|The Masked Superstar about to slam the head of The Spoiler (sort of) into the head of Brad Armstrong, from the Facebook page of "Nwa Georgia Championship Wrestling Tribute Page," Sharing authorized, full site credit below.|
When I was a kid, a staple of Saturday mornings was Georgia Championship Wrestling. It was on Ted Turner's network and it was wonderful. This has often been referred to as the "Golden Age" of regional pro wrestling, before Vince McMahon took over the business with first WWF then the WWE.
Prior to this, there was the "All Star Wrestling" world. Where you had the masked villains who would be introduced as hailing, "...from parts unknown," while the crowd booed their displeasure while secretly pulling for them. I never saw The Masked Superstar" (in the photo above) but I recall seeing guys like him when I was very young. By the time I was in junior high and had graduated from Bugs Bunny to pro wrestling, it was a new age.
This new age, the golden age, was the time when "The Four Horseman" rode, when Dusty Rhodes was "The American Dream," when Ole and Arn Anderson were "The Minnesota Wrecking Crew," when Roddy Piper was the baddest man in a kilt since William Wallace. There was Micheal P.S. Hayes and his tag team, "The Fabulous Freebirds." (For those of you who actually check the credits, there's a special treat for you below.) There was the hated Ivan Koloff and later Nikita. You had Ronny Garvin with the "Hands of Stone," and many, many others.
And then, there was my personal favorite. He still is to this day. Can you guess who? I'll give you a hint, his signature move was the figure-four leg lock. He was "...custom made from head to toe." He had the best robes, the blondest hair and early on went by "The Nature Boy."
|Ric Flair uttering his famous, "Woooo!" photo credit to Wikipedia, sharing authorized, cite below|
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the twenty-six time world champion, Ric Flair!!
Flair was and still is one of a kind. He's wrestled since the 70s and even to this day, as he's pushing 60, he'll drop that elaborate robe and get in the ring. I remember in 1983 where he'd get on the mike with Gordon Solie and tell EVERYONE, "“I'm a limousine ridin', jet flyin', kiss stealin', wheelin' dealin' son of a gun. WOOOO!!”
This was all theater of course. Then again, as a kid, I thought it was real, or put more precisely, I wanted to believe it was true. And as much as I wanted to hate Flair, despite him and all his cockiness, I admired his,...well, flair.
Flair, like all wrestlers made up a story. He was not so much from parts unknown but from a popular place in pop culture. He was the guy we loved to hate. He was the leading player a story we knew by heart but watched to the end. Perhaps I'm being just a tinge dramatic, but I think you get my point.
Flair also had another phase that was more serious, something that applies beyond the ring:
“To be the man, you've gotta beat the man."
Sure, this can mean in wrestling to pin the other guy's shoulders to the mat. In sports, it means taking over the starting spot from the quarterback and handing him the clipboard. In business, if you want your district to be #1 in sales, then you've got to overcome Mary's team. In life, there are winners and losers. It's both important and admirable to play hard and celebrate moral victories. However, in places like Afghanistan and Nigeria, there are people who play for keeps. It's not pretty, but is it life. I mention this to say that even in the circus of pro wrestling, where championships are decided by the scriptwriters and promoters, there's truth in Flair's comment.
Perhaps the "man" you have to beat is yourself, the part of you that's not all you want to be. Perhaps.
For those of you who have not followed Ric Flair's career, I'd love to tell you it's a storybook ending. I'd love to say The Nature Boy retired after wrestling in six decades to abundance of family, friends and funds. Sadly, that is not true. Flair has suffered setbacks in all areas. He has alimony payments that would draw a sympathetic nod from Hugh Hefner. He has had business endeavors crash like Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka off the top turnbuckle. Most tragic, Flair had to bury his twenty-five-year-old son, Reid. I recall Flair broke his back in a plane crash a few decades ago. I have no doubt that was agony. I am also quite sure that the death of his son had to hurt a million times more.
Something tells me that we've not heard the last of Ric Flair. I hope he comes out on top and can claim one more championship belt, that of personal serenity. Maybe The Nature Boy can retire and Ric Flair can just be Ric Flair.
I think we're all on a journey. Most of us know where we're from. There might be parts of that past journey we'd just soon forget or at least not remember often. That's fine. What's most important is where we're going. Sometimes it may be best to be, "from parts unknown," so long as in doing so one does not welch on previously obligations.
I don't watch wrestling anymore. It is fun, though, to remember watching it on a TV that took up several feet in the living room. Now that's all in the past. Ric Flair is someone who I've never met but I'd like to, and if I do, you can bet your wrestling tights I'll post in on Facebook. I hope that when I do, things are better for The Nature Boy. Come to think of it, I hope they are better for all of us.
Be well my friends,
Opening Photo- Nwa Georgia Championship Wresting Tribute Page, Timeline Photo 15-22