A TRIBUTE TO THE "NATURE BOY" RIC FLAIR

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                 Credit on the article below goes to Bob Kapur of Slam Wrestling

                                      WWE HOF ceremony sure had Flair

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Saturday night opened with a laugh-filled address from a returning hero, and ended with an emotional farewell from the greatest professional wrestler ever, as WWE presented its 2008 Hall of Fame induction ceremony on the eve of Wrestlemania.

Flair was inducted by a man who himself has referred to the Nature Boy as an inspiration, Triple H. With humility and deference to the man he repeatedly called the greatest professional wrestler of all time, he took little time in introducing Flair to the stage.

Ric Flair's speech was a virtual Thank You card to nearly everyone that he said has had some influence in his life and career.

After two extended standing ovations, Flair went right into the speech, often looking down at his notes, since he said he would cry if he looked directly at the faces in the audience. No aspect of Flair's career was forgotten, and he paid gratitude not only to his in-ring brethren, but also to the behind-the-scenes production teams, the people responsible for his wardrobe, his personal friends and business associates, and everyone else who helped make him the man he is both in the ring and behind the curtain.

He also pointed out certain wrestlers on the current WWE roster that he wanted to highlight.

"I knew Andre The Giant so well," he told The Big Show. "You are the best big athlete I've ever been in the ring with. If you could only see how good you are, like I see how good you are, there's nowhere you can't go." Chris Jericho, John Cena, The Undertaker and Edge were also pointed out specifically, with a comment or story about each of them.

The list of his industry peers that Flair referenced reads like its own Hall of Fame listing. Ken Patera, Verne Gagne, Wahoo McDaniel, Dusty Rhodes, Blackjack Mulligan and Harley Race were all mentioned, followed by a short anecdote, frequently punctuated with giggles from Flair as he remembered life on the road with those men.

Talking about his Four Horsemen days, Arn Anderson was shown on the screen holding back tears. "Double-A," he told his best friend, choking on his sentiments more than once, "(you're) one of the greatest friends I've ever had. You were the backbone of the Horsemen. And I thank you."

"My favourite combination of the Horsemen was Arn, Tully (Blanchard), J.J. (Dillion) and Barry (Windham, who was also in attendance). I also had a lot of fun with (Dean) Malenko, Mongo (McMichael) and (Chris Benoit). Arn and (those three) were the reason I came back to WCW."

Bobby Hennan, Gene Okerlund, and Jim Ross were also given praise and thanks.

Punctuated several times by applause from both the fans and the wrestlers in attendance, Flair's speech unfortunately had to get somewhat rushed towards the end. A few times, to the disappointment of the crowd, a stagehand appeared to whisper something into Triple H's ear, presumably to ask Flair to speed things up.

In the last few minutes, Flair quickly summarized his last few WWE years, giving kudos to Evolution members Randy Orton, Dave Batista, and his friend Triple H, who Flair said reminded him of himself.

Saving his comments for his Wrestlemania opponent until the end, he had one message for Shawn Michaels. "Shawn, you're one of the greatest of the history of this business. Tomorrow night, you'd better bring everything you've got."

Before closing, Flair addressed his family, noting that his children are the true blessings of his life and the legacy that he is most proud of. He thanked his current wife, as well as his two ex-wives, and apologized to them all if his work kept him from seeing them as much as he'd have wanted. It was a truly sentimental moment, and tears could be seen in the eyes of many a fan in attendance as well as in Flair's.

The speech, the emotional weight behind it, and the thought of what it represented was a perfect way to remember the legacy that is Ric Flair, and as it would have definitely been edited for broadcast on the USA Network special on Saturday night, will hopefully be shown in full on a future DVD.