One of the most celebrated and esteemed wrestlers of all and still Becoming Ric Flair cannot quite grasp the quality work its titular man achieved. Difficult it is to point toward a constant theme in the life of Flair, his continued back and forth, highs and lows, are documented as well as can be here. Who would want to become Ric Flair? The man had more limb breaks, bust-ups and bad cuts than most, and yet it is clear throughout Becoming Ric Flair that he would do it all again. That he needs to do it one last time despite having done it twice already. Those false starts and returns to the ring have come thick and fast for a man married to the business, but Becoming Ric Flair is an eye-opener for wrestling fans.
Similar in practice to Undertaker: The Last Ride but on a shorter scale and still with the sleek aims of WWE productions. Flair is similar to that of Mark Callaway. Not in ability or lifestyle but in where they now find themselves. Their careers have come to a close and all they can do now is look back on what they have achieved and suffered through. Losing himself in the character, the layers that occupied decades in the ring and out of it, appears to have become a permanent shift. Flair no longer knows who he is and that much is shown not through him stating it, but through those that know him intimately. They are a barometer for who he now is compared to what he was and the shift, dynamic and worry is clear. But so too is his influence. His heart is always in it but, as Becoming Ric Flair makes clear, his head was not.
Even with the emotive outpouring and the well-charted, definitive style of this, introducing Tom Rinaldi as the narrator and interviewer is poor. His hammy narration, the pauses between his speeches and third-party bragging for Flair are cuts and blows to the deep realisations Flair appears to be making on the camera. It is closer to Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares than it is to delicate documentarians that provides a fly-on-the-wall display. Moving past that minor hurdle is easy though considering the display of archival footage and threads of history WWE have at their disposal here. Director Ben Houser does well with detailing all the blackspots and interesting moments that may fly by the more passive fan. Becoming Ric Flair has its place then as a solid documentary.
It has more than enough to prove that, from personal and enlightening interviews with Flair to talking heads of the wrestling greats waxing off about how influential a man he was in the ring. That much is clear to those with fond and nostalgic memories of his work. But Becoming Ric Flair does more than showcase a well-seasoned career that flagged toward the end. It manages to explain that latter portion, that need to stick to what he knows and what he loves. It details the addictions, the downfalls and the worries of a man trying to fight against his age and his own expectations. It is nothing short of incredible to see the intimacies of that, but the padding and plodding that comes from parts of this piece weigh the documentary down somewhat.