10 Things We Learned From ESPN's Ric Flair Documentary

Excellence, loneliness, and Snoop Dogg.

ESPN's latest '30 for 30' documentary tackles the subject of Ric Flair, which means they certainly aren't lacking in source material.

The Nature Boy is one of the most fascinating figures in the history of the business, both in and out of the ring. From classic rivalries with the likes of Ricky Steamboat, Sting, and Dusty Rhodes, to his controversial partying lifestyle, Flair has commanded attention throughout his career.

The documentary has already commanded a lot of attention online, mainly centred around two things.

  • Flair's wild claim that he has slept with approximately 10,000 women.

  • Undertaker appearing out of character.

Despite these (undoubtedly attention-grabbing) aspects, we feel as though the film has content of a lot more substance - aspects well worth exploring as we learn not only more about the man himself, but about the wrestling business as a whole.

These are the ten standout things we learned from ESPN's 30 For 30: Nature Boy, from the secrets of his success, to the tremendous toll the industry has taken on his private life. Also, hip hop legend Snoop Dogg shows up to talk about why he's such a Flair fan, which is surely worth giving this article a cursory glance at least.

10. The Secret To Being A Great Wrestler


One of the most revealing early exchanges in the documentary comes when Flair is asked what makes a good wrestler.

He mentions technique, agility, skill, and the ability to improvise. Technique, though, gets special emphasis.

Flair recounts how he honed the accuracy of his worked punches, tying a string to the ceiling and trying to hit it so that it barely moved - a process which he claims took three years.

He also emphasises the importance of selling, and how crucial it is to draw a crowd into a match. It may seem like quite basic, well-known advice, but the fact Flair mentions it ahead of so many other aspects of pro wrestling speaks volumes.

9. The Origin Of The 'Woo!'


Even the mention of Ric Flair to an audience of wrestling fans will prompt a chorus of "woo!", mimicking his signature cry.

Flair is asked the origin of his "woo"ing, and cites Jerry Lee Lewis - best known for Great Balls of Fire (the 1957 smash hit, not the 2017 WWE pay per view).

It's telling that The Nature Boy drew inspiration from the world of rock and roll, given the showmanship and flamboyance that would define his in-ring persona.

8. Snoop Dogg Is A Big Fan


From Flair taking inspiration from a pop culture icon to the opposite, Snoop Dogg appears to speak about the influence The Nature Boy had on him (and the black community generally).

The hip hop star speaks about how Flair had 'swag' before it was even a common slang term, and that he grew up wanting to be him.

It's worth noting that, while Flair isn't a transcendent, mainstream-busting star to the extent of Hulk Hogan or John Cena, he is referred to in pop culture a lot more than most wrestlers - particularly in hip hop.

7. There's A Lot Of Loneliness In Wrestling


Of course, the headline-grabbing part of the documentary is Flair's claim to have slept with around 10,000 women - but his account of life on the road paints a very serious and sad picture. He talks about never even attempting to have a night out without drinking to excess, and explains how lonely he'd feel in small towns.

Perhaps the saddest part of this section of the film involves interviews with two of his children, Megan and David, who talk about how difficult it was to grow up with a largely absent father.

6. His Favourite Opponent Was Ricky Steamboat


Despite enjoying legendary feuds with the likes of Sting and Dusty Rhodes, Flair cites his favourite opponent as Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat - with whom he shared an iconic trilogy of matches in 1989.

Flair states that Steamboat and he brought out the best in each other, and didn't hold back at all, explaining that their matches were often very stiff to draw in the crowd.

Tony Schiavone pops up to say that the pair elevated wrestling into an art form, and that they could easily wrestle for an hour without having to say a word to each other.

5. Despite His Over-The-Top Persona, Being Relatable Was Key


Flair is asked about the difference between himself and Hulk Hogan, and states that “Hogan was selling vitamins and milk, while I was selling sex and booze.”

Triple H is on hand to elaborate further, explaining that while Hogan was a larger-than-life comic book hero, Flair was a grittier, more realistic character.

This perhaps helps explain why so many wrestling fans find themselves drawn to The Nature Boy. The Hulkster reached an unattainable level of heroism, while Flair, with his vices and flaws, was far more relatable - despite usually portraying a villain.

4. Hulk Hogan Considers Him The Greatest


It's weird to hear Hulk Hogan - a man whose career was characterised by portraying himself as stronger than others - put somebody over to the extent he does Flair here.

Hogan claims that Flair was 10 times the wrestler he was, and while it's hardly a groundbreaking revelation (from a technical, workrate-centric standpoint), it feels quite shocking to hear it come out of the mouth of The Hulkster.

Both Hogan and Flair express regret that they didn't wrestle one another more often - Hogan specifically singling out WrestleMania VIII, where a programme was planned, only for both men to face different opponents instead.

3. Flair Didn't Care About Winning Matches


One of the most telling things Hogan says while alluding to Flair's greatness is his in-ring selflessness. This corresponds with what The Nature Boy said at the beginning of the documentary with regard to the importance of selling - but Hogan explains that his generosity went further than that.

He states that there was no ego with Flair, that he didn't care about wins and losses, but would give everything to create a classic match.

Again, Hogan appears in an uncharacteristically self-deprecating mood here, which perhaps reveals just how high a regard he holds The Nature Boy in.

2. The Business Is Addictive


One of the most poignant moments of the documentary comes when discussing Flair's WWE retirement at WrestleMania XXIV. Shawn Michaels says that he was determined to make the match a memorable one, while Triple H believes it to be the most perfect retirement angle one could plan.

Despite this, HBK states that he knew Flair wouldn't stay retired. The film then shows footage of a series of nasty bumps taken by The Nature Boy years later in TNA.

We hear so often that it's hard to leave the wrestling business, but here is one of the starkest examples of that addictive quality in effect.

1. The Sacrifice It Takes To Be The Greatest


Flair's closing remarks sum up the whole documentary. An overarching theme is the relationship between The Nature Boy's excellence in his craft and the tolls taken on his personal life.

It's therefore fitting that, when asked how he'd like to be remembered, he responds that he can't be the best father or husband - but will settle for the greatest and most entertaining professional wrestler.

It's a heartbreaking message to take away from the film, that Flair had to cause so much harm to himself and his loved ones in order to become great. Then again, as sad as that is, I suppose it's an aspect of The Nature Boy that people find so compelling.

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Jack King

Written by Jack King

[email protected] Twitter: @JackTheJobber