"The Nature Boy." The record states Ric Flair has been the World Heavyweight Champion 16 times. If we're being technical, that's not actually the correct number. Regardless, it's the number in the record books.
"The Doctor Of Thuganomics." Currently, John Cena is the World Heavyweight Champion. The record officially states that the leader of the CeNation has held the title a WWE record of 14 times.
The current World Heavyweight Champion, John Cena, recently spoke in an interview, which eWrestlingNews.com journalist Ryan Clark reported on Friday afternoon (Does Cena Think He'll Break Flair's Title Record?), about the fact that he is about to surpass the legendary 16-time reign as Champion set by arguably the single most beloved Superstar in the history of the business.
Am I the only one who feels a little uncomfortable about where this is headed? Cena isn't retiring anytime soon. In pro wrestling today, title reigns aren't nearly as lengthy as in Flair's era, and title changes are more frequent than a 12-year old getting an erection in his sixth-grade school class with a hot teacher. The bottom line is this: something scary is about to happen.
John Cena isn't retiring anytime soon. Ric Flair isn't winning the World Heavyweight Championship again anytime soon. So it's inevitable. Within a few years, maybe less, Cena is going to surpass one of the most historical statistics in our genre'. How can the business we hold so dearly to our hearts let this happen?
Ok. Some might claim, "it's just a number, what's the big deal?" Wrong. Age is just a number. And while we're on the subject, Ric Flair is old as hell. Just thought I'd get that out in the open. But he's a national treasure. A pro wrestling institution. A hero to many, an icon to most, and a Hall Of Famer -- two times over -- to all. How can the pink t-shirt wearing, wrist-band rockin', Eminem style-biting "face of the WWE" hold the record as the man who "won the big one" more times than Ric F'ING Flair?! How is that possible?!
I'll tell you how it's possible. WWE doesn't seem to appreciate history. They seem to think that professional wrestling, sorry, sports entertainment, began and will end with their lone promotion. That's so completely and utterly wrong it doesn't deserve explanation. Ric Flair's World Heavyweight Championship reigns, for those who weren't around to appreciate them, were all special in their own way. Some spawned off wrestlers that would become legends. Others gave fans memorable moments that they will hold with them, and cherish, as long as they grace God's green earth. Can you say the same thing about John Cena? If you can, you need your head examined.
I could go on for several pages displaying my disgust for what is rapidly approaching for all to read. I'll refrain. I could lecture fans who may not know any better, or those that completely agree with my sentiments, that WWE needs to either let John Cena play out his current reign until he retires, or immediately name a "new face of WWE" so it never happens, all night long. Again, I'll refrain. I could warn WWE that the history books will look ridiculous from this point forward when the most prestigious Championship in the history of our sport, with lineage dating back to the turn of the century (the one prior to the Y2K turn 13 years ago), will show the name John Cena above Ric Flair, giving all of our children, and our children's children, the impression that the two belong on the same page, let alone the same column, let alone with Cena's name above Flair's. The mere thought turns my stomach. The idea that a future generation of wrestling fans who don't know any better, who study the history of the sport, will be of the opinion that the greatest World Champions begins with John Cena, continues with Ric Flair, and ends with David Arquette, is truly sad. It really says a lot about what our favorite sport has become, and worse yet, where it's going.
With all of that said, in the end, what's the difference, really? Titles mean nothing these days. Championship reigns are a joke. There was a time when the title made the man. There was a time when the man made the title. And where we're headed, there's about to be a time when the man and his title are no more than a wannabe thug who wants to win what used to be known as the greatest prize in our industry, just so he has some "bling" to brag about giving him extra "street cred." That's where we're headed everybody. Buckle in, it's going to be a bumpy ride. If you want to get out of the car, I won't blame you. If it weren't my job, I'm not so sure at this point I wouldn't join you. Don't get me wrong, there's still plenty to enjoy in the brand of entertainment we all share an affinity of, but sharing a mutual respect for the guy holding the 12 pounds of gold is no longer something that we can all agree is the person who should be representing the profession. When I was a kid growing up, Ric Flair was that guy. I was proud to be a pro wrestling fan. Now, it's almost embarrassing to be caught watching WWE RAW when "the man" is standing in the ring talking into a microphone. My, how far we've come? My, how much further are we headed? My, my.....my dear god. John Cena is about to break Ric Flair's record as the individual most represented with Championship-level success in the sports entertainment industry.