To Be The Man
by Ric Flair with Keith Elliott
Description:Since the 1980's, there has always been one diamond in the world of professional wrestling. He has set the standard for guys like The Rock with his custom made million dollar suits. He has set the standard for guys like Shawn Michaels with his charisma and work ethic. He has set the standard for guys like Chris Benoit with his second to none wrestling style. Who is this man? No, he's not Hulk Hogan. He's not Randy Savage. He's not Bret Hart. He is the limousine riding, jet flying, kiss stealing, wheeling dealing, son of a gun. "The Nature Boy" Ric Flair.
Finally, we have the story that chronicles the life of Ric Flair. I could not put this book down. From his heartbreaking story of being stolen from Memphis, Tennessee as part of the scandal at the Tennessee Children's Home Society and being sold to a family in Minneapolis to the post-Raw tribute to Ric Flair in Greenville, South Carolina, this is a great read. You'll be charmed by road stories of greats such as Harley Race, Ray Stevens, Ricky Steamboat, and Wahoo McDaniel. You'll laugh when you hear stories of Terry Funk. You'll be sad when you hear stories of his battles with Eric Bischoff. You'll be shocked when you hear his views on Mick Foley, Hulk Hogan, Dusty Rhodes, Bret Hart, Vader, and The Montreal Screwjob. You will be surprised at how his first WWE stint came to an end and how Arn Anderson reacted to being mocked by Kevin Nash.
It was amazing how this story grabbed me and sucked me in for the 350 page ride of the life of Ric Flair. This book is also very well written. It stays in chronological order and doesn't go off on too many tangents. It has many pictures. The quotes are very well placed in the book. It is amazing to see views on Flair from Arn Anderson, Chris Jericho, Shawn Michaels, The Hurricane, Triple H, and many others.
Rating: This book is a must read for all wrestling fans. The master of the figure four leg lock has so much in this book to offer. And I give it 5 Woooos.
Reviewed by HBKKID1017 on February 20, 2005.
Eric Anderson wrote in with his review:
An absolute must read. I couldn't put it down from the time I bought it, to the time I finished it. Flair is brutally honest about everything from Dusty Rhodes to WCW. He is not cocky or arrogant. He does not try to sell you a story of "I'm the greatest ever, bow before me" like Hogan in his book, he simply tells it like it is. Another example of putting your heart on your sleeve. Naitch co-wrote a great book, and I'm almost hoping that there's a sequal. 9/10.
Cecile Gallant wrote in with his review:
Couldn't put it down. Read it 3 times it's such a great book. Flair is honest about his personal life and it proves that he is a real man. A must read for any wrestling fan. Stongly recommended!!!
Mason Raige wrote in with his review:
Few will argue that Ric Flair is a certified legend, and perhaps nobody in this business has as much longevity and staying power as The Nature Boy. In an illustrious 30-year career, Flair has captured 16 World Titles and the admiration of millions of fans worldwide. Moreover, there isn't a wrestler today who doesn't cite Flair as an inspiration and a role model. However, his autobiography, To Be the Man, falls quite short of the hype that Naitch creates when discussing his adventures in his famous promos. The jet flyin', limousine ridin', kiss stealin', wheelin'-dealin' son of a gun may claim to have taken a lot of ladies to Space Mountain, but his book reflects a man nearly broken by the business with a king-sized ax to grind. Overall, Flair comes across as a near-emotional wreck who safely puts the boots to those who can't hurt him while kissing up to those who can.
What's most interesting about Flair's book is the fact that his character is nothing more than a rip-off of Buddy Rogers and Dusty Rhodes. Flair himself admits that several times in his book. He literally stole his look and moniker from Rogers; hell, he even stole the figure four, his famous finisher, from the original Nature Boy. Flair also deliberately copied everything about Dusty from his ring attire to his actual moves. "Whatever Dusty did, I did." While reading this book, the reader has to question how Flair has impacted this business so much by being one in a million when he is nothing more than a self-admitted rip-off artist. People always claim that Hogan was just in the right place at the right time, but can be the same be said for Flair? Just something to think about. How ironic is it that wrestling's biggest inspiration stole just about everything he is known for?
