Legendary Flair is main attraction even without wrestlingThursday was a homecoming for the Ric Flair. The 61-year-old professional wrestling legend was the main attraction at the Rumble at the Garden, a Heavy on Wrestling event at Grandma’s Sports Garden.
By: Jimmy Bellamy, Duluth News Tribune
When Ric Flair was a child growing up in Minneapolis, he wanted his parents to buy property on Lake Minnetonka. The family instead opted for a place on Lake Superior in Two Harbors.
Thursday was a homecoming for the man nicknamed “The Nature Boy.” The 61-year-old professional wrestling legend was the main attraction at the Rumble at the Garden, a Heavy on Wrestling event that attracted about 325 fans at Grandma’s Sports Garden in Duluth.
“When you’re from Minnesota, you can’t help but love Minnesota. It’s always nice to come back,” Flair said. “I came up here a lot, so I had a good time. I like it up here. It’s a beautiful town. I hate to see the economy struggle like it has, but just driving around today (provided) a lot of fond memories.”
Flair, who ended a brief retirement in 2009 to come back to the ring, didn’t compete Thursday. The 16-time world champion signed autographs and posed for pictures with fans for two hours and cut an in-ring promo at the start of the show.
The real-life Richard Fliehr is the latest international wrestling star to appear at a Heavy on Wrestling event. David Sabick, a Duluth resident and the owner and operator of HOW, started the operation in 2007 and has hosted shows that included Mick Foley, Terry Funk and Jake “The Snake” Roberts.
Sabick said Flair’s appearance at a World Championship Wrestling show at the DECC in 1997 was what got him hooked on wrestling. On Thursday, it was Flair who expressed admiration for Sabick.
“Events like this are fun. It’s just sad that everybody you work for isn’t as honest as David,” Flair said, referring to the reputation wrestling promoters have for being deceitful. “David would be the only guy I’d do this for again. And I will again and again. If everybody had the integrity this guy brings to the table and ran a show like this, the wrestlers would be much happier and much more successful and in a safer place.”
Aside from running the company, the 25-year-old Sabick wrestles on occasion as “Heavy D.” Another wrestler who does a lot of behind-the-scenes work is Ann Brookstone, who moved to Duluth in 2008 to be a part of Heavy on Wrestling.
“I do a little bit of everything. I’m basically David’s right-hand man, or right-hand girl, I should say,” Brookstone said. “We’ve got a really good core of people together to make it really successful. We just found all the right people, and it’s working out.”