By Mike Mooneyham
July 3, 2005
Kurt Angle recently made it known that working with Ric Flair was on the short list of things he wanted to do before he retired. Monday night he got his wish.
“I was so happy to have wrestled Shawn Michaels, because I think he is by far the best today. But overall the greatest ever is Ric Flair,” said Angle. “Just to be able to say I was in the ring with Ric Flair is a dream come true. I’ve wrestled Hulk Hogan. I made Hulk Hogan tap. But to say I was in the ring with Ric Flair is the ultimate honor.”
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin recently told the Olympic gold medallist that he could be ranked “right up there with Ric Flair” if he could stay healthy the next few years. Angle took that as a supreme compliment and a lofty challenge.
“That’s an honor. I know what Ric is now, and he knows what he is now. But Ric Flair in his prime … he’d have to be the greatest ever. It would be an honor just to be considered in that position with him.”
Angle still downplays comparisons to the 16-time world champion.
“A lot of people say Kurt Angle is comparable to Ric Flair, but you can’t compare yourself to Ric Flair,” he said. “The damn guy’s been in the business forever. He’s amazing. The matches between him and Ricky Steamboat were incredible.”
Angle admits he wasn’t even an avid follower of pro wrestling until he joined WWE in the late ’90s, although he watched occasionally and obviously had good taste as far as appreciating superior talent.“I wasn’t a big pro wrestling fan. A friend and I used to use a 1-5 rating system when we watched wrestling, with 5 being the worst and 1 being the best,” Angle said shortly after entering the pro ranks. “I won’t say who 2 through 5 were, but No. 1 was always Ric Flair … Ric has done a lot for the business. He’s the complete package. I think this business and the people who are fans of the business owe him a lot. Ric deserves to be that No. 1. When you’re comparing someone to the best, you’re comparing him to Ric Flair. Ric Flair is the best.”
Angle says his respect for the 56-year-old legend has only grown during the six years he’s been in the business. It’s a testament, he says, to Flair’s durability in the ring and his unique, seemingly timeless character.
“Ric just had something about him. He was so flashy. He was arrogant, but at the same time he could back it up. That’s what made him. Of course he’s the bad guy and the dirty fighter, but he’s so damn popular. He still transcends the business.
“When he wrestles, these fans just go nuts. He’ll do the same moves almost every single match now, but the fans love it. The fans want him to go to the top rope because they know he’s going to get beeled onto the middle of the ring. They want him to do his chops. They want him to do the Ric Flair (face-first) bump.”
In his book, “To Be The Man,” Flair wrote that Angle had the potential to be the greatest performer ever. Angle is flattered, but he realizes that’s coming from a legend who has flourished for 33 years in the business.
“Ric’s a competitive guy. He’s come to me and told me that I’m way better than he ever was, especially his first five years. I said, ‘Ric, no one’s ever been like you and no one ever will. Don’t go blowing smoke.’ That’s how Ric is.”
“He also happens to be my wife’s favorite,” adds Angle. “She just adores him. She think he’s the greatest thing ever. To be able to beat Ric Flair in front of my wife would be the greatest thing ever.”
Although Angle defeated Flair Monday night, it was one of the most fiercely competitive matches seen on Raw in quite some time.
“The match was amazing. It was one of the best matches I’ve seen on Raw in a very long time,” said fan Chris Wilkinson of Charleston. “I think I probably enjoyed that even more than the match Ric had with Triple H a couple of years ago. To see the bumps he took outside on the floor … that man is amazing.”
Another fan, Tim Willis of Goose Creek, agreed.
“It was really refreshing to see the legend, Flair, and the great talent in Angle work in the ring together. They truly understand what it takes to make a great match, from the psychology of the match to the execution, and the devotion of entertaining every paid customer in the building.”
Willis added that WWE should have spent more time building up the classic match.
“It’s a shame WWE misses the potential of these feuds with one-night runs instead of legitimately developing the storyline over the span of a few weeks. For true wrestling fans, Angle-Flair was a dream matchup. Seeing those two great workers in the ring at the same time topped anything I’ve seen on Raw for some time.
“Adding credibility to the match was the fact that Flair even made reference to some of his comments in his book, in which he states that Angle has the potential to be one of the best ever. That’s a huge endorsement from a true legend like Flair. WWE could have legitimately and easily put Flair over and created a storyline which could have run through the summer. Instead we got a one-night stand – but what a great matchup it was.”
– When “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan shows up these days, there’s always a reason, and this time it’s to promote the debut of his family’s new reality series, “Hogan Knows Best,” which will debut July 10 on VHI.
Hogan, who made a surprise appearance on last week’s Raw teaming with Shawn Michaels and John Cena, will be a guest on Carlito’s Cabana this week on Raw.
– The latest issue of Wrestling Perspective newsletter features the second part of an excellent interview with “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff. The highlight of the issue, however, is the annual “Phannies Awards” that looks at the “worst of the worst” of the past year. The awards are presented for dubious underachievement, according to the authors, who “present them to people who show us the ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, take a sure thing and transform it into utter failure, and those who not only cannot find a needle in a haystack, but can’t even locate the damned haystack.”
The newsletter is available by subscription for $2.50 per issue up to $30 for 12 issues. Checks should be made payable to Wrestling Perspective. The address is: Wrestling Perspective, 899 South College Mall Road, Suite 122, Bloomington, Ind. 47401.
– Announcer Mark Loyd was released last week by WWE. The company has cut more than a dozen office workers over the past two weeks, and wrestler cutbacks are expected within the next few weeks.
Raw head writer Brian Gewirtz has left the creative team and is moving to the company’s movie script division.