Second Nature is the story of professional wrestlers Ric Flair and his daughter” Charlotte”. Second Nature is a brutally honest look at their professional successes and personal failures in and out of the public spotlight. Many people do not like professional wrestling because it is “fake”. Even the names are fake. Ric Flair’s real name is Ric Fliehr, and Charlotte’s real name is Ashley Fliehr. Ashley chose her stage name since she grew up in Charlotte North Carolina.
Like Rodney Dangerfield, professional wrestlers get no respect.However, to be a successful professional wrestler, you have to be a combination of stunt-person, and stage actor. The reaction from the crowd instantly lets you know if your performance is worthwhile. It is great if the crowd loves you or hates you. If the crowd doesn’t care, then you will not last long in the business. And professional wrestling is a business. One that brings in millions of dollars and supports thousands of performers. Circuses may be disappearing, but professional wrestling keeps growing each year.
We previously reviewed the early days of Ric Flair in his book Ric Flair – To Be The Man. However, Second Nature is about the twilight days of his career and the entry of his daughter Ashley and his son Reid Fliehr into the business. Second Nature is no fluff piece. Ric and Ashley are remarkably open about their personal failings. Ric Flair has been married 4 times and goes into detail about how his professional and personal behavior was the cause of the problems. His travel schedule was so hectic, that during one year of his first marriage, he was only at home for 10 days.
Realizing his prior failures, Ric was determined to be the perfect father to Reid and Ashley. He spent lots of time with them, gave them tons of presents, and never lost his temper. Growing up it seemed like the perfect family. But, of course, it was not. Ric was actually having a long term affair with a good friend of his wife. Ashley was devastated when she found out.
Reid Fliehr went into professional wrestling and Ashley went to college on a full athletic scholarship for volleyball. But then things began to fall apart personally for both of them. Reid secretly was a heroin addict. It seems incredible that he could be super athlete “Reid Flair” in the ring, and then go home and shoot up heroin, but he did. Ric spent thousands of dollars sending Reid to the best rehab centers in the country.
At one point, a rehab center needed $15,000 immediately and Ric just did not have it on hand. Wrestler Hulk Hogan happened to call Ric that day about an upcoming wrestling event. Hogan could tell that Ric was upset about something and asked what it was. When Ric reluctantly admitted the money problem, Hogan immediately wired $15,000 to Ric Flair. Not as a loan; a gift.
Ashley Fliehr had her own personal issues. When her college life seemed to be going perfectly, she one day simply dropped out and moved to Chapel Hill North Carolina to move in with her boyfriend who was a student at UNC. Even worse was the fact that he was a heavy drug user who abused her mentally and physically. Despite all advice from her parents and every one of her friends, she married the guy. Writing in Second Nature years later, Ashley says she just cannot explain why she did something do stupid.
It would be nice to say that Second Nature has a happy ending and everything ends up perfectly. However, Second Nature is a true story and all true-life stories have good and bad aspects. Some parts turn out wonderfully and some parts are tragic and irreversible.
Despite all the rehab stays and a loving family and girlfriend, Reid Fliehr died of a drug overdose. Ric and Ashley both blamed themselves. Ric asked himself over and over if he had pushed Reid too hard by bringing him into wrestling. Ashely wondered if she had been tied up with her own problems too much to understand what was happening with Reid. The truth, of course, is that sometimes nothing can be done to save a true addict.
It is impossible to read Second Nature without thinking of the Mickey Rourke movie The Wrestler. Rourke plays a professional wrestler who is a hero in the ring while his personal life is a complete disaster. In fact, both Ric and Ashley reference the movie several times and worry that it is just a little too close to their own lives. Second Nature was a fascinating, behind the scenes, glimpse into the lives of wrestling “superstars” Brian Shields did a terrific job helping Ric and Askhey Fliehr create Second Nature.
Yes, Professional wrestling is fake. However, never forget that the challenges, joy and pain of the wrestlers themselves is very real.