A Critically-Acclaimed Documentary About Ric Flair's Life And Career Is Airing Tonight
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BT Sport will tonight air 30 for 30: 'Nature Boy', a documentary chronicling the life and career of 16-time world wresting champion Ric Flair. Watch a trailer for it here:
No wrestler has been able to so skilfully combine in-ring technique with mic work as the now 68-year-old Flair.
He was wrestling's embodiment of a decade in which Donald Trump's towers grew to dominate the New York skyline and America's rich - no longer the small c-conservatives of generations past - unashamedly flaunted their wealth. His rise to prominence as the 'stylin', profilin', limousine riding, jet flying, kiss-stealing, wheelin' n' dealin' son of a gun' captured the 80s zeitgeist and made him a global celebrity.
Where the WWE was serving its audience of children and families the superhero vs villain stories of Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant, in the grittier NWA (later to become the WCW), the Nature Boy was taunting crowds of blue-collar men with his sexual conquests - living a life they could only dream of living.
Though initially borrowed from his wrestling hero, Buddy Rogers, the 'Nature Boy' gimmick was not simply a persona he put on to enrage fans. Flair came to live the heavy-drinking, playboy life he cut so many promos about. When asked by filmmaker Rory Karpf to guess the total number of women he's been with, he replies deadpan to camera: "10,000, maybe." Adding of monogamy: "I probably took it real serious for about a day. ... I mean, I tried, but it just - I was miserable."
His feud with everyman 'the America Dream' Dusty Rhodes remains the stuff of wrestling legend, not just for the matches, but because their going one-on-one represented a war for the American psyche. That Flair's - and not Dusty's - career remains subject to continued mainstream attention and review is as clear an indicator as anybody needs of the ultimate victor.
However, Flair's lifestyle was not without its casualties. The wrestler's children and ex-wives speak candidly about a father who wasn't there when they were growing up. His oldest daughter describes how she would get 'things from [her] dad instead of time', and in 2013 tragedy struck as his son, Reid - who idolised his dad - died of a drug overdose.
"I say it every day: 'God, I wish you were here. I had so much fun with you. And I regret the fact that I sometimes was your best friend instead of your dad'," Flair tells the camera in one of the documentary's most poignant moments.
Flair's drinking eventually took its toll on his health, too. Despite achieving remarkable longevity in his career - he wrestled his final WWE match against Shawn Michaels in 2008 - earlier this year he spent 10 days on life support and was given just a 20 percent chance of survival by doctors after his intestines ruptured.
Shooting for the film ended before his hospitalisation, but an anecdote Flair tells about visiting a sports psychologist who was 'left laying on the couch' after hearing of his daily drinking routine, strikes a more sombre note in the knowledge the 68-year-old had been binge drinking before he fell ill.
He now says he has given up drinking altogether and, though wrestling fans may feel that the film leans too heavily on his personal life, it seems unlikely that those aspects of his career will ever eclipse what he achieved in the ring.
As Flair puts it himself: "It's easy to say you want to be thought of as the best father that ever lived, but I wasn't. And I certainly wasn't the best husband. So I guess I'll just have to settle for wanting to be thought of as the greatest wrestler and the most entertaining wrestler that ever lived."
30 For 30: 'Nature Boy' airs on BT Sport 2 at 10pm Friday night.