Why Ric Flair’s Greatest Legacy Is His Daughter


Via: B/R

For her first WrestleMania, Charlotte Flair brought a piece of her father. Not literally, of course. Just a shimmering memento from the robe he wore to WrestleMania, his final main event as a headliner, reserved for the most famous in professional wrestling.

“They used to say a woman would never main-event a pay-per-view,” Charlotte says. “I’m pretty sure I heard that from my dad.”

Ric Flair is the most famous man in 65-year history of professional wrestling as we know it. And the Nature Boy’s robes were as much a part of his career as anything else, all twinkle-in-the-eye glitter and boas down the front, fabric draping down the arms like wings, a blond mane flowing over the shoulder pads like his daughter’s would—like his daughter’s does.

The woman we now call Charlotte—unlike her brothers who followed in their father’s career footsteps, she initially wasn’t even allowed to use the family stage name, Flair, just Charlotte—has learned to embrace the pomp and circumstance, the moonsaults and the figure-eight headlocks, in her new role as the 31-year-old standard-bearer for the women’s revolution inside WWE’s big business.

But her father, at 68, has hung up the robes and given up on ornamentation, has retired the cashmere sweaters and stored away his alligator shoes. The breathless, materialistic swag of Ric’s character has given way to something simpler, something shared: What motivates the Nature Boy to get up every day is the daughter who improbably assumed his mantle, their professional paths having crisscrossed at the intersection of mortality and men.

“I’m living my life vicariously through her,” Ric Flair.

That Ric Flair is living his life at all right now, of course, is something of a miracle. Last month, a procedure for stomach pains unraveled into a medically induced coma—a health scare instantly felt around the intermingling worlds of sports and celebrity, reminding us that the greatest pro wrestler of all time might not last forever after all.

His daughter has long been eager to take advantage of her father’s full breadth of knowledge, of fame and his Figure Four finish—hell, even a social media flourish. Early in her career, Ric was hesitant to get into the minutiae of the wrestling business, but once he learned to appreciate Charlotte’s commitment to the craft, he opened up about “the psychology and what goes into it,” she tells B/R Mag. “I don’t know if I had to earn that or own that or my dad had to see it for himself, that a woman could do it.”

And so before he was hospitalized, Ric was talking, and talking, about his miraculously talented daughter, publicly, and to her, privately, in near-daily cross-country phone calls from Atlanta.

“She likes to run stuff by me,” he says. “I always want to encourage her not to be upset about things.”

And then, the upsetting scare: “When you’re used to doing something every single day and then it’s taken away for two weeks,” Charlotte told her fans on, “I kept thinking—How am I gonna talk to my dad about work? So just being back and knowing that he’s getting better, it’s for the family.”

“She’ll be the next Marvel superstar if WWE lets her,” he says, boastful as ever, proud as never before. WWE chairman Vince McMahon, Ric claims, “is not letting her take off six months to make a Marvel movie. Most people who walk off into Marvel never come back.”

“My older ones, I just wasn’t at home. I think they’ve always resented that.” There’s a pause on the phone, a crack in the Nature Boy’s voice. “In fact, I know they have.”

“Ashley,” Ric says, “has dealt with it the best.”

In a regal purple robe, with just a hint of exposed chest, Ric Flair walked toward the ring, slowly enough to drink in the weighty, portentous moment. This was his first pay-per-view event against Hulk Hogan, at 1994’s WCW Bash at the Beach event in Orlando. It was a match so big—the two most larger-than-life wrestling attractions of the era—that Shaquille O’Neal was there just to present the championship belt.

If Ric had a week or two off, it was a proper event—sometimes Disney World, or maybe just pasta night at the country club. Wrestling was rarely dinner time conversation, though: “Me and my little brother never grew up wanting to be famous,” Charlotte says. “Reid wanted to be a wrestler later on, but I didn’t look at [Ric] being famous and being known worldwide. It’s more that you’re just dad. You wrestle for a living.”

In the male-dominated wrestling business of the time, it was natural that all eyes would be on the athletic, charismatic Reid.

“Reid was the one you thought, ‘There’s your next Ric Flair,'” says Tony Schiavone, the former WCW announcer and a Flair family friend. “He liked to ham it up—you could just see that there’s a lot of dad in him, just the way he acted.”

In a sense, chasing his dad was a way for Reid to be closer to a man who spent more time in airplanes than at parent-teacher conferences or little league games. Time passes and moments fade, even for the Nature Boy, which is why he spent so much time leading up to last month’s hospitalization helping Ashley become Charlotte.

In that beautiful blue robe, Ric Flair walked down the aisle one more time: WrestleMania XXIV—back in Orlando, 2008, against Shawn Michaels. Reid, David and Charlotte were all there.

“Sitting front row, with my little brother, my older brother and my dad’s wife at the time—seeing 80,000 people at the Citrus Bowl emotionally pouring their hearts out watching my dad retire—I didn’t even grasp what he meant to the industry,” Charlotte says. “I didn’t even fully grasp it until I started wrestling myself.

“That was the last time we were all together, to see him wrestle.”

When Ashley Fliehr got to WWE’s developmental territory, she couldn’t even do her makeup. She is what a less enlightened era might call a “tomboy”—she’d rather compete at the highest level than fuss about eye shadow. “I wasn’t red carpet-ready,” she says now. “I wasn’t into the whole diva side of what we do.”

Growing up, she’d see glamorous women like her mother or the WWE Divas and stand in awe. On the weekend of Ric’s last match in Orlando, she found herself wandering through the backstage area and coming upon the makeup room and: “Wow. The hair, the makeup, the clothes. Even at that age, I never saw myself like that. I thought that’s what it meant. I never looked at the athleticism.”

“When I started wrestling,” Charlotte says, “we didn’t even talk about wrestling.”

For 16 years, WWE’s female performers had been referred to as “Divas”—externally, anyway. Sable, Sunny, Torrie Wilson, Stacy Keibler: The pinnacle seemed like it wasn’t headlining WrestleMania so much as posing for Playboy.

But on the July 13, 2015, edition of Monday Night Raw, WWE chief brand officer Stephanie McMahon walked to the ring to declare a “Divas Revolution,” introducing Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch and Charlotte to a worldwide television audience, in one fell swoop.

That a McMahon was announcing all this was no coincidence, surely, according to Ric Flair: “That was a decision at the last minute,” he says. “[Stephanie] was basically endorsing them and saying, ‘You three are going to change the face of women’s wrestling.’ And they did.”

Recommended for you

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply