By Brad Carroll
Over my years as a newspaper sports writer and editor, I've had the opportunity to interview some big names in the world of sports, and some of my most enjoyable and favorite interviews have come from the world of professional wrestling.
So, with WrestleMania 33 just days away, I thought it would be a good idea to look back on those interviews and let our loyal readers have a peak inside the world of professional wrestling from some of the biggest names ever. We're talking guys like Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, Kevin Nash, Kurt Angle, Jerry Lawler, Christian and Jimmy Hart.
We'll break it down into seven parts, each focusing on some interesting tidbits to come out of each interview subject, which for many was exclusives for the time.
Part 6: "Nature Boy" Ric Flair
Growing up as a youngster, the heated debate among wrestling fans was always, who's better, Ric Flair or Hulk Hogan? So, imagine how incredible it was to actually get to ask one of the two what they thought of the debate? Also fascinating was Flair looking back on surviving a horrific plane crash, which he discussed in our conversation.
Here are some of the interview highlights:
Flair retired from in-ring action recently after a legendary 35-year career, and even though he still believes he can mix it up with the best of them, he isn’t about to go back on his word.
“Retiring from wrestling and just having fun with my sons now has been the highlight of my career. The retirement was too special for me to come back.”
Flair is now willing to teach the up and coming athletes about the business, but the advice comes with a warning.
“I’ll give them all the advice I can give. But if you ask me, don’t ask anybody else. Just think about it. After you ask Ric Flair about wrestling, you’re going to go ask someone else if Flair was right? Get a grip on that.”
It’s almost impossible to get a grip on the fact Flair’s wrestling career was likely over before it even started. Back in October 1975, Flair was in a horrific plane crash that took the life of the pilot and paralyzed Johnny Valentine. Flair was lucky to escape alive, but he did break his back in three places and was told he would never wrestle again.
“I wouldn’t accept that. I just didn’t take no for an answer. I was full of myself even back then.” Six months later and Flair was back in the ring and the rest is history.
Flair went on to become the face of the NWA and later WCW. He also had two successful runs with the WWE, including his first from 1991-93 that he called the best time of his life. He won 16 world championships and countless other titles in what became one of the greatest wrestling careers of all time.
It was good enough that many would say he is the best ever. But for Flair, the industry and his career was all about respect.
“It is a huge honor to be considered one of the best, but I don’t get wrecked over it. For me, it was respect. I would rather be the most respected guy than the greatest. I never took time off. I worked hard. I was able to change over the times. I feel very honored to be part of it all.”
The one man that possibly could take the title as greatest of all time from Flair would be Hulk Hogan. The two wrestlers were the biggest stars back in the 1980’s and early 1990’s and were compared against each other by fans every minute. But even though Flair knew about the comparisons, he didn’t care.
“I knew I was really good at what I did. I believed in my ability. The only thing that mattered to me was what I thought and what the promoter thought. I knew I was the best, so I didn’t lose sleep over that.”