The Nature Boy Back In The Saddle
By Mike Mooneyham
May 18, 2003
Ric Flair may be 54 years old and a 31-year veteran of the wrestling business, but don’t try telling that to the Nature Boy.
His performance last week on Raw was vintage Flair and the highlight of the show, which posted its best rating in months, a 4.4 highlighted by a 4.9 quarter hour featuring the Flair vs. Hurricane and Bill Goldberg vs. Christian matches.
Despite an in-ring hiatus of nearly six months, Flair has returned with a vengeance and is headed toward a long-anticipated showdown with Shawn Michaels that could take place as early as next month’s Bad Blood pay-per-view in Houston.
Their only previous meeting was more than a decade ago on WWE television, several years before Michaels would carve out a reputation as one of the top workers in the game. Michaels considers Flair his idol in the wrestling business and has long pushed for another match with the mat icon.
Look for Flair and Michaels, who will work the respective corners of Triple H and Kevin Nash at tonight’s Judgment Day pay-per-view, to hook it up and provide a sneak preview of their upcoming bout.And since tonight’s match is in Flair’s hometown of Charlotte, look for the 16-time world heavyweight champion to steal some thunder along with his charge, Triple H.
Nash, Triple H’s challenger, has received a disappointing reception since returning from an injury that sidelined him for the better part of a year. Once dubbed by Mike Awesome as “the laziest big man in the business,” Nash has been jeered by a number of fans despite his current role as a babyface chasing Triple H’s world title. Those catcalls should increase significantly tonight in Flair country.
Flair recently returned from a weeklong promotional tour of Australia that consisted of 16-hour days in which he pushed WWE’s upcoming tour of the continent Down Under.
- Longtime Horseman and current Smackdown agent Arn Anderson has been taken off the road and granted time off for “personal reasons,” according to the WWE office.
Sources report, however, that the 44-year-old Anderson has checked himself into rehab following erratic behavior during last weekend’s Smackdown tour of the United Kingdom where he reportedly was intoxicated on the flight overseas and at the hotel where the crew was staying.
Anderson was at Raw Monday night, but left the show early.
- Chavo Guerrero has been pulled from tonight’s Judgment Day pay-per-view match pitting him and uncle Eddie against Team Angle (Orangeburg native Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas).
Guerrero suffered a torn biceps and will miss an estimated four to six months.
- The Legion of Doom (Road Warriors Hawk and Animal) returned to WWE last week at Raw. As in the old days, the two refused to sell for their opponents (Rob Van Dam and Kane). Unlike the old days, however, they were asked to job.
Once outspoken critics of Vince McMahon, the born-again Roadies have since softened their stance, particularly in light of a job prospect with the federation.
“We hope we’re here for the rest of our careers,” Animal (Joe Laurinidas) recently said on the company’s Web site. “Hawk and I would like to retire here with WWE, whether it’s two years from now or five years from now. We’d like to spend our last years in the business here. And when that day comes (that we retire) hopefully we can do what a lot of guys do, and move into the office end of the business and help the guys out.
“In the past when the business was a little bit more rebellious, so to speak, there were problems that arose that have been forgotten,” Animal added. “Hawk and I have both made major changes in our lives. My family and I, since 1999, have been devout Christians. Hawk turned Christian with Shawn Michaels … at the same event, at AIM (Athletes International Ministries), last year in June. We’re changed guys.
“I respect Vince McMahon, WWE and all the guys who work for it 1,000 times more than I could before. Now that our eyes have opened up and our hearts have opened up, we’ve learned to appreciate things. You finally realize that none of this is possible without the greatest champion’ making it possible. You know what I mean? We wouldn’t be here today. That’s why we’re here right now.”
“Me personally, I’ve changed my tune a little bit,” echoed Hawk. “I always used to fight the promotion. Now, I’m a Christian, and it’s all in God’s hands, as far as I’m concerned. And if he wants to bless me with a WWE deal, that’d be great.”
The two will celebrate 20 years as a team in June.
Jim Hellwig (formerly The Ultimate Warrior) responded on his Web site to Animal’s claim that he was “glad morals are coming back into the business.” Said Hellwig: “Morals are coming back? He must be confusing PAX with WWE to ease his shame about bowing and bending over at the altar of McMahon again … again. .. and again. Hey Joe, don’t feel too bad, it’s only begging. Since when were morals synonymous with born-agains behaving like hypocrites? Here we go one more time – a born-again’s piety being used as an excuse instead of an empowerment. Born-agains who don’t should be outraged.”
