Was WWE Fair To Flair?

Within the past week, the news regarding departures, firings, or exits from the WWE kept the rumor mill busy. The most recent release was a legendary name within the history of professional wrestling, as Ric Flair requested and was granted his release from the organization. Flair, a 16-time champion and two-time Hall of Famer, became somewhat of a pop culture figure in recent years. His classic interviews became a hit all over again through social media, and it’s not uncommon for sports or music stars to emulate him. It’s a combination of ironic and disappointing that the argument could be made that Flair is more known to the general public now than he was in the prime years of his wrestling career.

Of course, the online speculation began immediately, with stories that Flair disapproved of the booking of his daughter, Charlotte or that he simply wanted to pursue other opportunities outside of WWE, more specifically, All Elite Wrestling.

As far as the rumors of a clash over Charlotte’s booking, reports that Flair denied in an interview with People magazine, it’s doubtful that there’s merit to those rumors. Charlotte, who really entered the prime of her career within the last few years, has done incredibly well in the WWE. She’s usually pushed as the featured female on WWE television and based on the current angle with Nikki Ash, there’s obviously a plan for her to surpass her dad’s number of championships. Keep in mind, Nikki is the current Women’s champion, but it’s clear that Charlotte and Rhea Ripley are showcased as the stars of the storyline. In fact, one could argue that prehaps management has overused Charlotte within the women’s division since she had matches with almost every competitor.

Ric Flair has said a lot of outlandish things in interviews over the years, such as being in Puerto Rico the night Bruiser Brody was killed when he actually wasn’t on the island, but I think you can take his word on the status of Charlotte’s booking, particularly because she’s already showcased, what possible complaint could he have about it?

Another reason it’s doubtful that Flair would have a dispute with McMahon is because they appear to be very close friends so he probably wouldn’t want to rock the boat with the chairman, especially when Charlotte has the spotlight already. Assuming this is correct, there’s a Youtube video where “The Nature Boy” discussed that McMahon helped him out of a financial jam on more than one occasion, lending him money in 1992 to pay the IRS and then $800,000 in 2005 during one of Flair’s divorces. More importantly, Flair recounted that when he was in the hospital for more than a month with a life-threatening illness in 2017, McMahon checked on him with regular phone calls. It’s easy to cast Vince McMahon has a icy businessman because he’s definitely ruthless to maintain his market share, but it’s obvious that he isn’t as callous as some of his critics might claim.

That brings us to the next point and probably the actual reason for the requested release. Flair mentioned that he will have his own line of wine and comic books, citing that he wanted to expand his brand with different business opportunities than he would’ve had within WWE. The WWE already produced a line of wine for The Undertaker and The Ultimate Warrior, as well as comic books so theoretically, if Flair specifically wanted to do that then it could’ve been handled under the WWE umbrella.

If I had to guess, I think this all comes down to cash, and it’s not from a place of malicious either.

Reportedly, Flair had a good deal with WWE when he officially re-signed with the company in 2019 and then inked a new contract in 2020. He was used for the infamous Lacy Evans angle before it was dropped, but mostly the contract seemed to be a “retainer” of sorts that would give him a steady income and he would be available for appearances when he scheduled for Raw. Sadly, it was well-documented that Ric had several financial problems, especially after his original retirement in 2008. That was also a time when Flair asked for a release from his WWE deal as an ambassador, reportedly a contract for $500,000 a year, to attempt to make more money faster on the convention circuit. The entire debacle post-2008 is known so there’s no reason to rehash every detail here, but Flair later admitted that his ill-fated TNA stint was just for the money. His was sued by Highspots because he had taken a loan from them and put up the original NWA belt from his heyday as collateral, but he didn’t actual own the belt. From what was reported at the time, Flair had to sign a specific amount of merchandise to settle the lawsuit. He was also sued by Ring Of Honor for breach of contract when he failed to appear on their shows after he was paid $40,000 in advance and that particular lawsuit was dropped when Sinclair Broadcasting bought the company in 2011. In many ways, the WWE protected Flair when he was under contract to the company because it kept him away from these potential pitfalls. The ESPN 30 for 30 documentary about him a few years ago revealed some of the struggles of his life, but thankfully, he seems to have found a level of peace today.

That being said, there’s a track record that shows that Flair could always use big money. What that says how his personal decisions or mismanagement of money is a completely different matter. It goes without saying that Flair is one of the hardest-working performers in the history of the industry and based on the money he made in his prime, he should’ve been financially stable. At 72, Flair could still use the cash, and truth be told, if he can get more money from All Elite Wrestling then he should take it. If AEW can realistically use him in a way that will justify a hefty deal is another story, but Vince would probably encourage Flair to take the big payday if it’s better for him. This isn’t meant as a jab against Ric, but considering his age, where else is he going to get top dollar? Tony Khan has the funding to pay Flair more, and it will get some publicity for the company.

So, what WWE fair to Flair? (Sorry, I had to use it for the title of this article because the saying from the great Bobby Heenan is halrious)

Absolutely, the WWE gave him a steady income in recent years and probably would’ve continued to keep him under contract just for the occasion appearance. Thankfully, Flair seems to be in a better place in his life than when he was during the prior release in 2008, and his potential AEW signing is just a way for him to make the most money possible at this point in his career.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta
E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta