"Space Mountain may be the oldest ride in the park, but baby, it still has the longest line... WHOOOOOOO!"

I began my on and off again love affair with professional wrestling in the early 70s, as my dad would watch the stuff non-stop.  I always knew it was fake, (as do nearly all wrestling fans, who simply appreciate the fine showmanship and entertainment value), but it didn't stop me from getting a big kick out of it.  Wrestlers were like comic book heroes and villains come to life, complete with outrageous costumes, masks, great moves, theme songs, and of course, great long monologues, challenging their foes to battle.

I've had a lot of favorites through the years.  From Baron Von Raschke, a crazy bald german maniac who administered "The Claw" on his unforutnate opponents, to La Parka, who somehow manages to pull off the fat mexican guy dressed as a giant skeleton who beats people with a folding chair gimmick better than anyone else.  But my all time favorite, is always Ric Flair. 

Pound for pound, Ric Flair has to be considered the greatest such wrestler to ever enter the ring.  Sure, there have been many that were more popular, have sold more t-shirts and action figures, and have more fancy moves, but nobody in the history of the sport has achieved the all around greatness and cool of Flair. 

Born in 1949, Flair has been wrestling nearly non-stop since 1972, and he's still an active performer with the WWF (sorry, I can't bring myself to call them the WWE).  To subject oneself to the sort of day in and day out abuse Flair has done to his body for over 30 straight years, is akin to Michael Jordan playing NBA ball into his 50s.

Consider that just a few years into his career, Flair survived a plane crash where his back was broken in 3 places.  How many people would have even walked again after such an accident?

Flair certainly has the entertaining moves in the ring.  His signature match ending "finishing move", The Figure Four Leglock, where he ties his opponent's legs into a knot is a thing of beauty.  His physical theatrics are what really add to the mix, however.  Some of his trademark stunts include flopping over the ring, or selling a punch so that he falls flat down on his face.  And his karate-chop across a victim's chest while the entire crowd screams "WHOOOOOOOOO!" on cue, is a poetry (so attached with Flair, that move is, that any other wrestler that performs it, still gets Flair's "WHOOOOOO!" chant from the crowd).

I love the insane glow I feel when Ric Flair walks out wearing a pink sequined robe with feather boa that makes Siegfried and Roy look conservative, walking to the ring while "Also Sprach Zarathustra" blares loudly while the whole crowd screams for their king.  As he gets to the ring, with bleached hair so white you can see the blood in it from the cheap seats, as he brings both hands to the side of his mouth and shouts, "WHOOOOOOOOOOO!"  while his followers in the stands respond with the same in ear deafening unison.

In the span of his career, Flair has been the most decorated of them all, as he's been held the Heavyweight Championship belt with WCW and WWF an unheard of 16 times.  That's 16 times that the companies he's worked for had enough faith in him, and the fans dug him enough, to keep him on top (and 3 more than Hulk Hogan, for comparison's sake).

Some of his must see matches include just about any time he faced Ricky Steamboat, or his 80s era bouts against Dusty Rhodes, Sting, and Muta.  WWF's 1992 Royal Rumble is another great highlight as Flair goes through a who's who of wrestling superstars in what many consider to be the best Battle Royale of all time.  There's almost no such thing as a bad Flair match, though, so just about any you stumble across will be fun. 

But it's his verbal skills and overall persona that make him the real total package.  In 1975, he took the Nature Boy gimmick from a wrestler named Buddy Rogers and called it his own.  Tinkering with the flamboyance through the years, Flair ended up crafting a legendary character that never ceases to please the fans.

Flair still wrestles occasionally, but you're more often going to see him in a commissioner type role in front of the microphone.  That's his specialty where he still wields a microphone like a magic wand, charming the hell out of the entire arena to this day. Here's a sampling of his great mic work here, for your listening pleasure:

"Stylin' and Profilin'"

"To Be The Man, You Have To Beat The Man!"

"You're Gonna Bleed... All Night Long!"

"Ride Space Mountain"

Ric Flair.  There have been wrestlers more famous, flashier, faster, stronger, and perhaps even more successful, but none better.  Enjoy these photos from throughout Flair's great career, but don't look at them too long, because he's already taken your girlfriend 'cause she wants to be with a real man.  WHOOOOOOOO!


-Robert Berry