by Andy McDaniel
Special to the Gateway
When I think back over my years as a wrestling fan (over 40 now) there have certainly been many great memories. As is obvious, some stand out more than others. I enjoy sharing some of these old stories with my friends here at the Gateway. I was so blessed to spend some time with Dick and David during the recent Fanfest in Charlotte and was so glad to be there to witness their Hall of Heroes induction, it was a great moment indeed. The introduction they got from Bob Caudle was simply awesome to say the least.
I recently came across a picture that reminded me of a special moment in my life as a wrestling fan. In 1974 I attended my very first wrestling match. It was in the historic County Hall located in Charleston, SC. It would become a normal part of my week as a youngster, as me and my dad would make that venture down to County Hall for the 8:15 bell time as many Friday nights as possible. I remember on one of those rides down we were passing a van and as I looked over, I could not believe it, it was Ric Flair. I could not believe that I had just actually witnessed him driving down the road like a regular person. I was thrilled and wanted my dad to drive slow so we could follow him to county hall. (What a silly kid, but I was like 5 or 6.)
There was always something about Ric that just drew me in as a fan, regardless of which “side of the fence” he was on that particular time. Well indeed the years went on and we all know the business changed many times over, but the one constant always seemed to be Ric Flair. He was still “the man.” He was still styling and profiling as only he could do. During 1998 when I was putting together the reunion show we did at County Hall, Ric did some local promos for us and was even coming to the show, but during that time his dad was ill and he was unable to make it. However, it was still pretty incredible that we had his endorsement for what we were doing.
Later the next year, Mike Mooneyham called me and asked if I was busy in the next couple of days. At the time I was still on the road as a deputy sheriff and so indeed I had a shift coming up. Mike asked if I could possibly get my shift covered or simply be out, naturally I asked him why. He would then tell me that if I could make arrangements, that I could go with him to Ric Flair’s 50th birthday party. I could not believe what I was hearing. Here I was, a lifetime fan, and now I had the chance to be at something so personal. I immediately said yes without actually knowing how I would do it. In fact, I didn’t even check, I just went, and called in sick. Looking back now some 17 years later, I normally would not take such a risk or be so spontaneous, but this was a literal once in a lifetime moment, so I went. We had a ball and although short, I got a few minutes to speak with Ric and share a few personal memories and a special personal story of how my oldest daughter, Morgan, was indeed named so because of his middle name also being, Morgan. He seemed truly moved that he meant that much to a fan.
The years have gone by and all of us have gotten older, yes even the Nature Boy, but the memories are still fresh and will never be forgotten. So Naitch, the last 40 some odd years as a wrestling fan have been great and from the passing moment on I-26, to all the great moments in the ring, to the birthday party and now hearing the old stories on the "Ric Flair Show" podcast, I simply say thank you. It's been great. Woooo!!!!