Wrestling Legend Ric Flair recently took time out his busy schedule to talk to us. Here is what he had to say:
What made you decide to train for a career in pro wrestling and what was Verne Gagne like as a trainer?
In 1972. Because I was living with the fellow who was training for the '72 Olympic games called Ken Patera, He had already made a deal with Verne Gagne who sponsored him in his training period to become a professional wrestler, and he and I became very close friends. Verne Gagne was the ultimate professional, as a trainer, very committed promoter / wrestler to the sport of professional wrestling, he had been an Olympic wrestler himself in 1948, a great guy to be involved with. I was very fortunate to start out with him. Are there any things that you learnt from him, that you will take on when you train other people?
I don't think I really absorbed one thing, at that point in time I was just learning my craft. The thing he really instilled, was work ethic and commitment. When you broke your back in a plane crash in 1975, did you start thinking about a career away from wrestling or was a return to the ring always your main objective?
I was told that they didn't know if I would get back in the ring. Sports medicine was not nearly as sophisticated as it is now so, the answer was time will tell. It did heal and it didn't become an issue (knock on wood) and hasn't so far. Do you think coming back from an injury has changed you as a person?
No I was young then you don't really think about the consequences on making a career as citizens. I was focused and determined to be a wrestler. I don't think back then I would have accepted no for an answer. What was it like to win your first world title from Dusty Rhodes in 1981?
That was an awesome feeling; it was the epitome of what I wanted to be then in wrestling. That particular evening was really not a great night for me because I was in Kansas City and either Dusty or myself were very well received in that town, not well known. It was a political deal! Bob Geigel was the president of NWA . I couldn't really tell anyone about the fact that I was going to win because that was the nature of the business. The promoter that sponsored me was there, the guy that worked with him, my mum and dad came from Minneapolis, and it was a relatively quite night, with no fanfare there really. That particular night was not over the top for me, it was a nice feeling afterwards but with so many politics going on, at that point in time-it really was not the most rewarding feeling I have ever had, but yeah it was an important win for me.
What was it like when you first wrestled in front of your parents?
They liked wrestling but they never watched it on TV. They respected what I accomplished but they never lived and died for it, or watched it every day. When you lost that title you then won it back from Harley Race-did you fight a different sort of fight against Harley Race than you did against Dusty Rhodes?
That was a big night in my back yard. It was built up for months in advance, a huge night, our first Starrcade, it was billed as a "Flair for the Gold" and Dusty Rhodes had put together a phenomenal promotional scheme to make it work and it did. That was one of those nights that is over the top in terms of memory and feeling. I knowing that I had achieved something big. After that your success was huge. Did you have the confidence at that stage to know that you could go all the way?
Winning it the second time told me I had the ability to go as far as I wanted to go. Winning it the second time meant I wasn't a short-term success. Whose idea was it to form the Four Horsemen and who chose the members?
It was Arn Anderson's idea. It was just four guys who got along great and it was a pretty cool concept. We actually were together before we had a name, and then Arn came up with the name one day. The best combination was Arn, Barry Windham Terry Blanchard and myself. Ole was very good he was the original, but he was at the stage of his career where his heart wasn't in the wrestling. He was a great wrestler and a great part of the history of the Four Horsemen. In 1989 you had 3 sensational world title matches with Ricky Steamboat at the Chi-Town Rumble, Clash of the Champions 6 and Music City Showdown - which would you consider to be the best of the 3?
I couldn't say. I don't think I ever had a bad one with him. He was the best I ever wrestled against. A phenomenal performer. We had great chemistry and a lot of respect for each other and that good guy bad guy thing worked really well, it was awesome. Do you prefer being a heel or a face?
I prefer being a bad guy. Why would you say heel or face? Are you a wrestler? You're not so why would you use that terminology? Is that the wrong terminology? It's a question from a fan actually.
Well fans who use terms like that I have no respect for, because they're not wrestlers. That's a wrestlers terminology. See that's inside talk - I don't like outsiders using inside talk - I have no respect for it whatsoever. Everybody wants to think that they're a wrestler. The guy who wrote my book the first time, I'd go on record as saying is a *%$^£&$ idiot - it had to be re-written. He took everything I said and wrote it like he was on the inside. He will go down in history and I will make sure he does, as the biggest idiot ever be given an opportunity and completely ^%$& it up, 'cos he talked like he was on the inside. You know fans want to talk to us using our terminology and it's a lot of our guys faults, cos they want to talk to the fans and get their opinions. They want to talk to them like they're on the inside. So that's why I'm asking you why you said that, but it's ok, you're asking me questions the fans have asked. I do have a lot of respect for the fans but I don't like the fans who think they can talk like they're on the inside, cos they're not. We've got too many guys in our businesses that rely on the opinion of some fan who thinks he's smart - it's a real issue for me. Has that been a problem throughout the industry then, people who don't know what they're talking about having too much influence?
