'Woooooo!' Columbia, S.C., gives Flair 'Key to the City'
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Ric Flair fans packed into the City Council Chambers room at City Hall Monday morning to witness the "Nature Boy" receive the "Key to the City" from Columbia, S.C., Mayor Bob Coble.
Before introducing the 16-time World Champion, Coble asserted that, in his opinion, Flair has "more fans per capita in Columbia than any other city in the world."
"Ric has a great relationship with the city of Columbia," the mayor added. "We're delighted to honor him today with giving him the key and naming today his day in the city of Columbia."
"Naitch" then took to the podium with thunderous "Woooooo!" chants coming from the crowd. Flair was quick to point out his admiration for Columbia -- a city he first wrestled in back in 1974 and paid his respects to its residents, saying that the families in Columbia, S.C., are second to none.
"I'm thankful to be here. The fans in Columbia have been great to me for so many years. I'm very fortunate. I'm most proud of moments like this," a very emotional Flair said. "I've always had a really great relationship with South Carolina for a long time, and I have great respect for South Carolina. From Greenville to Columbia to Myrtle Beach, the people are very respectful."
Our fans were equally excited at the chance to witness up-close one of the most flamboyant Superstars in WWE history.
"Life is too short. I had to come out here to show my support. This is history in the making," said Stanley Richardson, 23, who has been a devoted Ric Flair fan since he was 8-years-old. "‘Nature Boy'… Woooooo!"
Mayor Coble acknowledged that the decision to honor Flair extends beyond his in-ring achievements. Coble told our fans that "Ric Flair Day" was motivated by the Nature Boy's commitment to uplifting Columbia's community, his work with Smackdown Your Vote!, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and inspiring youths when they need a role model.
"Flair's a celebrity; but he's a real person who really cares about fans and individuals. I can gladly say this having talked to many kids he's met, to the reporters that have traveled with him to the hospitals and having seen the news clips," Mayor Coble said about Flair's work. "I think that has provided a lot of hope and inspiration to a lot of people who are physically ill. I think that, more than anything else, tells you about [Ric Flair] the person."
"I think he's the greatest wrestler out there. It was an honor for me to be here and just to see him," said Amanda George, 11, who opened the ceremony with her singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner."
The "Key to the City" honor comes just six days before WrestleMania XXIV in Orlando, Fla., where Flair's career will be on the line against Shawn Michaels. Flair considers this to be one of the most important matches of his storied history in sports-entertainment.
"It's all a part of the process," said Flair, who on Saturday will become the first active Superstar to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. "A lot of people think I'm winding down and closing the shop, but I'm not."