The announcement a few days ago that Ric Flair and the WWE had mutually agreed to part ways surprised me. When I last spoke to Ric in person we were in Charlotte for Smackdown and I spent several hours with "Naitch" that lasted well into the middle of the evening/early morning. He had several family members with him and Ric seemed really to be having fun. Ric's schedule with the WWE had been somewhat ambitious in Ric's view as Ric was one the road as much or more than he had been with his wrestling schedule in his later career. Nonetheless Ric said he was having a great time as a "Good Will Ambassador" for the WWE when we spoke. I do know that Ric had apparently received several offers to do numerous outside projects that were beyond the parameters of the WWE and that he seemed keenly interested in doing. Since the memorable Hall of Fame/Wrestlemania retirement weekend that really sent Ric off in style, Flair's popularity is arguably at an all time high. There is no doubt that Ric can stay very busy over the next several months and earn significant money in the process. On a personal level and after knowing Ric for parts of 3 decades, I would submit that Ric needs business structure in his life and hopefully his management team can provide that all important element. It would be like my pals ZZ Top handling all phases of their business including the financial end, tax planning, travel, scheduling etc and still be expected to be "on" and perform as is expected of them. Secondly, I hope that Ric doesn't succumb to a big money offer to actually wrestle. Any one who would pitch that idea doesn't have Ric's best interests at heart.
My boyhood hero Mickey Mantle once told me that when he started doing autograph shows and paid meet and greets that his income soared far and above what he earned as a baseball player for the New York Yankees. Plus it allowed "The Mick" to step back in the spotlight in a controlled fashion which is and always will be important to those that have enjoyed the adrenaline rush performing before large crowds of adoring fans provides them. I hope Ric can enjoy as much success on a professional and a personal level in his new surroundings and that he manages all phases of this new career as wise as is possible.
Flair is a creature of television as it is that medium that has made Ric Flair one of wrestling's all time greatest stars. It may not be on a wrestling show but I would bet a case of J.R.'s BBQ Sauce that we have not seen the last of "The Naitch" on some sort of a reoccurring basis on television. Bottom line is that I simply want the "Ric Flair Story", whatever it may be, to have a happy ending.
Yours truly had a chance Tuesday afternoon to sit down with Todd Grisham and Matt Striker and offer them some advice and a few dos and don'ts as it relates to wrestling broadcasting. Michael Cole, Tazz, and Joey Styles also contributed to the team effort. Striker is a natural fit at the announce desk or as a wrestling manager and considering that wrestling managers don't seem to be in vogue at this time then Striker's skills are best utilized as we saw Tuesday Night on ECW. The former NYC school teacher sat in for Tazz who in turn sat in for a healing Mick Foley on Friday Night Smackdown. With Foley's status as it is, I would not be surprised to see both Striker and Tazz back in the same, fill-in roles that they fulfilled this week on next week's ECW and Friday Night Smackdown broadcasts. I also thought that Todd Grisham did a really nice job in his second week on ECW after replacing Mike Adamle who is the new, Raw G.M.
It was nice seeing my old friends Gary Juster and Neal Pruitt Tuesday night after the show in Atlanta. Gary was one of the few individuals who was with WCW on day one and lasted until they closed their doors. Gary's was the top promoter for Jim Crockett Promotions and promoted many NWA/WCW events in such cities as Baltimore. Gary and Neal were both great guys to work with of which there wasn't an over abundance of in the politically charged, upper management inept, Turner owned, WCW. Having a man like Bill Shaw, whose persona reminded me of an evil Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry and who seemingly had little respect or appreciation for the art form of pro wrestling in charge of the division was ill fated from the get go. One would have thought that Shaw had been from the territory wrestling days as he had the art of being an unassuming con man down pat in my opinion. Many suits in WCW looked down their noses at the wrestling business and did all they could to distance themselves from the product and only made token overtures to the genre when it had a short run of financial success.
