I like to think I’m a pretty good dad, but I do have something of an odd toolbox when it comes to teaching my daughter about the world. I use Doctor Who to explain the concept of death, and doom metal to explain what a transgender person is. It’s just how I roll in life. And for reasons I could not adequately explain to you, I decided to teach some important life lessons to her recently using a WWE match in 2002 between the legendary “Nature Boy” Ric Flair and Brock Lesnar.
Some background: In 2002, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was a no-show on WWE Raw and Flair found himself tapped to take Austin’s place fighting the massive phenom that was and often still is Brock Lesnar. In later interviews, Flair, who was 53 when he entered the ring with Lesnar, talked about being terrified of performing with one of wrestling’s most brutal big men. I remember a similar story coming out when Bill Goldberg appeared on Dennis Miller Live in 1999. Hoisting the old Horseman up for the Jackhammer, Goldberg says, Flair whispered to him, "Kid, remember two things: Remember I love you and remember I'm 50 years old." My point being that long after most of us would have stepped out of something as dangerous as wrestling, Ric Flair continued working with some very dangerous people.
I was briefly a luchador in my youth, when tossing myself over the top rope onto an unpadded floor for $20 with no health insurance while dressed as a mime seemed to be a logical life choice. As my daughter acrobats through life with all my recklessness, I tell her stories of the ring, and something about her strut reminded me very much of Nature Boy one day. So I cued up some videos with her and watched some. I wasn’t much older than her when my aunt took me to watch “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Papa Shango wrestle at The Summit. She was immediately hooked.
I told her to watch Flair, as you can do in the video above. See how he is older, smaller and weaker than his opponent. Notice how he begs and waits for just the right moment, when Lesnar’s own body is blocking the view of the referee, for Flair to hit a low blow and even the odds. See how he increases his chances with another, and how he dives to take out the big man’s leg.
“He’s cheating, Daddy,” she said. I told her, yes, he is. Ric Flair is the dirtiest player in the game. He’s cheating to win, but look at the man he’s fighting. He’s younger, stronger and bigger. Indeed, Lesnar takes that match later after his then-manager, Paul Heyman, interferes and Flair winds up a victim of the F5. What hope did Flair honestly have against someone like Lesnar without a few tricks up his sleeve?
She was quiet for a minute, and I explained further. It’s not good to cheat. However, sometimes, more times than any of us would like, the odds are just not fair enough to win otherwise. Everything from The Bible to the modern race for U.S. President is full of people, great people, who sometimes cheat to win.
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And that sort of thing is important to me as a parent of a daughter in America, especially in Texas. There are rules all around, both written and implied, designed to keep her down. You have got to learn how to pick the locks of the doors slammed in our face. You have got to be ready to hit the low blow. You have got to be prepared to be the Nature Boy because the odds are as unfair to you as they are for an old man taking on a monster.
One of my favorite books is Barbara Hambley’s Dragonsbane, and it’s because of an early scene. A young noble, high on tales of valor, confronts the legendary dragon killer, John Aversin, about a legendary battle, and is horrified when Aversin explains he poisoned the dragon with spears and finished it off with an ax rather than the honorable duel the noble expected. That’s Ric Flair in a nutshell, and that’s the lot in life of far too many women and minorities in this world. I’ll let her read that when she’s older.
For now, there’s Flair, chest-shopping and WOOOO-ing through a battle he has little hope of winning, but, my, isn’t it a fabulous fight. I can think of no better example of the reality in life she will face.