First they take away Ric Flair, then they take away my tribute to Ric Flair. Damn you Vince McMahon! Get a load of this message I recieved:

“This is to notify you that we have removed or disabled access to the following material as a result of a third-party notification by World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. claiming that this material is infringing:

Ric Flair’s Last Stand by the Southern Avenger”

I pulled all the pictures for this You Tube from Google Images. Go figure.

Regardless, here’s this morning’s WTMA commentary, broadcast 4/1/08:

Ric Flair’s Last Stand

There are very few heroes I claim that are still alive. In my personal life, my Dad remains my biggest hero. In politics, men like Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul continue to inspire me. And then there’s Ric Flair.

I was born in 1974. Ric Flair began wrestling in the South 1974. For as long as I have been alive and as long as I have been watching pro wrestling, the “Nature Boy” has always been there. All of this came to an end Sunday night at Wrestlemania, when Flair wrestled his final match, at 59 years-old, ending his nearly 35-year career.

I know what you’re thinking. What’s the big deal? It’s just wrestling, right? It makes sense that something like Flair’s retirement wouldn’t mean much to someone who was never a fan and might even seem kind of stupid, just like football is pretty irrelevant to me. But I was as genuinely upset by Flair’s retirement as so many New England Patriots fans were when their team lost the Super Bowl this year. Imagine the wrath I would have incurred from Patriots fans if I had dared to point out that it was “only football.”

Growing up, for me wrestling was sort of like Santa Claus. Many people said it wasn’t real and yet my child’s mind couldn’t decide. When my parents would go out barhopping in the late 70’s and early 80’s, with the Sheraton hotel on Rivers Ave. being a popular hotspot in those days, they would always tell me when they had seen Ric Flair, dancing and partying the night away. On Saturday morning television Flair would claim he was the “jet-flying, limousine-riding, kiss-stealing, wheeling-dealing, son of a gun,” who could go “all night long,” and by God he was, according to my parents who were constant eyewitnesses. At no point in my life was wrestling more real to me – and no wrestler was more real than Ric Flair.

The combination of acting and athletics makes pro wrestling one of the most unique forms of popular entertainment and the most misunderstood. Are wrestlers bad actors? Most are. They also have to do everything in one take, in real time, while getting slammed on their backs or punched in the face in front of an unforgiving live audience. Are wrestlers pretending to fight? Of course they are, while trying to increase their paychecks through sheer force of their personality, speaking skills and anything else they can muster. For most of his career, Flair did this seven days a week, twice on Sundays, and still partied until last call and hit the gym when the sun came up. This was his job.

Marlon Brando is no doubt a better actor than Flair, but even in his prime The Godfather could not have done what the Nature Boy did for a week, much less four decades. Eli Manning might be a better athlete than Flair, but this year’s Superbowl MVP can think about that during the off season. Pro wrestling’s all-time MVP never had that luxury, and did his job better and longer than anyone else in his business.

But now Flair’s well deserved off season has finally come and it’s hard to describe how much I’m going to miss him. He’s simply always been there. Watching wrestling, for the time being, will be like listening to rock n’ roll without guitars. It can be done – but what’s the point?

Whereas people become engrossed in reality TV shows like American Idol for a few weeks, Flair has been an American idol to me and millions of fans worldwide everyday of our lives, in some cases our entire lives, creating a legacy that began long before Kelly Clarkson was born and will remain with us long after people stop caring about glorified karaoke. What Michael Jordan was to basketball, Muhammad Ali was to boxing and Babe Ruth was to baseball – Ric Flair is to pro wrestling.

A Southern icon, by way of Minnesota; a national treasure, who became such practicing a trade that gets little respect; and a personal hero, in ways he’ll never know. Diamonds are forever – so are life-shaping memories – and so is Ric Flair.