Sunday, July 14, 2019

Best Of: With Ric Flair, It's "All in the Family"

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

It's probably fair to say that in the storybook world of pro-wrestling, especially back in the territory days, worked family connections were just as common as bonafide family relationships.

For all the Funks, Briscos, and Von Erichs there were just as many Valiants, Fargos, and Andersons.

Ric Flair and Rip Hawk
Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Champions
(Photo by Bill Janosik)
Sometimes wrestling would even take an actual truthful family relationship (like father and son Johnny and Greg Valentine) and create a worked relationship (Johnny and Greg Valentine as brothers in the mid-1970s.)

But then there is the case of the "Nature Boy" Ric Flair. Flair would for a short time be a member of two different wrestling families soon after arriving to Jim Crockett Promotions.

Ric Flair arrived in Charlotte in May of 1974, debuting for Jim Crockett Promotions against Abe Jacobs at the Charlotte Coliseum on Monday night, May 13.

Within two weeks, booker George Scott was toying around with different ways to align Flair to begin his slow push. There were two family relationships that sprung up almost at the same time.

Ric was first said to be the nephew of Rip Hawk, the "blond bomber" who had a notorious reputation in the area going back more than a decade. George Scott teamed Hawk and Flair up early, only a few weeks after Flair arrived, and the two would soon win the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team championship from Paul Jones and Bob Bruggers on the Fourth of July in Greensboro. Flair's star was quickly on the rise.

But during that same time, the story was also floated on TV and in newspaper promos that Flair was a cousin of Gene and Ole Anderson, playing off the fact they were all three from Minnesota.

A newspaper article written in advance of a 5/24/74 show in Burlington, NC, listed the matches for the upcoming card, and included this:

"Singles action has Ric Flair, a relative of the Anderson Brothers, facing Billy Ashe."

Three days later on 5/27 in Greenville, SC -- exactly two weeks after his debut - - Flair and Rip Hawk teamed for the first time, getting an upset win of sorts over area veterans Nelson Royal and Danny Miller. Flair's push was on.  Less than seven weeks later, they won the Mid-Atlantic tag team titles.

We've joked over the years that if Flair was Rip Hawk's nephew and he was also Gene and Ole Anderson's cousin, then that must have meant that Rip Hawk and the Anderson Brothers were somehow related.

Try to figure out that family tree!

Wait ... we did.

Extensive genealogical and ancestral research has unearthed the following information:

  1. There was a family of Andersons that immigrated to Minnesota from Sweden in the late 1800s. The patriarch was Noah Anderson. He and his wife Elsa had four children, two boys and two girls.
  2. Their first son, Nils Anderson, married and had four sons of his own: Gene, Lars, Nils Jr., and the youngest Ole. All became pro wrestlers.
  3. Their first daughter, Alma Anderson, married a Minnesota physician named Morgan Flair. They had a son named Richard "Ric" Flair who also became a pro-wrestler. (This makes Ric a first cousin to the four Anderson brothers by blood.)
  4. The second daughter, Catherine Anderson, married a pro wrestler named Harvey "Rip" Hawk. (This makes Rip an uncle by marriage to Ric Flair and, as an aside, an uncle by marriage to the four Anderson brothers, too. Apparently Rip never wanted to publicly acknowledge them.)
  5. Unrelated to this article, but to finish out the family tree, Noah and Alma's second son, Liam Anderson, had a son named Arn, which makes Arn blood cousin to the four Anderson brothers and Ric Flair, and as it works out, also a nephew by marriage to Rip Hawk. Liam and his wife Lesa Anderson moved to Georgia when Arn was just a baby, which might explain Arn's south-Georgia accent (as well his penchant for uttering classic southern phrases like "If I tell you a grasshopper can pull a freight train, hook him up!")
This research illustrates the uncle-nephew relationship between Rip Hawk and Ric Flair and the cousin relationship with the Anderson brothers. Ahhh, the many wonders of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling lore.

Mythical Anderson Family Tree (Click to see larger image.)

Confused? Don't worry. As Ole Anderson would say, this is all horsesh*t. And it may go quite the way of making the argument that I had way too much free time on my hands when writing this.

Originally published May 23, 2018 on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway. 
Updated with Family Tree diagram in 2019