Jay Lethal is 25 years old, not married, and without kids. So he can say with confidence that Sunday’s match against Ric Flair at TNA Victory Road will be the greatest night of his life.
“So I don’t have that wedding date or that anniversary locked away in my head,” Lethal told SLAM! Wrestling. “The dates that I do have, December 7, 2001, which is the day that I started wrestling; there’s April 29, 1985, which is my birthday, and in a few days, I’m going to add July 11, 2010, Victory Road, to that list, because that’s the day that I’ll have the greatest moment — not of my wrestling career, but of my life, when I step into the ring with one of my idols, Ric Flair.”
Rare in this day and age, it’s actually been a long build towards an actual in-ring faceoff between Lethal and Flair. He started getting involved while still performing as “Black Machismo”, a tribute to Randy “Macho Man” Savage, and since May, Lethal has been hitting spot-on Flair impersonations and interfering in matches with Flair and his proteges, A.J. Styles and Kazarian.
The Flair impression came about unexpectedly, said Lethal. TNA was on tour in the United Kingdom, and the crew was killing time.
“During one of our days off we had a little downtime, it got a little quiet, so I tried to liven up the mood and I started doing my Ric Flair impersonation — not ever knowing that Ric Flair would ever come to our company, not even thinking for a moment to think about it,” Lethal recalled. “Then we came back to the States, and before every show, I’d do the impersonation in the locker room.”
The arrival of Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan into TNA changed the landscape, and a short time later, Flair arrives on the scene as well. “Now everybody’s saying, ‘That Flair impersonation that you’ve been doing is great. Now Ric Flair’s actually here. You’ve got to do it for him, you’ve got to do it for him.’ Then one thing led to another, and they had me do the Ric Flair impersonation on TV. It was a snowball effect towards the greatest moment of my life.”
Like Randy Savage — who has talked to Lethal about his impression, but never met — Flair also likes the imitation. “He loves the impressions. If anybody is within earshot, he’ll pull them over and have me do the impression for them,” said Lethal.
Despite dressing up for his on-screen time, Lethal has yet to find a way to duplicate Flair’s notorious sweating, where, upon talking off his suit jacket, his dress shirt is drenched. “I do sweat a lot, but Ric Flair sweats a tremendous amount. You can’t duplicate that,” laughed Lethal.
Though Flair and Lethal don’t hang out much beyond a little time in the locker room, Lethal, for one, has no doubts over what Flair can still do in the ring, even though he is 35 years older than him. “That doesn’t slow him down or stop him. You’re only as young as your mind thinks you are, and the Nature Boy is definitely young in his mind.”
There are times where it is evident just how young Lethal is as well. For reference, by the time he was born, Flair had already held the NWA World Heavyweight title three times.
But the love of wrestling is very evident.
“I come from a very large family. Not the largest in the world, but there were four boys and two girls. We all, even my dad and my grandfather, we all loved professional wrestling. I’ve gotten in trouble so many times for wrestling in the living room with my brothers, or trying to put the figure four on my sister. We’ve gotten in trouble for wrestling so many times,” he remembered.
Recently, Lethal attended the induction weekend at the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame in Amsterdam, NY, and came away raving about it.
“That was very interesting. I never knew, first of all, that there was an actual building that you could go to. I think that’s fantastic,” he said. “You can’t see the walls, that’s how much stuff there is. You can barely see the carpet. That was awesome, especially getting to meet a lot of guys I used to grow up watching. For instance, one of the biggest moments of that Hall of Fame for me was when I got to meet Stan Hansen. My big brother was actually a huge fan of Stan Hansen and his lariat. That whole event was so cool being there. I’m actually going to make it a point to try to go to the next one.”
Greg Oliver can’t do impressions. So sad. He can, however be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.