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Opinion

Steve Cook: A Flair Divided

Steve Cook weighs in on the current state of pro wrestling icon Ric Flair, and it obviously weighed heavily on Cook himself…

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WWE Raw Ric Flair

Steve Cook weighs in on the current state of pro wrestling icon Ric Flair, and it obviously weighed heavily on Cook himself…

Before we begin, I want to make sure that people don’t get things twisted.

Ric Flair is one of my favorite wrestlers of all time. I can’t imagine the wrestling business over the past five decades without his presence. When the Nature Boy finally takes his final steps on God’s green earth, it’s going to be a bitter pill to swallow. Ric Flair was part of the reason people my age became wrestling fans, and we’ll always be grateful for that.

But let’s be honest: the last few years haven’t been the best stretch for Ric or his fans. The last couple of months have been pretty tough, in fact. First, we found out that Ric was trying to file a trademark on “The Man”, which Becky Lynch has been using as a nickname for almost a year. Dude must need the money pretty bad if he’s trying to cash in off of his daughter’s friend.

For one thing, Flair’s just standing here & wooing. A couple of weeks ago, they brought in Undertaker & the dude was dropping all kinds of insight about the Texas Longhorns like he was some kind of analyst or something. That was cool. Ric surrounded by UGA cheerleaders would have worked better 30 years ago. We’ve been seeing a lot of awkward WWE/sports crossovers lately thanks to the SmackDown/FOX relationship, and this definitely rates up there with Rey Mysterio randomly sitting in the crowd in Minnesota during the Raiders vs. Vikings game.

(Seriously, how did the Viking Raiders not get that booking? Would it have made too much sense?)

Here’s the thing that got me. We got Ric Flair down in Athens, GA representing for the Bulldogs with his red robe. I mean, it makes sense on a certain level. Even if Ric drinks like a Catholic, I doubt he’s a practicing Catholic and therefore obligated to root for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who the Bulldogs were playing against this past Saturday night. I don’t want to speculate too much on Ric’s religious beliefs, but whether dude is a Christian, Muslim or Buddhist is irrelevant to the point.

It’s all good. You do you, as I always say.

The Georgia Bulldogs are certainly one of college football’s top teams these days, and have quite the tradition as a powerhouse. We’re talking about a school where Pop Warner coached football. From Herschel Walker to Bill Goldberg to A.J. Green, UGA has produced a ton of top talent.

As a program that goes back to nearly the beginning of college football, Georgia has its fair share of traditional rivals. UGA fans can correct me if I’m wrong, but the one that gets the most attention nationally is its rivalry with the Florida Gators. Every year, Gator & Dawg fans get together for the World’s Largest Cocktail Party and the annual Florida/Georgia football game in the neutral site of Jacksonville. Fun times are had by all…especially by fans of the winning team.

See, Floridians & Georgians can share a little bit of the bubbly, but they can’t share a college football team. If you’re a fan of one, you can’t be a fan of the other. Since college football has 130 teams in the Bowl Subdivision and countless more in the Championship Subdivision, Division II, Division III and whatever’s below that, it’s fine for Florida & Georgia fans to root for other schools on occasion.

Just not a rival team.

Can you imagine an Auburn fan pulling for Alabama? All the conference alleigance in the world isn’t going to make a Michigan fan root for Ohio State in the College Football Playoff, or Texas fans bust out a “BOOMER!” for Oklahoma. Sure, sometimes you end up rooting for teams in your fellow conference, but certain lines have to be drawn. Every school’s fans has at least one team that they can’t root for under any circumstance.

Though it should be said that in some cases it’s not universal. Living in Kentucky, I know plenty of UK fans, and their most hated traditional rival is either Louisville or Tennessee depending on who you ask. One’s a border state in the same conference, the other is the big city that has different demographics from the rest of the Commonwealth. The UK/U of L rivalry seems more intense to me, but I’m a U of L guy so of course it does.

The bottom line: You don’t root for your hated rival. I don’t make the rules, they were set down generations before any of us were here.

OK, so you’re probably wondering why the hell I’ve been going on about this for a few paragraphs. Maybe you don’t remember the 90s as well as I do. Ric Flair was a huge star in WCW, and the Florida Gators were among the top powers in college football. Head Ball Coach Steve Spurrier had his Fun ‘n’ Gun offense humming along in Gainesville, leading the Gators to four consecutive SEC championships and a national championship in 1996. Florida was riding high, and everybody was on board the bandwagon…including a certain Nature Boy!

