- Books & Biceps
- 💪Books & Biceps - Issue 261
💪Books & Biceps - Issue 261
Wooooo!! Q&A with Ric Flair biographer Tim Hornbaker, my 1 Million view Hard Knocks manifesto and...
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You know the “Wooooooo!”… You know he’s the “stylin’, profilin’, limousine riding, jet flying, kiss-stealin’, wheelin’ n’ dealin’ son of a gun!” You know the sunglasses and the suits and the robes and the flowing white hair.
But what you don’t know is how a bored insurance salesman named Richard Fliehr became Ric Flair, one of the most charismatic professional wrestlers and entertainers of all-time. Everyone from professional athletes to musicians to other wrestlers have credited the 74-year-old with inspiring their personal swagger and style.
In The Last Real World Champion, famed wrestling historian and author Tim Hornbaker tackles Flair’s life in this sprawling, amateur-to-apex wrestling story. Tim’s research is impeccable and he pulls from an incredible number of resources and interviews to detail the raucous rise of Flair, from his early years learning the sport to his first world title to squaring off against the biggest names in the WWE and WCW for over three decades.
I’ve read plenty of Tim’s excellent work over the years and even cited his previous books in my upcoming Macho Man biography… And as luck would have it, we have the same publisher.
Once I got my hands on his awesome Flair bio, I got in touch and Tim agreed to join us for this exclusive Books & Biceps Q&A. You’re gonna love this one and I’m so pumped I’m having a hard time keeping these alligator’s down!
Finkel: There is a shortlist of wrestlers who connect with audiences on a level that goes beyond fandom and they rise almost to a cult-like status. People emulate their dress, they memorize their promos, they recite their catchphrases and copy their voices. Guys like Flair and Macho Man and The Rock...
But it all begins with something you mention early in your book that legendary wrestler/promoter Verne Gagne recognized with Ric Flair (then Richard Fliehr), which is that he had "IT". It's easy to see now after all the fame and glory, but before that, why do you think Flair's 'IT Factor' was so far above all his contemporaries?
Tim: From a young age, Flair displayed a unique gift and ability to connect with others on a personal level. His classmates in high school and college were charmed by his natural charisma, and remembered Flair for his deep sense of friendship, as well as his boisterous personality.
I think professional wrestling gave Flair an outlet to expand upon his natural zest for performance, combined with his love for athletics, and ultimately gave him his dream job. He loved pro wrestling in every fiber of his being, and fans could see that every time he stepped out in front of the camera.
With the big rosters having weekly, mainstream TV shows now (Smackdown, Raw, etc...) with all the benefits of modern travel, it's hard for people to understand the insane logistics and itinerary for a late 1970s NWA champion like Flair. Can you share what a dizzying pace and responsibility it was to hold the title back then? How ridiculous was the schedule with cars, puddle jumpers, vans and commercial travel?
Tim: In my mind, without question, being the traveling NWA World Heavyweight champion was the most difficult job in professional wrestling during the heyday of the territories.
The burden of endless dates in city after city, crossing the country multiple times a month, and then heading overseas to perform before foreign audiences, was a job few people could’ve endured. Flair not only embraced his position as champion, but thrived. There were a few bumps in the road, of course, but he proved time and again that he was the real world champion. As we now know, he was the last man to endure the almost inconceivable schedule as the territories fell apart in the mid-to-late 1980s.
One of my favorite sections in your book deals with how Flair handled his WWF rivalries with Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper. I love how cerebral flair was, changing his wrestling styles and promo styles to get over and match who he was up against. Can you give a little behind-the-scenes on why that gave us a peek into Flair's greatness? Not every wrestler could hang with those two in charisma, promos, ring presence, etc... And Flair did both.
Tim: Flair possessed an above average intelligence, and his ability to understand the primal needs of wrestling audiences was a gift he brought to the sport. As a heel, he knew how to push the right buttons and sell against the likes of Hogan and Piper, giving fans exactly what they wanted in terms of excitement.
During matches, he could take a great deal of punishment as fans cheered their heroes, but then he could control the action, slow things down in the ring, and build up for the great comeback of the “Hulkster” or the “Rowdy Scot” leading into a hot finish.
