WWE Hall of Famer, Ric Flair, is facing a serious health battle, and his manager has asked for prayers and positive energy. Longtime WWE superstar, Dolph Ziggler, is taking care of the "positive energy" part with this first-person story on what the Nature Boy has meant to him and the wrestling business throughout Flair's illustrious career.
I was lucky to be in the ring with Ric for the first time 12 years ago and I was just as lucky to be in a room with him a few weeks ago. I know what he's done for the wrestling world, I know what he's done for the fans and I know what he's done for me, personally.
Getting the approval of Ric Flair is the wrestling worlds version of Johnny Carson calling you over to the desk after you just crushed a standup set on The Tonight Show. He is royalty and if he likes your work. he lets you know. If you let him down, even once in 100 matches, he'll let you know that, too, That's Ric, I thank him for it every time and always will. He has been instrumental in making me the performer I am today.
The 16-time World Champion has done it all and trust me, that doesn't just pertain to the ring! Ric lives as only Ric can live, looking only as Ric can look. Every time I see him at a wrestling show, a Cavs game, a hotel, an autograph signing, you name it; he is holding court, everyone is gathered around, hoping to get some advice from The Man, or hear some of the greatest road stories of all time. We will lock eyes, he'll let out a "Wooo!," and call me out by name and some other hilariously awesome things I wouldn't dare repeat here, always making me feel like the king of the world and graciously treating me as his peer.
Ric is everything that embodies sports entertainment, and was so even before that phrase existed. He looks the part, he struts in a room, he steals the show and has gone toe-to-toe with the greatest of all time, and more often than not, some of the worst of all time (but watching him while growing up, I'd never have known that). A lot of people are successful in this business because of a catchphrase, or athletic ability or charisma or wrestling, Ric Flair is the personification of all of those things, much like his daughter Charlotte, as she is already a multiple-time champion after only a few years in the WWE.
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So many times have I learned about the business from Ric, whether it be inside or outside of the ring. He is what's known as a ring general (a term our business gives to those who have earned the right to control any and all aspects of a match). I still watch Ric Flair promos from the '80s, '90s and, hell, even yesterday on Instagram!
He was good enough and crazy enough to lead one of most monumental factions the wrestling world has ever seen, The Four Horsemen. These four were the cream of the crop and Ric was their outspoken leader. They lived life as The Horsemen, in and out of the ring. (What I would give to have been on just ONE of those legendary, private plane rides).
More times than I can remember, after a successful show, my coworkers and I would drop our pants and do a shot to celebrate Ric Flair's example of working hard and playing hard. So much of my career has been spent trying to emulate The Nature Boy (in and out of the ring -- of course), even going so far as dying my hair blonde and using the moniker: The Natural!
Sometimes when I'm getting myself psyched up for a big match or an important promo, I will yell at the top of my lungs, "SCHIAVONE!!!," just to break the ice and call upon my inner-Flair. Ric used to address his go-to announcer, Tony Schiavone, before telling his opponent, "To be the man, you have to beat the man!" There isn't a wrestling fan alive that doesn't "WOOO!" while driving through "Flair Country" (anywhere near and around the Carolinas) or while riding Space Mountain at Disneyland (feel free to ask any hardcore fan why).
When you live life like The Nature Boy, there are some monumental highs and, sadly, some unbelievable lows. No matter what happens in his life, he always comes back bigger and better than any of us can even imagine. Ric is everywhere these days and wrestling is everywhere too, mainly because of Ric Flair.
I will always remember when he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame the night before Ric wrestled Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 24. During the ceremony, a fan yelled out, "Please don't retire, Ric!" Flair instantly barked back: "I WILL NEVER RETIRE!!!" And I believe he never will. Because he is and always will be, The Stylin', profilin', limousine ridin', jet flyin', kiss-stealin', wheelin' n' dealin' son of a gun, who I am damn proud to call a mentor, a friend and one of the greatest of all time!