“Nature Boy” Documentary Showcases the Many Faces of Ric Flair


The popular ESPN “30 for 30” series will highlight how Ric Flair’s gimmick became his disease and how he fought his way back.

Beginning in 2009, ESPN began running a series of documentary short films under the 30 for 30 banner which dealt with seminal moments in sports history involving athletes, social issues, and how these moments affected us as fans. Despite a slow start during those initial years, the series has garnered a solid following. It’s even received critical acclaim with a Peabody Award in 2010, an Emmy in 2014, and an Academy Award in 2016.

This month, the series will return to the world of professional wrestling with “Nature Boy”, an in-depth look at the life and career of 16-time world champion Richard Morgan Fliehr, better known to wrestling fans as The Nature Boy Ric Flair. This documentary goes beyond his wins and losses and will not just appeal to wrestling fans but anyone who can relate to a life of ups and downs. In the words of director Rory Karpf, this film will, “encapsulate who Ric Flair was, and is, and at the same time, it’s about wrestling and the appeal of what he did within that business.”

According to Karpf, he began filming in September 2015 and interviewed 46 people for the documentary, including professional wrestling icons The Undertaker, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, Hulk Hogan, and Shawn Michaels. This was a dream project for Karpf who has been a lifelong wrestling fan and even saw Flair wrestle Ricky Morton for the NWA world heavyweight championship in 1986 when he was 8 years old.

"I remember I held my four fingers up and gave him a loud, “Woooo!” He actually turned right at me and stared. I’ll never forget what he said.“Don’t ‘Woooo’ at me you little brat.”I thought, “Wow. What a jerk.” I always remembered, though, what a loyalty he had to his character. I always found him to be a very fascinating figure in this world of professional wrestling — a world where you’re never sure what’s real and what’s not, and that was especially true in the 1980s."

The film also includes interviews with Flair, all three of his living children, and many other influential members of his life including Hall of Fame announcer Jim Ross and Flair’s first wife, Leslie Jacobs. Through Jacobs, fans will get a look at the damage Flair did to his personal life by insisting on living as his character both in and out of the ring.

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She provides a no holds barred recap of Flair’s infidelity and lack of interest in raising his eldest children. Karpf interviewed her for two hours at his home in Charlotte, NC and her appearance represents the first time she has even been interviewed on camera.

A few months ago, Flair was rushed to a Georgia hospital with an intestinal blockage that required emergency surgery. Karpf had screened the film for Flair during Comic Con back in July and this health scare had the potential to set a different tone for the film entirely. Fortunately, Flair recovered and the issue will be added into the film as a director’s statement which will air during one of the commercial breaks.

"“There was a time when it looked as if Ric wasn’t going to make it, and that definitely would have impacted the ending of the film and how we presented it. We wanted the film to be evergreen, so that it could last forever.”"

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30 for 30: “Nature Boy” premiers on Tuesday, November 7th at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN.