Random Thoughts from the Office: March 14, 2010

This week has been a tough one to decide what to write about hence it being late, the Monday night battle was started anew between Raw and Impact and it ended with Impact drawing a 0.98... There's so many things I could say about the first night on television but I've pretty much said my piece on the Wrestlecrap forums already so I'd just be repeating myself. Instead I'm going to focus on one thing in particular: The main event of Impact. Eliminate Styles and Abyss from the equation, they're perfectly acceptable wrestlers to have there. I want to focus on Flair and Hogan, both huge names in the 80's and 90's, still big names with wrestling fans today, but watching them wrestle in the main event I got to thinking.

At what point does a wrestler stop being an icon we want to see and start becoming a object of our pity as a broken down shadow of the hero we once knew desperately chasing one final payday from a business who like an abusive spouse, they can't seem to break away from?

Now I freely admit I'm not a Hulkamaniac nor was I ever. I can't say I've liked a lot of what he's done in TNA but I freely admit bias in his regard. "The Nature Boy" on the other hand, was one of my heroes growing up as a wrestling fan, he had it all: charisma on the mic, a great gimmick, limos, Lear jets, champagne, caviar. He both infuriated and entertained anyone who ever watched him as one of the mainstays of the NWA and WCW. What really made Ric Flair so special though was he didn't just say he was the greatest wrestler around, he actually went out there and proved it night after night after night. He was the original "Broomstick" wrestler (So called because the thought was he could wrestle a broomstick and still have a great match). Then in 1991 it all changed; the first real shock of wrestling happened as Flair fell out with the guy running WCW at the time, Jim Herd (who promptly fired him) and jumped ship to the WWE. There was Bobby Heenan on WWE television with the NWA championship belt saying that the "Real World's Champion" was coming to the WWE. When Flair joined fans around the world sat up and salivated at the thought of the dream match, Flair vs Hogan, finally coming true. Of course it never happened, for reasons unknown but probably not limited to "Vince McMahon is a giant dumbass". He only lasted in the WWE about 18 months before going back to WCW where he stayed till they closed in 2001. After the pathetic Invasion angle the WWE tried to save face by bring Flair in as a co-owner, which pretty much started the "Brand Extension" that we live with now. But eventually he got into the ring regularly and started having great matches again.

But like all great heroes in any sport there was one opponent Ric Flair couldn't beat: time. The moves became less sharp, the matches less classic and slowly but surely he became someone who was less the wrestler I regarded as a hero but more a pale imitation. Even Ric himself saw the writing on the wall and so it came to be at Wrestlemania 24 Ric Flair had one last great match against Shawn Michaels and walked away into the sunset never to be seen in the ring again.

At least until Impact.

(And don't get me wrong, he wrestled in Hogan's Australian tour as well but with the promoter going broke those matches are never likely to see the light of day.)

It's why Ric Flair is regarded as such a great professional, always helping out where he can while seemingly unable to break away from the business that made him a household name, and the more I see him on Impact the more I weep.

Now don't get me wrong, Ric Flair even today at least interview wise is better than 75% of wrestlers out there; he can teach the new generation of superstars a lot about how to get a crowd involved and hating (or loving) you. However, the Ric Flair of today is not the Ric Flair I grew up idolizing. Time has slowed him, a lot of what made him the greatest superstar in wrestling is now gone. While he will always get a great reaction from people for me he's tarnishing a legacy earned over three and a half decades of service.

I understand that people need money, those alimony commitments won't pay themselves after all, and I also understand this is the only business Ric Flair has known, but there comes a time when you have to look yourself in the mirror and ask "Is what I'm doing hurting me or helping me?" The day that Ric Flair can do that and answer himself honestly is the day that he will finally cement his status as a true legend.

His moments in TNA even today for me will be something to cherish, he'll always be entertaining. But I do pray, for the sake of his legacy that last Monday's Impact was the last in-ring goodbye for the Nature Boy.

Clarence "Showstealer" Mason

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