It didn’t take long for Ric Flair to bring his brand of controversy to All Elite Wrestling.
Last week, during a Rampage taping in front of a mostly empty building, Ric Flair cut an in-ring promo alongside Sting, who will have his retirement tour conclude in March of next year at the Revolution pay-per-view. Flair, the legendary grappler that still believes he actually is “The Nature Boy” cut a very typical promo that he used countless times throughout his 50-year career, inviting the ladies 18-28 to his hotel. Granted, Ric Flair is almost 75 so the implication is rather creepy, but it was a vague reference to the same line he used in his heyday during a Jim Crockett Promotions TV taping. Flair didn’t say anything crude or vulgar, and there was certainly worse said on AEW programming recently when Edge told Christian to “go f**k yourself” on live television, a line that was missed by the edit button last week.
Of course, it caused a stir among the All Elite fan base, and prompted the company to edit the segment for television. Flair posted an apology to Tony Khan and offered to leave the company on social media.
I Am So Tired Of Hearing All This Negativity! I Don’t Need To Work, And I Don’t Need The Money. Can’t I Simply Enjoy Being By My Dear Friend @Sting’s Side For The Next Few Months Without So Much Hatred? I Know I’m Old, But That Doesn’t Mean I Can’t Enjoy Life! I Have Earned The… pic.twitter.com/GK49HoSeEC
— Ric Flair® (@RicFlairNatrBoy) November 30, 2023
First, it should be noted that if the AEW fan base, or at least the rather small crowd that was in attendance for the Rampage taping, were actually “offended” by the Ric Flair promo then I think it’s fair to say that they are probably too soft for professional wrestling. It’s a business built on violence and conflict, and this was the same fan base that didn’t have a problem with the segment where Swerve Strickland threatened violence against Adam Page’s kid, or had any issue with the spot where Hangman Page drank Swerve’s blood at the Full Gear event.
It should be underscored that Flair didn’t say anything vulgar or use profanity, it was a throw away line about a party from a performer that established his entire persona based on the party lifestyle. What exactly does anyone expect from Ric Flair? Granted, there’s not an excuse for him to totally go off the rails either, but Tony Khan hired “The Nature Boy,” is Flair supposed to cut a promo about playing shuffle board?
If I had to guess, this is a textbook example of “outrage” for the sake of people having something to complain about on social media. If Flair leaves the company, they can post online about the “victory” and think they accomplished something without ever having to put their phone down.
Don’t get me wrong, as I wrote when Flair showed up on Dynamite, I don’t think there’s any reason for him to be a part of the company, outside of a special guest appearence at Revolution for Sting’s last match. Ric Flair has too much baggage and quite frankly too many disputes with too many people to not expect some level of controversy to go along with signing him. Flair doesn’t talk to Arn Anderson, Triple H, Shawn Micheals, Mark Madden, David Flair, and even lashed out at Jim Ross on his podcast. When Flair has that many disputes with that many people that he used to be close with, there’s a reason that he’s the common denominator.
In some ways, this was another misstep by Tony Khan, because as much as he was a WCW fan and wanted to recreate a Nitro moment inside an AEW ring, he had a warning of the possible negative PR that Ric Flair might bring to the company. As we know, Flair was more or less confirmed to be on his way to All Elite a few years ago, presumably to manage his son-in-law, Andrade before the potential deal was scrapped because of the Darkside of The Ring episode that covered the infamous plane ride from England in 2002. The flight attendant alleged that Flair forced her to touch him, and that along with several other incidents, including misconduct from an intoxicated Scott Hall were the subject of a lawsuit. The WWE settled the lawsuit, which would imply that some type of misconduct happened on the plane, but Flair has continuously denied that he forced anything on anyone.
