The heartbreaking story of former wrestling champion Ric Flair makes a convincingly brilliant ESPN Films 30 for 30 documentary, " Nature Boy ."
The stylin & # 39 ;, profilin & # 39; Flair, whose real name is Richard Fliehr, was the best showman during the rise of professional wrestling of the 1980s. Even Hulk Hogan admits he could not hold a candle to Flair as a fighter, tactician and pure animator. But as ESPN director Rory Karpf asks through his new documentary: "What if I told you that your life was not an act?"
Outside the ring, The Nature Boy really lived the life of "rolex wearin ', the diamond ring, the kiss, the kiss, the cast, the limousine, the jetin, the son of a gun"
As he used to brag about his one-of-a-kind television promotions, Flair spent more money on liquor spilled in bars across the United States than most professional wrestlers in a year. He bragged about the thousands of anxious women who took a ride on "Space Mountain." He spent his fortune on luxurious cars, jewelry and clothing.
But the price that the now 68-year-old Flair paid to become "The Man" was huge. There were a number of broken marriages, resentful children, alcoholism, depression and IRS debts. Flair's personal life reached its nadir in 2013 when his son Reid Flair, 25, died of an accidental overdose of heroin.
You'll hear Flair's heartbreaking 911 call as he tries to save his dying son. The voice does not sound like The Nature Boy. It sounds like any father in panic pleading with someone, somewhere to save his son.
Flair admits to neglecting her two children from her first marriage, but Reid was special. We see in the documentary how Flair groomed him, presenting him to professional wrestling and allowing him to drink with him and his wrestling partners. Triple H even warns Flair that Reid has a problem with drugs. But Flair ignores it. The son adopts his father's ways of drinking hard and hard, leading to a tragic death.
When Karpf asks Flair about his son's overdose, Flair breaks down completely. His only wish? That he had been a "father" to his son with problems instead of a friend. Broken in body and mind, Flair tries to drink himself to death to drown the pain. The descending spiral culminates with Flair fighting for his own life during a hospital stay in August.
But "Nature Boy" is not a tragedy. There is a great anecdote about a young Flair trying to leave wrestling school until he is slapped and ordered back into the gym by the tough nail trainer Verne Gagne. From then on, despite drinking and having fun, Flair's devotion to the gym was second to none. Hogan observes how Flair fought hundreds of matches that lasted an hour or more, a feat he never performed once.
We learned how a former plump college football player from the Midwest imagined himself as a "blond bad boy" after a plane crash that broke his back in three places. – Then he made the dream happen. Seeing Flair jumping from the top ropes to the tables, one wonders how he survived.
In the document, Flair credits Buddy Rogers, the original Nature Boy, and mentor Dusty Rhodes for inspiring their looks and style. We learn about the origins of "Woo!" shout, the strut in the ring, the cars, the tunics and the threads of fantasy.
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We hear about the impact of Flair on African-American athletes and the hip-hop community. "It represented what we wanted to be," says rapper Snoop Dogg.
One of my favorite scenes is watching the Indianapolis Colts and the college football teams getting ready for the games by reciting Flair's most famous lines. It's great to see how Flair takes the proud joy of his father for the success of his daughter Charlotte as a professional fighter.
All this being said, I wanted to learn more about the origin of Flair's routine "Wheelin-Dealin & # 39;" and the famous "Flair Flop", in which it seems to fall on the face after being hit. He would also have cut off the animated fools that undermine the most dramatic sections about his failures as husband, father and friend. It was sad to see clips of Flair, who was still struggling in his 50s, and that his younger opponents were literally pulling on his pants.
But those objections are minor. The first and only ESPN doc on a professional wrestler is ranked there with the best in 30 for 30 canon.
The lesson here is: you reap what you sow.
The fame and fortune that Flair sought turned into a "disease" that cost his son's life, and almost his own. Triple H calls his friend the "consummate liar". But the person Flair lied to was himself. As Flair told Mike Greenberg about "Mike and Mike in the Morning" this week, young wrestlers should emulate their enthusiasm and love for the sport, but they should avoid drinking, having fun and squandering expenses. The most important thing is that they should not "disrespect" their families the way they did.
When Triple H takes note of the film, Flair's legacy will probably also be what should not be done in the business … I sometimes use Ric as an example with young talents (saying): "You can have it all and finish in a really precarious place & # 39; "
However, during a four-decade career, no fighter touched more fans, or had more impact on pop culture, than The Nature Boy.
This exciting but painful documentary is a must-see television. Diamonds are forever, and so is Ric Flair.
Ric Flair 30 for 30: trailer for "Nature Boy"