Synopsis: The biography of WWE Hall of Famer and 16-time World Champion Ric Flair
I'm actually surprised that I've never reviewed this book before, arguably one of the most important wrestling biographies of all time. But even more surprising? My opinion of it has slumped somewhat since first reading it in 2004.
Let's go through the positives first: It's Ric Flair, baby! His accomplishments in the wrestling business for over 40 years won't likely even be paralleled. So much of what he's experienced has become part of history. Thankfully, Flair (along with Greenberg and Madden) don't skimp on the details, giving us color into everything from his training under Verne Gagne to his role in Evolution, and all points in between.
Normally, I don't care for the practice of other people inserting their own commentary into someone else's autobiography.... but in this case it works. Brief antecdotes from the likes of Ricky Steamboat, Ken Patera, Arn Anderson, Chris Jericho, Kevin Sullivan, Triple H, Steve Austin, Brock Lesnar, Dave Meltzer and even preliminary wrestler George South make a world of difference here in telling Slick Ric's life story.
What's special here is that Flair discusses his emotions unlike any wrestling book has before. It makes him more "human"; like many of us, he loses his confidence, battles depression and even has near-nervous breakdowns, despite living a lifestyle that most people only dream of. But before the publication of this book, no one ever knew that side of Flair. So kudos to him for being able to open up like that.
What I don't care for is the near-constant negativity towards other wrestlers. Many fans have already heard his "glorified stuntman" comments about Mick Foley, but he also tears into Bret Hart, Jim Herd, Ole Anderson, Brutus Beefcake, Jim Crockett, Scott Steiner, Sid Vicious, Dusty Rhodes, Paul Roma and others.
Is Flair to entitled to his own opinion? Of course he is, and to be fair (to Flair), he has equal praise for the likes of Shawn Michaels, Arn Anderson, Wahoo McDaniel,Triple H, Sting and The McMahon Family. But in most cases, the potshots seem unnecessary.
But to me, the most puzzling part is the absolute hatred he has towards Eric Bischoff and, to a lesser extent, Vince Russo and Hulk Hogan. He refers to Bischoff in To Be The Man as a "prick", an "asshole", and how people "don't come any dumber". It kind of makes me wonder why he went to work for those guys six years later. You know?
Now, I'm not privy to Flair's financial situation, but before he went off to TNA, and before he was working independent shows, conducting shoot interviews and hawking lottery tickets, Nature Boy was still on WWE's payroll with a fairly steady job. I have no idea whether that would be enough to pay the bills he had due, but I'd personally rather scrimp and save for a few years than work for someone I allegedly detest as much as Bischoff.
That's why this book bugs me a bit, in retrospect. Flair ends his autobiography talking about having the respect of his peers, and how Vince McMahon gave him a quality of life he hadn't had for years. It makes me wonder whether he's "working" the readers a bit, or if his priorities have really changed that much since 2004?
Overall Rating: Oh Hell Yeah! Despite my personal criticisms, it is a really interesting book, packed with fun stories and a unique perspective to the wrestling business. It's required reading for any historian of the industry, which is why I still have to give The Man his props. Wooooooooooooooo!
To Be The Man
Ric Flair (with Keith Elliot Greenberg)