Flair's life story seems perfectly created for sports-entertainment, beginning immediately at his birth. Calling himself a "black-market baby," Flair paints a picture of a discarded newborn who ended up in the hands of two loving adoptive parents who couldn't control him. Flair claims to be the Nature Boy before getting into wrestling. He says, "I was always a chief, never a follower." However, he followed Rogers and Rhodes throughout the early stages of his career. It's contradictory statements like this that makes Flair's story tough to swallow. As the Nature Boy, he's projected himself as an incurable sex addict and consummate champion wrestler. However, a lot of Ric Flair's story is far from glamorous and borders on pathetic at times. While one can applaud Flair for being honest, do readers really need tell-all books from wrestlers? After reading this book, I'm not too sure.
Flair fell into wrestling on a chance meeting with Ken Patera and does a nice job of recreating wrestling when it was all territories and kayfabe. He clearly discusses how the NWA worked and goes into great detail about the championship selection committee. Flair includes great anecdotes about how his career developed and how his family fell apart, which allows the reader to develop a strong, personal connection to Flair. With inserts from Patera, Harley Race, David Crockett, Kevin Sullivan, Bobby Heenan, and countless other legends plus words from Flair's wife and kids, the reader is offered a variety of views and opinions, which makes for an interesting read. Flair also excellently recaptures some of his most storied feuds in great detail, including his wars with Rick Steamboat, Sting, and Dusty Rhodes. These parts of the book are definitely worth reading.
While a lot of Flair's stories are gripping, it's his opinions on certain wrestlers that leave me with a bad taste in my mouth. Flair destroys wrestling's nice guy, Mick Foley, by calling him a "glorified stuntman" and "not a wrestler." Flair was firing back on Foley for Foley's opinions about Flair's booking ability. In Foley's book, he does speak his mind about Flair's management role in WCW, but Foley is neither malicious nor petty. Flair is. The Nature Boy also rips apart Bret Hart and basically calls him a hack who uses the same moves all the time in his comeback. Ummm, Ric? Have you ever watched one of your own matches? You're the king of doing the same spots all the time! Backdrop, flip into the turnbuckle to the outside, press from the top rope after getting caught, etc. Come on! Hey, far be it from me to criticize Ric Flair's in-ring work, but this is truly a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Flair, to his credit, does include some very interesting commentary about Hart's refusal to drop the belt in Montreal. He also has some not-so-flattering words about Randy Savage and Psycho Sid Vicious/Justice, whom he calls a useless musclehead." Spicy stuff here.
Now, I'm not saying Ric is isn't right on the money with some of his judgments (Sid), but why he opts to damage Foley and Hart for no apparent reason isn't clear to me. Flair has every right to share his feelings (it is his book), but it seems like his only justification for attacking Foley and Hart is to sell copies. He also does a number on Hulk Hogan but admits the truth that Hogan did in fact draw money, a fact nobody can dispute. However, Flair's number one target in his book is Eric Bischoff. Flair basically publicizes his hatred for Bischoff, WCW, and Monday Nitro because of the way he was used and treated there. Are his points valid? Yes! But this is the same Ric Flair who brought their World Title to the then-WWF. Again, this appears to be another contradiction by the Nature Boy. The book is filled with them.
As much as Flair despises Bischoff, he admits that the Nitro engineer really did a number on Flair's confidence. Flair allowed Bischoff to temporarily fill him with self doubt, but guess who was there to pick up the pieces? The McMahons and Triple H. How coincidental that Flair spends the latter part of his book putting over Vince and Co., the ones who control his fate and permit the 56-year-old athlete to keep performing. For this reason as well as others stated above, To Be the Man at times lacks authenticity, which is a big negative in an autobiography. While it's clear that Flair does owe The WWE some gratitude, it's a bit bizarre that one of wrestling's purist wrestlers credits Vince McMahon for saving wrestling and the Nature Boy.
If it seems like I'm putting down Ric Flair the wrestler, I'm not. He's a true credit to our sport. But Ric Flair the writer seems to have more in common with Ric Flair the booker. It's time for wrestlers to stop writing these tell-all books that further hurt the business. What do you think?
Oh, by the way, Wooooooooooo!
