Powell’s Blog: “Nature Boy” 30 For 30 documentary on Ric Flair live notes

By Jason Powell

The following is live commentary on the “Nature Boy” documentary on Ric Flair that is airing on ESPN. Refresh the page for the latest updates.

-Before the documentary aired, director Rory Karpf set up the film. For those who don’t know, Karpf is a longtime pro wrestling fan. He also made the documentaries on “I Hate Christian Laettner” and “The Book of Manning.”

-Flair spoke about growing up a fan of pro wrestling and how it aired on Channel 11 in Minneapolis (an NBC affiliate that is still around today). He’s referring to the old AWA television show, and he mentioned Verne Gagne, The Crusher, and The Bruiser as some of his favorites.

-Flair spoke about disappointing his parents over the years, including a time he tried to buy booze with a Wisconsin ID. He should have just crossed the border where it was always easier to buy beer (at least when I was underage – just say no, kids).

-Ric’s first wife Leslie was interviewed. Karpf noted on Twitter that this was her first ever on-camera interview.

-Flair said he chose to attend the University of Minnesota “because Michigan wouldn’t let me in.” Sadly, that’s still the case for a lot of football players.

-Ricky Steamboat and Greg Gagne spoke about the Verne Gagne wrestling camp that Flair attended. One of them claimed they took 1,000 bumps per day. “My ass,” Sean Waltman wrote on Twitter in response. At any rate, Flair told the story of Verne refusing to let him quit the camp.

-Flair found out wrestling is “pre-determined” by overhearing the other wrestlers talk in the locker room.

-Flair said his character was boring when he first started. He said he didn’t find his character until the plane crash, which was breezed over. They focussed more on his recovery and how he became the Nature Boy. Flair said he “took Buddy Rogers stuff to a whole new level.”

-Flair’s first wife spoke about Flair having a fantasy world in pro wrestling and his little family on the side “until the fantasy took over.”

-Flair said Richard Fliehr was someone who made it through one year of college and then he became Naitch.

-Flair knew the exact date of when he won the NWA Championship for the first time. They showed footage of Dusty Rhodes delivering a promo while standing by Flair. When it came to his feud with Rhodes, Flair cited “chemistry” as the key to their legendary feud.

-Jim Cornette and “Baby Doll” Nickla Roberts were interviewed. Baby Doll spoke about how they made fans think pro wrestling was real. She explained the dynamic of Dusty being the working man, while Flair was the elitist.

-Tully Blanchard spoke about the expansion via cable television. He said the Jim Crockett Promotions target audience was blue collar men who wanted to see a fight, while WWE/WWF was targeting children.

-The Undertaker’s first comments occurred around the 30-minute mark. It’s rare to actually see him speaking on television out of character even in 2017.

-The first third or act of the documentary focussed on Richard Fliehr essentially becoming Ric Flair. There were some great photos and classic footage.

-The Four Horsemen were discussed with Flair, Arn Anderson, and Tully Blanchard all chiming in briefly. Taker spoke about how cool it seemed to see those guys living the dream. Flair said people were definitely living vicariously through him in the ’80s. He compared it to Muhammad Ali.

-Jim Ross noted that Flair is the idol of a lot of big name athletes. Footage aired of the Indianapolis Colts doing Flair schtick in their locker room and other athletes doing the same.

-Snoop Dogg said Flair was inspirational to him and other hip-hop artists. He said Flair is what they aspired to be. He said Flair has always been held in high regard in the black community “because he was one of us.”

-Flair’s partying ways were showcased. When asked how many women he was with, Flair said, “Realistically, 10,000 maybe.” Um, sure. Flair was asked why he couldn’t be monogamous. He said he tried and was miserable.

-Road Warrior Animal, who was wearing his face paint for some reason, and Tony Schiavone told stories about Flair exposing himself on airplanes. Sting said he’s never seen a guy with his pants pulled down as many times as Flair. Ric said he was bored when he went home. His first wife said he is not a family man and he does love his kids, “but don’t trust him.”

