In an episode of People TV, Ric Flair is interviewed at a physical therapy center in Georgia, where he’s recovering from a life-threatening medical scare caused by decades of living his pro wrestling gimmick, including heavy drinking.
“I didn’t think I was an alcoholic, but obviously I was,” Flair says in the video. “I never drank while I was working, but as soon as work was done, right to the mill.”
In recent years, and after several failed marriages, Flair has mostly given up the wrestling spotlight and settled down with fiancée Wendy Barlow, whom he reconnected with after working with her in the 1990s in WCW. However, Flair continued to drink, which Barlow found concerning.
“He was drinking excessively, to the point where I was really worried about him,” she says. Barlow and others convinced Flair to go to rehab, where he curtailed his drinking somewhat, but not entirely. Barlow started to notice issues with Flair’s health. “He was slowly, slowly coming to a lot of medical problems.”
“The day he told me he had a stomach ache and it was really bad and he didn’t feel good, and we had to go, was the day that saved his life, because he was slowly dying,” Barlow said of the day Flair checked into the hospital before being placed in a coma. “Because of everything else shutting down, it turned out that his bowel was dying.”
Flair apparently had a 20% chance of survival, and doctors didn’t think he’d survive the surgery. After the surgery, Flair now uses a wheelchair and can only walk with a walker, though he’s going through physical therapy in hopes of a full recovery.
In a touching moment, Barlow talks about the other wrestling superstars who helped her and Flair get through the event. Barlow says she often called Stone Cold Steve Austin, who is apparently a really good listener, and Hulk Hogan checked in every day and flew to the hospital to pray for Flair. While Flair was in a coma, Hogan even left him sweet notes in a journal. “You are the greatest wrestler I have ever seen and have the honor to call a real a friend,” Hogan wrote in one note. “Love you my brother. You are ‘The Man.'”
“I think that this will open a whole new door for motivational speaking,” Flair said of his life after surgery, where he hopes to help others combat addiction. “My message would be to those guys, you need to start looking at what’s going on in your life, because you’re just screwing it up.”
But Flair knows that after a lifetime of living his gimmick, it will take time for people to believe he’s changed: “It’s gonna be a hard sell overnight to say Ric Flair’s changed. It’s gonna take time and it’s gonna take proof.”