“Nature Boy” Ric Flair was a recent guest on The Steve Austin Show, where he was reunited with long-time friend and fellow WWE Hall of Famer “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Flair opened up to Austin about the serious health issues which nearly cost him his life, how it affected his fiancée, and revealed that he is indeed still drinking on occasion.
On How His Issues W/ Alcohol Began & How Often He Drank:
I would go to high school in Wisconsin and, of course, you could drink beer when you’re 18 and that just leads to everything. Then I got into the business and people thought I was ribbing or being facetious when I told people on that 30 For 30 that we drank every day. I said, ‘I drank every day I worked,’ and they said, ‘How many days did you work?’ I said, ‘I worked every day, twice on Saturday and twice on Sunday.’ It doesn’t mean I drank twice on Saturday and Sunday, but when Saturday and Sunday were over I drank probably double the amount depending on how long I had to wrestle that day because sometimes I would do two hours a day with guys like [Ricky] Morton or [Ricky] Steamboat or Harley [Race] or [Jerry] Brisco.
On His Hospitalization & The Significance Of His Health Issues:
I just doubled over, literally where I was standing…..Wendy took me to the hospital and I don’t remember anything, Steve, for two months. I was in a coma for 12 days, ICU for 31 days. I had kidney failure, respiratory heart failure. I was septic and I had pneumonia all at one time. I guess I was in so much pain they induced a coma. Wendy said I was just screaming; they couldn’t give me enough pain medicine and then it took them 12 hours to get me ready for surgery and then 12 days in a coma and then 31 days in intensive care and then I had to go over to a rehab facility to learn how to walk and just start from scratch and I never had any memory of anything until the 1st of November. I don’t remember any of it. Obviously, I’ve been told and it’s been filled in for me, but I don’t remember one person coming to see me from Michael Hayes to Ricky Steamboat to [Hulk] Hogan. People came from all over to see me and I don’t remember any of it. Even when I was out of the coma in ICU, I was barely there. They did 20 cat-scans trying to figure out if I had any type of permanent damage, in terms of memory loss. I got out of that place the 28th and I was home here with full time nursing care, still on an intravenous antibiotic and I would just sit and ask Wendy questions. They wouldn’t give me my cell phone because every time I said something to somebody it was just crazy. They asked at the office. Hunter [Triple H] told Wendy, ‘Please don’t let him talk on the cell phone because every time I try to make sense with him, it’s out there,’ which I’m sure I was….I lost 43 pounds. It’s a miracle Steve. I literally looked at it as being a miracle. The doctor told me it was a miracle and after I look back on everything and come to realize what actually took place, it is a miracle. People were righting me off.
On Being Unable To Come To Grips With Being Ill:
I never thought of giving up, but I really couldn’t come to grips with it. Does that make sense? It took me a long time. I would sit there, as an example, to tell you how out of it I was, the 28 days I spent in the rehab facility trying to learn how to walk again and everything, I didn’t even realize that I had the stoma attached to me and they’re changing it everyday four times a day and I didn’t even know it. After I got home, I started thinking about it. I’ve told this to a few people, but I think people can realize it. I would sit in the chair alone and worry about dying. I would spend the whole day worrying I was gonna die, after learning how sick I’d been and trying to figure out why, out of all people in the world, I was still there and somebody else wasn’t. I’m being very serious. I don’t tell that to a lot of people. If you think about it, I’m sure people, if they’ve had that similar misfortune go home and wonder why too and then it went away, maybe a couple days I thought about it and if I was upset or depressed or something or something caused any stress, I automatically thought that day I was gonna die. Living on borrowed time, right? I would think back to all the stories over the years, like Angelo Mosca when I was 24 years old, he was an old-ass wrestler, big time football player in the CFL and he told me that if I lived to be 30, I’d be overstaying my welcome [laughter].
On The Difficulty Detoxing From Alcohol While In The Hospital:
They had to strap me down, which I don’t remember any of this. They had me strapped down like I was in the ward for mentally ill people. It was that serious. They had to strap me down, not only my wrists and ankles, but strap my body down. I was really vibrating [laughter] according to them. I have gone back and taken flowers to the nurses, to both places, and when I walk in there – I did it maybe 6 months ago – they looked at me in shock, ‘You actually made it? We didn’t know when you left us and went to rehab whether you were gonna make it or not because you were so far gone.’
On What A Doctor Told Him After Expressing He Was Glad To Be Out Of The Hospital:
The doctor said – and I do remember this a little bit – that when they were transferring me by ambulance over to the rehab center that I said, ‘God, I’m glad to be out of this place.’ The doctor looked at me and said, ‘This place just saved your life. You better thank God you were here with these people.’ So, of course, he reminds me of that statement, but I didn’t mean it in that way. I had been in this room for so long and that’s about all I can remember is that damn room.
On His Fiance Wendy Barlow’s Struggles While He Was Hospitalized:
Wendy was there….for 31 days. She never left my side. She legitimately had what is called ICU psychosis, where she was starting to hallucinate too.
On Whether He Still Drinks Alcohol Today:
I’m gonna be completely honest with you. I’ve asked the doctor ten different times and of course I’ll ask other doctors because I refuse to believe – at my wedding I had three glasses of champagne. At my daughter’s wedding I had the same or maybe one glass of wine with the champagne and while I was in Florida with Wendy, this past week, we were there for Thanksgiving, I drank about four beers, so it’s not the alcohol that’s gonna hurt me. It’s that the doctors are afraid that if I have one, that will lead to another, but I have had a drink, so alcohol is not gonna kill me. I’ve never had any hard liquor and that won’t happen, but I have had probably ten or twelve beverages with alcohol in them; beer, wine, or champagne.
On Whether He Is ‘Beat Up’ From Professional Wrestling:
I’m not at all. That I can tell you and people are in shock about it, but I don’t feel anything from wrestling. I feel great. The only thing that I feel right now is that I am still relatively weak. This has been the first week I’ve spent in the gym without travelling. I just need to get physically stronger, but as far as my back, knees, elbows, shoulders, the rotator cuffs are, of course, stiff, but they don’t hurt at all. My back – I was told I would have arthritis in my 40s – I have no discomfort. I certainly hate to brag about this, but I don’t have any issues in terms of that at all. It’s amazing and people keep saying, ‘You’ve got to hurt.’ I say, ‘Guys, I feel great.’
(Transcription Credit: Michael McClead, WrestleZone)
Ric Flair On Coming To Terms w/ Being Ill, Says He's Had A Few Drinks