. It wouldn?t have hurt Ric Flair to do the job he was paid for to do and be the ringside enforcer that night but he didn?t feel that way and he could say whatever he wants at this point but to me he is in that same group of guys that he always put Hulk Hogan in with. The guys who are in business for themselves and themselves only. Maybe I am making a mountain out of a molehill but I for one wouldn?t have a problem if Ric Flair was no longer allowed in ROH. I hope Ric Flair makes the absolute most money he can right now because there is a saying the same people you see on the way up are the same ones that you encounter on your way back down and well I would think some promoters in light of this are going to be skeptical of overpaying Ric after they saw what just transpired. I?m very disappointed that the industry has transformed the way it has in recent years. Old school is dead…long live new school…and may our industry be spared.