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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-19-2017, 06:34 PM Thread Starter
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Ric Flair: An Analysis



In Ring Work: *****
Mic Work: *****
Character Work: *****

The greatest heel in the history of Professional Wrestling. And my girlfriend thinks the younger version of him is hot, so there's that.

Like Shawn Michaels, I was never really a fan of Ric Flair for the same reasons. He came into the WWF and was praised immediately as this icon that I didn't really know much about. It was sort of being forced upon me and because he wasn't pushed as the top guy I could never buy into it. And there was nothing about him that stood out to me. So he was never someone I could get excited over and that I mark about to this day. One day it intrigued me and I decided to dedicate about a week to just researching the guy, looking up past matches and promos from his prime (at least the footage that was available).

Long story short, I couldn't find a single thing wrong with the man.

You name something, Flair's probably done it. Have legendary matches, check. Have legendary promos, check. Have an iconic character that will forever be remembered in the rich history of Pro Wrestling, check. Get divorced like a normal pro wrestler, check. He's done it all, and then a shit ton more. There's so much that this man has done through out his career that I can't even muster up enough of a shit to care about explaining. But the important parts I'll do my best to discuss. Lets go ahead and get started.

Disclaimer: I'm going to throw my rule of just sticking with the WWF/E portion of a wrestlers career out the window in this one, as it would be a disservice (and all around pretty pointless) to just look at the things Flair has done in WWF/E. Granted, he would most likely get five stars across all categories anyways, but I think his outside work needs to be discussed.

Disclaimer #2: I am well aware of this one guy named Buddy Rogers, the original nature boy. And I take nothing away from what he's done for Professional Wrestling. Right now I'm in the process of watching as much of his work as I can, and I will admit there's a lot of strong similarities. But for the purpose of this analysis, I'm going to refrain from mentioning him for the time being.

Character Work

So I'm going to give a middle finger to the disclaimer that I just made above for a moment to give this bit:

Having a gimmick, or anything of the sort, as an inspiration to a legend is unbelievably hard to do. You have to make sure you do not fall victim to the mirroring effect, something I think of as someone who, when trying to draw inspiration from someone else, fails to bring some spice and new things to the table in order to create their own interpretation of a character that stands out on its own. Ric Flair had no issues with this, and it is in that regard that I think he deserves a shit ton of credit for.

Ric fit this gimmick perfectly. He was a handsome, blonde long haired man with the perfect voice and the perfect face. He was basically a guy straight out of Hollywood. His robe, his music, just the way he presented himself, you felt like you were looking at royalty. It was something dramatically different at the time. We all know about the effect that having a good looking man in an entertainment industry can do. They're a lot easier to get behind, they're easier to root for, they're easier to relate with (well, sort of). And you could easily get behind it. Flair's charisma was off the charts. I'm convinced he could make an entire city riot if he lost a match. And the reason why was because he was just too damn easy to get behind. And no one was more into their roles than this man was. The way he acted it out when ever he was out there in the ring or backstage was always top notch. And it's odd that I'm saying all of this because, as I said before, I was never really a fan of the guy. The sunglasses and suits he always wore were just added on touches to the masterpiece of a gimmick that this was.



Simply outstanding.

But that isn't even the best part about him. It's actually his heel work that I will discuss extensively in the next two sections. For this section however, I'm just going to say that when he was a heel was where he was at his best when it came to character work. What more can I say? He was one of the all time greats when it came to character work, and his recreation of the Nature Boy gimmick is one of the all time best. No more needs to be said, and thus we shall move on.

Mic Work

I actually had a hard time deciding between Flair and the Rock as far as greatest mic workers of all time is concerned. Flair was simply that good on the mic.

This man knew how to tell a story on the mic. He knew how to portray his character. He knew exactly what to say and how to say it. His delivery, his facial expressions, his timing, the amount of time this man could go on and on for. It seemed like no matter what age, what segment, what storyline, this man straight up brought it.



Look at how much effort he's giving into this promo. He is going all out here, exerting every amount of energy he seems to have into this one promo. He looks like he's having the time of his life as well. And he's still sticking true to his character. He knows exactly when to change the way he's talking, he knows what pace to speak at, he knows when to stop, when to start, and he seems to do it without needing a breather (except for one part where he literally needed a breather, and can you blame the guy?)

