Flair enters as the third man in the Rumble. For the next hour, he takes a pounding from nearly every other entrant until, finally, he is the last man standing – and the WWE champion for the first time. It’s a true testament to Flair’s talents that even among some of the biggest names of all time – Hogan, Piper, Undertaker, Savage, the Big Boss Man – he is able to draw all the attention and all the heat, and nobody gets bored watching.
Of course, “boring” was never a word that most people associated with Flair, either in or out of the ring. His interviews have always been considered to be among the industry’s best, and The Ultimate Ric Flair Collection boasts some of the real gems, including several that haven’t been seen for years. Flair was the master at blending over-the-top bluster (“Whoooo!”) and a genuine passion for the sport. It is this passion, he says, that made him what he is today: a genuine leader in an industry that he loves more than anything else.
And, as shown in the segment entitled “A Special Night in Greenville”, the industry loves him right back – and recently got the chance to let him know that. Following the match pitting him against then-champion Triple H, the entire “Raw” roster came out to celebrate the man’s long tenure in the sport. To be acknowledged publicly by his peers, Flair says, is the greatest honour he could ever receive. The footage of Flair emotionally choking out his gratitude to the wrestlers and to the crowds that have cheered and jeered him for years… well, only a misguided perception of manliness prevents me from saying it made me misty-eyed. The footage was taped after the TV broadcast had finished, and this is the first time it has been made available to anyone who wasn’t in attendance that night.
If there is one negative thing to say about The Ultimate Ric Flair Collection, it’s that they should have added another disc to the set. Personally, I would have liked it if they had included his match against Vader from Starrcade 1994 (my favourite Ric Flair match ever), or his series of scientific matches against Steven Regal, or his only match against his best friend and fellow Horseman Arn Anderson, or more matches from his first WWE stint (of course, on the other hand, we were spared from the lower moments of Flair’s career, like the time he wore a dress, or the Black Scorpion angle, or his “heart attack”, or anything involving Lex Luger).
But, that “complaint” aside, the set is definitely a must-see for any wrestling fan. Besides some of the brilliant matches mentioned above, other interesting features include the “WWE Confidential” segments on the Four Horsemen and the airplane crash that nearly ended Flair’s career, clips of Flair talking about the various opponents he’s faced in the ring, and countless other classic moments. The end result: like him or not, learn to love this set, because it’s the best thing going today. Whoooo!
NOTE: Koch Canada, the Canadian distributors for World Wrestling Entertainment video products, won’t be releasing the three-disc compilation until January 27, 2004. It can, of course, still be ordered from U.S. sources now.