Rolling on with Part 4 of the five-part "My Wrestling Favorites" series, once again highlighted will be one of my five "current" favorite wrestlers and one "all-time" favorite. Don't forget that you're always encouraged to give feedback via the blog itself, e-mail, or our Facebook Fanpage.
1 of 5 All-Time Favorites: Ric Flair
Whooooooo, indeed! It's really hard to have not loved Ric Flair at some point in his career. Even if you don't care for what he's become, Flair has undoubtedly entertained you in some shape or form in the past forty years. Whether it was his portrayal of a cocky heel escaping defeat by the skin of his teeth, brash and eccentric leader of the Four Horsemen, crazy mental home escapee, or pro wrestling's elder statesman, Flair is another of the greats with a firm grasp on how to reinvent himself.
Much is out there about Flair's failures away from the squared circle. No one is basing their love for "The Nature Boy" character on those facts. While Flair himself may not be able to separate the business from real life, any true fan should. The character of Ric Flair garners so much respect that even the referees hold the ropes open for the legend. That is the kind of legacy that Flair carved out for himself in the ring.
Flair's in-ring career may have been more of a roller coaster ride than any other. Fans are still shocked to see photos of 300 pound Flair when he was first starting out. Not much more than enhancement talent, Naitch's early days in the AWA were a far cry from what he would become. A trip to the Carolinas, the region that would eventually become synonymous with Flair, was exactly the ticket to stardom. Teaming with already established talent such as Rip Hawk and Greg Valentine was a mere stepping stone, albeit a star-studded one, for Flair in his quest for greatness...or shall we say...a Flair for the Gold.
The 1980's would arguably be the era in wrestling most associated with Flair. Certainly he and Hulk Hogan would be the two top stars of the decade, each ruling different promotions in very distinct ways. While Hogan was the ultimate hero of the WWF taking on never ending heel challengers, Flair ruled the NWA as the heel champion, generally accepting challenges from all comers. Two different booking styles for two very different fanbases.
After a fun early '90s WWF run, Flair's career seemed to take a downward spiral. Following Hogan's 1994 arrival to WCW, Flair's stature fell greatly. In my opinion, Flair's legacy suffered from this point until his WWF return in late 2001. Flair has stated himself that he lost his usual self-confidence during this time. It's difficult to say whether it was due to backstage power or just bad booking choices, but thankfully Flair's legacy of "The Greatest of All-Time" was well restored by WWF/WWE within the last decade.
While I feel that Flair should still be retired from regular active ring competition, I also feel that he'll always have a place in the business. The Nature Boy makes a very good, and credible, manager/coach type figure and should be used as such. Remember...diamonds ARE forever...and you know the rest.
1 of 5 Current Favorites: Samoa Joe
I have been a fan of "The Samoan Submission Machine" since long before he ever received that moniker. I mentioned in an earlier entry in this series that there are certain wrestlers that simply LOOK the part--like a wrestler. Joe would certainly qualify there. He's always reminded me of Don Muraco...plus. The fact is that Joe has the ability to go far beyond the heights Muraco reached.
I've discussed before what I felt to be the "glory" days of indy wrestling. These were the times in which the independent circuit was chock full of top-level talent. CM Punk, Christopher Daniels, and Samoa Joe were hyped as the next big things...and chances were that if you attended enough indy shows you were bound to run into one of them.
I did not get to see Samoa Joe live until he'd already signed with TNA, but I was already a fan. Smaller guys doing the moves that indy guys do is one thing, but to see a big semi-monster doing those things? That was Joe.
Joe also seemed to avoid being sucked into anything too gimmicky. The longstanding story is that Samoa Joe was offered a WWE contract but turned it down due to the WWE creating the Umaga character for him to portray.
After signing with TNA, Joe was initially used perfectly. His feud with Kurt Angle is one of the most underrated stories to come out of the near decade that TNA has been in business. Each of their main event matches had a "big fight feel" and "real sports build" to throw some Internet wrestling buzz phrases out there.
In 2009 TNA decided to almost turn Joe into their own Umaga. Joe began wearing face paint and his wrestling no longer seemed to have the hard hitting realism that it once did. Many feel that Joe is now on the cusp of returning to the main event scene in TNA, and I certainly hope that is in fact the case.
Though I'm not holding my breath for it to happen, I would still love to see what WWE would do with Joe. Although he doesn't have the typical "look" for a star in WWE, it would be an amazingly fresh concept for the company.
Regardless of which company he is with, if Samoa Joe is on the card there is at least one match that I will look forward to. Joe is a great blend of both past and present in-ring styles and one of the few current stars that I believe would've succeeded in any era of the industry.