AS I SEE IT 4/7: Ric Flair's famous final scene

Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets

"Think of seasons that must end...
See the rivers rise and fall...They will rise and fall again
Everything must have an end
Like an ocean to a shore...Like a river to a stream
Like a river to a stream...Its the famous final scene...

Now its finally time to leave...yes, its finally time to leave
Take it calmly and's the famous final scene
It's been coming on so long....

Now the lines have all been read...and you knew them all by heart
Now you move toward the it comes, the hardest part

Feeling different, feeling strange...this can never be arranged

As the light fades from the screen, from the famous final scene.

Bob Seger, The Famous Final Scene, Stranger in Town, 1978

Damn you, Vince McMahon, you made me cry last Monday night.

Thank you for doing it. Thank you for saying goodbye to an era the right way.

I know I'm not the only person with tears in his eyes after la! st Sunday night. Or the only person who felt a whole lot older.

Or the only person who was prouder of what the wrestling industry can do when it puts its mind to it, as we saw last Monday night. It seems like moments like this only seems to happen when someone well known and loved within wrestling dies.

Not this time.

March 31, 2008 saw the reunion of the Four Horsemen for the first time since 1988, and seeing JJ Dillon, Tully Blanchard, Barry Windham, and Arn Anderson together was some really powerful stuff. Given all that's gone down in the wrestling with many of those four and Vince McMahon in those 20 years, it's probably only Ric Flair's retirement that could have gotten them assembled together on a WWE broadcast.

It saw an entire locker room come out, with no kayfabed restraints (OK, except for Undertaker, who came out after the show went dark), expressing their love for the man who turned most of them on to the artform called professional ! wrestling.

Not "sports entertainment", but professional wrestli ng.

The era where there was a difference may well have ended on March 31, 2008.

There was once a world where Saturday mornings were for wrestling. The first wrestling I saw was the Sheik's wrestling (quite by accident, accidentally) on CKLW Channel 9 in Windsor, ON, adjacent to Detroit. A few years later, as my family moved to the Philadelphia area it was WWWF (and later WWF) on TV.

Then there were the days of Ric Flair and the NWA. Like I said a couple of weeks ago, most of us nationwide outside the Carolinas saw Flair live for the first time on the old WTBS Georgia Championship Wrestling show, going at it with Roddy Piper and a young Ricky Steamboat. In Philadelphia, we first saw Jim Crockett's NWA World Wide Wrestling show, on a Spanish language cable feed of New York's WXTV Channel 41.

After a while, the station realized the cross-over audience they were getting in our area, and had commentator Hugh Savinovich drop in English language match i! ntroductions. Finally in 1984, it occurred to Jim Crockett Promotions that they should buy time for World Wide on English language television, which wound up on WPHL Channel 17 in Philadelphia to advertise what would become the beginning of live shows at the Philadelphia Civic Center and at the Meadowlands in North Jersey.

Those of us in Philadelphia who were being force-fed the cartoon show being offered by Vince McMahon and the WWF, welcomed Ric Flair and the NWA as the first real alternative to the WWF, given that ECW and even its predecessor Joel Goodhart's Tri-State Wrestling were years in the future.

Ric Flair was something special. He was colorful, loud, but unlike Hulk Hogan, he was also hardworking, athletic and skilled enough to work for 30, 40, or 60 minutes every night. The Philadelphia Civic Center became the place to be every month to see Flair and the Four Horsemen if you were a wrestling fan with a brain who appreciated a product that didn't in! sult your intelligence like the WWF's Titan Toon Adventures of the tim e..

Last Monday night also took me back to WCW Monday Nitro, September 14, 1998, when Ric Flair returned to WCW TV after Eric Bischoff's legal and personal vendettas kept him off for all too long.

It was a recognition ten years before this one, but even so, it says things better than I'm capable of, and makes my feelings these ten years later (but what feels like a lifetime or two ago) crystal clear:

Tony Schiavone said "One week ago, ladies and gentlemen, when Mark McGwire hit 62, you'd always know where you'd be on that day; well, at 10:38 p.m. Eastern time on Monday, Sept. 14, you were a part of wrestling history. He is back!"...

After a long ovation, Ric Flair told the wildly cheering crowd "When I see this, I know that the 25 years that I spent trying to make you happy every night of your life was worth every damn minute of it."

Watching that moment when Ric Flair returned to the Carolinas to a thunderous ovation, the likes of w! hich seldom been seen.....with Ric Flair coming out in tears....reminded me of the power that the art form we all call wrestling on our emotions....even more so when those moments aren't just "good TV"...but real life. Even though this business we follow is based on a work...the best, and the most moving in wrestling are those that are moments from real-life.

Yes, wrestling moments like that can move our emotions....and in those special moments, it should. On March 31, 2008, in Orlando, FL, it did once again.

Once more, thank you, Ric.

Until next time...

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