-David Flair said you should be able to be great at what you do and still be a good husband and a father. He questioned how he could neglect his kids and said he doesn’t want his kids to grow up that way. Flair’s daughter Megan spoke about her father buying her gifts rather than spending time with her.

-Flair asked what else is there for you once you are a world champion. His first wife said he would come home, get antsy, and leave. She found out he was going to Greg Valentine’s house where Beth, his second wife, was saying. Flair noted that he and Beth had their children Ashley (Charlotte) and Reid together.

-“From 1972 to 1999, I was never home,” Flair said. He admitted he was selfish and just wanted to be Ric Flair.

-Flair was asked if his parents were proud of him. “They didn’t get it,” he said. He recalled buying a $2 million house and showing it off to him. His father asked him what the hell he did. Flair said they only saw him wrestle three times during his entire career and his father wanted nothing to do with it. It’s hard to feel bad for Flair about his issues with his parents considering the way he neglected his own children, but perhaps things would be different if he had a better relationship with his own parents. I guess we’ll never know.

-Flair said he learned to throw a punch by attaching a string to a door and punching it for three years until it didn’t move. Karpf noted that Flair spent most of his time getting beat up. Flair agreed and said people came back to see him again and again because they believed he could be beaten. Sting laughed and called him the biggest whiner and squealer in the ring. Sting also praised Flair for being gracious to him.

-Flair said his favorite opponent in the ring was Ricky Steamboat. Flair and Steamboat spoke about how they were chopping one another with everything they had. Steamboat said Flair would tell him things with his eyes and it’s like they had telepathy in the ring. Tony Schiavone said you couldn’t see them talk and it was an art form.

-Karpf asked where Flair got his work ethic. Flair said he got it when he trained under Verne Gagne. Flair recalled going to a psychologist and telling him that he masturbated twice a day every day and then telling him how much alcohol he consumed. The psychologist said it was not possible to consume as much as Flair did. Flair said that by the time he was done, the doctor was on the couch instead of him.

-Flair spoke about being miserable working in small towns. He said he didn’t know why he couldn’t just go back to his room and watch television. “That’s a good question,” Flair said. Ross recalled Flair ordering 137 kamikazes one night when they were at a bar when there were only ten people in the bar. Ross said Flair needed companionship so that he wouldn’t be isolated. Ross said he doesn’t know how you could drink every day for years and not be considered a problem drinker.

-“I have done everything wrong to myself,” Flair said. He was asked if he was surprised that he’s still alive. Flair said he thinks about it every day and it’s not a funny thought. He said there’s no way he should be alive considering some of the things he’s done.

-Flair was asked what the difference was between him and Hulk Hogan. Flair said Hogan was physical specimen. He said Hogan was selling vitamins and milk while he was selling sex and booze. This actually brought back memories of an Apter magazine cover with the Von Erichs’ milk and the Freebirds’ whiskey.

-Hulk Hogan spoke about how Flair leaving would have had a negative trickle down effect on his friends. Flair said he had two chances to go to the WWF before he actually did. Flair spoke about signing with the WWF and winning the WWF Championship in the 1992 Royal Rumble.

-Hogan said he and Flair were getting ready to blow WrestleMania off the map. Flair said the company needed money fast and put them in house show matches together instead. Hogan said that if he and Flair had wrestled at WrestleMania it would have changed everything.

-Flair spoke of wrestling Hogan in WCW. Paul “Triple H” Levesque spoke about it being ten years too late. Hogan said Flair never wanted to win and added that there was no ego involved with him. Something tells me the same can’t be said about Hogan when it comes to the results of those matches.

-Cornette spoke about how Jim Herd tried to retire Flair in 1990 because he was too old, but they were still going to him ten years later whenever they needed a rating. Flair said they just used him. “I was just like what are you going? I’m miserable.”

-Karpf checked in a non-documentary clip about Flair’s recent medical issues. He noted that doctors gave him a very slim chance of pulling through. Karpf said it’s a testament to Flair’s will to live that he was able to survive. He praised Flair’s fiancee Wendy Barlow for being a stabilizing force in his life.

