Ric Flair has a knack for making people talk wherever he goes.
It's just in his nature (no pun intended).
But his recent appearance on behalf of WWE to help promote the new WWE 2K14 video game has landed him in some hot water.
Not with the game company that sponsored and paid for the event; but, according to reports, with WWE.
WWE management reportedly was upset over comments the Nature Boy made during a 75-minute symposium in Los Angeles that was moderated by Hall of Fame broadcaster Jim Ross and included Steve Austin, Mick Foley, Paul Heyman, Dolph Ziggler, Daniel Bryan and Rey Mysterio.
According to sources, 2K, the company that produced and marketed the game commemorating 30 years of Wrestlemania, was ecstatic over the publicity that Flair generated. Game company management also was said to have loved Flair's animated participation on the panel.
WWE, however, not so much.
Flair, among others, remains puzzled by the negative reaction among bloggers and websites.
He acknowledges that he was never given a script or instructions on what to say or do during the panel session.
He was merely being Ric Flair. And holding back has never been part of his job description.
But isn't that what made Flair so popular for all those years when he was widely regarded as the greatest performer in the business?
His mic work never was the brainchild of a creative staff, but rather the product of passionate, heartfelt sentiment and emotion.
Naitch shot from the hip long before the advent of tell-all, “shoot” interviews, and pushed the envelope back in the day when trend-setting interviews were a novelty.
Years later some critics claimed Flair would never fit in with the younger, hipper image that was being projected by a new generation of pro wrestling.
Those critics obviously had never received the memo that Ric Flair invented “wrestling hip.” He was cool when guys like Dwayne Johnson (The Rock), Michael Shawn Hickenbottom (Shawn Michaels) and Paul Levesque (Triple H) were mere youngsters emulating the Nature Boy.
Times have changed, though, as have corporate sensitivities and sensibilities.
WWE, once a trendsetter in its own right, apparently felt that Flair went overboard with some of his honest but colorful dialogue during a forum that was, putting it mildly, “bland” until the 16-time world champion took over.
Some Internet sites reported that Flair “hijacked” the evening. But saved might be a better word.
The discussion, up to that point, was — stealing an old line from moderator Ross — “bowling shoe ugly.”
As one viewer commented, “That was the most boring press conference on earth. It was painful to watch.”
“Until,” he added, “Ric started talking. “Then it really got interesting.”
Could anyone possibly have been surprised that Flair, who was wrestling professionally before some of the panelists were even born, had considerably more to offer to the discussion?
“They told me to entertain 'em and I did,” Flair said last week on a Steve Austin podcast.
It's a simple equation. You put Ric Flair on stage with a microphone, and he's going to talk.
He talked openly about some obviously sensitive subjects: drinking, marriage and ex-wives.
“Ric Flair had a little too much fun,” said one website.
Really? Is it possible that Ric Flair could ever have “too much fun?”
Another site reported that Flair and Ross “behaved oddly and appeared to be inebriated.”
“I've never gone to work drunk a day in my life,” says Flair, whose track record over the past four decades speaks for itself.
Ross, who has presided over many similar events in the past, defended himself on Twitter.
“Complete lie. I was not drunk. Ridiculous,” he stated.
In WWE's world, one doesn't bring up premature deaths (especially when drugs are involved), mention competing organizations (namely TNA), or steal the spotlight from new stars.
Admittedly Flair did all of the above.
Flair didn't pull any punches, though, when discussing the tragic drug overdose death of his 25-year-old son, Reid, just five months ago. Perhaps a video game symposium wasn't the proper forum for such a discussion.
But some of Flair's most personal stories have played out in a wrestling ring. That fact has only served to endear him to millions of fans over the years.
Like Flair told Eric Bischoff on a September evening in 1998 during a live Nitro at the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville: “It's real!”
That sentiment still resonates with fans from Charleston to Tokyo.
At age 64, and with an amazing 41 years in the business, it's highly unlikely that Flair will, at this stage in life, adopt a watered-down, politically correct style.
That's just not Ric Flair. Never has been and never will be.
But maybe that's what the “new WWE” wants. A PG Ric Flair who follows the script and tows the company line.
Perhaps, in the new reality world that WWE finds itself in, there's no more room for old-schoolers whose salty tales don't play well with the corporate types.
Flair, who won his first title during the Nixon administration and when streaking was the fad on college campuses, is a charter member of that vanishing breed. He understood the sacrifices it took to deliver the ultimate show, and he never failed on that count.
Most of today's wrestling stars and scriptwriters weren't even around when everybody else was finding out “what's causin' all this” (to borrow a famous line).
You don't ask Ric Flair to be Ric Flair, and then hold it against him for being Ric Flair.
WWE performers Alberto Del Rio and Drew McIntyre got into a tussle over Summer Slam weekend in Los Angeles — not with one another, but with bar patrons, according to sources.
Del Rio suffered facial injuries that were very noticeable, including two black eyes, during his Summer Slam appearance, and McIntyre ended up with two knots on the side of his head.
The incident occurred at an Irish pub the two were visiting near WWE's hotel.
On the shelf
Two of WWE's biggest stars — John Cena and Sheamus — will be sidelined for the next few months.
Cena underwent surgery Wednesday to repair a torn triceps.
“I plan on using the next couple months to rehab and get healthy as I can, as quickly as I can, Cena told the WWE website. “ My goal is to return to WWE healthy and strong, and since my expected time away is only six months, this shouldn't affect Wrestlemania.”
Sheamus (Stephen Farrelly) is expected to miss four to six months after undergoing shoulder surgery.
The surgery marked the first time the 35-year-old Dublin native had ever gone under the knife.
Mat over gridiron
Former Temple football player Morkeith Brown has signed a developmental deal with WWE.
According to OwlsDaily.com, Brown turned down an invitation to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' training camp in order to pursue a career in the squared circle.
Brown, 28, will be headed to Florida, but it'll be WWE's new training center in Orlando.
The 6-5, 255-pound Brown joined the Army right out of high school and was deployed to Afghanistan for 14 months from 2005-2006. Upon his return, Brown enrolled at Temple in 2007 and joined the football team in 2008.
He started all 13 games at defensive end during his senior year and was a team captain. After his college career ended, Brown worked out at the Bucs' camp before spending a season with the Philadelphia Soul of the Arena Football League.
Reach Mike Mooneyham at 843-937-5517 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at @ByMike Mooneyham and on Facebook at Facebook.com/MikeMooneyham.