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Volume 24 No. 156
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Flair For The Gold: ESPN Films Set To Debut "30 For 30" Feature "Nature Boy"

ESPN Films' latest "30 for 30" entry, "Nature Boy," debuts tonight at 10:00pm ET, and examines pro wrestling great Ric Flair's "obsession with being" his professional gimmick "inside and outside the ring, and what Richard Fliehr lost in that transaction," according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. Director Rory Karpf, who has worked on several ESPN documentaries, bases the film around "multiple interviews with Flair over a two-year period." He talked to 46 people for the film, including "all three of Flair's living children," including daughter Ashley (who currently wrestles for WWE as Charlotte Flair) and a "host of retired wrestlers," including The Undertaker and fellow Four Horsemen members Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard. Content from "pro wrestling icons such as Ricky Steamboat, Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels is particularly compelling" (SI.com, 11/7).  In Charlotte, Theoden Janes wrote the film presents Flair's side of his story "plus the sides of dozens of people from his past and present -- everyone from his first wife (Leslie Jacobs, doing her first on-camera interview ever) to a long line of wrestling personalities." Rapper Snoop Dogg talks about Flair's "influence on African American culture" (CHARLOTTEOBSERVER.com, 10/31). In Miami, Jim Varsallone noted Karpf "used a ring and a bar as settings when interviewing Flair" (MIAMI HERALD, 11/6).

LIMOUSINE RIDING, JET FLYING....
: AWFUL ANNOUNCING's Ben Koo wrote the documentary mainly features Flair's "persona" -- both in and out of the ring. Viewers hoping for a "linear storytelling of Flair's rise, his in-ring triumphs, and the backstory on his career" are going to "come away severely disappointed." There are "elements that focus on the particulars of Flair's career sprinkled in throughout, but it's in small portions and served in a hurried fashion." It instead "focuses on when a pop culture icon begins to take over the real-life person behind that icon and the effect it has on that person's life, relationships, and loved ones." "Nature Boy" does an "admirable job of balancing out the ridiculousness" of Flair's life outside the ring, and the "unique and celebrated personality that decades later is still beloved and mimicked in culture today, along with the tradeoffs Flair had to make with his family and on the home front" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 11/6). In Philadelphia, Vaughn Johnson wrote Karpf had to "make Flair's flaws just as much as part of the story as his rise to the top of wrestling." The film "does not shy away from Flair's infidelity, alcoholism, strained relationship with his parents, and the fact that his children didn't always approve of his lifestyle" (PHILLY.com, 11/6). In Ohio, Mark Podolski wrote if there is "one thing the film hammers home about Flair during his career as 16-time heavyweight champion is there was no separating Flair and his wrestling persona." Flair "lays it all out for the world to watch, and that's not an easy thing to do" (Willoughby NEWS-HERALD, 11/6).

MAINTAINING A DELICATE BALANCE: In Orlando, Jay Reddick writes Karpf "does an excellent job of bringing Flair's story to a wider non-wrestling audience, and can give longtime fans a walk down memory lane." It serves "as sort of a companion piece to 'Second Nature,'" the memoir Flair wrote with Ashley. There is "not a whole lot of new ground covered" that is not in the book, but the film is "still well worth watching" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 11/7). On Long Island, Neil Best noted the trick for Karpf was to "inform and entertain the pro wrestling cognoscenti while letting the rest of us in on why Flair remains beloved and admired within that community" (NEWSDAY.com, 10/26). SI's Deitsch writes it is a "compelling watch, and particularly so for anyone who is a fan of professional wrestling." Some "small quibbles" about "Nature Boy" is about the "over-reliance on animation early on and Karpf glosses over a lot of the details ... on Flair's financial issues" (SI.com, 11/7).