Friday, May 13, 2016

RIC FLARES AT THE GARDEN

For nearly half a year now, the world-famous Madison Square Garden wrestling shows have been topped off with a very special cherry - - - some of the greatest wrestlers now in the business who, for various reasons, had never before been seen in the WWWF, were being booked as special guest attractions. The effect was twofold: the New York fans got to see a different style of wrestling, as well as a look at some of the heavy-duty talent that's fascinating fans in other territories of the grappling world.


From the announcement at ring center during the February, 1976 card, as to the name of the wrestler guest-starring the following month, excitement began to build among fans and press alike. It would be none other than RIC FLAIR, the much-heralded, peroxide blond "Nature Boy", with a line of self-developed hype slicker than a greased pencil.

The following month, as he strode down the ramp towards the MSG ring, the majority of New York fans weren't even sure who Flair was. He wore a long, gold-encrusted robe, white trunks, and the most magnificent patent-leather boots ever to grace the royal blue Garden mat. Across the back of his robe was emblazoned the legend: "Nature Boy", and he stalked back and forth within his corner, looking sullen and anxious as he awaited his opponent.

The man Ric was to wrestle would be no pushover. "Pistol" Pete Sanchez was a well-experienced grappler who can go by the book or duke it out, whichever way it lays. Pete drew the appluase of the crowd, and Flair disdainfully disrobed. At the sight of his excellent physique, Flair immediately won over a goodly portion of the female audience.

Ric looked like an excited young kid, howling with delight at his own prowess and at being able to demonstrate it in the biggest arena in the country. But while he looked like a handsome young kid, he wrestled pure pro, taking Sanchez with much greater ease than the ringsiders expected.

Finally, looking like a surfer about to hit the waves, Flair ignited and was all over Sanchez in a matter of seconds. After delivering a series of rights to the jaw, Ric bent Pete's head forward, hooked his arms and lifted him straight up into the air for a perfectly-executed symmetrical suplex. Grinning from ear to ear, the "Nature Boy" pinned his man and leaped up into the glare of the behemoth Klieg lights, basking in the golden glow of victory.

Ric Flair had come a long way, and he's come all that way in a few short years. There aren't many wrestlers who have done that. And as Flair had his hand raised in victory, center-canvas at Madison Square Garden, you were seized with the feeling that you were looking at one of those very special wrestlers.

(WRESTLING TRAINING ILLUSTRATED - September, 1976)

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