“If I had made better business choices, I wouldn’t be sitting here,” Ric Flair says just days after WrestleMania 25.
By “here,” the legendary 16-time World Heavyweight Champion meant sitting down doing a shoot interview, with his friend and fellow WWE Hall of Famer, Rowdy Roddy Piper for the recently released Ric and Roddy Roundtable DVD, produced by Highspots.com. Later in the shoot, Flair alludes to his personal financial struggles as a result of broken marriages and bad decisions.
The back of the DVD case states: “This goes beyond a shoot interview as you get two unique perspectives on the entire wrestling landscape in 2009, from two of its all-time most charismatic stars. The camaraderie between these two lifelong friends is the true star of this DVD as they give their honest thoughts on a variety of topics.”
And friendship and honesty is what you get for over an hour and a half as Flair and Piper laugh, joke, applaud and tear up throughout the highly entertaining and emotion-filled shoot. From references to the movie The Wrestler with Flair joking, “If I ever live in a trailer, it will be a damn nice one,” to Piper choking up when the topic of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan’s health issues and reconstructive facial surgery comes up (“I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet”), they both come across as humble and compassionate.
In contrast to the roundtable discussion found on The Wrestler DVD — that features Piper and several other wrestlers who praise the movie with no complaints — both Piper and Flair share their insight on what they considered misrepresentations of the business. While Piper speaks on the topic of backstage politics between the wrestlers, Flair comments on the personal life of Mickey Rourke’s character Randy “The Ram” Robinson. “The heartbreak established in those relationships between father and daughter, what (the movie is) missing is they never had the mother there,” says Flair. “What they were missing is the mother who torments both people. They never had the mother there who creates all the animosity between the daughter and the father, while she’s over at South Park shopping, or the Galleria, or wherever.”
At this point, Piper is practically falling off his chair laughing to the point of snorting, familiar with the history of Flair’s tumultuous marriages. The interviewer of the shoot chimes in off camera, “Ric, that’s your movie,” as the laughing fit between Piper and Flair escalates.
“Wrestling is explosion while acting is implosion,” Piper says, offering up nuggets of insight on the difference between professional wrestling and Hollywood. And while singing the praises of Rourke and his involvement in WrestleMania 25, Piper and Flair agree there has been resentment for previous Hollywood stars, like Mr. T, who “comes into the company that way, from outside the industry, then goes back to Hollywood.”
In a natural segue between topics, Flair praises Piper for his success in Hollywood saying, “Roddy has done well and made a hundred movies. He down plays it, but Roddy is very wealthy. He’s been in Hollywood for 20 years. He made it.”
“You made it too,” Piper responds, reaching over gently and patting Flair on the arm.
“I had made it, then I let it go — through divorce and bad choices with women,” says a humble Flair. “Just one bad woman,” he corrects himself. “The other two were very nice — but it’s not cost effective when you’re not working to pay $20,000 a month in alimony.” Unprovoked, Flair says, “I’m not going to wrestle — I had the most fabulous retirement in the world.”
Bridging the past and present, Flair and Piper share their thoughts on their “Legends” match against Chris Jericho at WrestleMania 25 and the atmosphere backstage compared to the ‘80s, how big events were promoted, and wrestling throughout the territories.
“The territories were overrated,” says Flair bluntly, as he speaks about how the territories worked for wrestlers like him and Piper, but were very difficult for most to make a living. From there, Piper and Flair compare and contrast the old-school build-up of matches back then to today, with criticisms about the current state of WWE programming, and how difficult it has become to put together marquee match ups for the monthly pay-per-views. Together, they shed light on why the main event between Triple H and Randy Orton was anti-climactic compared to the show-stealing Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker match at WrestleMania 25.
“There was no emphasis on the belt,” says Flair of the World Heavyweight Championship match between Triple H and Orton. “Practice does not make perfect,” says Piper, referring to the fact that fans had seen Triple H vs. Orton numerous times before, while Michaels and The Undertaker had only wrestled once previously. “That match was old school,” they agree.
“Old-school is cool,” is one of many things Piper and Flair agree upon, including the fact they’re impressed with up-and-coming promotions like Ring of Honor. “(ROH) have better production than TNA, on television,” says Flair. He says his experience with ROH– and wrestlers like Nigel McGuinness — has been a positive one. “These guys are very respectful, and their goal is not to compete with WWE — they just want to make a good wrestling show.”
Flair then speaks at length about strategies for aspiring pro wrestlers and the importance of ring psychology. “Go to Europe,” says Flair. “Those crowds are like (the audiences of) the old days, and that’s where you learn (ring) psychology.”
Piper agrees, while learning old-school ring psychology is still fundamental to any good wrestling match, he acknowledges much has changed since main-eventing the first WrestleMania. “Wrestling is a reflection of how society is feeling,” says Piper. “It’s tied to politics and everything changes. WWE today (PG rated), you’re not going to see the finger from Stone Cold.” In a funny moment, Flair simulates sexual intercourse — Degeneration-X style — and says, “You’re not going to see this now.”
“Paint yourself half-black? Don’t think that would fly, huh?” laughs Piper, referring to his match against Bad News Brown at WrestleMania VI. The topic of WrestleMania is visited repeatedly throughout the shoot as they share some backstage memories, along with their thoughts on the WWE Hall of Fame. Both offer honest opinions and question the criteria for what makes someone a WWE Hall of Famer, while voicing concerns about the future of the Hall of Fame with regards to maintaining high standards. “Going forward, they’re gonna have a hard time finding marquee guys every year, especially after Shawn and Undertaker are inducted,” says Flair. When asked which old-time wrestlers should have been recognized by the WWE Hall of Fame by now, Piper and Flair offer up names like Red Bastien and Danny Hodge, among others.