Flair was smart enough to fit into the WWF style against popular stars, and evolved away from the more violent NWA methodology. Many people, who had grown up watching Flair bleed nearly every night in 30-plus minute matches in the NWA, were disappointed with his new role. But Flair was successful, as he always was.
Of all the people you interviewed and stories you uncovered, what was one story or event or anecdote that came completely out of left field for you? Like as you were researching it you said to yourself, "Really? I had no idea Flair did that or said that, etc...?"
Tim: One of the major things that surprised me was the fact that Ted Turner held Flair in such high regard that if Flair didn’t sign a contract with Turner, the entire purchase of Jim Crockett’s wrestling assets would have fallen through in 1988. That would have meant no World Championship Wrestling as we knew it, and would have changed wrestling forever.
Flair himself didn’t know that he had that much leverage either, at the time, and ultimately signed a contract that probably could have been for significantly more money. With this story, I’m not overly surprised that Turner respected Flair, but more or less found it fascinating how fragile the deal was at the time with Flair being the one hurdle that needed to be overcome before the deal was finalized.
Everyone reading this knows that my Macho Man biography is coming out next Spring, so you're not getting out of here without a Randy Savage question, haha. The Macho Man vs. Nature Boy rivalry was like nothing else because Flair used so many out-of-the-ring elements to draw anger from the crowd and incite Macho.
I mean, Ric insinuated that he slept with Elizabeth and he even put Angelo Poffo (Macho’s dad), then 70, in a figure-four leg lock at the 1995 Slamboree... Why do you think those two clicked when it came to building a program together? What was your favorite moment of their rivalry?
Tim: The Flair-Savage rivalry is one of my favorites in history, and I can’t wait for your biography of Savage, Jon! Yes, absolutely, Flair pushed all of the right buttons to instigate the “Macho Man” in the WWF and WCW, and they were natural enemies in the ring.
The main reasons why I think they worked so well together is the they both had the ability to bring a high level of passion, energy and athleticism to interviews and matches, displaying an intensity you really didn’t get from a lot of other major feuds. Flair had a similar chemistry with Ricky Steamboat, but I’ll say that Savage had a lot more personality than Steamboat, and made his long running rivalry with Flair fun to watch.
The promos and build-up to WrestleMania VIII was fantastic, I think, and the always beautiful and classy Elizabeth was perfect in her role. All in all, Flair and Savage was a match-up for the ages, and I think between this book and your upcoming biography on Savage, fans will have a glorious time reading about two of the true greats of professional wrestling. Thank you for your questions, Jon.
When Ric Flair began his wrestling career, he trained in a cold, windy gym known as The Barn in Minnesota because, well, it was a barn.
In order to weed out the weak, legendary wrestler and trainer Verne Gagne came up with this workout for all new wrestlers to do on the first day for time.
You had to finish or you were out.
The Barn Fitness Test
1 mile run
500 Free Squats
200 Push Ups
200 Sit Ups
When Ric Flair took his fitness test, he’d just come off of a stint of powerlifting and weighed about 300 pounds. Needless to say, the gauntlet nearly broke him and he took almost six hours to finish.
If you have a free morning, give it a shot, haha. Let me know how the 500 air squats go after the light run.
I wrote this column about one of my favorite yearly TV rituals, watching Hard Knocks. Racked up nearly 1M views so far. Hit home with a lot of guys:
A Hard Knocks Manifesto: The Real Reason Dudes Love It
For 17 seasons HBO has picked a random team to follow during training camp.
The games don't matter. Your favorite team is rarely featured. The stars of the show are often not the stars on the team.
And you're watching… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
— Jon Finkel (@Jon_Finkel)
Aug 14, 2023
And I wrote this piece to share a few truths I’ve picked up in nearly a decade of coaching my kids in rec sports:
Dads, Fall Youth Sports Are Back
And after coaching my kids' teams for 7 years, here are 10 truths I've learned about the good, the bad & the ugly of rec sports:
1/ WINNING MATTERS BUT...
Snacks matter more
Every rec team has kids who legit care about winning
And other kids… httptwitter.com/i/web/status/1…p
— Jon Finkel (@Jon_Finkel)
Aug 17, 2023
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Thank you all for reading.
Have a great weekend! - Jon
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