Ric Flair, one of professional wrestling's GOATs, admires Tom Brady's greatness
By Ryan Satin
FOX Sports WWE Analyst
Not many people know what it’s like to be the GOAT of their industry, but two athletes who certainly do are Tom Brady and WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair.
In fact, Brady and Flair have more in common than you might think.
Brady holds the record for NFL championship wins, and Flair holds the record (with John Cena) for WWE World Title wins.
Brady continues to dominate the gridiron, despite playing past the usual age of retirement, and Flair wrestled into his 60s and continued to put on classics until his final WWE match in 2008.
Brady left a popular franchise only to find success with a different team this season, culminating in a Super Bowl LV win for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Flair found success just about every time he left any promotion.
Brady and Flair also both have their fair share of haters. However, in Flair’s defense, he was a heel — so he was looking to cultivate as many haters as possible.
Lastly, the great thing Tom Brady and Ric Flair have in common is that the two icons are fans of each other.
"I’m a big-time Brady fan," Flair told me last week during a conversation regarding the Buccaneers' Super Bowl win. "I met him one time. I can’t say enough good about him.
"I was at the Ann Arbor thing with Coach Harbaugh, with him and Derek Jeter and everybody, for that big recruiting thing about five years ago," Flair continued. "So, of course, Wendy wanted to meet him, my wife, and I said, ‘Well, I’m not going to walk over to him. There’s some rules of etiquette here.’"
As luck would have it, though, they ended up in the same room at the event and were able to have a chat.
"[Tom] looked over at me and took two steps," Flair said. "He didn’t walk across the room by any means, but he said, 'Hey, I’ve been a fan. I’ve watched you for years.'"
Ric Flair is one of the most well-known wrestlers ever, so this shouldn’t surprise you. His trademark strut, iconic bravado and legendary catchphrases made him part of the pop culture lexicon.
If you don’t believe me, check out the success of the song "Ric Flair Drip" by 21 Savage, Offset and Metro Boomin.
Flair is also widely considered perhaps the best in-ring performer of all time throughout the wrestling industry.
"There’s nothing more rewarding than to be highly thought of by your peers," Flair told me. "Whether you’re a lawyer and you’re the No. 1 guy in your firm or a doctor … but wrestling, especially."
Back in 1991, however, before Flair cemented himself as the greatest of all time, he was a 40-year-old WCW star who was famously told by the company’s then-Executive Vice President Jim Herd that he would have to change his name and cut his hair to get with the times.
This led to the "The Nature Boy" leaving WCW and joining WWE for the first time.
"I did [have something to prove], but really to myself," Flair said of his move to WWE. "Vince McMahon never thought of me as being old. My age was nothing."
Months after joining WWE, Ric won the company’s top title in the annual Royal Rumble match.
This resurgence helped Flair’s career continue to flourish against the likes of Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, Curt Hennig and "Macho Man" Randy Savage.
Flair returned to WCW in 1993 to once again use his famous persona under new management. He then moved back to WWE years later as he transitioned into the GOAT phase of his career before an eventual retirement in 2008.
This draws distinct parallels to Tom Brady, who left the Patriots at 43 years old for a number of reported reasons, one of them that he felt like he had something else to prove.
While we might not know exactly what Tom had left to prove to himself after clinching another Super Bowl victory, he might have accomplished whatever he was searching for in just one season.
"I just can’t say enough about how awesome it is for Tom Brady to be the greatest," Flair said of his fellow GOAT in arms. "Not because he’s 43, but he’s just the greatest. Would they be saying that if he was 30? If he was 38, they would be saying he was too old now.
"The word ‘old’ shouldn’t even be allowed in sports."
The 71-year-old Flair pointed to LeBron James as another example of a time-defying performer who has shown that age is just a number when you’re one of the greatest ever.
"That’s how I lost my self-confidence," Flair added. "People were just saying behind my back, ‘He’s too old. He should be out of here.’ Right? Where are those people now? They’re not even in the business."
When fans wonder why Brady continues to play football, why LeBron still plays basketball or why Flair still enjoys appearing in WWE storylines, Ric says the answer is simple.
"It’s a love of the game, and gosh, who doesn’t want an opportunity to hang around people that you think, and you’ve been told, respect you?" he said. "And in my case, being able to even be around. I’m 40 years older than the kids running around the roster. I’m 40 years older. And to be able to walk in, have a conversation with them, it keeps me up to date.
"I’m actually impressed that so many of them are so aware of the history of our business, and that makes me appreciate them even more."
Flair is currently embroiled in a juicy storyline involving WWE Superstar Lacey Evans — who announced her pregnancy on Raw this week, possibly with his kayfabe baby — and daughter Charlotte Flair, who is no stranger to the GOAT conversation herself.
The 34-year-old Charlotte is the only woman in WWE history to win the Raw Women’s Championship, the SmackDown Women’s Championship, the retired Divas Championship and the NXT Women’s Championship.
She also won the Women’s Royal Rumble last year.
"Charlotte, I’ve said it right on TV: She’s the greatest female wrestler of all time," Flair said. "I’m qualified to say that because I’ve seen ‘em all. I wish she would get the credit she deserves."
When asked who stands beside her in the conversation for greatest female wrestler of all time, Flair said, "without hurting anybody’s feelings," only two names come to mind: SmackDown Women’s champion Sasha Banks and Raw Women’s champion Asuka.
"I started in the '70s, and I’ve seen the whole evolution," he explained. "And to see this thing come around, with [Charlotte] and Sasha and Becky [Lynch] and Bayley — well the three at first and then Bayley right afterward in the women’s division – when Stephanie [McMahon] walked out in Atlanta and said, 'Ta-da!' It really, really changed. That’s part of the history of our business."
Flair is, of course, referring to when Stephanie McMahon launched a "Women’s Revolution" in 2015 by announcing the main roster arrivals of Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch following their game-changing matches in NXT.
That trio of women — as well as Bayley, Asuka and all of the other female competitors in WWE — have since taken the division to new heights by smashing the WWE's gender barrier.
This ushered in the introduction of a Women’s Royal Rumble, women’s Hell in a Cell matches, women’s tag team titles and an all-female pay-per-view called Evolution in 2018. Charlotte, Becky and Ronda Rousey also headlined WrestleMania 35 with a triple threat match.
"I give Sasha Banks all the credit in the world," Flair said, explaining why he considers the SmackDown Women’s Champion to be among the all-time greats. "She’s a working fool. I mean, she is. She is that good.
"I’d put Asuka right there, too," he went on. "But people are going to say, ‘Well, she’s not colorful enough.’ Right? In terms of technical skills, Asuka’s right there. Don’t let me leave her off. People are going to go, ‘She’s not colorful enough. She doesn’t speak English.’ Which is bulls--- … The three of them are right there, boy."
At this point in time, one thing people cannot doubt, however, is the legacies Ric Flair and Tom Brady have built.
Two athletes who will unquestionably go down as two of the all-time greats in their respective fields.
Of course, when asked if he thinks Brady is on his level, Flair (who technically has way more title wins) answered like the legend he is.
"Am I being a wrestler now, or am I giving you a real answer?" he asked. "Wrestling answer, nowhere near. Real life, yes."
Once a Superstar, always a Superstar.