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Ric Flair’s “30 For 30”: A Sad Story of a Lonely Man

Ric Flair’s “30 For 30”:  A Sad Story of a Lonely Man

Posted: Nov 12th 2017 By: Clearingouttheclutter.com

For the better part of the past 40 years, "Nature Boy" Ric Flair was, "The Stylin', profilin', limousine riding, jet-flying, kiss-stealing, wheelin' n' dealin' son of a gun!" The professional wrestling legend entertained audiences around the world. He wore fancy suits outside the ring that were matched by his outlandish in-ring robes. He cut promos explaining how he lived the life of the rich and famous every day (which included an endless number of beautiful women) and that he could do it because he was the best wrestler in the world. He made countless opponents look good in the ring in front of audiences who paid to see him get beat up. In the 1980's, Hulk Hogan was the cartoon character for kids, while Ric Flair was the guy bringing the sex and booze to the show. He was one of the best performers to ever step into the ring.

Behind all of that was a man named Richard Fleihr who was adopted as an infant by a Minnesota doctor and his wife following the loss of their daughter. Richard Fleihr paid a heavy price to become "Ric Flair," and that's the subject of ESPN's latest 30 for 30 documentary" "Nature Boy."

Nature Boy" starts off by discussing Flair's adoption and his strained relationship from his parents. Going by the film, it doesn't sound like they ever understood each other. Ric Flair is clearly a man who has low self-esteem (a subject which also repeatedly appears in his autobiography.) To play "armchair psychologist" for a minute, one has to wonder if this lack of a fundamental attachment from childhood is what created the gaping hole in Flair's psyche and fueled his never-ending need for attention.

Flair found an outlet for his need for the spotlight through professional wrestling. He was trained by Verne Gagne (longtime champion/promoter who was the father of Greg Gagne, Flair's college football teammate who also eventually became a wrestler.) Going by the film, the early Flair was a rather boring character in the ring. However, after surviving a plane crash in 1975 that left him with a broken back, he revamped his persona in the ring, and took the character of "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers to the next level, which is when his career took off. As time went on, there was no difference between man and wrestler.

Pro wrestling provided an opportunity for Flair to live the life of a rock star 24/7 as he fed off the energy of the audiences. He claims that he slept with about 10,000 women over his lifetime. It's easy to mock, and we're not saying we can prove it's true, but consider this: 10,000 over 40 years is only 250 women a year. Flair was easily on the road at least 250 nights a year (which we get to when talking about his family), and it's clear that he could never stand being alone, so that's one woman a night. As with everything re: pro wrestling, all claims should be taken with a grain of salt, but this isn't as outlandish as it might seem.

However, being on the road so much by definition means not being at home, and everyone will agree that Ric Flair was an absent father. There are clips in "Nature Boy" from his children, Megan, David, and Ashley (now known as "Charlotte Flair" in WWE.) They all make it clear that dad was nowhere to be found when they were growing up, and you can see and feel their anger and sadness when talking about it.

The most emotional part of "Nature Boy" is the discussion of Reid Fliehr, Ric's son, who died of a heroin overdose at age 25. Reid seemed to idolize his largely absentee father (who treated him more like a peer when he was around.) He got into the pro wrestling business to follow in his father's footsteps, but his life was cut short. Flair cries when talking about Reid's death, clearly overcome by the pain. Ashley talks about going into wrestling because it was Reid's dream, and Ric discusses his overwhelming pride in her success. It feels like "Nature Boy" wants this to be a positive segment, but given the family dynamics involved, one might wish Ashely could find her own happiness in another field.

Flair talks about drinking 10 bears and five mixed drinks a night, every night, for decades. Whether that's an exaggeration or not, you can see on his face that the man has been living on the edge for his entire adult life. One would think that would come back to bite him in the ass, and it did earlier this year, when he was in a crisis that involved doctors temporarily putting him into a medically induced coma. It's odd that this part of the story is told by director Rory Karpf while coming out of a commercial break, instead of at the end of the film.

Near the end, Flair is asked what he'd like his legacy to be. He knows he can't ask to be remembered as a good husband or a good father, so he hopes he'll be seen as the greatest pro wrestler of all time. He sees no other lens by which he can be viewed. Given that his recent health problems have made it pretty clear he'll never be back in the wrestling ring again, one hopes that he can find some opportunity to finally try life as Richard Fleihr, but it doesn't seem likely. The parallels between Flair and Mickey Rourke's character in The Wrestler are overwhelming. "Nature Boy" is the sad story of a lonely man who doesn't know any other way to live.

 

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