For more on the author, check out www.MasonRaige.com or his profile on OWW by clicking here..
andrew Lee wrote in with his review:
In an age where every wrestler has to write a book, there is definitely one man that deserves this right more than any other wrestler. That man is Viscera, and I can't wait for him to write one. No seriously, if there had to be any wrestler to write one, it would obviously be Flair; the man is wrestling and his book defines what wrestling is all about. Now, I am a fan of wrestling and I have read every wrestling book from Foley's to Tributes to the crappy "Tales from Rescal Lane" and I must say, Flair's book (along with Blassie's and Foley's first) stand head above the rest. This is what every wrestling book should be like. Flair tells us about his past, only when it has to deal with wrestling in some way. He shows us the inner circle of the industry and gives his two cents on major angles that he's been in and wrestlers he's worked with.
Yes, sometimes the truth is harsh. We've all heard about his rants on Foley, Hogan, and Hart, but were we really expecting anything less? We bought and read the book for that reason, to read what he really feels away from the ring, away from the cameras.
While reading Flair's book, I couldn't help but remember Foley's first book which was equally great. Even though Flair's was ghostwritten, it was amazingly on topic and seemed very realistic to Flair's words, just like Foley's book. The only difference is, Flair's tale is more complete and more diverse. Come on, Flair's is the career that keeps going. And as we read from the beginnings of regional wrestling to his own struggles of self doubt, to where he is now, we can't help but see that Flair, unlike his gimmick, truly is a humble guy. The way Flair praises some wrestlers to his own self-evaluations truly make him even more special and more knowledgable.
We buy wrestling books, not because we like personal life stories, or inspirational tales. WE READ WRESTLING BOOKS, BECAUSE WE LIKE READING ABOUT WRESTLING. And from beginning to end, Flair gives us that and then some.
Rating from 1 - 10 = 9 (only cuz he used a ghost writer, he should have wrote it himself, he could do it.)
To Be The Man
Ric Flair (with Keith Elliot Greenberg, edited by Mark Madden)
WWE/Pocket Books, Pp 463 | 2004
The title to Ric Flair's autobiography comes from his classic taunt to opponents, "to be the man, you've got to beat the man". Flair (born, Richard Morgan Fliehr) received the devastating news that he was stolen from his birth parents and adopted via the black market. It was the start of a life of troubles for Fliehr - and, despite being a gifted athlete at school and doing the best to accept the parents that gave him a home - he never really knew who he was. When he met Olympic weightlifter-turned-wrestler, Ken Patera, he was set on the path to discovery. Becoming Ric Flair was the closest Richard Fliehr ever got to becoming himself.
Flair is one of the most legendary names in professional wrestling - at 57 he is still actively competing in the ring! Hulk Hogan may be the movie star, but Ric Flair is the method actor. In fact where Hogan's character has created a platform for larger than life characters, oozing charisma, to follow suit (Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, John Cena) Flair is a wrestler's wrestler - and he too has set a benchmark and there are names that deserve to be bracketed behind him (Brett Hart, Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle) - Flair exudes integrity, determination, grit - and above all, a superb command of in-ring skill and technique. Ric's erm, flare, is that he was able to combine his athleticism and technique with decent microphone skills (right when promos were starting to be cut, when interviews were becoming important; he was second only to his good friend Roddy Piper) and enough of a gimmick - the flashy, sequined robes, the appropriation of 2001 A Space Odyssey's 'Also Sprach Zarathustra' as his entrance theme and the wild, party-boy image - and it was the combination, the total package, that sold Flair as a name to watch in pro-wrestling.
To Be The Man is a superb book - apart from the wrestling stories, and Flair is full of them, from partying hard on planes in the 1970s and 1980s with Piper, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Dusty Rhodes and many other legends, this is the story of a man who escaped his own tragedy by immersing himself in a role he was, clearly, born to play. The "Nature Boy" Ric Flair character, a ladies' man, a jetsetter/go-getter worked, because it was who Flair became, both in the ring and out. And To Be The Man recalls this with, at times, painful honesty. Other wrestling autobiographies have moments of harsh emotional honesty (Roddy Piper, William Regal, Shawn Michaels) but with Flair it is just one facet of a huge, enduring story. His love for the industry is felt on every page - and of course, with such a colourful in-ring (and out of the ring) character, there are some genuinely hilarious moments to break up the pathos. The late 1980s saw Flair struggling to remain relevant, at a time when wrestling was changing - and stories were being told out of the ring more and more, he still wanted to tell his tale inside the squared circle. He reinvented himself to a new generation as an old war-horse, but by the mid-90s he was in trouble again. There's a high count of desperate hours in Flair's life (and in his book) but he perseveres and prevails at every turn. And when Flair describes the joy of his family life - his love of his children - it is a happiness that seems especially hard-earned.
