LOVE FOR FLAIR STRENGTHENED BROTHERLY BOND
"Nature Boy" Ric Flair has always been Robert Wises favorite wrestler.
But that relationship became even more poignant in the wake of a recent family tragedy.
Wise recently lost his younger brother, Eddie Wise, 40, to a brain aneurysm. The last thing the two brothers did together was watch a televised TNA wrestling show featuring their favorite performer.
"Edward (Eddie) Ralph Wise died Friday morning, Sept. 17, 2010. The last thing he ever did was watch TNA wrestling the night before, and Ric Flair brought the last night of his life great happiness and enjoyment," says his brother.
Wise explains that Eddie had been born blind, and that Flair brought wrestling to life for him through his colorful character.
But it was more than that. The wrestler had been a focal point that strengthened an already strong bond between the two brothers.
Wise says he and his brother, who lived together in Florence County, traveled to Elkin, N.C., last year for an autograph signing by Flair at a local furniture store. Several thousand fans turned out for the event.
"People were wrapped around the building and down the road to see the Nature Boy," recalls Wise. "When we got to him, we told him that we had driven from Florence all the way up there to see him, and that we were going to Cheraw later that night to a Mid-Atlantic show where his son David was teaming with Ricky Morton."
Wise says Flair didnt rush them off despite the huge crowd on hand that day.
"Ric told the lady who was assisting him to move and let us come behind the desk with him, and he took a picture with us. My brother was so happy in the moment, but when we got back to the car, he started crying. He said his hero treated him with love, dignity and respect. He treated a blind man and his brother as if they were royalty."
Flair signed a number of keepsakes the brothers had collected over the years.
"Ric treated me and my brother first class. He stood up and put his arms around us. He autographed everything of him we brought to have him autograph. He did so without us asking and even autographed two of the pictures he had of himself. He made one out to my brother and the other to me. He said hed see us later that night in Cheraw."
The two brothers were sitting in the front row when Flair came over and spoke to them again later that evening. "We told Ric that it was Ric Flair Day and that we wanted to be there."
Wise says being a fan helped him through some difficult periods growing up.
"When I was going to school, if I was having a bad time or a great time, Ric Flair was always there every week to get me through. When I went to the Marine Corps I watched Ric on the Armed Forces Network and on local Japanese TV."
It was Flair, he says, who motivated him to join the Marines right out of high school.
Wise recalls Flair signing autographs at a mobile home lot in Sumter when he made the decision to sign up.
"He said, You can do it, man, you can do anything you put your mind to, but you have to bust your (behind) to be good, and thats what I did. Ric motivated us our entire lives."
Wise regrets not being able to see Flair recapture his NWA world title from Kerry Von Erich on May 24, 1984, in Japan. He was stationed in Okinawa at the time.
"Our commander wouldnt let us leave the island to go to the mainland and see him. I remember Rics (then) wife Beth was over there with him. I could only look at the pictures in the Japanese papers ... so close but so far away."
Throughout his travels, says Wise, Flair was a constant.
"Wherever I went and whatever I was going through, I could always count on my hero Ric Flair to keep me happy. He always gave me something to look forward to, and he never let me down."
Wise estimates he has driven up and down the East Coast "hundreds of times" to see the Nature Boy wrestle.
"I would tell my girlfriend wed have to wait on Saturday to go out until after we watched Ric. We never missed a week," he jokes.
Wise says he has many fond memories of spending time with his brother watching Flair wrestle. He talked about the two walking to Memorial Stadium in Florence years earlier just to see the Nature Boy in person. He rattles off a number of special Flair matches he and his brother witnessed on TV and at various arenas.
"We walked out to the ring beside him at the Great American Bash at Charlotte Memorial Stadium when he was going to fight Nikita Koloff for the world title, and David Crockett was the ref. We were also at the Great American Bash when he beat Ricky Morton in a cage match. We even saw Ric wrestle Terry Funk at the Conway High School gym for Rics world title ... It was Flair country. My brother jumped for joy. Hell, I did too," he says.
Following Flairs career has been a family affair for Wise.
"In our home, Ric Flair has been a part of our family since the 70s," he says. "No matter what position they put Ric in, and theyve put him in some pretty bad ones, everyone always knew Ric was the man.
"We have lived our lives with Ric Flair since the mid-70s when he came to Florence to wrestle Tiger Conway Jr. Ric was the heel and we sat front row ringside. Ric jumped out of the ring and told the fans to shut up and put his finger in our dads face and said, Shut up old man. He had us then."
Wise says although his brother couldnt actually see Flair perform in the ring, it didnt matter, because the Nature Boys charismatic promos said it all.
"He just loved to hear Ric Flair talk ... Ric has brought so much joy into our lives, we cant thank him enough. We damn sure love him."
And Wise will never forget the last time they saw the 16-time world champ in the ring.
"Ric brought wrestling to life for my brother," he says. "He died happy in his sleep."
Credit on the Article above goes to Mike Mooneyham of the Post and Courier