Tag Archive: ric flair


‘Nature Boy’

 

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The first 30 for 30 that focused on professional wrestler did not disappoint.  For the hardcore fans, Ric’s biography is well known but the joy comes from hearing so many of his Hall of Fame contemporaries (Triple H, Shawn Michaels, the Undertaker, Hogan) speak of his obvious strengths and weaknesses.

If you’re coming in with a fairly clean slate, then ‘Nature Boy’ is a great primer into the wrestling business through one of its most iconic stars, while also pulling back the curtain to show us how damaged/flawed someone so beloved and influential as Ric Flair is.  The father/son dynamic is a major theme of the story here, and for a lot of wrestling fans a key component for how we were introduced to wrestling in the first place.  (Saying too much more would take some of the steam out of the story.)  There was a very close call not that long ago, but Naitch is still with us to appreciate the respect so many of us have for him, and this film certainly did nothing to diminish the humanity of Richard Fliehr, or his much more famous alter ego.

Highly recommend.

 

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The Art of the Heel Turn

 

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So let’s mix my circles a little today…

Here’s a big part of my continued appreciation of wrestling.  It’s what made C.M. Punk, Ric Flair, and the man above Shawn Michaels all names you have to consider as the all time best: the ability to be convincing as either a complete self centered jackass (heel) or as the good guy who will win ‘the right way’ and overcome all the odds put in front of him.  If that sounds like a description of being a ‘character actor’, that’s exactly what it is.  Physical character acting, but still.

Just like with ‘real’ actors, most professionals can nail one extreme or the other pretty good.  But only the really good ones can play either role, depending on the story they’re telling.  And, as today’s clip demonstrates, the really, really good ones can play both roles in the scale of three minutes.

While we’re here, let me also pay respect to the man who ‘put more people over’ than anybody in the business: good old J.R.  YouTube has illustrated this now every time there’s a great knockout or dunk, but nobody sold the emotion of the story like Mr. Ross.

Enjoy:

 

 

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Knowing how to where a suit (preferably custom tailored from Michael’s in Kansas City if possible).  The Aviator shades.  Yelling through the lisp.  Being a A plus ‘Hollywood jerk’ who is SO ridiculous and over the top with the trash talk he’s pretty much daring you not to laugh with him.

Yeah, that’s the template.

Enjoy!

 

 

I’m good for one wrestling column a year, and Wrestlemania is this weekend, so…

The draw this year for Wrestlemania is the return of ‘the People’s Champ’, the Rock, as the host of Wrestlemania (don’t ask what that means exactly, nobody really knows.)

Anyway, immediately upon returning, the Rock referenced having a showdown with John Cena, the current face of World Wrestling Entertainment.  The heat between them comes out of some comments Cena made in an interview saying the Rock doesn’t love the wrestling business since once he started making Hollywood movies, he never looked back.

In a series of skits since then, the Rock, one of wrestling’s great talkers (and with the possible exception of Nature Boy Ric Flair, wrestling’s greatest/funniest trash talker) has defended himself (saying he’s made it easier for Cena and other wrestlers to get into movies and other mainstream venues) while at the same time ripping apart every weakness of the John Cena character (his main fans are women and children, he’s hard working but not really a great ‘worker’, the character as a whole has gotten stale).

Now I’ll say that over time I’ve come to respect John Cena.  He’s the face of the WWE in a down time for wrestling as popular entertainment.  He’s the face of a company that is caught between wanting to be seen as ‘family entertainment’, but has its roots in the lower classes and bloodsport.  But what happens when your main attraction is getting booed by your core audience (boys and young men)?