All of these human factors make this a wonderful book - but it would be an amazing story no matter how it was told. Luckily, Greenberg has captured Flair's very essence, and that same raw fighting spirit; that never-quit attitude; that sell-every-move high level of spectacle that Flair has delivered in every single one of his matches not only whips between the ropes and bounces across the ring mat, it is those very same attributes that leap from the page - each and every single page in this quality autobiography. There is no question: any wrestling fan must read this.
Reviewed by Simon Sweetman on March 3, 2006.
Joe L. wrote his review:
After years and years of dealing with wrestling autobiographies that are as fictional as Walt Disney movies, we finally get one that is intelligent, accurate and-most importantly-honest. It's even better when it comes from arguably the greatest wrestler of all time, Ric Flair. The Nature Boy's autobiography To Be the Man is brilliant, provocative and deeply informative stuff that joins Mick Foley's books as one of the greatest wrestling autobiographies of all time.
One of the reasons this book is great is how Flair views wrestling in a positive light. He views it not as a sport but as life, as something meaningful. You would never hear that from the snobbish sleaze called the media because they always look down at wrestling like it were a pariah. Flair's coverage of professional wrestling ranging from his training with Verne Gagne to his early NWA-days when he took on Dusty Rhodes and Harley Race to his booking tenure in the NWA to his backstage conflicts with Jim Herd, Eric Bischoff, Hulk Hogan and Dusty Rhodes is dripping with great research and human triumphs (title wins, Sting, Royal Rumble 1992) and tragedies (70's plane crash, disbandment of the original Four Horsemen, Bischoff), which is something that Keith Oblierman wouldn't dare to say.
Another reason this book is good, as stated, is its honesty, honesty, honesty. Wrestling autobiographies today are nothing but bloated ego-trips. How can anyone read a Hulk Hogan, Goldberg and Chyna book and not roll their eyes in disbelief? Arrogance at its worse, especially from wrestlers who contradict truth from fiction (that goes double for the Hulkster). Ric Flair, on the other hand, tells it the way it really happened without ever succumbing to narcissism. Not only that but he also tells everything in great detail and never leaves anything behind (his confrontation with Shane Douglas, the Starrcade 1993 celebration, Flair finally avenging himself on Bischoff, his phone call with Herd that was the last straw in going to WWF, etc.). Flair even takes vicious jabs at Hulk Hogan, which is something the Hulkster would surely deny repeatedly.
When it comes to a contest between Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair on who is the greatest wrestler of all time, it shouldn't surprise anyone on who the chose would be. Hogan was a terrific entertainer and a large draw but an inept wrestler, a formulaic worker, an egomaniac and glorified showman while Flair revolutionized in-ring psychology, mat-based wrestling and of course, the promos. Oh, how I love Flair's promos. More often than that, only those who are uninformative, biased and are lazy or ignorant to research something like Flair's book would choose Hogan as the greatest wrestler of all time and that is a fact.
It seems the book had come under heavy criticism due to Flair's negative portrayals of certain wrestlers. In other words, critics do not want to hear a guy who expresses how he feels. What, you would rather enjoy hearing lies and not face the truth? Flair's honesty and his views on wrestlers, wrestling, promotions, executives and his family are what make this book so remarkable and who else but Flair would comment that Bruno Sammartino was not a "great wrestler?". And anyone who'd call Brutus Beefcake an idiot is a hero in my eyes. Criticizing Flair for attacking wrestlers is irrelevant. The man is entitled to his own opinions and we should respect that.
Sometimes his opinions can be a bit extreme. The only minor flaw is that Flair's opinions can alternate from minor issues (The Nasty Boys, Dusty Rhodes, Bruno) to downright vicious (Sid Vicious, Shane Douglas, Bret Hart), which could upset a reader who is not up to this kind of material. But Flair's autobiography was never meant to be a childish storytelling like Hogan or Goldberg's and given the way his wrestling career folded, this issue is somewhat forgivable.
Nevertheless, to say that Ric Flair's book is an amazing, provocative read is an understatement; it is a welcoming breath of fresh air after dealing with the one-sided, politically incorrect fairy tales masquerading as autobiographies. I cannot recommended this book enough to any wrestling fan. Hell, you don't even have to be a wrestling fan to read this. Get it now before it goes out of print.
Rating: Strongest recommendation.