Nowadays, Ric Flair and Bret Hart get along just fine. However, in the past, they were not the biggest fans of one another. Not by a long shot! Here, they each explain why the other is “not the legend he’s cracked up to be!”
Ric Flair On Why Bret Hart is “No Wrestling Legend”
“I feel sorry for Bret Hart.
He is a legend in his own mind. He lives in his own little world.
He has the nerve to compare himself to me.
Let’s get realistic. If you put Bret Hart in your left hand and me in your right hand…compare the career.
Who is Bret Hart?
I wrestled everybody in the business – for an hour each night.
Harley Race, Dory Funk, Jack, and Jerry Brisco…I’ve been around. I know who’s been successful; I know why they’ve been successful, and I know who’s good and who’s not good at what they do for a living.
My opinion can be held second to none.
I’m the only guy that’s wrestled everybody – from Bruiser Brody to The Rock.
Bret Hart…( Ric laughs)…he came from a very strong family that was very well recognized and very highly thought of. But here are the facts…he never wrestled anybody except in the WWF.
Never wrestled Brody, never wrestled Hansen, never was a big star in Japan, never went to St.Louis.
When the WWF was hot, he was in the Hart Foundation – he didn’t have to draw any money. He just rode around on Hogan’s coattails.
And when they made him the champion, he couldn’t draw a dime, and they couldn’t wait to get rid of him. When he came to WCW, he bombed.
Does that make [him] a big star?
In my world, he is a nobody. He is a piss-ant in the history of wrestling.”
Bret Hart On Why Ric Flair is “Only a Legend in His Own Mind!”
“Flair says [in his autobiography ] that I believed my own press and convinced myself that I’m the best there is.
When I boast about being the best there is, it is because of three reasons…
The first and most important is that I never injured any wrestler in any way despite my physical style.
This is something in which I take a lot of pride, and I don’t know of anyone who worked a schedule on par with mine for as long as I did who can truthfully make that same claim.
The second reason is that in the fourteen years I was with the WWF – often wrestling three hundred times per year – I missed but one match (and that was due to a canceled flight.)
Again, I don’t think anyone who worked that schedule can truthfully make that claim. Everyone on the road worked hard, but I was proud to be counted among the handful of guys with an exceptionally dedicated work ethic.
The third reason is that I never once refused to put over a fellow wrestler throughout my career – except at Survivor Series ‘97 [versus Shawn Michaels].
Self-promotion was an intricate key to any wrestler, making it in the business.
Ric Flair convinced a legion of fans that he was the best in the business – and there’s nothing wrong with that.
He even convinced himself.
But his peers – the guys who worked with him night after night – know better. How could any fan know what kind of a worker Ric Flair really is without actually working with him?
I remember Ric Flair and Bobby Heenan coming up to me in the dressing room in Nashville on May 6, 1989. I was in the Hart Foundation at the time, and Flair told me he was ‘honored to shake my hand.’
I had never seen him work.
Being on the WWF road schedule made it nearly impossible to catch any wrestling matches on TV because we were almost always working or traveling when wrestling was on. From what little I saw of the NWA, my impression was that their TV show was poorly produced and made the wrestlers come off as second-rate. Despite that, I’d been led to believe, like everyone else, that Ric Flair was the best in the business. I always wondered if he was the best, why wasn’t he in the big league WWF? His popularity at that time was largely concentrated in the deep south.
I appreciated his compliment and hoped I might have the chance to work with this legend someday.
About a year later, Flair was the head booker at WCW, and he made me an offer to come work there for money good enough that I had to seriously consider it. As it turned out, Flair was unable to back up his offer, and the deal fell through when he nervously reneged. I lost respect for him and his word and smartly chose to stay put in the WWF instead.
Eventually, Flair showed up in the WWF with the WCW belt, and I was somewhat surprised when he shamelessly crapped all over the history of the territory that made him by not giving them their belt back. To this day, I don’t know what would make him hurt his fellow wrestlers and their struggling company like that. [But] I admit I don’t know all the facts on this.
Flair was trumpeted into the WWF with great fanfare, and at last, one night in New Haven, I was thrilled to defend the IC belt against this great legend in an unscheduled dark match that was taped for Coliseum video. I knew more about ring psychology and real wrestling at the ripe age of nine than Ric Flair knew in his entire lifetime – yet out of respect, I let him lead the match.
Ric suggested a finish that called for me to do a flying cross body where he would subsequently catch me and stagger backward with the two of us toppling over the top rope only to be counted out for the finish. It was a simple but risky move that I’d done countless times before with lesser wrestlers, but at the end of the match, when I dove into Flair, he stood too far from the ropes, mistimed it, and he simply didn’t have the strength to catch me, so we fell down in an embarrassing heap.