Flair attended the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans when Florida beat Florida State to win the 1996 national championship. He was walking back to the team hotel with several of the Gators’ coaches after the game. The coaches were still in their Florida coaches’ gear, and it was a madhouse among the fans outside the Superdome.

Jim Collins, now on Duke’s football staff, still laughs when he thinks about the wild scene and Flair being in his element.

“Here’s Ric Flair and his bleach-blond hair, and everybody recognizes him,” said Collins, who has remained close with Flair. “They’re all yelling, ‘Go Gators,’ but just as many of them are yelling Ric’s customary, ‘Wooooo!'”

At the official team gathering with coaches, their families and Florida administrators later that evening, the “Nature Boy” was the hit of the party. As everybody took turns toasting one another and the season, Flair jumps up on a chair and brings the house down with his own variation of a phrase that has personified him.

“Diamonds are forever … and so are the Florida Gators,” Flair chortled, followed by an emphatic “Woooo!”

Flair would name-drop the Gators from time to time during his WCW interviews, leading everybody to believe that he was a diehard Gator fan. As it turned out, Flair was more of a Steve Spurrier fan. Ric is a fan of people who are fans of his, which makes sense on a certain level. After Spurrier left Florida & had a stint in the NFL, he went to South Carolina, which was close enough for Ric to jump on the bandwagon again. All good things come to an end though, including Spurrier’s coaching career.

Flair’s next team of choice? Michigan! Jim Harbaugh is a big fan, and Flair told this story about a recruiting trip to Michigan back in the day where he met Dan Dierforf. To be honest, I don’t think this lasted too long once Ric saw that Harbaugh couldn’t beat Ohio State.

Oh, and one other thing happened…Ric got married and gained some step-children in the process! One’s going to Georgia & one’s going to Auburn, so now he’s trying to represent for both of them.

Florida…South Carolina…Georgia…Auburn…Ric’s had as many favorite SEC teams as he’s had wives.

I gotta admit that I came into this all hot & bothered as a man that believes in loyalty to favorite sports teams. You’re reading words from a guy that’s sat through three crappy decades of Cincinnati Bengals football & three mostly blah decades of Cincinnati Reds baseball, and went to a college where most of the basketball team’s best days aren’t in the NCAA record book anymore. I am loyal to beyond a fault, so when I see guys out here repping different teams each week based on who’s giving them dap, it grinds my gears.

But now that I know it’s a step-kid thing these days, I’m cool. Ric might wanna watch out on that “House Divided” phrase though. Somebody’s probably got a trademark on it.


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Opinion

AJ’s Controversial? Wrestling Opinions 10.12.21

AJ feels like spouting off about a few wrestling topics that bug him. How controversial are they though?

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As Eric Bischoff, President of WCW once said, Controversy Creates Cash…no I’m serious; it’s even the title of a book that he did. Everyone has their hot takes on professional wrestling and some are always wide eyed and kind of shocking to some. There are some of us that will have same opinions or chastise me on a show or an article maybe but hey, don’t hate the player, hate The Game.

Maybe there are some that the readers at home agree with or you want to also be the one to chastise me, @PhenomenalAJB on Twitter. This one is going to be fun!

#1- There are more things than just WWE/AEW and are better majority of the time

There are many people that will rant, rave and complain that the mainstream product is so bland and boring and the classic, “Who even watches this trash?” Whether you love the flippy dippy do’s like I don’t or long drawn out storylines that peter out very quickly because fans aren’t invested in a story or character. To those people, I will say something very bold, very confusing and very… very controversial…

THERE ARE OTHER COMPANIES YOU CAN WATCH ON VARIOUS PLATFORMS IN VARIOUS MEANS ON YOUR OWN TIME!

I don’t know how and I don’t know why that this is even a topic. “TNA has been dead for years” No it hasn’t. Pay $1 USD for Impact Plus on YouTube so you can watch it without commercials at 8:30 Eastern. “Two hours is too long!” NWA and MLW both go for an hour on their respective YouTube Channels as well and if you want to watch, you can hop in at any time. Everyone has something for everyone and you might find your new favorite wrestler in a matter of minutes into an episode. I would never have known who Eli Drake (now LA Knight on SmackDown Live), Alexander Hammerstone or even in the early stages of TNA Impact, AJ Styles, was! You can watch more than what is broadcasted on your TV. Is it easier? Of course but, there is so much more than just the popular option.