-Back to the film, Triple H spoke about trying to rebuild Flair’s confidence when he went back to WWE. Hunter spoke about how it would have destroyed Flair if he saw him as a failure. Flair spoke about his WrestleMania retirement match as the greatest retirement “in the history of sports.” Shawn Michaels spoke about his desire to make that match feel special. He said he viewed it as Flair’s last match in WWE. Triple H said that if you could script out a retirement for Michael Jordan or Joe Namath or another sports figure, that’s the way you would do it.

-Michaels said he knew Flair couldn’t get away from it. He said he knew they wanted him to go and Flair didn’t want to go. Michaels said Flair doesn’t love Richard Fliehr and doesn’t know if he’s taken the time to get to know who he is. “Richard Fliehr is a real guy,” Michaels said. These are the most powerful words of the film thus far.

-Footage aired of Flair in TNA. Ross said he needed the money because he didn’t save. “He’d forget little things like paying his taxes,” Ross said. Chael Sonnen spoke about Flair’s “to be the man” catchphrase and said the question is what is a man. He said at some point you have to grow up. “Sometimes the man isn’t always a man,” Sonnen said.

-Michaels said Flair’s love is the wrestling business. He said Flair’s son entered the business and he learned the lifestyle. Ric spoke about his son Reid and how he took him to various wrestling meets across the country. Footage aired of a young Reid taking down Eric Bischoff on WCW Nitro. Flair laughingly recalled his neighbor telling him that Reid invited him over for beers by the pool.

-Ric spoke about taking Reid to Japan and said he got off to a fabulous start. Ashley said Reid wanted to be his dad. He said Reid was taunted a lot. She spoke about Reid partying to mask things. She recalled her father moving out of the house a week before she graduated high school. She said she and Reid partied nonstop and it wasn’t normal. Ric said Reid was one of the guys.

-“Ric is a consummate liar and he will tell you what you want to hear,” Levesque said. He recalled Reid failing drug tests and Ric being in denial. He said they would test Reid again as a courtesy to Ric, and it would actually come back worse the second time around even though Reid knew the test was coming. Flair spoke about Reid getting caught up in black tar heroin.

-The disturbing audio of Flair calling 911 aired. Flair said he went into shock when he found out that Reid didn’t survive the drug overdose. Karpf asked if there was anything he wishes he had said to Reid. Flair said he wishes Reid was there and he had so much fun with him. “And I regret the fact that sometimes I was your best friend instead of your dad.” Tragic.

-Flair was asked how he found joy again. Flair said he didn’t. “I drank myself to death for a year.” He said he drank from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. and that was the only way he could escape. Levesque recalled yelling at Flair on the phone and forcing him “against his will, so to speak” to get help. Levesque said that in some way, Reid’s death helped the family. He said Ashley changed course and found out what her life was supposed to be all about. She said she wouldn’t be where she is today had Reid not died. “That was his dream, not mine,” she said.

-Flair broke down and smiled as he spoke about living vicariously through his daughter Ashley. There was a great sequence that showed Reid, Ric, and Charlotte applying figure fours during different matches. Flair said nothing he has done in his career surpasses Ashley winning her first championship. Stephanie McMahon said Flair is blown away by his daughter’s success. Barlow said wrestling was Flair’s escape, his love and his life for over 40 years. “That’s all he ever wanted to do,” she said.

-Stephanie said there will never be another one like Flair. Levesque said he transcends the business in some ways. Hogan said Flair sacrificed friends and family and made people’s careers. Hogan said wrestling his Flair’s love. He said he might be out of line saying it, but he believes it still is.

-To close, Flair was asked how he wants people to remember him when he’s gone. Flair said it’s easy to say best father or husband, but he wasn’t those things. He said he’ll have to settle for being thought of as the greatest wrestler and the most entertaining wrestler who ever lived.

-The documentary was a great snapshot of Flair’s career. There’s no way to do the man’s life justice in 90 minutes. At the same time, the film did a really good job of focussing on the flaws of the man and not just the greatness of his in-ring career. It’s nice to see that Flair has approved of a “warts and all” style documentary in that he’s promoted the film and will be taking part in an ESPN SportsCenter interview later this evening. If you didn’t see the film, then I highly recommend checking out a replay.



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