But what about as a face? Well, I wanted to give myself a challenge and find something more recent of Flair (and by that I mean 10-15 years ago). And honestly, I found a lot of great stuff from the guy. But there was one promo that stood out to me more than anything, and it was this promo:



I remembered this promo, but not very well. The only reason I even remembered it is because I know it was what started the little feud between Carlito and Flair before they started teaming up. So this was the first time that I had seen this promo in ten years. And I was blown away by it. The story behind this promo was that both Carlito and Flair had lost their matches that night. Flair was frustrated by it, but none the less was staying to watch the main event. Carlito on the other hand wasn't, and this pissed Flair off beyond belief.

I don't know if Flair was legitimately frustrated at this point, but holy shit, this man straight up brought it. He let all of his emotions pour out in this promo, and gave one of the biggest verbal lashings I've ever seen. I actually consider this a burial, and whether or not that was their intention is up for debate. This is the kind of promo from a man who has realized he is far past his prime and is frustrated over it. The raw amount of emotion that he brought here is simply outstanding. And in regards to all the rules of cutting a basic promo, he did all of it to pure perfection.

Simpy put, there's just so many amazing things this man has done on the mic, topped off with a long list of memorable lines from him. You already know what those quotes are, so I'm not going to mention them. He's one of the greatest promo cutters of all time, and quite frankly, I don't know if there's anyone that can make a bigger statement in the span of one minute like he can here:



In Ring Work

I've actually seen some mixed reactions in regards to his in ring work. I've seen some people here give him a lot of praise for his work in that department. Others? Not so much. Some have called him overrated or generic or repetitive.

This is going to be an unorthodox way of describing his in ring work, but bare with me.

The things Flair did through out the 70s, 80s, and early 90s were things we had never seen before. It was a different style of wrestling that came from his extensive knowledge of the sport. He understood how important storytelling, showmanship, and actually giving a shit (watch Chris Benoit vs Eddie Guerrero from One Night Stand in 2005 to understand how crucial giving a shit is) was to the overall quality of a match as well as your character. He knew how to tell a story, he knew how to sell, he knew how to make what happened in the ring feel real (yeah yeah insert your Ric Flair flop gif here), he knew how to pace the matches out to the point where he was doing sixty minute matches on a regular basis and was able to make them all stand out on their own.

His in ring work as a face is something I'm not going to talk about much here. Just know that he was excellent in that regard. The reason is because I want to focus on...something else. But for the record, I will give this example of his work as a face.



Remember my claim above about Flair being the greatest heel of all time? His in ring work is the reason why. And why he was so great at it I think requires me to go over a certain feud he had, which requires it's own mini-section.

Ric Flair vs Ricky Steamboat Rivalry



In my opinion, this is the greatest rivalry in the history of Professional Wrestling. Better than Hogan vs Savage, better than Rock vs Austin, better than Austin vs Vince McMahon. And not because of the matches, which in their own right are legendary and we'll get to in a moment, but because of the personification of Pro Wrestling as a whole being put to absolute perfection on this feud.

The idea of Pro Wrestling is that you typically had a good guy and a bad guy. You cheer for the good guy and boo the bad guy. The good guy is the one you are supposed to believe is truly superior, while the bad guy is inferior, hence the terms face and heel.

Now lets look at these two men. On one end you have Ricky Steamboat, arguably the greatest face in ring performer of all time. He was the high flying, exciting athlete with all these incredible moves who looked like a fighter. He fit the Jackie Chan prototype as a guy who could kick your ass within a moments notice, but was also a nice and humble individual. He was very easy to take seriously in the role. But then on the other end, you had Ric Flair. You had a guy who wasn't as athletic, who didn't have the flashy moves, who didn't have the wrestling ability of a guy like Steamboat.

And believe it or not, some people use that as an argument against Flair's ability as an in ring performer. But to me, I think it's what makes him one of the greatest of all time in the ring.