#2- Belt Collecting now is just redundant and moronic

Back in 1996, Ultimo Dragon famously has a picture of him holding TEN championships looking like an amazing superstar with amazing defenses. What people don’t know is, that was because eight championship belts were united in a tournament called “The J-Crown Championship” with the adage of ‘All or Nothing’. He lost them one by one but, it was to show that he was the best Junior Heavyweight (or Cruiserweight/Light Heavyweight) out of everyone in various promotions.

People after that really haven’t belt collected other than unifying championships to a grand caliber… then Austin Aries showed up. Aries kind of revised the gimmick and brought it back to light. Newer fans might have thought this was cool but older fans kind of groaned and grumbled. I was one of them but, nothing is original in anything anymore so it’s a fresher concept at the time back in 2018. He did surpass Ultimo with ELEVEN championships but it seemed everyone started doing it to an extent after. Matt Cardona, after being released from WWE, started doing it, getting up to six championships before dropping them. As of right now, not necessarily solo belt collecting, The Bloodline has a stranglehold of the World Championships for both Singles and Tag Teams, we had Becky Two Belts, Bayley wanted Dos Straps but nothing makes this worse than Kenny Omega’s stint as a belt collector.

I am not and will never be a Kenny Omega fan. I don’t see the appeal, I don’t see the amazement or anything like that out of him. I’m impressed he did three 35+ Minute IWGP Championship matches against Okada because that takes a lot of stamina to do so but, that’s about it. When he won the AEW Championship, alright. That’s fine. Nothing wrong with that since he helped build the company up. The Triple A Megas Championship… nothing too wrong here. I hate that he had five defenses in two years but he vacated it due to his injuries. It wasn’t until Don Callis and Omega popped into Impact and made the Hogan Era of TNA look like a dream… okay ALMOST but still. Kenny defeats Rich Swann and Moose in two different matches and has everyone else carry the belts while holding the AEW Championship. I understand heel tactics and mentality but at one point in an interview about going for the Impact Championship, he compared it to a common Comic Book and the AEW Championship as Superman Issue #1. I understand trying to be a heel in this story but you boost your clout, not rain on what you are going after. Heel or Face, belt collecting has just been a cluster within itself in the past four years and it honestly needs to stop.

#3- Overuse of Certain Moves

This one is a more recent problem that I have seen and no, I wish EC3 paid me to say this but it is true and very annoying to even bring up but here I am, wishing for Carter money and a fifth Rum & Coke…

Stop. Overusing. Moves. Because you think. They were cool.

If I had a shot for every time a Canadian Destroyer, Superkick, Suicide Dive, Avalanche (Insert High Spot here), Dual Dropkick spots where they cancel each other out or opposing members do back to back high spots on the prone partner spot… I would not have written this article due to death… even if it was water, I would have died due to drowning. They don’t look cool anymore when everyone does it. It’s bland. When Petey Williams wrestled in his last return to Impact, the Destroyer looked very… stale. Superkicks are the new DDT apparently (another Finisher turned common everyday move) and most people that do dives mess it up in some way shape or form whether it’s their feet get caught in the ropes, they didn’t get a full launch or they overshoot it. Having your own move special to you is difficult now but different wrestlers do their own styles or the pay homage to a family member or a wrestler that they interact with or ask permission… or asked to stop.

How’d you feel if you watched WCW and WWF in 1997 and saw DDP do the Diamond Cutter and HHH did the Pedigree Pandemonium and say they do the same move? That is exactly what happened too if Dallas didn’t ask Hunter to stop using it. We might not have the RKO out of nowhere or an iconic move that seldom bigger names use today.


That’s my list. I said before if you agree with my list and if you don’t and want to throw hate my way… @PCTunney is the hate mail account so enjoy!


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Opinion

AJ’s Thoughts: Five Potential Returns

With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?

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With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?

