Back in 1997, I met Ric Flair at an autograph signing in Natick, Ma. He was there to promote the first ever Monday Nitro at the Fleet Center (now TD Banknorth Garden) along with the Big Show (Giant at the time). I brought with me a piece of memorabilia - a commemorative ticket from the 10th Anniversary of Starcade, Ric Flair vs. Vader. It was actually #0000 out of 1000. The woman who was running the event made it clear several times that Ric would only be signing the promo photos they were giving away. When I reached his table, I handed him the ticket, which was framed and matted. The woman saw this and tried to take it away. Ric wouldn't let her take it. He looked at me and said "She has no idea what this is". He signed the mat and handed it back to me. I thanked him and shook his hand (he even used the "secret handshake"). I've shared this story often, because it shows the genuine appreciation Ric Flair has for wrestling history and for those fans who truly embrace it. He was one of a kind and there'll never be another like him.
It was '91 (or '92). Both Scott Hudson and I had been doing ... um, whatever it is we do ... on the wrestling block of shows on Atlanta TV for some months already. As we often did, we schleped up to Gainesville, GA, to catch a WCW TV taping. Scott & I managed to somehow wander backstage and crossed paths with Ric Flair, whom we had never formally met. Before we even got to utter a "hey, champ" at the man, Flair looked at us and said, "Scott and Steve, is it? I like your work. And you (pointing at me), you're a nut! Good stuff, man." Unsolicited praise from Ric Flair for a local TV wrestling show in a town that he didn't even live in? Had to sit down for a few minutes. Put quite a spring in my step for a while!
A bit earlier, Flair was feuding with Ron Garvin for the world title in a program that I was not looking forward to; I always thought that Garvin was a slug with little appeal and ability. Early on in a card headlined by Flair vs. Garvin at the Omni here in Atlanta, I spied Flair peering through the curtains watching a prelim match. I yelled Flair's way "at least Garvin's no Rufus R. Jones," referring of course to one of Flair's least talented foes ever. Flair's response? "I prefer Rufus, actually." Ouch! Anyway, true to form, Flair made Ronnie Garvin look like the greatest champ of all champs that night - even managed to turn my opinion of Garvin around for a while, before the Hands of Stone returned to his standard level of slugness shortly after the program concluded.
When I watch wrestling last nite. And I heard Ric Flair entrance [Whoooo]. Tears start running because that would be the last time I will hear it. And it felt like wrestling had died. I really tried to pull myself together but, when Triple H brought out the 4 Horsemen, that was the best WWE moment I ever saw. To see them reunited again was awesome. And when other all the other wrestlers came out to support him, that was very respectful. Ric Flair will be missed.
Shelley Thompson "Go Gators"