For fans of MMA, as I happen to be, don't kid yourself one second that this Saturday's UFC PPV from Minneapolis isn't a "must win" scenario for Brock Lesnar. From what I hear, and this isn't official but what sources tell me, the UFC can actually cut Lesnar if he loses his first two fights and as we all remember that Brock lost his debut by being careless and allowing his inexperience to be exposed. Heath Herring, Lesnar's opponent in Lesnar's home town of the Twin Cities, is a veteran of many, many high profile fights over the years and Herring has far less pressure on him going into this fight than one would assume Lesnar has. Plus, when I heard that Lesnar attended the biker rally in Sturgis this past weekend it concerned me for Brock's sake. Lesnar does not need to be riding motorcycles prior to a major fight if he indeed did so. I am pulling for Lesnar and think Brock can win against Herring but I am also not going to be surprised if Herring "upsets" Lesnar who would then have to start his MMA career essentially over and most likely for considerably less cash. Perhaps this is the case in all or most MMA fights, but I am particularly interested in how the first round of the Lesnar-Herring fight shapes up....if it goes past round one.
New Raw G.M.Mike Adamle did a solid job Monday night much to the chagrin of apparently an ample amount of Adamle haters. Being any brand's G.M. is infinitely easier than being a member of any brand's broadcast team. It would not surprise me to see Adamle settle in, get comfortable, and over exceed the expectations of his critics.
The doctor to the sports stars, Dr. James Andrews, of Birmingham, Alabama, who has operated on a LONG list of WWE stars is going to consult with New York Yankee pitcher Joba Chamberlain regarding Joba's arm problems. Joba is in good hands as Jim Andrews is by far the best orthopedic surgeon in America and has put many, many of wrestling's greatest stars back together.
The Green Bay Packers, an organization that I have long followed and respected, have completely bungled their dealings with the face of the franchise, QB Brett Favre. I am a player's guy as a rule and this matter has been a complete embarrassment to the Packers, Favre's family and the national Football League. No one has won as of yet and no one is likely to. The only thing that can be guaranteed out of this train-wreck is that there will be bad blood and hurt feelings resulting from this matter that will linger for many years.
Have you noticed the amazing number of college football players, and NFL players too for that matter, that are being disciplined by their teams for detrimental conduct? This issue almost feels like it is approaching an epidemic stage. A great deal of this has to do with the way these young people are and have been raised, in the age of entitlement, and the fact that these naive kids love to see themselves talked about on the Internet, sports talk radio and on TV. This is illustrated by all the self promotion during College Football's National Signing Day in February. I see this problem as a major issue for people in wrestling management as time goes on which speaks to the importance of the recruiting and training process. There is no fool proof system but there are plenty of checks and balances one can put in place to address matters before they fester. Too many individual agendas in any locker room is poison and cannot be condoned. In wrestling, the problem can be slowed, but not completely eliminated, when a major star or two are sent home for matters other than the more publicized wellness issues. I am pleased to have gotten out of talent management when I did because I don't think I could be overly objective at this stage of the game when it would come to addressing chronic attitude issues with young talents who feel that they are owed something. "Solve the problem or eliminate it"...quickly...was my philosophy...rightly or wrongly. The team must always come first and a productive albeit competitive locker room is one that can produce great results for all involved. The MMA groups are having to address these issues thoroughly as well to not further enhance an unfair, negative public image particularly in the infancy of laying the groundwork for their new sport that has as much global potential as any existing professional sport.
Final note on MMA....please address with the fighters and their management teams to try and come off a little more professional during their post match interviews on TV/PPV as they sound like wannabe, independent wrestlers with their irreverent ramblings and bush league delivered mentions for their "sponsors". As a fan I would rather hear about the just ended fight than where these guys train, etc.
Mr. Kennedy dislocated his shoulder Monday night in Macon in a match with U.S. Champion Shelton Benjamin and looks to be out of action for a few weeks depending on the results of his latest MRI.
We'll have another blog soon. In the mean time you can check out my weekly Smackdown columns and my WWE Fan Nation blogs all at www.wwe.com. Thanks for stopping by and we appreciate everyone's business.