With everything going on with WWE, the one thing we have all been hyped about are all of these returns. Dakota Kai made her return at SummerSlam alongside Io and Bayley and now on last SmackDown, Karrion Kross and Scarlett made their returns in a big way against Drew McIntyre and showed the Hourglass to The Bloodline.

With all of that, there have been things in the pipeline saying Triple H’s foot isn’t off the pedal so these are 5 returns from either NXT, main roster or even Try-Outs that I would love to see happen with the new regime.

1. Johnny Gargano

Now this is a name that people have been saying, “Maybe Impact or MLW” but, what about a return? Gargano didn’t renew his contract, most likely to be with his family which is a valid and amazing reason, will never disrespect that. If he were to return, there would be a handful of great reasons. Maybe a singles run with the Intercontinental or United States but with Ciampa getting limelight in the main roster from RAW, what if we get a tag team reunion?

WWE is hurting for Tag Teams and what better than to scare off The Bloodline, loosen  the stranglehold of championships with some Do It Yourself action. DIY reunion could be amazing, especially with newer faces showing up to get championship aspirations like Kross and Ciampa. Want to break the hierarchy? Do It Yourself.

2. James Storm

This one is a little bit weird and off. On one hand, who doesn’t love the Tennessee Cowboy, Jimmy James Storm? On the other, he is 45 and getting some nagging injuries as of late. So why would I say Triple H should bring James Storm back and give him something for the main roster? One of the things I said for Gargano, we have a lack of something and The Usos might need to watch two things in the rearview.

Watch your Money and your Alcohol.

Beer Money showing up in WWE would be amazing in my personal opinion. The Bloodline jump Roode, someone in a hoodie or jacket comes up and jumps them to even the fight and as soon as one Uso remained in the ring, the figure goes down and the old stomping goes off and we hear “BEER…” and Roode looks around and gets hyped up and shouts, “…MONEY!”

3. Big Cass



Since his departure from WWE, he has done something I have said since they split him off from Enzo. Take him through the Kevin Nash School of How To Big Man. ROH and Impact are great examples that he actually cleaned up and worked on what he has to do to be good in the ring. He can work the microphone, he can work the ring so we got a new big boy to take on the WWE once again.

Now I could have said Enzo and Cass to rejoin but, I’m sure the antics of Enzo will get Cass in deep water along with the fact that I already made two tag team predictions, we don’t need another. Cass brings a lot to the table and was kind of unproven in WWE because he was just the big enforcer to the more charismatic Enzo. Give this man about six months in the ring and you have your next MASSIVE problem in the IC or US Championship scene or even more.

4. Bronson Reed



The big man from down under is a former NXT North American Champion. He looked to have a good push going with that championship but he got release. If you wonder where he went… he actually made a pit stop in Impact Wrestling as JONAH with the most fire theme song in recent history I swear… I will link the theme song and Trips… please. Get rights to this theme song. I will be a bigger Bronson Reed fan.

Bronson to me is the weird man in all of this but, I think with Triple H involved, he could get something going for him with a good singles champion run or a big threat to go through like a gatekeeper of sorts. Big boy with a great amount of athleticism? Can’t really hate on that considering the last time we saw athletic bigger people were Keith Lee and… what was that one guy? Sherman Tank with a Ferrari Engine…?

5. Bray Wyatt

And the last one is the obvious one in all of this. Yes… we have Judgment Day as the somewhat supernatural dark group but we know the true successor of the supernatural and that is “The Eater of Worlds”, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt. This time around, I don’t think we will get the Jekyl and Hyde, Mister Rogers gimmick. I believe this time around we get full darkness and mayhem. We get the darkness and the theory of reverting back to your prime.

To make a refresher… Miz went back to being the cocky narcissist after fighting The Fiend. Finn turned back to the Prince and much more. With guys like Edge returning, maybe we see the return of the Heel Ultimate Opportunist, maybe a Fiend fight with AJ Styles to get the TN-AJ perhaps. Possibilities are endless and with a great mind like Wyatt for character and execution, I think Hunter will pick up the phone and Let Him In.

– There are clearly others that I could say, or maybe even didn’t think about, but hey, that’s the Chairshot way of Always Using Your Head. Those are just five returns that could happen and hopefully you read this before RAW or SmackDown and who knows if I get any of these right, maybe I missed an obvious one or maybe we get a giant signing that nobody thought possible. Let me and all of Chairshot know!


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