As previously noted, two-time WWE Hall Of Famer Ric Flair was recently a guest on The Steve Austin Show. Among many other things, Flair and WWE Hall Of Famer Steve Austin discussed their fellow WWE Hall Of Famer Hulk Hogan in depth. Also, Flair talked about how former WCW executive Eric Bischoff got funding for WCW Monday Nitro and why Flair returned to WCW programming so soon after losing a retirement match.
According to Flair, Bischoff was able to get the funding he desired from Turner on the strength of 'The Nature Boy''s first match versus Hogan at Bash At The Beach (1994).
"Hulk just smartened me up to this. The first time I wrestled Hulk, in Orlando [Florida], Shaquille O'Neal," Flair recalled. "Sherri [Martel]'s managing me and, man, I'm thrilled. It's me and Hulk. It's a big deal for us. And Hulk just told me this the other day, just as [Austin] and me now [are talking]. Eric [Bischoff] went to the company and said, 'if we do well at this pay-per-view, will you agree to give me the money to go forward in the direction I want to go in with Nitro and all that?' and they said, 'yeah.' I've never heard that story until Hulk told me the other day, literally two weeks ago at the reunion. And I guess we did that number, I have no idea what it was, and that's where he got the money."
Apparently, Bischoff offered Flair a retirement match and a year off with pay when his contract was expiring only a month later. Flair went on to say that backstage issues between Hogan and Vader and Rick Rude resulted in his early return to WCW.
"Eric calls me and says, 'we'd better bring you in because the tickets aren't selling very well, so how about we put in a stipulation that the loser retires and we give you a year off and pay you?' I said, 'yeah.' I said, 'but my contract runs out next month.' So Bill Shaw's running the company at that time.'" Flair added, "so we get to Detroit [Michigan]. I haven't said a word and so I told Eric, I said, 'look, I've never said 'no' in my life except for that deal with [Lex] Luger,' which I feel bad about to this day, 'but here's the situation: I'm not going in there tonight as much as I want to without that contract. I'm doing this again, three in a row, and I know he's getting paid a lot more than me, but that's fine. I'm stupid. I didn't follow up.' Those were my exact words. So I signed a contract with Bill Shaw, head of TBS, I sign it. It's for two years, $500,000. That's my base, right? And I'm supposed to be out for a year. A month later, less than a month, because there was a problem with [Rick] Rude and a problem with Vader, which I won't go into because neither one of them is here to defend themselves, but there was a problem with them with Hulk, so I came back. Don't you remember when I came out of the crowd and did all that stuff? Once again, back. So I've retired, come back, and people say, 'God, when is Ric Flair going to get away from the [professional wrestling] business?' Well, I was supposed to be away and getting paid. It didn't work like that."
During the podcast, Austin shared that Hogan told him that if they got into a room together to talk during their in-ring days, they probably could have worked things out and made a lot of money together. Austin concurred.
"Man, I was very competitive and when [Hogan] was having his run in [the] New York [territory], obviously, he was a full generation ahead of me if not a little bit more. And so I was a big fan and when he came down to WCW, I didn't like it because that put me another step down on the ladder just because now you've got Hulk Hogan there. Then, I went to New York and then he ended up coming to New York. And to hang out with him and spend time with him, I enjoyed the hell out of it! I had a great time hanging out with Terry Bollea the man. He said, 'do you know what? Maybe if we'd gotten a room and kind of talked, we probably could have worked together and made a lot of money.' And I agreed with him."
When Austin asked what his relationship with Hogan is like, the 16-time world champ claimed that he has had a wonderful relationship with 'The Hulkster'.
"I had a phenomenal relationship with Hulk. I'm the one, Eric called me into the office, and said, 'how well do you know Hogan?' I said, 'very well' because when I was up there [with WWE] in '91 or '92, I'd be the first to admit that I wasn't a big card. Did I draw money? Yes, I did, but I wasn't nearly the card on the east coast, especially New York and all that. In my day, my New York was St. Louis [Missouri]. Does that make sense? That was the NWA. Hulk was Madison Square Garden, so when I was up there in the 90s, I really got to know him well. I had a ball with him. We had a great time. He took me whenever he had a charter." Flair continued, "I think the world of him."
Moreover, Flair divulged that he went to Hogan for money when Flair's son needed rehab therapy.
"My son got a contract with [WWE] and he was all set to go, but his mom wanted me to call and say that he needed to get more money. Well, between that time and I hadn't even seen it yet because I was gone, he got really sick. Well, to make a long story short, if that contract had gone in all of those rehabs would have been paid for by the company, so he was in rehab six times, all out of pocket. I don't regret a dime of it. I don't regret a dime of it. No health insurance because everybody gets cash when you're at that level. And do you know who I went to for help one time? Hulk because I was almost $500,000 in [debt for] rehab therapy and they don't take credit cards. It's in his hands and it's $40,000 a pop. Do you know what I mean? Plus all the stuff that goes along with it, so Hulk was there, man. And I could never ever thank him enough and we've become great friends."
Listen to the show here. If you use any of the quotes from this article, please credit The Steve Austin Show with an H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.