- Bill Goldberg worked last week’s cage match on Raw with three dislocated bones in his right hand, but shrugged off the injury.
“It’s just something I deal with and have dealt with for a long time,” Goldberg told the WWE Web site. “It’s nothing new. This injury came straight from overtraining. I’ve been involved in Muay Thai kickboxing, and I think I just weakened my hand from hitting the heavy bag so many times.”
Sources, however, say that Goldberg aggravated the injury following the May 5 Raw when he fell to the mat and jammed his hand after slipping on beer during the Austin “beerfest.”
Austin, by the way, is drinking again on-camera because his probation has expired.
- Henry Marcus, who put Charleston and Columbia on the wrestling map during his half century as a promoter, will celebrate his 92nd birthday on Wednesday.
Marcus, who made the phrase “Hold your own ticket!” a lasting memory for more than one generation of wrestling fans, resides in Sumter.
- George’s Sports Bar and Grill, 1300 Savannah Highway, will air the Judgment Day pay-per-view tonight beginning at 8 p.m. Cover charge is $5.
- Former WWE and WCW live event promoter Zane Bresloff was critically injured in an automobile accident Friday.
Bresloff, 55, suffered numerous internal injuries when he was thrown from his Ford Explorer after the car rolled over. Bresloff, who was driving through the Rocky Mountains, had to be airlifted to a Denver hospital. It was initially believed that a fractured pelvis had severed several veins and arteries.
Bresloff was the first WWF promoter in the Denver area, helping the group gain a foothold against the now-defunct American Wrestling Association. Bresloff promoted the town’s closed-circuit showing of Wrestlemania I in 1985 and the first WWF show at the Denver Coliseum.
Bresloff also promoted Wrestlemania III in Pontiac, Mich., which drew the largest indoor crowd ever for a pro wrestling show in the U.S.
- Sting (Steve Borden) and the WWE are still taking, but the wrestler told a New Zealand Web site last week that he hasn’t had any conversations with Vince McMahon “in a while.” An offer reportedly is on the table, but the ball is in Sting’s court. He said that he hasn’t shut the door and isn’t officially retired.
Sting and his wife are currently developing a property in Southern California as a Christian retreat.
- Scott Hall faces another probation violation hearing Monday in Orlando.
- Charles Warren Reynolds, who is accused of strangling Marissa Jeanne Vaziri, daughter of pro wrestler The Iron Sheik (Hossein Vaziri), is facing a pretrial appearance on a murder charge in the 27-year-old woman’s death.
Police say Reynolds made a number of spontaneous remarks “without being questioned” and a half-hour after he had been informed of his Miranda rights, according to an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“She’s such a good girl, but she wouldn’t calm down,” Reynolds, 38, said during what police described in a preliminary report as spontaneous and unprompted remarks. “It’s my fault. It’s my fault,” he said at another point, according to the report. “Take me, I’ve done wrong.”
Reynolds and Vaziri, a medical secretary, lived together for a few weeks at an Atlanta-area apartment.
Vaziri’s discolored body was tucked into bed, face up, the covers pulled up to her chin, according to the police report.
Hossein Vaziri, 60, has been recovering from knee surgery and now has nightmares about his daughter’s death, his wife, Caryl Vaziri, told the newspaper.
“He keeps screaming her name out. And he’s still recovering from his surgery. So he hurts from head to toe,” she said.
- WWE parlayed its Lex Luger-Elizabeth piece on Confidential last weekend to one of the show’s highest numbers to date, a 1.1 cable rating with a 2.3 share, nearly doubling the 0.6 from the previous week. A replay had been scheduled for this weekend.
- Randy Savage, who earned a well-deserved reputation for being overly protective of his former late wife, Liz Hulette, was portrayed in a slightly different light by Jim Hellwig.
“I knew the Elizabeth the whole world knew – she was Randy’s wife,” the former Ultimate Warrior wrote on his Web site. “Few talent – if that many – ever got closer to her than that while they were married. Randy was very protective of her and did not allow a line leading to over-friendly contact. And, believe me, the lines Randy drew never had slack in them. He knew full well too many talent in the business had no scruples, so he never subjected his beloved to the chance. Let there be no mistake – wound up as the Macho’ element of Randy’s life was, when it came to his marriage, he was disciplined and controlled, had class and respected it traditionally. I admired the way he handled their relationship and found it really heartwarming. In fact, that genuineness of their relationship is what made the worked parts work so well.”
- Goldust (Dustin Runnels), who has been suffering from a bulging disc and severe cervical pain, has returned to action.