Ric suddenly came up with a new makeshift finish that, not surprisingly, benefited him and not me. It absolutely stunk, but these things sometimes tend to happen when two wrestlers work together for the very first time.
Although the match had been taped and can still be seen today, I wasn’t going to make any kind of a big deal about it, but back in the dressing room, I was annoyed to hear Flair pointing out to everybody that somehow I had messed up the finish, implying that I was still a young up and comer. If you understand wrestling, you know that all I could do was dive into his arms and the rest was up to him. He proved to me, right then, that he was full of it and was no legend at all.
Ric was an old fox that took such liberties every time he thought he could get away with it. You’ll find nary a wrestler that would describe me, Savage or Foley as backstabbers or sneaky liberty takers – but with Flair, you better take a number!
I remember Flair worked with Randy Savage, who, like me, was led to believe the same crap about how great Flair was when they had a Saturday Night’s Main Event TV match in Hershey on September 1, 1992. [Flair] somehow became WWF champion. Vince McMahon carefully constructed an elaborate storyline for this very important match. I was standing right next to Vince, watching the match live on a backstage monitor, when Vince blew his stack as he watched Ric do absolutely nothing he told him to do.
Ric has never been able to do anything, but his one routine match, which consists of cartoon high spots borrowed from Jackie Fargo and midget wrestlers, along with an assortment of tired old ripped off Buddy Rogers’ high spots. My dad always called Flair a ‘routine man’ – because he did the exact same routine every night and was forever stuck with it.
An angry Vince met Flair as he came through the curtain, and he furiously ordered both Flair and an exasperated Randy to march right back out and redo the entire match the way he’d told them to do it!
Even then, as I remember it, Flair was still unable to impress Vince.
Personally, I would have been shamed with embarrassment to ever put the promotion, myself, or my opponent through such a farce! I recall telling Randy that I thought Flair was, ‘Thirty minutes of non-stop non-psychology,’ and Randy shook his head and laughed along with me at how true it was.
I can tell you first hand that Ric Flair was not a great worker at all.
Yes, he did hilarious interviews, but, to my taste, I never thought a world champion was supposed to be hilariously amusing. Granted, Flair was entertaining to watch – and there’s nothing wrong with that.
In fact, much like Hogan, Flair’s magnetism and charisma distracted from and offset his limited ability in the ring. The single greatest contribution that Flair ever gave to pro wrestling was the ‘Wooo’ from his silly chops. First off, chops hurt – and in my opinion, they look like crap.
For Flair to demean Randy Savage and Mick Foley [in his autobiography] is outrageous! In my opinion, as someone who has worked with all three of them (and everybody else from that era too), Ric Flair couldn’t even lace up Randy and Mick’s boots! They were both hard workers and exciting innovators who at least made every possible effort to put on some kind of a different show from night to night. Either one of them could call a great match anytime they wanted. So what if Randy wanted to put in an even greater effort by designing a great match in excessive detail? That is a quality, not a flaw, and Flair is too lost in time to grasp it.
Sure, Flair could call a match – the exact same one over and over, talking and telegraphing every move!
If old-time shooters like Ed Strangler Lewis or Frank Gotch were to look down from the heavens, I’m sure they’d be more impressed with Randy and Mick’s realism and psychology than Flair’s phony chops and upside-down flips into the corner – where amazingly he somehow landed right on his feet – only to jog down to the next corner, where he climbed right up and – even more amazingly – took ten or fifteen seconds to maneuver his opponent’s hands carefully onto his chest so he could take a phony [flip] back into the ring!
If done on rare occasions, such silly routines, because they are highly amusing and entertaining, often go undetected for how ridiculously phony they are.
But this pathetic routine was performed every time Flair went blank. Let me tell you; he went blank all the time!
As for Ric’s criticism of how my comeback was repetitive, all I can say is that I felt that, logically speaking, why wouldn’t I break into my patented arsenal of best moves before going into my finish? I did, in fact, change it up from time to time, but I also recognized that most fans completely understood what I was doing. It made as much sense as doing the same finishing move every night, except my finish was a series of moves. The fact that Ric took exception to this is a simple example of his inability to fully understand ring psychology.
The day after I wrestled Davey at Wembley at SummerSlam ‘92 in front of 86,000 fans, I flew to Baltimore. They were playing a tape of the show in the hotel bar, and I was watching a tape in my room when there was a knock at my door and low and behold, both Randy and Flair stood there beaming. They each shook my hand, and I remember Flair excitedly grinning and praising me, saying, ‘Brother, that was the greatest match I’ve ever seen. The greatest!’
For Ric Flair to say that I wasn’t a draw is just plain ridiculous.
