Wednesday, March 14, 2007

He's the man

Just as a side note - I think I'm appreciating the Hall of Fame more this year than I ever have since I know the guys being inducted... exception of course being last year, but that's what happens when Bret is on your list of all-time favorite wrestlers.

But back on topic. I'll admit it. I never thought much of Ric Flair when I first saw him. It's hard to appreciate someone who had his prime when I was still in diapers, so when he came back to the WWE in 2001, I wasn't all that impressed. I didn't know what it was about him that made people think he was the best wrestler of all time, especially since I didn't see how he could possibly be better than say, a Chris Benoit or Kurt Angle in the ring. I wish I could say that it was this class that sold me on Ric, but the man himself sold me with his feud that he kicked off with Mick Foley last year. His promos were absolutely unbelievable, and those two were the highlight of Raw for me for weeks on end with their top-notch, amazing promos leading up to their big match. After reading the piece that ranked him #1 wrestler of all time, I had to find the promo referenced in it as being the single-best interview that's ever been given, and I had luck. YouTube is amazing like that:

I could go on and on about how brilliant Ric Flair is, but what I really wanted to touch on is the man's longevity in the business. He's been around for what, over 30 years now? And he can still wrestle and put on a show. Just earlier last month, when he did a backstage promo with Carlito, I was once again reminded of how long he's been around and how long he's been able to make his shtick work for him. He's similar to a Hulk Hogan, in that he's smart and knows where to pick his timing and have a big match, although for all intents and purposes I think Flair is a thousand times the performer that Hogan is. That's a bold statement, yes, but Flair legitimately seems to love the business of professional wrestling, whereas Hogan just knew how to maximize his own profit from it. Not to mention, Hogan is nowhere near the wrestler that Ric Flair is.

I know that a few weeks ago, I put up a post about how I thought older guys should step down and help pave the way for younger guys to take up the spotlight. I think one of the things I'm realizing is how hard it is for those older guys to leave after so many years of being involved in the wrestling business. To think that Ric Flair in particular is over 50 years old and still does the occasional "I Quit" match or a ladder match, a ladder match of all things, is amazing. I'd say if anything, that alone earns him the right to be the #1 wrestler/performer of all time. Yes, he borrowed his name and borrowed a lot of what he does from Buddy Rogers, but he took Buddy Roger's schtick to the next level. Just the fact that whenever any wrestler does a chop the fans respond with a "whoooo" is enough to prove that Ric was and still is the man.

Sometimes I wonder though if maybe I'm just being biased, especially with my view of Hogan (not a fan). I could deal with never hearing "well ya know something brother?!" ever again, but personal feelings aside, I truly do believe Ric's character has so much more flexibility than Hogan's has ever had. But the question is why? How come the thought of Ric competing in a match every week is acceptable but the thought of Hogan getting involved every week is enough to make most people cringe? I personally think it's Ric's persona and has nothing to do with either man's physical performance. Hogan, even as an old and broken down old man with replaced hips and knees and whatever else he has, is still invincible. Ric is more real, and I think if more guys copied the flexibility of his persona, maybe wrestling would be at a better state than it is now... thoughts?


Anonymous said...

I agree with you on just about everything. When I was first introduced to Flair it was when he returned in 2001, and I knew from the reaction that he was something big, but I didn't get it at the time. I still didn't really respect him as I should until we delved into the past in this class, and got to see the glory days, and hear about his importance over the years to so many wrestling companies.

I also think that his longevity is related to the realistic nature of his character, as opposed to Hogan. It seems the most successful and long-lasting characters (with perhaps the exception of the Undertaker, who is just a very special circumstance all around) are those that are very grounded, basically charicature versions of the actual person portraying them, for example Flair, John Cena, and Stone Cold Steve Austin. These are not superheros, or phantasms, or monsters, but basically well built, well-voiced versions of somebody somewhere out there in real life. It allows the audience to identify with these characters, and make that important emotional investment.

I think this is part of Flair's success, along with his phenomenal style, athleticism, class and of course, that Ric Flair charisma.

Luis Tenorio said...

I agree with you that Ric Flair is one of the all time greats. And yes, being in this class makes the WWE Hall of Fame a lot more relevant to me, both as a student and fan. Before this class, I would wonder who the people getting inducted were. The only ones that I had a good idea about were Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart.
Ric Flair is one of those guys who just seems to keep that fan following long after his time as a main event star has past. He is a performer and that is what keeps the fans there. I remember when he did come to the WWE as part owner and one of the funniest segments involved Ric teasing McMahon as they watched Stone Cold Steve Austin beat down Booker T.
It is obvious he can't wrestle as well as he did before but he still finds a way to amaze the crowd. The most recent event that stunned me was the conchairto? he received from Edge and Randy Orton. He had his head placed on a chair and slammed on with another chair. All while literally lying in a pool of his own blood. I knew at that moment that Rick Flair was the real deal.

narwood said...

I really like Deirdre's point about the role of character and caricature. I think someone was musing on Hogan, and how part of his appeal stemmed from how he seemed very straightforward. But his character really is two dimentional. Rick Flair, by contrast, is a more well rounded character, though I'd be less interested in talking to him.

How much of the longevity issue, though, is less about realistic/non-realistic, and more about flexibility? Are there wrestlers who've always had very two dimensional characters, but were always big because they were good at placing themselves in various types of stories?

My other point would be on fairy tales. Bettleheim, among others, argue that very simple characters in simple stories offer unconscious therapeutic value to kids, which is lost primarily when this value is pointed out. Hogan is totally one of these, which may help explain why he's popular with the kids. By contrast, simplicity works less well for adults, who need a more complex character to relate to on an unconscious level.

Then, it's the mixture of these different types that's important in wrestling: there really is something for everyone.

Sam Ford said...

All interesting points from everyone. Carolina, I think another interesting difference between Hulk and Ric is that their "greatness" is completely different. Hogan drew more money than Ric overall, I'm sure, but Ric draws much more consistently than Hogan. That remains consistent today. Ric probably couldn't come in and have nearly as big an appearance as a single Hogan match would be. On the other hand, Hogan's character would be terrible week-in-and-week-out and people would tire of it. Which to you rank as greater in the greater scheme of things? I'm not sure, but I would certainly fall on the Flair side of the fence in this debate.