Sunday, September 10, 2017

Second Nature: The Legacy of Ric Flair and the Rise of Charlotte, by Ric Flair, Charlotte, and Brian Shields


 I loved Ric Flair's autobiography, and had been hoping for a follow-up for a long time. As a thirty-year fan of Professional Wrestling, my interest in the business has waxed and waned over the years, but I will always, always tune in if "The Nature Boy" is going to be on the show. There was a lot that happened to Ric Flair, both personally and professionally, since his memoir was published, so I was thrilled to see that there was a follow-up in the works. The inclusion of Charlotte seemed odd, at first glance, but became a better fit once I thought about it. As the daughter of, arguably, the greatest Professional Wrestler of all time, she must surely have a compelling story about breaking into the business. And you could see how proud Ric was of his daughter every time they walked down to the ring together, so his input would seem invaluable to the joint autobiography.

 I'm happy to say that a large part of the book is Ric's story, taking the reader from the end of his first book, through his retirement, and to the tragic death of his son, Reid, who had been poised to follow in his Father's footsteps.

 Ric's part of the story is, at times, hilarious, inspirational, gut-wrenching, and almost unbearably sad. From the low of being told that he would have to retire from the business that he loved, to the highs of a classic retirement match and dual Hall of Fame inductions (The only Professional Wrestler to have that honor....), Ric shares his story with a candor and intimacy that makes reading the book feel like you're having a personal conversation with the man himself.

 Charlotte's portion of the book does not succeed on the same level, but it makes for often fascinating reading. I have to lay a lot of the blame for the unsuccessful sections of the book at the feet of co-author Brian Shields, who doesn't do enough to distinguish the two authorial voices. A lot of this may be solved in the final printed book, but the advance review copy that I was provided was sometimes badly formatted, leading to a few instances where I would read as much as a page or two without realizing that the book had shifted from a Charlotte section to a Ric Flair annotation.

 A major drawback to Charlotte's section of the book can be attributed to her youth: She obviously hasn't lived as much of a life, either personally of professionally, as her father has, so her story often feels padded. There are long stretches where she goes in-depth about specific meals she shared with her family, or brands of handbags or types of jewelry that her father bought her when she was younger. I now know more about sports that teenage-girls play than I ever thought that I would. While Charlotte's story is compelling and heartfelt, parts of it did seem like being on the receiving end of a marathon talking session with a teenaged girl.

 In the end, the book does a nice job of putting a finishing touch on the in-ring career of Ric Flair, and proving that Charlotte does deserve to be where she is in the WWE. The Flair legacy continues....


St. Martin's Press provided a review copy.

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