So I said rectum, damn near killed 'em! Welcome back to a MONDAY, MONDAY, MONDAY edition of the Wrath of Tito. I just remembered that I owe the world a Ric Flair book review and today is the best day for it. My little 4 week "vacation" is coming to an end after recovering from hernia surgery, so it's back to work for me. I'm feeling pretty good today, too. I'm all healed up and almost fully recovered (I probably can't lift anything heavy for 2 more weeks), my fantasy teams beat some major ass in football this week, and the NFL is back. I love September and October for sports, because baseball is either heading into the playoffs or playing their playoffs, while the NFL begins and EVERY GAME COUNTS in that league. To quote McDonalds, I'm loving it!
I can't say that I purchased the Pay Per View last night called WWE Unforgiven. I just had no incentive to watch it, neither did the usual suspects I watch those shows with. Therefore, I won't give you a full review of that show today. However, anyone can look at the results, which I did, and question why Triple H became World Champion again. The WWE totally gave up on Randy Orton. Now granted, I'm very critical of Randy Orton. IN MY OPINION, he wasn't over as a heel when he was made champion. IN MY OPINION, he wasn't ready for the World Title based on his believeable wrestling ability. IN MY OPINION, you can't get over as a face if you're not over as a heel. Plus, I actually think fans saw through HHH vs. Randy Orton, given that Orton is basically Triple H's apprentice backstage. Their wrestling styles are VERY similar. Orton was struggling badly as a face champion because he was pushed too soon to the World Title. I'd argue that Randy Orton was only a marginal Intercontinental Champion AT BEST!
However, the WWE had plans for Wrestlemania 21 to have Triple H defeat Randy Orton for the World Title. However, we've seen it already at Unforgiven. If you're going to headline Wrestlemania 21, of all places, with that match, then this show has to be looked at as damaging the Wrestlemania 21's main event title match for RAW. The WWE should NOT have let Randy Orton beat Chris Benoit at Summerslam. That was wrong on many levels and Chris Benoit was a stable champion. Usually, ratings go down after Wrestlemania, but with Benoit as champion, business stayed steady. Benoit, in my opinion, was a guy that many loyal wrestling fans wanted to see as champion and were willing to keep watching with him as champion. If the WWE wanted Orton to win the title so bad, they should have waited another PPV or so after Summerslam to build up a better feud with Benoit (remember, Orton won a Battle Royal to earn the title shot and only had 3 real weeks to hype his title shot) OR the WWE could have waited on the Evolution turn. They should have let the title cause controversy within Evolution instead of having Flair and Batista instantly siding with Triple H the night after. You know, like maybe have Batista side with Randy Orton and Flair with Triple H. If would have been fun television, but noooooooo, the WWE pulled the trigger way too early on Orton's face turn.
Now granted, the match had a bunch of run-ins from what I'm reading so it will keep Randy Orton looking like a strong contender? Whatever. He couldn't get a Pay Per View title defense as champion. Every title winner deserves at least that. Instead, the belt goes back on the Black Hole of the WWE, Triple H, as he'll suck the wind out of the WWE's sails once again. Many will suggest that Triple H is a better champion. I'll then say look at 2002 and 2003 when HHH was champion and see what great ratings those shows did. HHH has destroyed many careers as champion (Jericho, Rob Van Dam, Booker T, Kane) while not busting his ass with lethargic former WCW stars (Nash, Steiner, and Goldberg) to make fans want to buy those headlined Pay Per Views. Seriously, HHH gave himself 2 Pay Per Views to feud with Nash and Scott Steiner. God, those were miserable. HHH gave nothing in the matches with Jericho, RVD, Booker T, and Kane, while destroying them through the storylines (does Katie Vick ring a bell? Does calling Booker T "not championship material" ring a bell? Does feuding over Lucy the dog ring a bell for Jericho? Well, I can't argue with Rob Van Dam and his Triple H impersonation ["you just spit out your water and go grrrrrrrrr!"]).
It's a joke. Now, I'll give props to the WWE for recognizing that Randy Orton wasn't ready for the title by making him lose last night. All the props in the world. However, why didn't they notice this when Orton was IC champion or in his early stages of the feud with Chris Benoit? Why didn't they realize that Randy Orton has yet to put up a great match? Many will cite the Foley match at Backlash, but I don't. Orton's only great match of 2004 was the RAW after Summerslam against Chris Benoit, who carried Orton's ass bigtime. I don't see how the WWE saw that Randy Orton, at his young 24 years of age, was ready for the Title. This guy probably has a good 3 years before he actually hits his prime! He's an investment worth waiting on instead of instantly pushing him to the top.