Obviously, those are very serious allegations and would be a very valid reason not to sign Ric Flair to a contract. However, that’s not the latest issue, the edited promo from Rampage is the current topic of debate. To attempt to claim that Flair’s Rampage promo should lead to his exit from the organization is laughable. Quite frankly, there are legitimate reasons not to want Flair involved in pro wrestling in 2023, but a harmless line from a promo in the 80s isn’t one of them. Keep in mind, Flair found renewed popularity in more recent years with his classic interviews being used as a part of pregame speeches for sports teams. Nobody called foul when the captain of a defense quoted Flair about “kiss stealin'” or “spending more money on spilled liquor” before a game.
Perhaps the biggest perk, if there’s a perk at all, is that Flair’s contract brings with it a Wooo Energy Drink sponsorship. During a recent media appearence, Tony Khan claimed that Flair was “essentially paying the company for his appearances,” implying that the amount of money the energy drink company is paying for the sponsorship on AEW programming more than covers Flair’s contract. Even if that is the case, I’m not sure there’s enough productive ways to use Flair on a consistent basis to justify his spot in the company. Flair trying to relive his glory days at the age of almost 75 isn’t offensive, but it’s definitely embarrassing and cringe worthy. While it would be great if Flair could settle into a role as an elder statesman of the sport, It’s clear that he’d rather strut around and try to continue to live the gimmick, a path that almost cost his life when he was in the hospital several years ago. That’s part of the baggage that goes along with associating Ric Flair with your organization. He almost drank himself to death and was given a second chance at life, but he regularly mentions in interviews that he still drinks so that makes it difficult for fans to cheer for his “Nature Boy” persona if he still lives the party lifestyle.
Furthermore, it was announced that he signed a multi-year deal with All Elite Wrestling. Again, beyond his connection with Sting for the retirement tour, what exactly is Ric Flair going to do in AEW at his age? I understand that the energy drink sponsorship brings some cash with it, but in the grand scheme of things, the advertisement of a niche product doesn’t translate to main stream exposure for the organization. Make no mistake about it, this isn’t on the level of the Macho Man Slim Jim deal, which still has commercials on WWE programming more than thirty years later. In fact, the dynamics of the energy drink business will probably prevent Wooo Energy from landing major distribution. Red Bull, Monster, and the few other major energy drinks will often buy more shelf space in stores and cooler space in gas stations to more or less keep new competitors from the market. Eric Bischoff mentioned it on a podcast previously, one of the reasons that the Hulk Hogan and Raw energy drinks didn’t get off the ground in 2007 was that they simply didn’t have the retail space to get proper distribution of the product. To my knowledge, Wooo Energy isn’t available in stores yet, and the only way to purchase it is online. Right now, the website lists “holiday special pricing” of $19.99 for a six pack of the drink, with free shipping for purchases over $30. Originally, the six pack was priced at $24.95, which made it almost twice as expensive per can as the typical energy drink. Even at the reduced price, that’s rather steep after you factor in the shipping costs or the total of $40 you’d have to spend to get free shipping just to try the product. If a consumer doesn’t like the drink, they are stuck with at least five cans that they paid almost double for, compared to the energy drinks at the local gas station.
The sum total of the Wooo Energy Drink will probably be moot, unless they can get more main stream distribution, which would might be difficult. Granted, as mentioned, Flair has more main stream popularity now than he did in his prime, but I don’t think he has enough cache to sell products in a crowded energy drink market. Hogan is a more well-known name and that didn’t move a product. The Rock has an energy drink that sells because of his fame from Hollywood, not pro wrestling. Still, the sponsorship isn’t why Tony signed Ric Flair for AEW because we know that money is no object to Khan.
So, no Ric Flair shouldn’t be given his walking papers because of a rather harmless line in a promo on the C-show that has minimal viewership anyway, but the fact that it stirred controversy among the All Elite fan base more or less proves that there’s not truly a place for him in AEW. Tony Khan just wanted to add Flair to his vanity project. As I said, if someone was offended by the Rampage promo, they should get a different hobby because pro wrestling isn’t for them, but the much bigger problem is that Flair’s involvement is already taking the spotlight away from Sting’s retirement.
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Until next week
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