A few suggestions…

1) John Cena, Go Away

Not meant in a mean spirited way.  Here are a few of the guys who are either gone completely or missed most of the past 12 months: Shawn Michaels, Triple H, the Undertaker, Chris Jericho, Batista.  Five well established main eventer and former World Champions.  To his credit, John Cena has been the mainstay in a transition year for the company.  There were hints of it during a ‘Cena’s fired’ angle earlier in the year, but nobody would benefit more from just being gone from TV for a few months than John Cena.  It’s just human nature, people just get bored and tired of seeing the same thing after awhile.  Speaking of which…

2) Character Development

Cena’s best promo in this battle with the Rock was when he became ‘the Doctor of Thuganomics’ again.  Even though Cena rapping always makes me laugh in a condescending way, it did remind me he wasn’t always the ‘goofy Superman’ he is now.  I’m not saying a ‘Hollywood Hogan’ heel turn is needed.  Much as the Miz has also earned my respect as someone ‘running with the ball’, I don’t think he’s ready to be the new face of WWE (yet).  Regardless, it’s way past time to adapt the John Cena character in some way.  I caught the ’50 Greatest Superstars in Wrestling’ DVD over the weekend, and damn near everyone on that list kept evolving their character until (and sometimes after) they stopped being active in the ring on a regular basis.  Hell, when people turned on the Rock when he started making movies, what did he do?  He came out in a bigger pair of sunglasses, and a golden belt buckle and become a heel you couldn’t help but laugh with and cheer for at times.  By comparison, here’s what the other three main guys on Cena’s show in the past show:

The Miz: annoying snot midcarder to ‘the guy in the gym who’s good but really believes he’s the best’

CM Punk: self righteous ‘better than you’ leader to straight out cult-type leader

Randy Orton: heartless, sadistic heel to ‘Stone Cold’ light badass antihero

Speaking of Orton…

3) Find Your Kryptonite

It’s a fair analogy in today’s WWE to say John Cena is Superman and Randy Orton is Batman.  And like in the movie world, Batman is making great movies and Superman is still not connecting to this generation.  In large part, because Superman is seen as ‘too god-like’.  Likewise, Cena needs something, anything, that can be established as a known weakness to his character.  And no, being outnumbered doesn’t count.

For example, everyone knew Shawn Michaels had a bad back.  For the second half of his career, any time an opponent went for the back, there was an instant story.  Stone Cold Steve Austin wore two knee braces and a busted neck.  (I won’t make the millionth joke about Cena’s ability to sell injuries.)  We’ll see where it goes, but Cody Rhodes spent a year building a character that was overly vain.  When he suffered a ‘facial injury’, that meant something.  What’s the one thing that can be expressed within the confines of a wrestling match that brings John Cena to his knees?  The character desperately needs that.

Man, I wrote way more than I planned on this one.  Answers may come this Sunday at Wrestlemania.  We shall see.

 

So for those who hadn’t heard yet, ‘Lady In My Life’ was not selected for the finals for this season’s BET’s ‘Lens on Talent’ contest.  Nevertheless, it’s been a nice ride hasn’t it?  Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been reminded in the best possible way how many people I’ve met over my lifetime, how long I’ve been working at this passion of mine, and how, in the words of the Nature Boy Ric Flair at his ‘retirement’ ceremony, “For all the things I’ve done wrong, I must have done something right.”  So one final time, thanks to all family, friends, cast and crew who supported me and my film and helped us achieve this milestone.  The film still has some screenings coming up; I’ll announce here when the dates get a little closer. 

If the title and the picture didn’t clue you in, I’ve gotten my silly back now.  The answer to ‘what next’?  – it’s too early to say exactly.  As always there’s things I have in mind, but nothing concrete set up as of yet. This month isn’t over and I’ve already had enough highs and lows to last the rest of the year.  My karma continues to fly sky high right now, I’m back to giving myself a daily goal and staying in the moment.  A week, a month, a few months from now, we’ll see how these ‘pebbles’ I drop in the pond add up and if the momentum turns into something bigger. 

Until then… 

 

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“Whether you like it or don’t like it, learn to love it!  WHOOO!”