If I were the WWE, I'd put Orton in feuds with Flair and Batista instead of Chris Benoit. Chris Benoit deserves to be in the World Title feud because Benoit is still in his prime AND is title worthy! Benoit has a nice title reign from Wrestlemania through Summerslam and has CREDIBILITY to be in a title feud. I have a feeling that HHH will want his "jobs" back, so look for Benoit to probably be inserted into the Orton vs. HHH feud and probably predict that HHH vs. Benoit will be at Survivor Series. HHH will give it a great match because he'll know who's retaining the title. It's unfair to depush a proven champion in Chris Benoit. However, it IS fair to depush a proven failure as champion in Randy Orton. Give him the Intercontinental Title and let him learn some more. He definitely needs it at age 24. Give him a few years and he'll definitely be ready. In the meantime, you have a roster with HBK and Chris Benoit, two guys who are still top notch performers. In a few years, they can help put Randy Orton over when Orton's in-ring ability shows he's ready to be champion.
Man, the lazy bug really hit me this week. No Smackdown or NWA-TNA. Sorry! I do have the timer set already for RAW, so I should be here tomorrow or Wednesday with another column.
ON TO THE FLAIR REVIEW!
The book is 332 pages long, but using a smaller font. This book is LOADED with content, a worthy look at Ric Flair's long wrestling career. It's a shame that people like Chyna, Rock, Kurt Angle, Bill Goldberg, Lita, and the Hardy Boyz have written biographies. Their wrestling careers aren't long enough, yet, to have a big wrestling biography written about them. However, with guys like Ric Flair, Mick Foley, Dynamite Kid, and even Diamond Dallas Page (his age plus AWA managing career?) have long enough careers to discuss. Plus, those guys were either retired or at the tail end of their careers when writing those books. Flair's book and 3-disc DVD cover a long career and that's what fans are buying.
This book is the absolute best co-authored WWE book. I can't say best book because Mick Foley's first book was actually written by Mick Foley and it remains the most descriptive book around because it's from Foley's head. However, comparing this to top WWE co-authored books like Hogan, Angle, Hardyz, or Steve Austin, Ric Flair's is by far the best. Keith Elliot Greenberg is a fantastic co-author, as the book seems as though Ric Flair is actually talking to you. The book is heavily opinionated, too, which shows Ric Flair had more involvement with his book than other wrestlers. This book has apparently been in the works for years.
Flair's book follows a pattern. Ric discusses his career from start to finish with an occasional tangent with regards to his personal life and other wrestlers. I was pretty amazed at how much of a party-animal that Ric Flair actually is. Flair's had a lot of sex and a lot of drinks in his day, truly living up to the Nature Boy gimmick. This was even before he broke into the pro wrestling business. Flair joined the AWA through Ken Patera, going through the usual painful training that Verne Gagne was famous for. After a while, Ric joined the NWA where he'd wrestle through the late 1980's when Jim Crockett's promotion became WCW and Flair wrestled for WCW through 1991. Flair talks about his WWF career, 1991-1992, and then to his WCW return in 1992 through joining the WWE in 2001. Throughout this timeline, Flair's had his injuries, emotional breakdowns, backstage political battles, and personal conflicts.
I was surprised, though, to see Flair talk about his emotional breakdowns. During the parts of Flair's career where the booking seems to against him in WCW, he really felt miserable and let the arrogant bookers get in his head. Why the 2002 scuffle between Flair and Bischoff happened was because of Flair's built up anger created by Eric Bischoff. Flair was actually pretty depressed during his early WWE run, lacking confidence in his performances despite the McMahons and the rest of the WWE telling Flair how much they loved him. A big uplifting moment was the tribute after HHH vs. Ric Flair in Greenville, SC. My eyes actually watered reading that section, as Flair went into heavy detail on what it meant to him. I've been following Ric Flair since late 1988 when my uncle introduced me to NWA/WCW on TBS and have followed Flair (even met him at an autograph signing) for the rest of his career. And as much as I dislike Triple H at times, HHH has been a great friend for Flair since Flair's WWE return. Flair even gave HHH one of his old World Titles!
This book was awesome with regards to a career and life. The only thing I noticed that he left out was his incident on the "Flight from Hell" during 2002 when RAW superstars went a little overboard on the partying. I'm assuming that Flair is ashamed of the incident (as he was trying to clean up his drinking during this time) or that he can't legally comment on it because of a lawsuit brought up by the flight attendant he flashed! Given what Flair has revealed about himself in this book, it could have been fair game. Otherwise, I can't think of anything he really left out?
And now, the meat and potatoes of the Flair book, at least based on the controversy. I have to say that I can see Flair's side of the story on every instance EXCEPT one. His comments on Bret Hart with regards to Owen Hart was a bit off to me, based on what I've read from Bret Hart AND from Martha Hart's book. Flair said "It seemed to me that Bret cared more about getting "screwed" in Montreal than he did about Owen's death, and he used his brother's tragedy to grind his axe with Vince". Fine, if you want to criticize Bret's drawing ability or moveset, that's fair and opinionated, but what Flair said about Bret about Owen was somewhat slanderous.
