Growing up, I had a limited awareness of Ric Flair from the general pop-culture noosphere, and I feel like I got a better sense of him from the readings on Buddy Rogers et al., along with the bits of interviews and performance we've seen in class. I knew he was famous, I knew he was, at one time, one of the top stars, and his performances are certainly impressive. Nonetheless, Molinaro's biography surprised me.
Granted, the over-the-top nature of wrestling, and the need for performers to stay in character 24/7, can certainly produce some effusive response, even among those observers who might perceive themselves as objective. Nonetheless, Molinaro describes Flair in almost supernatural terms, comparing him to great artists as well as mainstream, "legitimate" athletes. What surprised me the most, though, was how well he worked with other wrestlers: Molinaro describes him as "a compelling storyteller possessing the ability to carry even the most hapless opponent to a five-star classic" (1). Molinaro goes so far as to credit Flair with Sting's entire career. This seems to be an entirely different view of what it means to be a "great" wrestler, one that definitively breaks from the athletic tradition and moves into the theatrical: the best performers are those who bring out the best performances in others.
His ongoing difficulties with the WCW, complete with his long tirade against Eric Bischoff detailed in Reynolds and Alvarez (151-152), present a picture of someone who's pursuing his own interests, but still ultimately interested in doing a good job for a good company. (Or I'm reading it wrong, or it's a one-sided perspective. Whatev.) Reading all this, I couldn't help but be reminded of Hulk Hogan, who had a specific beef with Flair (Molinaro 6), but who also is famed for his self-serving antics, from the AWA to WWF to WCW.
After all the stars we've read about, warts and all, Flair is presented as a pretty good guy. I'm sure some of it is fandom coloring the writing, but it's impressive to generate that kind of love among fans.