He understood that he didn't have big flashy moves. He understood that he wasn't as athletically gifted (although not bad by any means) as some of the other guys. He wasn't this huge dude with unreal strength. He was very easy to take seriously as the inferior foe. And that comes to my point about his work as a heel in the ring. Ric Flair knew how to make you look good. He knew how to bring out the best in his opponents. He knew how to make the crowd care. As pointed out in one of the reviews of his matches by @Brock , it didn't matter who you were, Flair was going to make you look like you were truly better than him.

And THAT is what a heel is supposed to do. That is what a good heel does in the ring. They don't amaze you with big flashy moves, they don't make the match exciting. They aren't supposed to. That is the job of the face. They get the fans excited. They get them all riled up. So what does the heel do? The heel tells a story, just like a face is supposed to.

That is what Steamboat and Flair did, in every single match they had, they told a story. They always tried to make each match they had stand out on their own, and they never failed. These two were meant to feud with each other, and I'm glad they had so many matches against each other, because they are an absolute joy to watch. There was a match recently that received a six star rating from Meltzer, but believe it or not that actually wasn't the first time he gave a six star rating. The first one was actually given by him to a Flair/Steamboat match (no really, google it). They were THAT good in the ring together.

Normally, I post the videos of said matches I am describing. But I'm not going to do that, because it won't matter what match between these two I post. Just google "Ricky Steamboat vs Ric Flair" and click on any one that comes up. If you have the WWE Network, look for it on there. What ever one you get, you'll most likely find yourself enjoying yourself. And there are many matches from Flair not involving Steamboat out there that you can find. There's simply way too many to count for me to put here. But for the most part, you won't have much trouble finding a great Ric Flair match out there.

Conclusion

Many people call Ric Flair the greatest of all time. And I can see why. As for me, if I were to make a top ten list, I would probably have Steve Austin at number one. But for number two, it would be Flair without question. He was one of the greatest all around talents this industry has ever seen, and if Austin was the greatest face of all time, then Ric Flair was without question the greatest heel (damn it, now I'm trying to imagine what an Austin/Flair feud in their primes would be like). Like I said, I'll never be his biggest fan, because I don't have the soft spot in my heart for him that I have for quite a few other wrestlers that I was able to grow up and watch at their best. But that doesn't mean I can't deny how great the man was.

And considering the praise I just gave him as a heel, maybe me not being a fan of his should stay that way .



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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-19-2017, 06:49 PM
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Re: Ric Flair: An Analysis

Jesus Christ, he went in Carlito's ass in that promo

In all seriousness, another great analysis, especially the promo bit and your analysis on what made him a great in-ring heel performer. Flair/Steamboat always struck me as the archetype of a standard professional wrestling match because everything just seemed so aligned (for lack of a better team) whenever they worked together. To me, if you're going to show a non-wrestling fan what wrestling is really about, you start with Flair/Steamboat, then its onto Hogan/Savage, from that point its split between Austin/Rock and Austin/Mr McMahon.

Can AJ Styles be next


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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-19-2017, 07:02 PM
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Re: Ric Flair: An Analysis

ill have to rewatch the flair steamboat stuff
great write up as usual
aj or batista next would be lovely
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-19-2017, 08:04 PM
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Re: Ric Flair: An Analysis

Im then one that asked you for this one and just wanted to say thank you for doing it. It was truly a pleasure to read.

My introduction to Ric Flair came in the form of this video

I was at my cousins house, who was a big wrestling fan, and I heard the song and walked in the living room. I asked who they were and I got to hear all about the greatness of Ric Flair. He had a lot of Flair's work on VHS so I was able to catch up and he's been my fav from day one.

When thinking about just how great Flair's character is you really have to put yourself in the mindset of a person watching as it's happening. I have him as number 2 all time as greatest character only behind the Undertaker and it's for very similar reasons that I discussed in Takers thread. He made me want to suspend that disbelief. Granted, there was no Internet at the time where we knew exactly how much wrestlers make, but he made me believe that he was living the life of a playboy billionaire. Made me feel that a night on the town with the Horsemen would be the greatest night of my life and that he does it every night. As the OP touched on in his review, he understood the little nuances like the sunglasses, the hair, the watches, how to present himself when talking to the ladies. He was magic to watch.
GOAT heel and it's not even really close.

