This Week in ‘E – Thanks for the Memories

“What’s causing all of this?”

Opening Witty Banter
Well, what a week it’s been. I accepted a job on Tuesday, got offered another job on Thursday that I had to turn down, and got drunk twice that day while watching my Twins lose another baseball game and then later on that night celebrating my newfound work. Plus the wrestling world was has just been dripping with news stemming from WrestleMania weekend and the icon that is Ric Flair. I wish I wouldn’t have labeled my column “The Fallout” last week because this past week really has been the fallout to one of the most emotionally charged weekends in wrestling history. As usual I’m burning the midnight oil to finish this before I go to bed, but I don’t think I’d want it any other way.

The Big Story
Ric Flair.

Simply put, HE was the big story of the past week, not only just in WWE-land, but also in wrestling in general. His three day stand at the Hall of Fame, WrestleMania and his farewell at RAW was the talk of one and all. I know I’m a week behind everyone else as is the nature and timeliness of my column, but after reading a week of Flair tributes all across the web, perhaps mine will be the final word on things before RAW emanates and shifts WWE focus in other directions.

The Hall of Fame speech will be so much more powerful in its unedited form on DVD. I watched a DVR’ed version of the USA Network telecast when I was three sheets to the wind that early Sunday morning and laughed my ass off at The Rock’s comments.

I didn’t cry during his farewell on RAW as so many have admitted to. I’m a wrestling fan through and through, but I just couldn’t see myself getting that worked up about a television performer who I’ve never met or had a personal connection. Plus he didn’t die, he’s just retiring. Not to say I didn’t love the whole weekend of events surrounding him, but it didn’t hit me that hard.

That RAW farewell was truly something special however. It really capped off what was already a really good show. But to display that much love and regard surrounding a wrestling career is something that will never be duplicated. I would venture a guess that over 95% of professional wrestlers in the industry today have been affected by “The Nature Boy” at some point in their career. And I think I can safely say that virtually everyone who wrestled during WrestleMania weekend, whether it be in WWE, TNA or ROH, would have loved to been on that ramp in Orlando on Monday night giving their best to Flair.

The fact that Vince McMahon gave that much time, energy and pageantry to Flair, someone who wasn’t a WWE creation, truly shows how much of a legacy the man has left on the industry. Not many get to go out on top and go out their own way, but Flair has done that. I would wager that there will never be a career celebration of this magnitude ever again. Barring unforeseen circumstances, Undertaker and Shawn Michaels are the only two men that I can think of that would warrant even close to this type of swansong on their final day. If Hulk Hogan would ever check himself and decide to officially retire and say good-bye, he would get a fitting farewell from WWE, but he wouldn’t get this type of respect from his peers.

When you think of all the greats that Flair has worked with in his this thirty-six years, he has combined the best of all of them to create a true total package of wrestler/performer/entertainer. He could cut a laugh-out-loud, entertaining promo when The Rock was still watching his daddy from the stands. He could put on a charismatic, in-ring performance like Hogan or Rhodes. He could be the cool heel that fans cheered back when Austin still had a full head of hair. He could put on a sixty minute wrestling exhibition with the best of them like Steamboat or Hart. And he could do all of that at the same time. His overall package and longevity put him ahead of his contemporaries like Jack Brisco, Dory Funk or Harley Race. It’s safe to say that there was one quite like Ric Flair before and there never will be again.

The more I’ve thought about it over the past few weeks I’ve come to the conclusion that the only contemporary that can follow Flair in terms of everything I described in that total package above is the man who retired him-Shawn Michaels. Michaels’ risk taking and aerial ability even adds another dimension to his aura. I was originally disappointed that it would Michaels who “take Flair’s career” and not some hot, upstart heel or Sting (my own personal pipedream). But after it’s all fallen out, it’s obvious that he was the right man for the job. Their WrestleMania match was a five-star masterpiece not in catch-as-catch can wrestling, but in emotion, aura and intangibles (see also Hogan-Andre, WM III and Hogan-Rock, WM X8).

So to Ric Flair, a performer I’ve only seen on TV or from stands in arena, I say thank you. Thank you for entertaining me and a million others just like me. Thank you for the sacrifices you’ve made in your life to do what you did in your chosen profession. Thanks for the entertainment. Thanks for the memories.

Wooooooo!

Everything Else Fit For Print
As WrestleMania came to close last Sunday there was a malfunction with some of the fireworks. They ended up landing in the crowd, along with a couple of cables that snapped as well. About thirty five up in the “cheap seats” were treated for minor burns and injuries.

That malfunction was a really unfortunate accident. I’m surprised that there hasn’t been more of a public backlash stemming from this, but thankfully people weren’t injured severely. Between that little incident and the lights malfunction halfway through the show I don’t expect WWE to run an outdoor supercard anytime in the near future.

Dusty Rhodes wasn’t at RAW live to address Ric Flair because he started his new job as head booker of WWE developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling.

Dusty’s old enough that he doesn’t need to be out on the road every week traveling to the live events to work on creative. If anyone in WWE knows how to book the Florida territory it’s Rhodes, so this is a perfect scenario for him. He will really be able to help out the “youngsters” in regards to their characters and promos and all the flash that goes along with being a good in-ring talent.

Apparently Flair’s youngest son Reid is signed to a developmental contract and is currently training down in FCW.

