Commentary by Mike Mooneyham
Published in March 2000
The 14-time world champion did high-profile jobs last Sunday night to Sid Vicious in his hometown of Charlotte and the next night to Curt Hennig on Nitro at the Dean Dome in Chapel Hill. In recent weeks Flair has worked to elevate younger talent such as Buff Bagwell and Vampiro.
WCW vice president Bill Busch has made an impassioned plea to his troops to sacrifice for the company. Be team players. Do jobs when asked. Hang in there until the promotion gets back on track.
Until now, however, few have been willing to check their egos at the door.
Flair worked solid matches last week despite a severe case of food poisoning that he contracted Sunday. He slept on a couch in the dressing room until match time. Jeff Jarrett, to his credit, also worked despite experiencing flu-like symptoms.
Flair has always been able to carry the company on his shoulders, but it’s a little different this time. WCW, which only a couple of years ago boasted one of the deepest talent rosters in the history of the business, now finds its ranks thinning by the week. Most of the company’s top talent, for a variety of reasons, are collecting their paychecks on the sidelines.
The WCW disaster area looks something like this:
Bill Goldberg, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Bret Hart, Diamond Dallas Page, Rey Misterio Jr., Buff Bagwell, and Rick and Scott Steiner have been out nursing injuries. Chris Kanyon has demanded his release. Shane Douglas is suing over claims of wrongful termination. Sting, once known as WCW’s franchise, has lost his fire and is in no hurry to return. Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn and Eddie Guerrero defected to the WWF. And, if things weren’t bad enough, WCW has been hit with a racial discrimination lawsuit that could affect its declining corps of Mexican and Japanese performers.
The situation behind the scenes is no better. WCW’s recent change in the booking department appears to have been akin to rotating deck chairs on the Titanic.
The one constant for WCW, though, is that Ric Flair still delivers the company’s highest-rated quarter hour and remains one of the most entertaining stars in the business, as evidenced by his world-class promo last week on Thunder with Arn Anderson, the most underutilized player in the company.
Amazingly Flair raised the ire of the clueless management when he and his longtime cohort delivered one of the most compelling interviews of the year. The powers that be claimed that the promo did nothing to drive the pay-per-view, as if the rapidly sinking Hulk Hogan doing an ’80s- style interview pushing a meaningless strap match would have an effect on the buyrate. Hogan himself had questioned the logic behind Flair putting Hennig over the night before (the 3.2 for that match was again the highest-rated segment on the show), even though the prospect of ever putting someone like Hennig (or almost anyone for that matter) over is totally foreign to the Hulkster.
Flair, however, is doing exactly what he was asked to do. Be a team player. Be a model for others to follow.
You can’t teach charisma. You can’t learn it. Either you’re born with it or you’re not. For the past 20 years Ric Flair has told guys to stand in the center of the ring while he made them into stars. Some of those same “stars” who are now making millions of dollars don’t have respect for legends like Ric Flair, yet they still can’t even carry their bags. And that’s a shame.
Even Lex Luger rose to the occasion and showed a little luster during the Flair-Anderson promo on Thunder. Just being around Flair – the real “Total Package” – has its advantages. Politics aside – why WCW would not want to showcase its prized possession is mind-boggling.
WCW obviously doesn’t “get it.” Script writers like Ed Ferrara don’t “get it.” But why should they? Many weren’t even around when everybody else was finding out what all this excitement was about.
Perhaps “The Man”said it best. Learn to love it, because it’s the best thing going today.