A TRIBUTE TO THE "NATURE BOY" RIC FLAIR

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IN THIS BRAND NEW INTERVIEW CONDUCTED WITH RIC FLAIR LAST WEEK, HE REVEALS HIS FEELINGS ABOUT GETTING INDUCTED INTO THE HALL OF FAME, THE UPCOMING REALITY SHOW HE WILL BE IN AND WRESTLEMANIA AND RETIREMENT.

       Nuggets From The Nature Boy
              Ric Flair Shares Thoughts As WrestleMania Approaches


From facing Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXIV to pitting his salsa expertise vs. a unicycle-riding Danny Bonaduce?

Yeah, it's going to be a unique next few weeks for "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, who will deal with wrestling retirement while starring in the new CBS reality show Secret Talents of the Stars. (CBS confirmed the show's existence the same day as our interview-it starts April 8 at 10 p.m. ET-so Flair's coyness below was unnecessary.)

That said, Flair was a lot more talkative about life outside the ring than inside. Seems like the transition is already taking hold quite comfortably.

Long Island Press: We'll talk about WrestleMania, but before we get to that we need to talk about your salsa career. How did the reality show come about?

RF: It hasn't happened yet. So that's just maybe pending (laughs).

LIP: Do you think you would be good at something like that?

RF: Well, if this comes about I'll have to be good at it. I'm not going to have some judge telling me, like, I was watching these guys talk down to Monica Seles last night [on Dancing With the Stars]. I thought, "What in the hell? A girl with eight Grand Slams and they're telling her how to hold her posture." I was out of my mind. If they had cracked on [Kristi] Yamaguchi I was going to throw the TV out the window.

LIP: I had a chance to ask you at a NASCAR race last year how you wanted to close out your career, and you said you wanted to face a top guy and have your finest moment. You've got HBK at WrestleMania? How great is it to get exactly what you wanted?

RF: It's one of the biggest things if not that biggest thing in my life, that in connection with the Hall of Fame. I can't tell you anything different than that. It's huge.

LIP: How much more does it mean that it's HBK, who patterned his career after you, and according to all reports lobbied hard to be the man to face you?

RF: I don't have the words to describe it, if you want the truth. It means that much, is what I'm saying.

LIP: There was a time when you were off TV last year and there were questions about whether this WrestleMania opportunity would happen. At that time, a guy who many would consider your greatest opponent, Sting, was sitting in TNA. Were there any thoughts about exploring that, or did you call Steve Borden about it?

RF: Never. No, I wouldn't have.... It's nothing slighting the other organization. I'm extremely loyal to the people I work for, I'm more than loyal to the McMahons, and that never crossed my thought process at all. Sting's not my greatest opponent. My greatest opponent is Ricky Steamboat. I have a lot of respect for [Sting], but he's not my greatest opponent.

LIP: Right now so many good things are going on for you, with the new business, Ric Flair Finance, and a pretty young wife. But that came after a couple of years that featured a high-profile divorce and an alleged road race incident. Were you ever concerned that this wasn't going to be a happy ending?

RF: The thing about it is, divorce is never easy, and mine, of course, was outrageous for a number of different reasons, I don't know why...The road rage, let me just tell you how I feel about road rage, is that if somebody messes with me tomorrow, they're going to see it again. (Chuckles) People mess with me on the highway and I'm not doing something wrong and they throw something at me, a beer can at my car, going 60 miles an hour and slam on their breaks, they're going to see it again. I've never taken the law into my own hands, but I don't let anybody jerk me around, and that's just the way I've lived my life. That was so blown out of proportion it was ridiculous. I wish I had done more.

LIP: A couple of months ago in a radio interview Sid Vicious kind of gave you a backhanded compliment. He in essence congratulated you for being successful in the business for so long, but said you had to because you hadn't saved your money. Would you care to respond?

RF: No. Saving my money and what I've done in my personal life has got nothing to do with my wrestling accolades and where I've been.

LIP: How are things going with Ric Flair Finance?

RF: Good. The company revolves around advertising, and quite honestly.... Do you know what Internet optimization is?

LIP: Actually, I do not.

RF: OK, we're an Internet-based, lead-generation company. So, the problem right now is that there's so much activity around Ric Flair, wrestling-wise, that I can't spend enough money to get Ric Flair Finance above wrestling [as far as Internet traffic]. When wrestling is over for me-the company is doing fine, we're making money-but, I just can't get [the finance business over wrestling], which is a good thing. Wrestling right now is the biggest thing is my life, it has been my whole life. And I thought when we started this venture that things were winding down for me, and instead they've gotten bigger. So rather than battle whatever good is being generated from wrestling, and trying to make the finance company as big as I am as an individual right now is expensive, and I'm just not going to put the money into it until the wrestling thing calms down. It's hard to explain that, but Internet optimization, it's like buying time on a TV or radio station, and you spend money on the different sites to raise the name, if that makes sense.

LIP: So, in other words, if somebody is looking for information on you right now, they're much more likely to stumble upon wrestling content than Ric Flair Finance?

RF: That's an accurate way to put it. And that's all good. But more people are more interested right now in my wrestling career than are interested in the success of my finance company. Well, there are a lot of things going on. There's still a whole bunch of people trying to buy $500,000 homes with a 400 credit score. And that's nothing to do with wrestling, that's just the way the economy has changed with what's going on with the foreclosures and stuff like that, a couple different reasons. But the main reason is Ric Flair the wrestler is getting a lot more notoriety than Ric Flair Finance.

LIP: Retired wrestlers like "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Mick Foley have been very successful making cameo appearances with the company, even in non-wrestling roles. Would you be interested?

RF: Yes, of course. If the opportunity presents itself, I'd love to do stuff like that going forward.

LIP: Last question. Guys like "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and Hulk Hogan have been known by so many different eras of fans. How great is that, to be so revered that fathers have told their 8-year-olds about you and you've transcended generations?

RF: It's very rewarding, that's a good question. It's something where I'd had somebody tell me when I came back to the WWE seven years ago that I had lost some of that because I bounced around so much in the late-90s with all the things that happened with WCW...[The WWE has] given me the opportunity-they've made me who I was throughout 99 percent of my career, and that's the best way to put it, and they've given me the opportunity to leave at the highest possible level.