Reid was always more of a natural athlete than David and it seemed like he was more primed to become a wrestler like his old man. The only problem is that he’ll never be able to fill his old man’s shoes and no matter how he tries will never really be able to step out of his shadow. But it’s really amazing to think of all the second and third generation talent that WWE is currently harvesting what with Rhodes, Smith, Neidhart, Carlito, Gordy, Orton and others on TV now and DiBiase, Afa Jr., Flair and others are down training as we speak.

PWInsider has a great little article up detailing Flair’s Title wins, and sure doesn’t stop at the normally promoted sixteen wins.

I like how sixteen has become the standard number in wrestling canon when it seems like even Flair himself can’t keep the number straight.

PWInsider also reported that Roddy Piper wasn’t at Mania due to a film project in Winnipeg he couldn’t get out of, and that in addition to others reported previously, The Warlord, Haku and Kendall Windham were also backstage visiting at Mania.

I was wondering where Piper was. Flair’s RAW ceremony seemed like it was only really missing Rhodes, Piper and Funk so it’s good to know that Piper was at least contacted. I just included the bit about the others because I’m a mark for Haku and Warlord.

According to The Torch, the announce table that Shawn Michaels landed on during his WrestleMania match was NOT gimmicked to collapse.

Damn…that’s some pain for your hard work. The spot worked so well within the match that it just seemed obvious that the table was gimmicked.

Torch also says that Test was backstage at WrestleMania as a guest of his girlfriend Kelly Kelly.

Not really news, but I’m just baffled that Test has somehow kept Kelly as girlfriend. First Stacy Keibler, now Kelly Kelly, I guess the guy does something right.

Prowrestling.net says that Jeff and Matt Hardy were at one point considered to induct Jack and Jerry Brisco into the WWE Hall of Fame.

That would have been a cool little touch. The Hardys are probably the most successful real brother tandem of the last couple of decades (barring maybe The Steiners and Bret & Owen Hart) so it would have been a nice touch of past versus present.

Prowrestling.net is also reporting that Floyd Mayweather, Jr., acted real positive around the WWE talent, and WWE is apparently open to helping him promote future fights or otherwise using him.

It’s good to hear that a legit mainstream athlete worked well within WWE. Once the numbers for WrestleMania come in it will actually determine whether his involvement was a rousing success or not. Perhaps the company can keep them in their Rolodex whenever they need a “credible” celebrity sound byte for a big angle.

According to the Torch, The Rock flew out of Orlando – after spending an additional hour backstage after he was done inducting his grandfather and father – in order to get back to work on his latest film. Prowrestling.net said that he arrived in Orlando on Friday night and worked out some material (some bullet points and one-liners) with his old writer Brian Gerwitz, but didn’t really rehearse a speech. Apparently not all the targets of his jokes were notified ahead of time. It’s said that he caught heat with some talent, while others defended him saying he caught up with the old friends he could, but had limited time. There were no confirmed reports of him blowing off any ‘wrap it up’ signs” like those given to Flair at the end of his speech, but Vince McMahon is still considering changing the Hall of Fame format for next year.

Props really do need to go to the WWE editing crew for getting everything ready for the USA Network telecast that actually started while Flair’s speech continued. The Rock seems to be a sore spot among a lot of the WWE talent, like he is aloof or needs to follow their unwritten codes, but in reality The Rock, rather Dwayne Johnson, is no longer a professional wrestler. He is an actor, and hasn’t been an active wrestler in over four years. He really doesn’t need to follow the silly backstage conduct that the WWE seems to have. The Hall of Fame is definitely for the wrestlers themselves to say thank you to each other, but it’s also for the fans to celebrate their favorites. This year, with both The Rock and Ric Flair, is a fan’s dream come true. I understand the telecast got mighty long for everyone involved due to the length of The Rock and Flair’s speeches, but as a fan I cannot wait to see them uncut on WWE. Over the past couple of years the WrestleMania DVD has been worth the purchase price just based on the Hall of Fame and the extras alone.

RAW’s On Tonight!
As is the norm lately, no official matches have been announced for RAW but all the hype is going to the onslaught of challengers gunning for Randy Orton and the WWE Championship. Rumors are swirling that JBL and Triple H will be his challengers for Backlash, but I’m sure John Cena will be involved somehow.

Plus there will be some more follow-up regarding to Shawn Michaels’ feelings about retiring “The Nature Boy” plus some Santino Marella and Divas wackiness.

Also a Draft is being rumored to happen in a couple weeks so perhaps an announcement will happen tonight.

On Last Week’s Episode…
Provencio and Hepple cover a SmackDown! that saw a lot of interesting stuff happen, plus a few debuts, including relatives of both Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels.

Blatt continues to cover the land of Extreme, including the really awesome Mike Knox-Stevie Richards feud. You decide if I’m being sarcastic or not.

Daniels and Marshall got the honor of covering the greatest two-hour episode of RAW in years.

How They Rated
A.M. RAW (3.30.08) – 0.8

RAW (3.31.08) – 3.9

ECW (4.1.08) – 1.3

SmackDown! (4.4.08) – 2.6

This is Boring, What Else is There to Read?
Glazer brings the ROH.

Kirschner brings the indys.

Brad brings the TNA.

Eric S. brings the cynicism.

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