I’m very sure that I sold enough tickets throughout my career. Who is he kidding? Everyone knows that WCW wrestlers worked in front of empty chairs in empty arenas most of the time. All one has to do is watch Flair’s DVD to see the empty seats and the exact same match with every opponent, whatever their shape or size.
After Vince made him redo his SNME match, his days were numbered in the WWF because he clearly wasn’t what he was cracked up to be.”
Watch Ric Flair and Bret Hart Face-Off in Saskatoon in ’92:
“Six weeks later, Flair was told to lose the belt to me in Saskatoon on October 12, 1992.
As I understood it, Flair declined to put me over on TV – despite the fact that he himself had just told me that Wembley was the best match he’d ever seen! Let alone that I was the biggest draw the WWF had in Europe and all the foreign markets, consistently main-eventing in front of, not [just] sold-out buildings, but entirely sold-out tours! And I had a very strong following in North America too.
The WWF was reeling from sex and steroid scandals at that time, and I was seen as a safe bet to carry the belt, in large part, because I worked hard, and I kept my nose clean. When I won the title in Saskatoon that night, I came back to the dressing room with a dislocated finger and a rolled ankle, both as a result of Ric failing to tell me what he was doing in the ring. (I generally never got hurt.)
I worked with Flair every night for a while after that, and I finally went to Vince totally exasperated and told him that I thought that Ric was intentionally sabotaging my matches every night since I’d won the belt.
To be honest, Ric always worked hard, but nothing he did in the ring ever made sense.
Just when he’d masterfully worked my leg, he’d suddenly grab a headlock and call a long series of running high spots! Just when we had the crowd ready to burst, he’d call some lame spot that would kill all the heat we’d built up, and I forever found myself shaking my head at how we’d have to build it up all over again. Most of what Ric called made him look like a world-beater, and in some matches, I’d blast him with fifteen or twenty terrific-looking working punches only to see him never go down but then finally wobble and take one of his pathetic and comedic face bumps. Sometimes he’d do his upside-down flip into the corner two or three times in a row, and in one match, only days after I won the title, he called for a small package out of a figure-four and pinned himself without even giving me a comeback!
When I finally went to Vince, he scolded me and told me that I was his champion and from here on in to take charge of my matches and that Flair ‘Wasn’t as good as he was cracked up to be.’
I was trying to respect Ric at the time, but since he was heading back to WCW, I had no choice but to take control.
A few months later, when I found out I’d be having a one-hour marathon match at the Boston Garden with Ric, I came up with a brilliant storyline that I ran by Vince, who loved it. When I ran it by Flair in the dressing room the night of the show, he immediately interrupted me and began telling me what we were going to do instead. I finally had to cut him off and sadly dressed him down in front of several wrestlers, saying, ‘Ric, I’m the champion, and this is how it’s going to go.’
He dropped his jaw, turned red, and took his seat, saying, ‘You’re the champ.’
He never ever got over it either.
Scott Hall was there and often told this story to other wrestlers for years. Sadly, old Ric still managed to mess up the timing for every fall, in what I could only see as intentional. At the time, I was furious to read in Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter how Nature Boy Ric Flair carried me for the full sixty minutes!
Ric Flair never carried me, ever!
Years later, I spoke with Meltzer about it, and we cleared the air when after hearing my perspective on it. He agreed that he didn’t have all the facts and told me that he’d never seen the Boston match, which was reported to him by a fan who was there. If anything, Flair was not only notorious for sucking up to the office but generally took liberties with his opponents who had been convinced that he was going to make them. If you watch Flair’s matches, you’ll see that he usually made himself at the expense of his opponents, something I was famous for not doing.
Enough about this so-called ‘great’ worker. He was a three dressed up as a nine who left his opponents second-guessing their own abilities after working with him.
Randy Savage, Mick Foley, and Bret Hart have been doing just fine outside of the world of wrestling. What else has Ric Flair got?
I’d like to punch Ric Flair right in the nose – but I’d probably have to kick somebody in the ass to do it! In the infamous words of Dick Cheney, go fuck yourself Ric – and be glad that someone like me doesn’t shove your head squarely up your ass someday.”
Whew! Some strong words there from both legends. Of course, now this is all behind them. Nowadays, the Ric Flair and Bret Hart feud is over, and they consider themselves to be close friends. But boy, wasn’t it fun reliving this war of words between the two humble WWE Hall of Famers?
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Sources used in this article: prowrestling.com, LAW Radio Show, The Sun, WrestlingEpicenter, Off the Record, brethart.com
Quotes above originally compiled by Matt Pender and shared here with thanks to our friends over at ‘Wrestling’s Glory Days’ Facebook page.