Mania for wrestling
10-year-old who grapples with cancer has smackdown with his hero, Ric Flair
Chandra Livingston says her son, DeShawn Cherry, knows everything about wrestling.
But here’s one thing the 10-year-old didn’t know: That Ric Flair, one of wrestling’s all-time heroes — OK, he mostly plays a bad guy — was going to make a visit Monday to Palmetto Health Richland’s Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.
Mouth agape, DeShawn, who is known to talk trash by several of the hospital’s staff, found himself face to face with the man he called "the dirtiest player in the game." And he was quiet — but not for long.
Flair was in town for tonight’s WWE Smackdown/ECW show at the Colonial Center (where he will not actually wrestle, he said). A renegade with sun-scorched blond hair, Flair isn’t known to shy away from cameras, but he was, at times, rankled by the media attention Monday.
DeShawn’s precocious barbing with Flair and others lightened the mood. And once the kid got started, it was as if he was mugging for thousands of raucous wrestling fans.
DeShawn, who is being treated for leukemia, mimicked Flair’s robotic, cocky strut, completing it by running his fingers over his head.
"Please tell my grandma when guys get hit with chairs it’s real," he asked Flair.
Flair, who pointed to pink scars on his forehead, said the metal flinging was real.
"I told you, but you wouldn’t believe me," DeShawn said to his grandmother, Ann Livingston, who was beaming.
Flair autographed a photo and a championship belt for DeShawn, and made sure the boy would be at tonight’s show.
DeShawn, who collects wrestling dolls, had one more request.
"I have everyone except you, which I’ve been looking for lately."
"We’ll fix that tomorrow," Flair said.
He also noted that DeShawn’s version of his infamous call — "Woo!" — was the best he heard Monday.
Flair, who visited other patients at the hospital, was leaving when DeShawn, dazzling with his vintage wrestling knowledge (remember Dusty Rhodes and Lex Luger?), got one more elbow in.
"Everybody, make sure you’ve got your wallets because this is the dirtiest player in the game," he called out.
Flair didn’t protest; he actually seemed pleased with the designation.
Like a gifted wrestler, DeShawn sought more drama after Flair left to visit other patients. Who knew about this visit? Who kept it from him?
The answer: everyone.
"You’re a traitor," he mockingly told his grandmother.
"We got you that time," she said.
And in a sign that DeShawn perhaps has been watching too much wrestling, he said, as if in character:
"I’m going to get you back one way or another."
FLAIR ON CHRIS BENOIT
Ric Flair wasn’t so happy when, during his visit to a local hospital Monday, a reporter asked about steroids and wrestler Chris Benoit, who killed his wife and son and then took his own life.
Flair refused to answer.
"We don’t talk about any of this. This is out of line," he said.
Later he had a Colonial Center publicist e-mail a statement:
"I really feel that the media sensationalizes things," the statement said. "They take a negative story and turn it into a huge media scandal without first really researching the facts."