We have a lot of people who think that the end result of what we do lives and breaths on what the Internet thinks is right. I mean that would be like me trying to write an article on Mercedes Benz. Do I like four doors? Yeah, but do I really know anything about it? No. I wouldn't know anything about the design of a Mercedes Benz from the inside. I could use the terminology but I wouldn't know anything about it. Dave Melzer and Mark Madden are the only guys I've ever thought who were non-wrestlers who had the knowledge enough and the overall perspective of our business to talk like they were on the inside and use the terminology. Had you ever thought about joining WWE before you did in 1991?
It was in my mind but nothing I ever thought would happen. Jim Herd is the total reason I left. He did a lot to make we want to leave-things to this day, I'm not angry about but I can certainly recollect, and I've written a lot about him in my book. He is a good example of a guy who came along and thought he was on the inside, and was so far on the outside, which is so far from the truth. He had a lot to do with the destruction and bankruptcy of the company 10 years before it did bankrupt. He will go down as the biggest idiot of all time. On entering WWE you had with you the world title from WCW - how did that come about?
That came about over $25,000. When the NWA was in existence it was controlled by a board of directors who ran the NWA. Whoever the champion was, had to put up a $25,000 bond. It was a statement to say that the champion wouldn't leave with the belt. I put up a bond for 25 grand and when I asked for my money back Herd said &%$£ you and the belt. I said it's not &%$£ me its &%$£ you - watch where the belt is next Monday. I called Vince and I said I'll come there as the champion if you want me to be. All over a lousy 25 grand. A multi million pound contract and, and ultimately when I came back they gave me the 25 grand plus interest. That's how ignorant Herd was - he was so ignorant it was embarrassing, and he knew so little about anything. I said to him, I'll give you three months, and guess what, ninety days later he was gone! I sent the belt to WWE and Bobby Heenan took it out on TV the next week. As soon as WCW realised the damage they filed a lawsuit to have me send back the belt. All over 25 grand!!! I was really hurt by all what happened especially after I'd been there so long With Hulk Hogan and yourself now in WWE many fans thought the dream match they had hope for would happen. Why did a high profile feud between the 2 of you never happen in WWE?
I don't know for sure but there were political issues and things going on with the company. That was the original game plan and I've heard a number of reasons why it didn't happen but it was nothing I was too upset about. I enjoyed my year and a half at WWE then I went back and carried on where I left off at WCW. While I was there the title went from Piper to Hogan, Hogan to Savage, Savage to Bret Hart. I just enjoyed the working environment - I was amongst good friends. What I didn't realise when I went back was the animosity it had caused. I've explained in my book that my leaving the WCW created animosity 'cos it hurt the company. It was nothing I did - you know you have a right to protect yourself - here you have a company spending millions of pounds on nothing, and they couldn't give me my 25 grand. Herd was so arrogant that he wouldn't even ask Barnett about my situation, he just said &%$£ Barnett and &%$£ the belt - those were his ways of talking. He thought he was a tough guy. There was a time in my life when I thought I was invincible. I knew I was the best at what I did - I never thought of myself better than other people in any other way apart from the wrestling where I knew I was the best wrestler alive. I went from that character to a guy who was forced to cut his hair, a guy who Jim Herd wanted to wear an earring. He wanted to make me into a gladiator!! He was taking an established commodity, who'd been the flagship of the company and changing it stupidly. What determined your departure from WWE and your return to WCW in late 1992?
WCW had been calling me and I think WWE were looking to downscale me, and I had a great relationship with Vince. I told him that WCW had offered me a great deal. He told me that I had done a great job, had been a great businessman and that I should do what was best for me. So I went back straight back into the turmoil and it got worse instead of better. During the Monday Night War were the ratings of Raw and Nitro a topic of discussion among the wrestlers in the locker room? (James Pendle)
That's all we ever talked about! There were serious concerns that the guy we worked for was obsessed with beating McMahon. Everybody could see that McMahon was building up a great billing while we were all just getting ready to self-destruct. What was it like to be part of the very last Nitro in March 2001 and to wrestle in the very last WCW match against Sting? (Lesley Weight)
I felt glad - I wanted to throw a party. We should have closed down a year before. We had turned into such a mockery - we had become the laughing stock. The guys in the WWE were just laughing at us. It was an embarrassing nightmare to anyone that had ever become successful in our business. It was terrible. I was emotionally upset for the people who had worked there for years, like the production people, wrestlers losing their jobs. When there is two entities and it becomes one, the market place becomes a lot smaller. Everybody got a month of severance pay for each year they had been there, so a guy who was there for ten years would only get paid for a year in severance. 150 people went out of business in one day - some of them made it and some of them didn't. Nobody gave a shit - it was pretty sad and very insensitive. For over a decade in WCW you feuded on and off with Sting. Do you think the two of you will ever meet in a WWE ring and would you like this to happen?
