Why Carlito has lost his cool
Ric Flair's moans of agony drowned out boos directed at Carlito as the Caribbean Superstar crept up the ramp.
"I hope you choke on your apple, Carlito!" one fan yelled.
However, Carlito didn't seem to hear anything. He was transfixed on the "Nature Boy," his former mentor who he had just flattened with two vicious "Backstabbers" -- a modified backbreaker he used to call the Backcracker -- after their match on Raw, and spat the remnants of his signature apple onto the fallen legend. Carlito's eyes bulged with a rage that our fans were not used to seeing in the young Superstar. They were more accustomed to seeing a laid-back, apple-munching Carlito who talked about the virtues of being cool.
But since attacking Flair and trashing the mentor-protégé relationship they had developed over the past several months, Carlito has been more intense, more fiery -- hell-bent, it seems -- on proving a point. "Naitch" thought he was helping Carlito when he questioned his passion and then took him under his wing. But he has awakened a monster.
"I was sick of people doubting Carlito, doubting his passion, doubting his heart, his desire to succeed," Carlito told WWE.com. "I was especially sick of Ric Flair. I never needed Ric Flair. I don't need anybody's guidance. I'm a second-generation wrestler."
Carlito is the son of wrestling legend Carlos Colon, the equivalent of the Nature Boy in the Caribbean. If the South is "Flair Country," then Puerto Rico is "Colon Country." Colon held the World Wrestling Council Universal Championship 26 times in his 30-plus year career, battling several legends and challenging Ric Flair for his World Heavyweight Championship on occasion. Many of our fans may not realize that the Flair-Carlito relationship didn't begin in front of WWE cameras. They first met when Carlito was a child watching his father battle the Nature Boy.
So, Carlito has grown up in the sports-entertainment business. He has learned from not only his father, but several other greats. However, he has rarely mentioned his legendary father openly or his wrestling pedigree -- until now. Flair's questioning his passion and his attempt to mentor him deeply insulted Carlito.
"My father was one of the greatest wrestlers -- if not the greatest wrestler -- ever, next to me," Carlito said. "Who the hell does Ric Flair think he is, trying to take me under his wing, trying to make me his protégé? He should be studying me; he should be taking notes from Carlito. I don't care if he is a 16-time World Champion or how long he's been around. I'm better than him. I'm better than he ever was, even in his heyday."
Most Superstars would kill for the opportunity to be mentored by Ric Flair. And the 16-time World Champion doesn't take an interest in just anybody. When Flair ripped Carlito in February on Raw for leaving the show early, he was talking not only as a man who lives and breathes the business. He was speaking as a legend that was seeing a young star take his talent for granted and squandering his potential.
Forget his Sideshow Bob hairdo and love of apples; Carlito is one of WWE's most talented, young stars. His WWE career started with a bang in 2004 when he defeated John Cena for the United States Championship in his first match. Carlito followed that up with more gold in 2005, when he won the Intercontinental Championship -- a three-month reign that was ended by Ric Flair.
After the championship loss to Flair, Carlito seemed to lose direction. He hosted a short-lived show called "Carlito's Cabana." He failed to get key victories in matchups against Superstars such as Randy Orton, Jeff Hardy and Rob Van Dam. Perhaps most telling is Carlito's absence from WrestleMania -- he has competed at only one WrestleMania during his nearly three years in WWE. For someone who defeated John Cena in his first match with the company -- for someone with this much talent and charisma -- Carlito should be considered among the elite in WWE. But he is not, and may be considered an answer to a Cena trivia question instead.
Flair believed that Carlito had become content with his career, and wanted to see if a star from the Caribbean had the same fire and desire his father had. Carlito welcomed Flair's advice, and the two looked like they were primed to make a run at the World Tag Team Championship. But a series of losses ate away at Carlito and he blamed everyone -- Flair and gal pal Torrie Wilson -- except himself.
Now Carlito is alone and ready to show the world that he belongs among WWE's greats. Though he lost to Flair at Judgment Day, he took him to the limit by targeting his shoulder and back, two chronic weak points in Naitch's career. And he showed Flair that their war was personal when he tried to hurt him after their match ended on Raw.
Carlito says that Flair will learn the hard way that he is great -- because he was born that way.
"Being a second-generation Superstar helps, but I'm naturally-gifted too," Carlito said. "I was born into greatness. Even if I just learned it yesterday, I'd still be better than the guys walking around today -- especially that washed-up fossil Ric Flair. He and other people are just jealous because they see Carlito doesn't have to work as hard as they do to succeed."