Monday, November 24, 2008

Ric Flair - To Be The Man

To Be The Man by Ric Flair with Keith Elliot Greenberg is the autobiography of - you guessed it - Nature Boy Ric Flair, who became a pro wrestler in the early 70's and retired in March this year. Dude has been a pro wrestler for longer than I've been alive, which is a testament to his staying power and ability to avoid and work around injuries.

This autobiography - to the extent an autobiography can be written by someone other than the subject - is supposedly brutally honest regarding Naitch's alcohol abuse and womanizing, and to a certain extent I guess it is. He somehow tries to pawn his excessive lifestyle off as the follies of youth, despite him continuing this lifestyle up until he was approximately fifty years old, at which point he can hardly claim to pull off any form of bambi-esque naïvete of youth.

I have to admit that I never really was a fan of Flair. That being said, it was obvious even way back when that he was an excellent worker and heel, who always managed to put his opponents over and draw heat on himself. Which is cool. However, his schtick always looked like it was damn close to a 70's Liberace act mixed in with some good ol' redneckin'. Frankly, his "Four Horsemen" storyline, of which he is immensely proud, comes off as some kind of Billy Jack trailer park saga. Predictably, Flair compares himself to Hogan and comes off smelling like roses AND the better wrestler, and of course thinks it's completely unfair that Hogan is so much richer than him. What Flair sort of neglects to mention, is that while Naitch was famous for spending more money than he made on limousines, chartering jetplanes, gold Rolex watches and tailor made clothes (mostly outfits that would have made Liberace cringe), Hogan saved and invested the money he made. That might have something to do with Hogan being better off now, in addition to Hogan being the bigger draw throughout his career.....

To illustrate how out of touch Flair is with his drawing power compared to that of Hogan during the 80's, here's how he describes the difference between himself and the Hulkster:

Here's the fundamental difference between Hulk Hogan and myself: Hogan told his fans, "Train, say your prayers and take your vitamins." My motto was "Drink, party all night and love all the ladies."

The thing is though; what really made Vinnie Mac rule the world of sports entertainment in the 80's was that he transformed wrestling matches into family entertainment. The logic was quite simple; instead of catering to some curmudgeonly kooks and rednecks who cared about the "autenticity" of wrestling and maybe bought one beer during the house shows, Vinnie Mac could replace this dude by a family - which means moving t-shirts, action figures and what have you in adddition to food and drink, if wrestling was made out to be family-friendly. This entailed that the faces (good guys) had to be role models the kids could look up to without too many red flags being obvious to the parents, hence the red-and-yellow Hulkster, Ricky the Dragon Steamboat, etc. If the good guys always won at the end of the day, and the good guys appeared to be decent, it was safe to bring the family to the shows. Flair's image of hard drinking and womanizing didn't really fit. Simple as that. In the 90's the overall climate favored the bad-ass anti-hero, and so the companies changed to accomodate that. Even Hogan turned heel (bad guy) in the 90's, and remained a bigger draw than once-a-heel-always-a-heel Naitch. So much for the rose-rinted vista of hindsight, Ric.

One thing which really is consistent in all the wrestling autobiographies I've read (admittedly not that many), is that everybody hated Eric Bischoff. Pro Hogan, anti-Hogan - everybody hates Bischoff. To add fuel to the flames, this book also reveals that Eric Bischoff was heavily involved in the "Girls Gone Wild" videos and PPVs, which consisted of taping college girls who were on Spring Break or Mardi Gras and were drunk or stupid enough to flash their tits (and more) for the camera. That's the kind of guy Bischoff is.

Ok book - get it if you were into WCW story lines and characters.


Anders said...

To Be The Man by Ric Flair with Keith Elliot you guessed it - Nature Boy Ric Flair

Nope. Did not. I was clueless. Still am.

Wilhelm said...

Be quiet, you >:-(