J.R.'s Superstar of the Week - Ric Flair
Greetings from your barbecue-selling, Oklahoma football loving, road warrior who took 14 hours to get from Lafayette, La. to Norman, Okla., thanks to Mother Nature (who can be colder than a mother-in-law's hug) as the countdown is seriously on for WrestleMania XXIV.
This week's Monday Night Raw Superstar of the Week is really an easy choice when one stops and thinks about it. Monday's Raw was a "unique broadcast" to say the least, and many individuals had their "moments." But my choice as the Superstar of the Week may never get the opportunity to attain this recognition again. This week's winner has been a winner in my eyes for years, but more importantly he has been my friend -- "Nature Boy" Ric Flair.
Albeit "Naitch" had his hands surprisingly full with the hell-bent (hell bound??) Mr. McMahon Monday night in a bowling shoe ugly, bloody street fight. And with Ric's Career Threatening Match with Shawn Michaels on tap for WrestleMania, striking while the iron is hot as it relates to recognizing Ric in this space seems timely. I am not predicting that Ric will lose to HBK, which seems to be a forgone conclusion in the eyes of many, but Ric is obviously the underdog going into WrestleMania.
I hope Ric has a special moment this Monday night in "Flair Country" in Columbia, S.C., where he has entertained the masses for four decades. Monday night has the potential to be one of the most emotional Monday Night Raw broadcasts any of us have experienced in years. I hope the fans of the Carolinas pack the arena in Columbia Monday night on what may be their last time to see Ric Flair as an active wrestler.
(Speaking of the Carolinas, I am going with the Tar Heels of North Carolina to beat UCLA in my March Madness pool.)
Ric presented yours truly with a pair of red, patent leather boots that he graciously signed and are now framed and are proudly hanging in J.R.'s Family Bar-B-Q Restaurant in Norman, Okla., and will be in one of our stores for as long as the "J.R." name is on the sign. You can check out our classic photo gallery at www.jrsbarbq.com and use that address to send us feedback for our Q&A section, which is becoming popular.
The cocky Chris Jericho, who is the Intercontinental Champion for the record, is entertaining even though The World's Largest Athlete might not agree with that assessment. Is Jericho the pre-match favorite to win the eagerly-anticipated Money in the Bank Ladder Match at WrestleMania XXIV? An argument could be made to that point, but a Jericho victory isn't a lay-up. Nonetheless, the seven individuals who are competing in this high risk, high reward game of chance need to fully understand they have the opportunity to steal the show at WrestleMania if they all will themselves to the "next level."
Brian Kendrick taking a hike on his longtime tag team partner, Paul London, Monday night while the Samoan SUV, Umaga, was imposing his massively physical will on the duo was surprising, and I am curious if that matter will be addressed on Raw this Monday night.
It was not a good week for young Colin Delaney, whose homogenized milk complexion was clotheslined to Ireland and back from John "Bradshaw" ("I'm not a Quiet Man") Layfield. And then the next night, the young lad was stymied by ECW Champion Chavo Guerrero in his quest to earn a WWE contract.
Take this to the bank or not, considering the current financial issues in the USA, but the JBL-Finlay Belfast Brawl at WrestleMania XXIV will be nasty. (For the record The Quiet Man was a wonderful John Wayne movie that was filmed in Ireland in the early 1950s and is one of my all-time favorites. The missus and I have a signed Wayne and co-star Maureen O'Hara publicity photo from that classic cinema.)
Big Show's fist measures 15", which is freaky, and all 15" were utilized when Show goose-egged Jericho Monday night with one huge punch. Whether Floyd "Money" Mayweather realizes it or not, there will be plenty of physicality between him and the 441 pound Show at WrestleMania XXIV, which has to scare the living hell out of the boxing and pay-per-view community. One wrong move by The Greatest Fighter in the World in this one and it's "thanks for coming, Floyd."
The Triple H-arranged John Cena-Randy Orton team taking on 17 members of the Raw roster Monday night was unique, to say the least. Orton and Cena had to co-exist if for nothing else except self-preservation. I suggest we will see a new WWE Champion crowned at WrestleMania XXIV simply on the basis of the rules where the first man to score a pin or submission wins the match and leaves with the gold. There is no "championship advantage," whereby the champion can retain his title via disqualification or contour. The Cerebral Assassin mentally out-executed his WrestleMania adversaries Monday night, and on the final Raw prior to WrestleMania XXIV, it will be most interesting to see if it is Triple H, Cena, or Orton that gets the final upper hand on WWE's flagship broadcast.
Tough week last week for the talented Jeff Hardy, a young man I like a great deal, as he was suspended without pay and then had his home burn down in rural North Carolina. My thoughts and prayers are with Jeff during this challenging time, and here's to hoping he makes it back to WWE in 60 days or so better than ever. One can certainly make a valid argument that few Superstars in WWE were more popular than Jeff Hardy during the latter part of 2007 and the early portion of 2008.
Finally, our condolences to the family and friends of wrestling manager Gary Hart, who passed away last Sunday in his home near Dallas. The "Playboy" phoned Michael Hayes on Saturday and left the Freebird a message that Michael never got a chance to return. Hart was one of the all-time great managers in wrestling and is generally considered in the top 3 to 5 of the best ever. Hart was instrumental in helping facilitate the legend of the "American Dream" Dusty Rhodes in Florida, the masked Spoiler, The Great Kabuki, The Great Muta, and was the brain trust behind the creative structure of the Von Erich-Fabulous Freebird rivalry that set World Class Championship Wrestling on fire as those reoccurring issues arguably were pro wrestling's hottest issue of the 80s. There were no shades of gray with "Playboy" Gary Hart: His TV persona was 100 percent villain.
Be well and count your blessings.
Be sure to check out J.R.'s Family Bar-B-Q Restaurant at www.jrsbarbq.com.