Last month, the Royal Ramblings team ventured out to the UK Midlands in order to meet and hear from the 'limousine riding, jet flying', one and only Ric Flair. Having hosted one previous event with Bret 'the Hitman' Hart, MDA promotions (now known at Triple M) were developing their wrestling portfolio and the omens are good. It was an extremely professional show. Hosted at Derby County FC's hospitality suite, the event was well constructed. There were Flair matches on rotation on big screens, wrestling themes on the PA, a well-stocked merchandise table, a great set of auction items on display and a green screen area for photos with the man himself.
Following grand introductions, picture and autograph opportunities it was time to settle down and listen to Flair in conversation with Southside wrestling's resident MC, Rob Maltman. Each night of the tour appeared to have been themed and the questions in Derby were centred on Flair's confirming or otherwise urban legends that have evolved online and elsewhere about his life.
Flair was asked first about the notorious flight from London, in which it is reported he wore only his robe as others indulged in rowdy, drunken behaviour. He played it straight, giving the facts but having fun with the audience too. On drinking, we learned that whilst Flair hadn't schooled Bret Hart, he perhaps should have instructed Terry Funk whom despite being "a great person" and "a great champion" had, we were told, been seen naked and on all fours, with a knife in his mouth, hunting Flair's pitbull after a serious night's partying. Flair had however given some drinking tips to John Cena - "a great ambassador for the company who works his ass off". As regards rowdiness, Flair confirmed that Sid Vicious had been involved in a backstage fight with Arn Anderson that involved a scissor attack! and suggested that the guys today "couldn't roll like that".
There was of course some classic Nature Boy bravado too. Flair confirmed that he bought not his first Cadillac but rather his first blue one with his settlement money from the plane crash he survived in 1975. He believes the young man he paid 25 dollars a day to drive him in said Cadillac is probably still dining out on his stories of having driven Ric Flair too (wouldn't we all). Flair also claimed that his best decade was the 80's at which time he was "spending 50,000 dollars a month". "I never wore the same thing on TV twice for 10 years!" he said, "I had like 150 pairs of 1000 dollar a piece alligator shoes, five rolexes....Oh yeah, I was having fun!"
Flair appeared entirely relaxed about suggestions of backstage heat from WWE for his post-retirement wrestling in TNA. "They wouldn't have inducted me into the Hall of Fame the year after I was in TNA if it was a problem" he told us. "I think Vince was p***ed off but I was bored!" he said and still, there were no regrets "I don't regret that I went. It wasn't what I thought it would be but I don't regret it". Flair told us that he likes Dixie Carter and that "Kurt angle and James storm are two of my best friends" but "the decisions they [TNA] make on booking are just not good business". He also compared TNA and WCW to WWE, arguing that the latter succeeds because - aside from good logistical support - there are "rules that you don't break- that's why WCW aren't here, everyone did their own thing".
It wasn't all-fact though, as Flair entertained some of the theoretical questions from the audience too. He suggested that a modern day Four Horsemen might encompass Reigns, Rollins, Ambrose and Ziggler and that if there was a zombie apocalypse he would want to be with "Vince McMahon because of the money and because he fears nothing, Shawn Michaels because he's close to God and could help me and Arn Anderson because he would make me laugh!"
Flair went on to discuss the various people he's worked with in the business. He thinks Mick Foley is "great" but is sad about his health, "I tried to tell him back in the 90s - don't keep killing yourself!" Flair was keen to point out that he "wasn't against ECW ... I've been hit with a chair 1000 times" but that what Foley did was "crazy" and that "he would have made money without doing it, all night". Meanwhile, the Big Show was said by Flair to be "the best big man of all time". Queried by the audience about Andre the Giant, he said "I've been in the ring with both of them and he's the better athlete than Andre all day long" but "Andre will always be Andre the Giant, I'm not comparing status or reputation". We heard that 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper, Bobby 'the Brain' Heenan and Arn Anderson are "the three wittiest guys I've met in my life" and that Haku "is a fierce SoB" whom he'd seen "bite a guys nose off!" Flair had kind words for the Miz "a great kid", Seth Rollins "the next Shawn Michaels", Bray Wyatt "a tonne of talent" and Shawn Michaels "the best of all time" but if he were booking the matches for WWE he'd have Randy Orton or Dolph Ziggler holding the belt, he told us.
There was a slight hint of sadness or perhaps frustration in some of the answers with Flair confirming that he's always said he wanted to manage the aforementioned Dolph Ziggler "...but they've never given me the opportunity" and that as regards his retirement match "I wasn't OK with it but I didn't have a choice, so I become OK with it!" Instead Flair is "living vicariously through my daughter". He believes that Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Bayley and Becky Lynch "have time to express themselves" and are "taking it to a different level". This tied with Flair's belief that Vince McMahon is "committed to making NXT a brand" bodes well for Divas wrestling.
There were few personal reveals from Flair who refused to tell us what Triple H had sent him to the arena (an in-joke with the organiser perhaps) and who joked that he'd lost his virginity at the age of seven but couldn't remember the details as he was drunk! Rather, he was reflective and considered himself to have been blessed with "a phenomenal life". "My daughter is rocking it, I'm in good shape and we've survived the horrible loss of a son and brother" he told those gathered. Flair finished up by describing himself (despite his personal battles) as "the most fortunate person I've ever had the good luck to be around in my life. He has worked hard and he has sacrificed but G-d has given him so many opportunities". It was a wonderfully humble overview from this wrestling icon.
All in all, Triple M did a great job and Flair remains a huge and entertaining draw. What a privilege to hear him in person. With Hacksaw Jim Duggan and the Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase over in August followed by Kurt Angle in November, Triple M promotions are one to look out for.