Agreed that it comes down to him and Rock as the best mic workers all time. I personally give Flair the edge. The emotion he put into his words as shown in the examples is unparalleled. He was also able to know when to let the other around him shine. There were some promos where Arn or Tully had the best work. Greatest stable all time. Him and Dusty moved the needle when it came to quality back and forth mic work. I can watch those two all day just like I can watch Rock and Austin.

The criticism of his in Ring has always baffled me. You have to measure ones greatness based on their peers of their time to really be accurate. Yeah, there wasn't as much high risk stuff back then, but I challenge today's performers to consistently keep me interested for 60 minutes. Jake Roberts is the only one I put on par with Flair when it comes to in ring psychology. No one has ever been better than Ric at kicking at closest to the three count. It's little things like that in which he mastered that set him apart. At 59 he gave us a very solid match and made us feel it. Just like in that Carlito promo.

As far as feuds go I agree that Steamboat/Flair in 89 is the arguably the GOAT in Ring feud. Taker/Michaels is the only one up there. Too close to call. As far as heel/face character dynamic, though I give it to him and Dusty with him and Sting not being far behind. 85 with Rhodes was just a clinic. That's three top notch feuds. How many can say that? It's also worth noting that he chose Steamboat and Sting from the locker room as the next guy he wanted to feud with. Neither were stars. He saw something in them.

On longevity it's insane how long he stayed over as champion. From 81-91 he had 7 reigns that cumulatively stacked up to about 8 years. Can't remember the exact number. I always felt he was going to pass the torch to Magnum TA but sadly his accident stopped that. He kept trucking at the top and when he left for WWE the crowd were chanting his name wanting him back. Imagine a champion that dominated for a decade now still cherished by the audience.

Last point to those that underestimated his ability to get booed as Charlotte's manager. Yeah...nuff said.
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Re: Ric Flair: An Analysis

I always hated Flair. That stupid face fall he does irritates the shit out of me.

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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-19-2017, 09:35 PM
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Re: Ric Flair: An Analysis

Quote:
Originally Posted by Genetically Superior View Post
Im then one that asked you for this one and just wanted to say thank you for doing it. It was truly a pleasure to read.

My introduction to Ric Flair came in the form of this video

I was at my cousins house, who was a big wrestling fan, and I heard the song and walked in the living room. I asked who they were and I got to hear all about the greatness of Ric Flair. He had a lot of Flair's work on VHS so I was able to catch up and he's been my fav from day one.

When thinking about just how great Flair's character is you really have to put yourself in the mindset of a person watching as it's happening. I have him as number 2 all time as greatest character only behind the Undertaker and it's for very similar reasons that I discussed in Takers thread. He made me want to suspend that disbelief. Granted, there was no Internet at the time where we knew exactly how much wrestlers make, but he made me believe that he was living the life of a playboy billionaire. Made me feel that a night on the town with the Horsemen would be the greatest night of my life and that he does it every night. As the OP touched on in his review, he understood the little nuances like the sunglasses, the hair, the watches, how to present himself when talking to the ladies. He was magic to watch.
GOAT heel and it's not even really close.

Agreed that it comes down to him and Rock as the best mic workers all time. I personally give Flair the edge. The emotion he put into his words as shown in the examples is unparalleled. He was also able to know when to let the other around him shine. There were some promos where Arn or Tully had the best work. Greatest stable all time. Him and Dusty moved the needle when it came to quality back and forth mic work. I can watch those two all day just like I can watch Rock and Austin.

The criticism of his in Ring has always baffled me. You have to measure ones greatness based on their peers of their time to really be accurate. Yeah, there wasn't as much high risk stuff back then, but I challenge today's performers to consistently keep me interested for 60 minutes. Jake Roberts is the only one I put on par with Flair when it comes to in ring psychology. No one has ever been better than Ric at kicking at closest to the three count. It's little things like that in which he mastered that set him apart. At 59 he gave us a very solid match and made us feel it. Just like in that Carlito promo.

