Ric Flair spoke to Wrestling Inc. President Raj Giri last week on the one-year anniversary of his life-saving surgery after his medical nightmare before SummerSlam last year. During the 40-minute interview, Flair remembered Jim Neidhart for the extraordinary athlete that he was and shared a story of his own about overcoming a career-threatening problem.
Neidhart made a name for himself in professional wrestling after receiving acclaim for his athletic accomplishments in strength-oriented track and field events. He held the California high school record for shot put from 1973 to 1985 and played for the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys in practices and preseason games. After he wasreleased by the Cowboys in 1978, The Anvil started his next career in Stu Hart's legendary Dungeon.
"He was just a great guy," Flair said of Neidhart. "I got to know Jim in the WWE, we were there at different time frames, but he legitimately was a world-class athlete. I mean he threw the shot put at UCLA close to seventy feet. He played for the Raiders, he was a 500-pound bench presser any day of the week. He was like Kerry Von Erich, it didn't matter what he was doing or how much he drank or how late he stayed out he could bench press 500 pounds.
"He was that legitimate and I don't think you got a true picture of his athleticism in wrestling because he didn't have to use it. You talk about another tough guy, nobody said s--t to Jim Neidhart, trust me. He probably couldn't amateur wrestle a lick, but I guarantee you nobody in the Hart Foundation or up in that school that Stu [Hart] had gave Neidhart any s--t."
Flair won the WWF Championship from "Macho Man" Randy Savage in September 1992, but he held the title for only 41 days. It appeared as though The Nature Boy was going to feud with The Ultimate Warrior at the time. Suddenly, Bret Hart defeated Flair for the top title in WWF leaving a possible feud between Flair and Warrior by the wayside. Flair discussed an injury during a non-televised match with The Warrior that led to the sudden title change.
"That's because The Warrior and I were in Pheonix, Arizona and The Warrior suplexed me and he just wasn't -- nothing against him personally, but that's not what he did and he dropped me on my head and I had that inner ear problem," Flair explained.
"I remember [Charles] Barkley was there, he came to watch me wrestle and when I rolled out onto the floor, I said to Earl Hebner, 'man I can't get up.' I had this thing for almost a year, I can't think of the name of it [vertigo], but it's an ear thing where when I would take a bump, my equilibrium would leave me for maybe as long as twenty seconds."
The loss to Hart didn't air on WWE television at the time, although it later appeared on home video. Flair said that the match didn't air because he "couldn't do anything" and felt like he "wrestled the worst match for Bret."
"The company was aware of [my injury] and they called me and I went up to [Saskatoon] where I wrestled the worst match for Bret because I couldn't do anything. I mean, I could go through the motions but it was like half-speed. I'm glad they don't play it. I couldn't do anything, but back then you didn't give an explanation for it, it was a different time. It's not like '[hey] he's got an equilibrium problem.'"
Flair had Lloyd's Of London insurance like other professional wrestlers of the day including Curt Henning and Rick Rude. Just when Flair thought he was going to be able to cash in on a big payday after The Warrior dropped him on his head, Flair's equilibrium problem suddenly vanished leaving him unable to collect an insurance check.
"Yeah, as a matter of fact, I was going to collect my Lloyd's Of London [insurnace money] -- 750 grand -- my dad being a doctor he'd taken me to The Mayo Clinic, he'd taken me to Duke and all that. I'm going to collect the check the next day and I woke up and it was gone. I called my dad and was like, 'dad, what the hell?' I said, 'I'm going to get it anyway,' he said, 'no you're not, it's karma.'
"When you buy a Lloyd's Of London policy, you can either deduct a premium and pay taxes on it or you can eat the premium so when you collect the money you don't got to pay taxes on it. So it was just cash because I was paying $35,000 a year for it and I'll be damned everybody else collected but me."
If you use any portion of the quotes in this interview please credit Wresting Inc.