And in this corner, it's The Nature Boy

WWE's Ric Flair is at home in the ring or hanging with fans.

 It has to be interesting to see Ric Flair walking around a grocery store.

He's The Nature Boy. A living legend in professional wrestling. The 16-time world champion. An institution of a man who, in the ring, is seemingly ageless (he just turned 58 this past Sunday, actually).

What would you do if you saw Flair walking around the produce section of your supermarket?

Probably run up to him and yell his trademark, "Woooooo!" Right?

That's what happened to Flair a couple weeks back, when he was shopping with his wife and doing a phone interview.

"Someone just did that," Flair says. "Three times."

And he responded by slapping on a figure-four leglock?

Not quite.

"As long as people are respectable, I have no problem with it," he says. "I don't like it at dinner tables or restaurants, but aside from that I can handle it"

Flair can handle a lot, no doubt. He's still a key player in World Wrestling Entertainment, which is at the Save Mart Center at 5 p.m. today for its Raw program (which airs here at 9 p.m. on the USA Network and is live for the East Coast).

Flair still gets in the ring. Still dukes it out. Still takes bumps and falls that defy his age.

For about 34 years now, that's been Flair's life -- he's flamboyant and loud, strutting around the ring while notching victories and winning championships on the way to becoming the greatest professional Wrestler of all time

He is one of the guy's who brought professional wrestling into American's living rooms.

"Wrestling is a way of life for me," Flair says. "As long as I can do it, as they want me to do it, I'm gonna continue to.

"No. 1, I love the business. No. 2, I still have the ability to keep going and No. 3, I just have a passion for this business," he says. "I've had an unbelievable gift of good health, which I feel like I should take advantage of."

He has the strongest influence in the history of the locker room, helping along younger wrestlers, sharing what he's learned over the years.

"If I like someone, and I think they really care for the business, I'm more than happy to help them," Flair says. "It's kind of expected of me now. It's a role that I don't mind at all."

He helps bring credibility to the younger guys by teaming with them. Wrestlers like Triple H, Batista and, just this last week, Carlito have benefited from a Flair push.

"Ric Flair is looked at in the WWE locker rooms no differently than Jim Brown would be in a Football locker room, Wayne Gretzky in an Hockey locker room or Michael Jordan in a Basketball locker room," Jim Ross, the WWE's announcer and an executive vice president, wrote on his blog on his website this week.

"If young wrestlers don't watch every move an athlete like Flair makes in the ring and in match preparation and especially Ric's passion, then said youngsters are too stupid to be in this business," Ross wrote.

Of course, Flair won't be around forever. He knows that. And he already has in mind the way he wants his storied career to end.

And it's not about titles or matches, just respect.

"The most important thing to me is the respect of my peers," he says. "And not my peers of yesteryear, because I have that. But the guys I'm working with now. That is a very, very keen issue with me.

"To me, I'd like to wrestle for another year. I'd like to walk away with my head held high and know that I had the most illustrious career of anybody alive, in the history of our business. And I think I already have that."


credit on most of the article above goes to Mike Osegueda / The Fresno Bee




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