The rest of his comments, though, you can definitely see Flair's point. I was shocked to hear Flair's Bruno Sammartino comments, as Flair didn't hold back. Flair said that Sammartino shouldn't talk down on the business that made him a good financial life and that if Sammartino was really good, why didn't the NWA in St. Louis think much of him when he came there? Ouch... I liked the honesty used by Flair when talking about the Von Erichs. Poor Flair had to wrestle a severely drugged up Kerry Von Erich on numerous occasions. I pretty much guessed Flair would have words about Dusty Rhodes's me/myself/I booking practices, but Flair still said he respected him. Very honorable. I've always been under the assumption that Dusty played a big role in Flair's exit in 1991? But who knows, as I've heard so many sides of the story that it makes my head spin.
The comments made by Ric Flair against "Macho Man" Randy Savage are of the exact opposite of what Bret says about Savage. Flair said that Savage couldn't improvise in the ring, stating that Savage wanted to PRACTICE matches in a ring at his home. Flair backed that comment up with problems Ricky Steamboat had with Savage's idea of planning matches. Secondly, Flair said that Savage's paranoia over Miss Elizabeth just screwed up Savage mentally. Finally, there's a big debate about the September 1, 1992 Saturday Night's Main Event taped match between Ric Flair and Randy Savage. Bret blames Flair's inability to listen to Vince's plans for Vince calling for Savage and Flair to redo the match, while Flair states that Randy Savage just wasn't into the match because Savage's life was going into shambles with the upcoming divorce to Miss Elizabeth. Both are good, legit sides to the story, and in my opinion, Flair made a good case with regards to Savage. Savage was good, but heavily flawed in several aspects.
I agree completely with his comments on Mick Foley. Foley was very critical of Ric Flair's booking during 1994, the year Mick Foley left WCW for good. Flair made me laugh when he said "When I first started on the booking committee, Foley was working as Cactus Jack and doing an angle where he was living in a homeless shelter. I admit it - I didn't know what to do with a 300 pound guy living in a homeless shelter.". I agree with Flair in that it took the WWE to make Foley famous with the Mankind gimmick, and even that took 2 years to gain momentum. Hell, I love Foley, but he was a big part of the WWE machine that Vince, Rock, and Austin were making famous. Foley IS a "glorified stuntman", as his biggest claim to fame are the famous bumps and poundings he's taken. Look at how many times the WWE airs the drops from King in the Ring 1998. How has he put HHH, Rock, and Randy Orton over? From taking severe beatings!
With the remaining comments on Bret Hart, I can see Flair's side of the story (although is see a lot of Bret's too). Bret CAN be inflexible with his moveset, as I always laughed when Scott Keith referred to them as the "5 Moves of Doom". I understand Flair's stance on saying Bret should have dropped the title to Shawn Michaels, even though I side with Bret Hart on his problems with Shawn Michaels and Bret's contract obligation. Bret Hart, the president of his own fan club? You could say that, but I've always thought that Bret was more of an advocate for respect in the business than someone who thinks his shit doesn't stink. I await and look foward to Bret's eventual biography, if and when he releases it.
Good to see Flair didn't hold back when it came to Hulk Hogan. I completely forgot about Hogan whipping David Flair to death with the belt. One thing, before I wrap it up, that I enjoyed was Flair's friendships with wrestlers. Arn is Flair's best friend, clearly, and Flair put his neck on the line several times for Arn. Flair has nothing but respect for the NWA wrestlers (Harley Race, Wahoo, Dick Murdoch, Dick Slater, Terry Funk and others) who taught Flair the business. I was touched by the story where Flair met up with Roddy Piper after the Greenville, SC RAW and how Piper loved the tribute. Flair and Piper have had a strong friendship for a while (the Dominican Republic story has a funny conclusion, especially how Piper was "paid").
LAST WORD: Controversial? Yes. A great book? Hell YES! I always enjoy a good wrestling book where wrestlers show honesty towards a federation or wrestler. Other than the Owen mention, I can see Flair's side of the story regarding his criticisms of certain workers. The book is well written with its co-author making it seem as though Flair is talking to the readers. Flair's book is very descriptive on each moment of Flair's career and is highly recommended by yours truly. [ A+ ] and I'll call you insane if you don't go out and get this book!
Is this the best wrestling book ever? Great question. I'll still give the nod to Mick Foley only because his book is autobiographical. It's a close second with Diamond Dallas Page's book as well as Dynamite Kid's book. But as far as co-authored WWE books go, Ric Flair's book is the very best of those and is highly recommended. In fact, I believe everyone should read Mick Foley's "Have a Nice Day", Dynamite Kid's "Pure Dynamite", Diamond Dallas Page's "Positively Page", and Ric Flair's "To Be the Man". The next best books, in my opinion, are Roddy Piper's, Hulk Hogan's, Kurt Angle's, Hardy Boyz's, and Bill Goldberg's. Check them out!
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