You can blame a lot of things for the demise of World Championship Wrestling (and God knows Bryan and I did in The Death of WCW), but one thing that cannot be understated is just how poorly the company used Ric Flair in the last few years of its existence. Flair, one of their last, true, legitimate draws, was made to look like an idiot time and time again in the company’s dying years, as bookers seemingly went out of their way to bury him on a near weekly basis. In fact, come to think of it, they LITERALLY buried him in the desert in Nevada!
It never made sense to me. It drove fans away from the product, who were no doubt perplexed why their favorite star was made out to look like an idiot time and again.
If you think it was bad sitting in the stands, just imagine being the poor Nature Boy himself. A twenty-seven time or whatever the hell it was champion, and perhaps the man most synonymous with the name “WCW” being reduced to bit parts in goofball comedy sketches. It was surely enough to drive the guy insane.
The brain surgeons running the company apparently felt the same way, so in the storylines, Flair was COMMITTED TO AN INSANE ASYLUM.
Don’t believe me? Flair actually wrote about it in his autobiography: “Quite literally, I went from being the WCW World Champion to being a mental patient on television…on the April 26, 1999 edition of Nitro, there I was, in the Central Florida Mental Hospital…” Sadly, Flair doesn’t go into overwhelming detail in the book, so I thought it might be fun to revisit his stay in the loony bin here at The Crap.
The angle actually emerged from a storyline in which Flair and Roddy Piper were fighting over the presidency of WCW. It was never explained why, exactly, one would want to hold such a title for a company that was at the start of its incredible downward spiral. It was, however, a storyline so bizarre and convuloted that it took Bryan and myself nearly 1,000 words to just try to explain it.
And, if I might be brutally honest, I STILL don’t fully understand the angle, nor do I understand what WCW was trying to accomplish with it, other than to drive us all to the brink of insanity.
In the storyline, it appeared that Flair was almost over the edge himself. He had taken to stripping down to his boxers and dancing around the ring during interviews, and if that weren’t bad enough, he had come to the conclusion that he wasn’t just the President of WCW, he was the President of the whole gosh darned United States!
This created an opening that Piper felt he could exploit. By manipulating Flair’s son David, Hot Rod was able to get Slick Ric put in a straight jacket and taken directly to the nuthouse.
While the other inmates wore standard issue hospital gowns, Flair was decked out in his finest robes as he strut around to his heart’s content. It was all beyond bizarre, made even moreso by the fact that the “asylum” looked exactly like your average grade school gymnasium. I think I even saw a basketball goal in one scene.
I can only conclude that WCW, in the midst of losing $15 million for the year, felt they could ill afford an actual set. This was likely the only good decision they made the entire year.
And so Flair danced around and around with all the nurses, then dropped on all fours and challenged guys to take him down. Eventually, he was taken to the mat by Asya, who was introduced during this angle – like we need another reason to hate it.
And then one week, Scott Hall just appeared out of the blue in the psych ward as well. This was really beyond words, as Hall had been off TV for some time. It was never explained why Hall was in the mental hospital, and his appearance was never acknowledged by the announcers. Apparently, someone just thought it would be funny to put him in there for a cameo.
What was really funny was that Hall, despite almost never appearing on television, remained one of WCW’s most popular acts until the company’s final day. There’s something very sad about the fact that guys who weren’t featured on TV were somehow more popular than guys that were.
In Ric’s absence, he had Charles “L’il Naitch” Robinson take over the role of WCW President (of the United States). And this too was somewhat ironic, as the real WCW presidency seem to change almost as often as it did on TV.
Fortunately, Flair was able to leave his padded walls behind when Arn Anderson bailed him out. Please remind me, should I ever get committed, that I can leave by simply being bailed out. Maybe I should start a fund right now.
As stupid as this entire angle was, perhaps the most comical thing was the total lack of continuity. Three days following his being taken away, it was announced on Thunder that Flair had been released and was President of WCW again. Then, four days later on Nitro, the show opened with footage of Flair “still locked up.”
In other words, it was just business at usual at the insane asylum that was WCW.