As a kid growing up in Kansas City, we’d make frequent trips to my parents birth state of Louisiana, where most of my aunts and uncles reside.  My mother’s hometown would be considered rural South; I lived there for a short while.  There aren’t gutters like in the city; just huge ditches that run up and down the residential streets (helpful if say, a hurricane type storm comes through).  While I don’t hear my Midwestern accent, I always hear the accent of my cousins.  The parts of the vocabulary that passed on to me, calling my elders Ma’am and Sir, saying ya’ll as opposed to you all, I definitely picked up in my time spent down South. 

My grandfather didn’t have cable the way we think of it now.  Anytime I’d go to his house, two things stood out that I didn’t see in Kansas: the joint JFK/Martin Luther King portrait in the living room (all the other pictures were family), and the huge television that he must had going back to the 60s.  That television didn’t pick up local news (cause there wasn’t really any TV station in that town) but we did get Superstation TBS.  My grandfather was a huge baseball fan, so anytime the Atlanta Braves were playing, that TV was on.  One of my most cherished memories as a kid was going with my grandfather to a Kansas City Royals game.  To the best of my knowledge that’s the only time he ever went to a live major league game. 

The other thing I could count on from Superstation TBS growing up was World Championship Wrestling.  World Championship Wrestling in the 80s meant one man.  The wheelin’ and dealin’, kiss stealin’, limosuine ridin’, jet flyin’ son of a gun!  The Nature Boy Ric Flair!  Ninety percent of the time Flair was the ‘heel’ or bad guy, but he was so charming, so stylish, so funny, he was to me the first in a long line of bad guys who were so good at being bad I ended up cheering for them anyway (followed in no particular order by the Joker, Tony Montana, and Barry Bonds to name a few). 

If the 80s were the last real era of excess, Flair’s style was the perfect personification of that.  Why did he dress so well?  Because that’s how he felt ‘the Man’, the World Champion should present himself.  Not just the best in the ring, but the best out of the ring too.  One promo which I’ll never forget for obvious reasons, was when he started railing about how all the girls wanted Slick Ric, and wanted to take a ride on Space Mountain, then looked inside his suit jacket and read ‘This coat made for the World Champion, by Michael’s of Kansas City!”  How in the hell was I not going to get geeked off of that?

Another Flair attribute I always tried to emulate was his trash talking style.  Everybody does some version of “I’m big, I’m bad, I’m the best!”  Flair was the first (and best) person I ever saw who knew how to talk trash and make you crack up laughing at the same time (even as a bad guy).  For those of you who watched my own ‘wrestling persona’ on TV, I have no problem admitting I watched all the ‘Naitch’ I could to try to nail the comedic timing aspect that goes with the type of smack talk I gravitate to. 

My personal favorite smack talk line of all time:  Flair was cutting a promo against Ricky ‘the Dragon’ Steamboat to promote their championship match at an upcoming Clash of the Champions.  Flair comes into the ring with four or five girls, he’s wearing a fur coat, he’s stylin’ and profilin’ (and he was the bad guy by the way).  The Dragon comes to the ring, as ‘Mom’s Apple Pie’, a well known married man, with a son known as ‘Little Dragon’, who represented the family unit and family values.  Two men who stylistically couldn’t be more opposite.  Anyway, as Ricky finishes running Flair down for being a bad example for all the kids in the audience, Flair arrogantly grabs the mic, blowing Steamboat off with the still classic line:

“I’m going to go out, and live life the way a World Champion should live life.  Why don’t you go home, and help the missus with the dishes?”

It was one of the biggest jerk things I’ve ever heard someone say, and I couldn’t have been cheering any louder.  That was Ric Flair.

Even though it was long overdue, when Flair finally retired as an active competitor at last year’s Wrestlemania, there was a genuine sadness in me, and for many of the kids of my generation.  Wrestling of course, is no more real than what I do, but like what I do, it’s a form of storytelling.  Ric Flair was both one of the best and the most passionate performers within his craft.  I still keep one eye on wrestling to see if there’s anything going on that interests me, but I keep an eye on it knowing there will never be another Nature Boy Ric Flair.

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!