CONVERSATIONS  WITH  LES  THATCHER

Wrestling

Ric Flair

 

Les Thatcher knew he was working with someone special the night he stepped in the ring at the old Richmond Arena in Richmond, VA with a rookie wrestler out of Minnesota named Ric Flair. The newspaper promo may have spelled Flair's name wrong, but the world would soon well know the name of the future 15-time world champion. 

 

In this first in a series of conversations with Les Thatcher, he shares his recollections of that match in Richmond.


Dick Bourne: I heard your interview with Dave Meltzer on eyada.com where you mentioned you were Ric Flairís first opponent when he came to Crockett Promotions in 1974.

Les Thatcher: Yes.

DB: David Chappell has a newspaper clipping from that time period where you are wrestling Flair . . .

LT: In Richmond . . .

DB: Yes . . .

LT: That was probably it.

DB: You think so?

LT: It might have very well been. Now Ric would be the man to tell you whether this is right or not, but I believe he was just coming into the territory through Richmond, and that was his first shot. I had never seen the kid, never met the kid, didnít know anything about him, and they had told me that this was one of Gagneís kids, and I thought "Oh Christ, another shooter, heís going to be stiffer than a board"

DB: (Laughs)

LT: And they said heís just been in the business a year, and of course I thought "Strike three!", you know, Iím in for a "mix-master" match tonight. (Laughs) Or as Bronko Lubich used to say "Kid, Iíve been in street fights that I didnít get hurt as bad as working with you."

DB: (Laughs)

LT: Flair was about 280 at that time, 275 or 280, a big boy. We didnít get a chance to talk in the dressing room before the match, didnít even get a chance to lay eyes on each other, so it was all done in the ring. We went in, and of course me being the veteran, I was going to call the match.

DB: Right.

LT: I was impressed! I thought, "Jesus, this kidís smooth for just a year!" Iím thinking so far, Iím all in one piece, (laughs) Iím not hurt, heís not stiff. He was aggressive, but he was a good worker. And so at some point he said "Can I call it?", and I said, "Go, man! Call it!" And I cut him loose, and he started calling the match. And we had a good match. And I remember going back into my dressing room and saying, "Damn! This kid is good!"

This kid was going some place. He was good.

RTDAd51774.jpg (35562 bytes)

THE NEWSPAPER PROMO FROM MAY 17, 1974 IN RICHMOND, VA.

NOTICE THE SPELLING OF FLAIR'S NAME IN THIS EARLY PROMO

(CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE.)

DB: Well, you called that right! Weíre they pushing him right away? Did he go over in that match?

LT: I really donít remember! I donít think so. But they did push him pretty quickly because it wasnít too many weeks after that they hooked him up with Rip Hawk.

DB: As Ripís nephew, right?

LT: Yes. And you know, all of us, and I think Ric would echo this, there were a bunch of us that I think all had an integral part in making Ric Flair "Nature Boy Ric Flair". Rip taking him as his nephew. There were times on the interview set (doing promos) in Raleigh, I might stop him and say "Wait a minute, thatís not what you want to do." He was very receptive. And George Scott would sit him down in front of Nature Boy Buddy Rogers tapes or films and let him watch Rogers work.

DB: I had read in another interview with Flair that George Scott was the first one to show him those tapes.

LT: Yep. Exactly. And he was my Idol as a kid. Buddy Rogers was the man.


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Editor's note: Check back soon for more in the series of "Conversations with Les Thatcher". Our next talk will cover how the local "in-your-area" promos were done at the WRAL TV studios in Raleigh, NC. It's a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at a Saturday tradition. Coming soon on the Gateway!        -DB