When asked to comment on wrestlers, they felt, shouldn’t have been inducted into the Hall of Fame (Koko B. Ware’s name is brought up by the interviewer), both Piper and Flair decline to comment. “I don’t want to talk about that,” says Flair firmly. “Roddy and I still work for that company and we probably will for the rest of our lives.”
Piper concurs, “Like Ric, I just wanna to take the high road and grab on his cape like I have for his entire career.” But by the end of the interview, and several Red Bull energy drinks later, Piper takes anything but the high road, when asked about the vast coverage of wrestling online these days. “I despise it,” says Piper.
With a bone to pick about our own SLAM! Wrestling, Piper goes on a rant about an article written several years in the past about his WrestleMania XII “parking lot brawl” with Goldust: “I can give you an example, whoever the geek is. They did a thing on SLAM, SLAM-something, or whatever it is they did a thing where they were going over the worst WrestleMania moments. So they brought up myself vs. Goldust in the back alley lot. This (writer), he calls himself smart, but they’ve got no respect and they don’t know what they’re talking about. They’re saying, ‘oh yeah, it was so stupid … Goldust had a Cadillac and Piper had a bat, so he busts the window and Piper busted his hand and it was a brutal match, but then Piper pull out a water hose and squirts, you know, then here comes the car and hits Roddy’ and it says in parenthesis, ‘Here comes stuntman,’ and boom!
“I’ll let you know right now what kind of moron these people are,” Piper says sitting on the edge of his chair. “First of all, there was no stuntman — that was Roddy. So not only that, you moron, he says it was shot in a back alley. You moron, it was shot at the Disney lot.” Piper — clearly riled up — rants on for several more minutes about the same article.
As the rant concludes, Piper says, “These guys are coming to us and they want us to call them journalists — they ruin people’s reputations,” sparking discussions with Flair about recent scandals involving Olympian Michael Phelps and NBA star Kobe Bryant. Piper flares up once again, with more name calling and profanity. “You piece of s**t! You cockroach dirt sheet writers, under the carpet breeding in stuffy places — tarnishing the reputations after all these people have accomplished.”
Oddly, Piper seems almost in “Rowdy” character as he snarls and spits, “You piece of garbage,” he yells looking into the camera. “This internet thing, everybody’s real tough 5,000 miles away. But you know who the real guys are? You’re looking at them. They gotta talk about us?” Piper meanders and quietly trails off, “I think it’s called impotency, or a lot of cross-dressing — that’s what has messed up their minds.”
Flair concludes, “It’s really sad. I don’t turn on the computer.”
What’s really sad are the DVD extras, with Piper delivering in-ring “Piper’s Pit” segments in recent years in high school gymnasiums, with terrible audio, to dozens of fans. Even sadder are the segments Highspots put together called “Flair Shoots Back.” Here, an edited piece of shoot interview from the past is shown with disgruntled wrestlers like Ole Anderson, Buddy Landell and Scott Steiner taking shots at Flair, while the camera captures Flair’s current reactions.
After listening to Anderson say, “(Flair) was highly over-rated, and not as good as he thinks he is,” Flair comments, “I feel sorry for him. The way I understand it, he’s bitter about everything.”
Unlike Piper, Flair takes the high-road after listening to Landell sing a childish, and defaming song he wrote about Flair, to the tune of the Beverly Hillbillies theme. “Disappointed,” comments Flair with sad eyes. “Sad. I’ve got nothing negative to say about Buddy.”
But saddest of all is a segment with David Sammartino, filled with anger comparable to the rage seen in some of the Iron Sheik shoot interviews made famous on YouTube. Here, Sammartino is malicious. “You can see what a pathetic piece of garbage he is,” says Sammartino on the verge of tears. “A pathetic piece of crap who I used to really look up to.” In response, Flair offers some insight on comments he made towards Bruno Sammartino in his autobiography that clearly his son David was offended by. “In his mind, (Bruno) was bigger than the WWE,” Flair explained.
David Sammartino made this proposal, as Flair listens and shakes his head to the absurdity of what he was listening to. “Hey Vince McMahon, why don’t you book us together,” says Sammartino with wild eyes looking deep into the camera in an uncomfortably tight close-up. “Vince, give me a payday and I’ll hurt him. If I was ever booked against (Flair), I would do my very best to hurt him!” says Sammartino through clenched teeth. Very disturbing and difficult to watch.Fortunately, there’s some great comic relief juxtaposed with these segments, as wrestlers like Ricky Morton, The Nasty Boys, and Blackjack Mulligan share humorous road stories and fond memories of The Nature Boy. “Ric and I woke up together ass naked in bed at the Sheridan Hotel,” says Mulligan. “I don’t know what happened that night, but I can guarantee ya we’re not homosexual.”
In the segment with referee Tommy Young, he raves about the years he worked matches between Flair and Ricky Steamboat, then shares a story that involves a body slam, followed by a bowel movement in the ring. “And it didn’t even stop the match!” says Young, still impressed after all these years. “That’s how professional they were.” Flair’s reaction is priceless, as he turns beet-red in the face with laughter listening to Young tell the story.
Fittingly, the DVD extras conclude with a long-winded, but hilarious, story about wrestling in Puerto Rico, pieced together from two separate shoot interviews with Piper and Flair.
In watching these extras compiled from previous shoot interviews, it becomes evident just how far Highspots has come with regards to production quality, both in picture and sound. The packaging is top-notch too, with the professional cover art along with a detailed outline on the back of the case, that states: “If you have ever wanted to see what Flair and Piper are really like, now is your chance to see two legends completely let their guard down and shoot straight like never before.”