Saturday, July 01, 2006

To Be the Man

I am going to make a confession, one that will probably bring me great embarrassment, but one that I have to make anyway. I am a wrestling fan. Yes, I have fond memories of watching the NWA (National Wrestling Alliance) with the Four Horsemen and the Nature Boy Ric Flair. I watched the greatest matches ever between Ricky the Dragon Steamboat and the Nature Boy Ric Flair. I watched in college as the Monday Night Wars made wrestling history. I still watch today from time to time, but sadly most wrestling shows have degenerated into quick five-minute matches sandwiched in-between blatant pornography. When I do watch, I watch the non-Vince McMahann owned TNA, which does not have the blatant pornography, and still has the old NWA belt. I miss the old NWA that focused so much on wrestling and crowd entertainment through actual wrestling matches.

I confess all of this to simply tell those other closet old-school wrestling fans out there that To Be the Man the autobiography of the Nature Boy Ric Flair is a good book to read. It is a fabulous glimpse into wrestling business and how it changed and evolved with the advent of cable, pay-per-view, and eventually the international domination of Vince and the WWE. For those of you up on wrestling biographies, To Be the Man does not quite have the same literary flow and quality of Mick Foley’s autobiography, Have a Nice Day, but it is a better book for a look into the wrestling industry. Mick Foley has great stories about crazy and bizarre matches because that is what he did. He was a hardcore legend, or as Ric Flair tells us, a “glorified stuntman”. Flair was a legend in his own time, and thus has a great look into the business of wrestling. Flair also has a lot more honest thoughts about other wrestlers spanning a great time frame since Ric is still wrestling at 55 years old. Mick Foley has more personal stories and life outside of wrestling, but one of Ric’s points is that for years he did not have a life outside of wrestling. He literally wrestled seven days a week, including every holiday, and twice on Saturday and twice on Sunday. The only days off Ric Flair took were days when he was on a plane traveling to wrestle in Japan. I suppose a life like that does not leave a lot of stories from home.

The other interesting thing about Ric Flair’s book is the honest look at life of people who are entertainers for a living. Ric Flair freely admit he tried steroids a couple of times. He drank like a fish, something he regrets, but he still drinks some. He shows you all of his friends who loved to party with the Nature Boy who were into cocaine and other recreational drugs. He talks of the deaths of several of his wrestling buddies, the suicide of several others, and the crazy cover-ups pulled by many in the business. That is not something that you see a lot of in Mick Foley’s book. Ric refuses to blame wrestling as a sport, but the individuals themselves for the large amount of drug use. However, I do think it interesting that people who work in cubicles all day do not have stories about all night crack binges, but those in the entertainment industry have plenty of such stories. You could probably count the number of CEOs who have died in their prime from too much parting with illegal drugs on one hand, but I can think of ten wrestlers without blinking, not to mention the numerous movie stars like Chris Farley who have passed away because of drugs. Not to mention the ones who check into Betty Ford on a regular basis. Baseball players too are becoming notorious for abusing drugs, and football stars are not far behind. It is hard not to say some kind of difference exists between the real world and the entertainment world with regards to drugs, drinking, and work.

To be the man you have to beat the man, and the man was always Ric Flair. So if you want to know more about The Man, you have to read the book by the The Man. Wooooooo!


Andrew McIntyre said...

There is just something about the mental picture of Lee Johnson watching professional wrestling that leaves one speechless:-) Just when you think you have a guy figured out...


Grady Adkins said...

Andrew, I come from the other side... I can't imagine Lee "Stickboy" Johnson not watching wrestling. In fact, his wife had to dissuade me and s few of his other friends from trying to throw him through a table at his wedding reception. And I still don't think I can break Lee's figure-four leglock.