Scripps-Howard News Service – December 30, 2001
By Alex Marvez
Never has Ric Flair’s trademark “Woooo!” sounded so good.
Flair’s recent return to wrestling after an eight-month absence was long overdue. Flair – who is regarded as the greatest performer in wrestling history by most industry observers – debuted in the World Wrestling Federation last month as the promotion’s “co-owner” along with Vince McMahon.
Flair was one of the performers whose contract wasn’t purchased last March when the WWF bought World Championship Wrestling from parent company Time-Warner. With the WWF desperate for his services amid slumping business, Flair negotiated a buyout and landed a lucrative three-year contract.
“I didn’t think that I’d be happy being out of the business for another year,” Flair said Tuesday in a telephone interview. “There were those who said to wait another year, but so much can happen. So many things in life are timing. The opportunity presented itself and the timing was right.”
In a career spanning almost 30 years, Flair had a record 18 to 20 reins as a world champion. But Flair said the only time he has been happier than now is when he was kingpin for Jim Crockett Promotions in the mid-1980s.
Flair deserves it considering what he was forced to go through in his final years in WCW.
Fueled by jealous matchmakers, Flair was cast into such embarrassing situations as being placed in a mental institution, abandoned in a desert and having his head shaved for a storyline that went nowhere. But not only did he honor his WCW contract, Flair retained the bulk of his popularity.
“The last two years were just a nightmare for me,” said Flair, who was also involved in a messy lawsuit against Time-Warner that eventually was settled. “It was a real negative environment.”
But being away from wrestling allowed Flair to enjoy a family life that he never could when working more than 300 nights a year during his heyday. Flair spent time attending the athletic endeavors of his children and planning for a life outside the ring.
“It took about a month and half to realize that I wouldn’t be wrestling again because I had two years left on my (Time-Warner) contract,” said Flair, 52. “I had accepted it. I was really unhappy to see anybody lose their job at WCW. That was a real downside (of the sale). But as far as the company being sold, I don’t think it could have gotten any worse.”
Now fully recovered from rotator cuff surgery, Flair said he expects to soon resume being an active performer on at least an occasional basis. Flair already was physically involved on Monday Night Raw four days ago by placing McMahon in his patented figure-four leg-lock.
“I feel great,” said Flair, who became more injury prone late in his career after more than two decades in the ring. “I just need to lose some weight. I’ve been running on a treadmill, but it’s different running around the ring. I want to wrestle with my trunks on. I do not want to have clothes on again (when wrestling). I’m not sure when I’m going to wrestle, but I’m just going to plan for the middle of January.”
Flair also is cementing his legacy outside of the WWF. Flair, whose real name is Richard Fliehr, is expected to begin work on his autobiography in January. Flair’s son, David, also is cutting his teeth in Ohio Valley Wrestling, a Louisville, Ky.,-based WWF developmental territory
When the two reunite for the holidays next week, the Flairs have five training sessions set for the ring of WWF performer Crash Holly outside of Charlotte, N.C.
“I think (David) is going to be OK,” said Flair, whose son was overmatched when learning the ropes in WCW. “I think the best thing that happened to him was going up there to get away from everything (in WCW).”
Just like his father.