The Nature Boy Ric Flair is perhaps the greatest wrestler of all time to step foot inside the squared circle.
Flair is a 16-time World Champion, a part of one of the greatest groups in professional wrestling the Four Horsemen, and he is the only person to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame twice.
It wasn’t just his in ring performances that caught people’s attention but also his skills to entertain on the mic with quotes like, “I’m a limousine ridin’, jet flyin’, kiss stealing’, wheelin’ dealin’ son of a gun. WOOOO!!”
We caught up with Flair and in true Nature Boy fashion he was limousine ridin’ but we managed to talk about his legendary career, making his WWE return and his daughter getting into the business plus much more.
How did you first get into the sport of professional wrestling?
I used to play football in college but I had bad grades, which meant I wasn’t able to play football anymore. An opportunity then came up to live with Ken Patera who was in the 1972 Munich Olympic games, and Verne Gagne had made a deal to sponsor him for wrestling and when Ken started wrestling I started wrestling and the rest is history.
When you were first starting out did you ever think you would become such a big star?
I knew after about two or three years, I didn’t know I was going to become such a huge star and win 16 world titles but I just knew I was good at doing what I was doing. Times have changed a lot from 1970 to now; I guess I just had the ability, the attitude and the heart of what was demanded in a very hard and sensitive business back then.
What was it like working with Verne Gagne?
I had a great time working with Verne, he was a great guy. The business was so sensitive back then and you didn’t really know anybody, but he kind of treated me like his son which was great but he demanded a lot and he deserved it, he was a legend and still is a legend.
What was it like being part of the Four Horsemen along with Arn & Ole Anderson, Tully Blanchard and JJ Dillon?
Oh that was by far the best time of my life, it was awesome and it was something that I always wanted to do and when we got together it was a bunch of great guys with tremendous camaraderie, we had so many great times in and out of the ring, we just rock ‘n’ rolled.
Nothing will ever touch that original Four Horsemen, you can imitate but you can’t duplicate.
You’ve had many great matches during your career against the like of Ricky Steamboat, Dusty Rhodes, and Sting, what are your memories of wrestling those guys?
Ricky and Sting were both great guys to work with but Dusty Rhodes versus Ric Flair was the greatest feud in wrestling, we did it for 15-years, it was just awesome.
You wouldn’t even get anywhere close to what Dusty and I did, we built stories that people would get invested in and put on great matches time and time again, in today’s climate everything moves at such a faster pace, those stories don’t have time to build.
You spent some time at WCW and were there for the last ever Nitro, what was it like that night and the feeling in the locker room?
I was thrilled to see it closed down (laughs) are you kidding me, what a disaster.
What was Vince McMahon like as a boss?
Vince again is a great guy, he’s very honest and to the point and truthful. He is brutally honest and it takes a lot for someone in this day and age to be brutally honest but Vince is and I respect that about him.
He’s the man, there is no one like him and no one has ever compared to him in this business, he has put things together that no one ever has, he’s a genius.
But don’t piss him off! I’ve pissed Vince off plenty of times but oh boy did he make me aware of it and at the end of the day Vince always wins.
What do you make of the current WWE product?
I think the current product is average but that’s because you can’t replace guys like The Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair, it’s very hard to replace all of those great guys, but the WWE is still the best wrestling product there is.
The WWE really misses that whole attitude era but you’ll never get that back because it is just so hard to establish new names over night, you can’t just take a generation of people and try to replace them to make it better because it is a very tough and difficult business.
Who are the wrestlers that stand out for you in the WWE today?
The first three that come to my mind are John Cena, Randy Orton and Big Show, I really like Rey Mysterio and I think Dolph Ziggler can be great. There are a lot of good guys there right now but it’s just not what it was when you had the likes of Steve Austin, Triple H, Kurt Angle, I think Kurt is awesome, right now he is the best wrestler in the business.
Your sons David and Reid were involved during your time in WCW and now your daughter Ashley (Charlotte) is currently in NXT (WWE developmental) how is she doing?
She was at WrestleMania with me this year in Miami and she just fell in love with the whole thing. She is currently in Tampa with NXT and she is going to be the biggest star they have ever had in the women’s division, she is determined to make it on her own and she doesn’t need any help from me what so ever, she is going to do a great job keeping the Flair legacy going.
I also really like the name they have given her, Charlotte, I had nothing to do with that but it is where we are from and I think that is cool.
You’ve competed at numerous WrestleMania’s, what would your WrestleMania highlight be?
The greatest moment for me was in 2008 against Shawn Michaels when I retired. I also loved my WrestleMania match in 2004 when I wrestled The Undertaker in Toronto.
Every WrestleMania is special though, it’s a huge event, it is put together and produced like a puzzle, It is just phenomenal, everything around it the fan axxess, the Hall of Fame, it’s just great.
What was your WWE retirement match like against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania?
That night Shawn led the way not me, he wrestled for the both of us (laughs). I didn’t have a say with anything thing in that match which is a first, he actually had the balls to tell the Nature Boy to shut up and listen to him, they are big balls (laughs).
The moment just before Shawn goes to sweet chin music me, and he mouths the words ‘I’m sorry’ that was just magical.
What is it like being the only two-times WWE Hall of Famer for your individual work and your work with the Horsemen?
It was one of the most awesome experiences of my life, I can’t say it any better than that, it was such a huge honour to be put in that position twice and I can assure you nobody else will be able to say that, I’ll probably be inducted a third time with Evolution.
What was it like working with Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista in Evolution?
It was phenomenal, I had a great time, and it was one of the best times of my life, not horseman times but good times.
We saw you back in the WWE on the Slammy edition of RAW and getting involved with CM Punk and The Shield, what does 2013 have in store for the Nature Boy?
I’m so thankful for my loyal fans, and I’m happy to be home in the WWE. I don’t think I’ll ever wrestle again because of things that have happened with Jerry Lawler etc. that really made think, but I have too much energy to just be sitting at home, I will bring so much charisma to the table.
Whenever I hear the crowds going WOOOOO!! It makes me feel very good, it means I’ve worked very hard and earned a lot of respect, each night I go out there I go out there for the fans to make them smile, or make them cry.
So Jack Swagger has had a busy couple of weeks since returning to TV. He’s won the Elimination Chamber, securing himself not only a title shot but also a nice fat Wrestlemania paycheque in the process...