As far as feuds go I agree that Steamboat/Flair in 89 is the arguably the GOAT in Ring feud. Taker/Michaels is the only one up there. Too close to call. As far as heel/face character dynamic, though I give it to him and Dusty with him and Sting not being far behind. 85 with Rhodes was just a clinic. That's three top notch feuds. How many can say that? It's also worth noting that he chose Steamboat and Sting from the locker room as the next guy he wanted to feud with. Neither were stars. He saw something in them.

On longevity it's insane how long he stayed over as champion. From 81-91 he had 7 reigns that cumulatively stacked up to about 8 years. Can't remember the exact number. I always felt he was going to pass the torch to Magnum TA but sadly his accident stopped that. He kept trucking at the top and when he left for WWE the crowd were chanting his name wanting him back. Imagine a champion that dominated for a decade now still cherished by the audience.

Last point to those that underestimated his ability to get booed as Charlotte's manager. Yeah...nuff said.
A story from Flair's autobiography "To Be The Man" that comes to mind is one where he came back for the first time to TV for Mid-Atlantic wrestling after the plane crash that very nearly killed him. The offices of Jim Crockett Promotions were inundated with get-well cards and letters for Flair. He was handed a huge bag of them. He started looking through them, then took out a couple. He said that I will only keep the cards from Raquel Welch and Joey Heatherton and dumped the rest on the floor. The good will he had received was gone immediately. That shows you the clout this man had.

Flair was one of the first bad guys you couldn't help but cheer. People point to Austin and the NWO Wolfpac as examples. Flair was doing this before them. The Four Horsemen were one of the most vicious gangs of all time, but they got cheered almost as much or more than the faces they wrestled some times. This especially was the case for Flair.

Why all the hate about work ethic? That was a different time, different age. Matches that went almost an hour were the norm back then and people loved watching them back then. Yes, there were some moments where there were no spot fests for 20 minutes straight, but the match would almost always be put together perfectly. I will take a Flair-Steamboat 60-minute encounter over a lot of matches today.

Finally, Flair could make any opponent look good. Yes, matches against Steamboat, Sting and Dusty Rhodes come to mind. However, he had great ones against Terry Funk, Barry Windham, Magnum T.A., Ted DiBiase, David Von Erich, Harley Race...the list is pretty long. He even would put over mid-card talent like Sam Houston or Jimmy Garvin, always made you think he was going to lose but somehow pulled out the win.

Ric Flair is number one on my list, without question.
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-19-2017, 11:36 PM
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Re: Ric Flair: An Analysis


The last 30 seconds.

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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-20-2017, 02:55 AM
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Re: Ric Flair: An Analysis

This is probably my favorite one of these you have done with perhaps the Stone Cold one. On point Flair is the greatest of all time based on most categories. His longevity is another strength. The fact that even into his late 50's putting up quality matches. Flair/Edge on Raw was awesome and his farewell WWE match against HBK was greater than great storytelling. If he isn't #1 then he is #2 or #1A.
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-20-2017, 04:54 AM
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Re: Ric Flair: An Analysis

Always thought he had a weird face, even when he was young


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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 04-20-2017, 09:01 AM
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Re: Ric Flair: An Analysis

Ric Flair Interview (WCW Thunder 1/21/1999)



Quote:
"Hogan, make no mistake, when I was in Garden City, Kansas, wrestling Rufus R. Jones for an hour, you were in Madison Square Garden for all the money! I know it, the world knows it. The difference is I was the World Champion, and you were a man on fourth before intermission beating the crowd to get a cold beer, pal. I was putting in time. I was with Race, Brisco, Funk, Kiniski, Sting, Luger ... I was with the boys that had to walk the real aisle. You, my friend, were carrying Dolly Parton to the Oscars - God Bless You. You were making movies with Stallone. You became a bigger than life commodity, and for that, I give you your due. As for being a wrestler, you can't now and never could carry my jockstrap, pal."
TALK ABOUT MONEY



I came across this the other day and as it pertains to this thread, thought i'd post it. Even in '99, Flair was still more than capable of selling any feud he was in.

As stale as a Hogan/Flair feud was in 1999, this promo, on a fucking Thunder no less, was money and would make you want to watch Superbrawl just for Flair, TBH.

On his day, the man had a mic ability that you could always gravitate to.
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