Oh I wish he would but he won't though. He doesn't want to come out of retirement. He has made money and is fine. He lives in California, which has made his wife happy, and he is fine. It would be a lot of commuting for him to get back into it. He would be a huge addition but I don't think he is prepared to commit the time. Is there any match not on The Ultimate Ric Flair Collection that would like to have seen included? (Billy Haden)
I haven't even seen all of it. In fact the only match I've seen is of me and Dusty. I'm not a big ego man. I don't go home and watch myself wrestle. Change of subject I know but going back to that Internet thing before. I think a good example of people giving advice it would be like a doctor going home and getting medical advice from random people who have posted something on the net. You know, our guys are the worst for it - they tell the fans what's going to happen. Some of the Wrestlers are marks, you know, they're catering for the guys on the Internet! "Please say I'm good, say something good about me. I'll tell you anything you want to know" they have fans they will cater too, just so they say, "You were great !" That's was why it was so successful in the past and why we had riots in stadiums, cos people didn't know. Now we have guys tell the fans what's happening the week before and they're like "don't tell anybody I told you just say that I'm really good" (laughs) It's a shame-it kills me. And if the fans are honest with themselves they wouldn't want to know either. It used to be riotous, people were so wound up!! They couldn't punch it in on the Internet and find out what's going on. What would you say is the single worst/most embarrassing moment in your wrestling career? Can you look back and laugh about it now? (Chris Harrison)
Mistakes are few and far between. I can't think of anything I'm embarrassed about. If you could sum up you whole career in one word or sentence, what would it be? (Warren Kantor)
Phenomenal. How do you feel about the new direction of the business, with Benoit and Guerrero being the respective champions? (Bradley Gibson)
Oh I'm very happy, very happy. When you go to work you want to work in a professional environment. Whether the environment is how you want it to be, you can't control. But if your workplace is friendly and professional, you can tolerate a lot. WWE is the most professional, wholesome workplace environment I've ever been in. Regardless of all the politics that go on, it's like "yes sir", "no sir", "thank you sir". Everybody's on the same page-the production staff get the same respect as the wrestlers do. That's what makes life nice. That level of respect and professionalism is excellent. It's tiring but it's not hard to do because it's nice and it's a professional place to work. You know, McMahon will get mad but he won't show it-there is no trickle down effect, and he won't tolerate unprofessionalism.
And how do you keep yourself motivated?
I didn't like the wrestling business after what happened in the WCW, I didn't have any ill feeling, cause they had been great to me over the years. The only reason they competed was because they spent millions and stole talent. There were no controls, no respect and it was unhealthy, that would never happen at WWE, and that keeps me motivated.
What does it mean to you to have the best selling WWE DVD of all time? (Lloyd Clarke)
It means a lot. I'll be brutally honest-I think it's based around me, but it gives people a chance to see all these wrestlers from yester-year who they never got to see and they've only ever heard of. You get to see Dusty Rhodes, Harley Race, Ricky Steamboat-a lot of these guys haven't been on TV in years. So people have heard of them but never seen them I know it's based around me but I think a lot of the success is based on the opponents and the people I'm wrestling.
Once your wrestling days are over, would you still like to be part of the WWE in some other role? (Phillip Ryding)
Oh yeah. I'd like to do promotional tours. I don't know if I'd have the patience but maybe I'd like to help put the shows together. The agents who work at putting the matches are the hardest working guys in the company and it's a bit of a thankless job. When you try to put together a live show it's hard work. We the wrestlers think we have it hard, the agents have it ten times as hard.
Which opponent, past or present, would you like to have wrestled but never have, or haven't for a long time at least? (Martin Robb)
I would really like to wrestle Triple H who I've only got to wrestle one time. I would love to wrestle Kurt Angle - I love wrestling Shawn Michaels, I would love to wrestle The Rock in a one on one match which I don't think will happen cos of his commitment to Hollywood. I would love to have wrestled Steve Austin, one on one. I'd like to wrestle Eddie Guerrero who I have a lot of respect for and Chris Benoit. I'd wrestle anybody!!! I'd love to wrestle Sting but I don't think that's going happen.
How do you feel when people call you the greatest of all time? (Andrew Graham)
I feel very rewarded. I don't know if that's true or not-I think I'm in the top five but that would be a very difficult call. I feel very honoured and rewarded to be back now. I mean I felt like I was in a tomb after WCW. I was a beaten man-not in my personal lifestyle but in my professional life, and even when I came back here I was very very reluctant. And I was sure I wouldn't have to wrestle. People have always seen Ric Flair as this full of life person who just gets in the ring and performs, laughs and then does it all again. The big mind game when Crockett sold to Turner. People who I thought might have informed me of the situation that was going on at WCW didn't. People who I trusted and confided in didn't tell me anything. But I do feel great about being considered the greatest of all time, and people considering me as that makes it even more real. But there have been a lot of great performers. When I was honoured at Greenville. That was the best night of my career. I didn't win any belts but I was honoured by my peers, and that was very emotional.