I watched it, you shouldn’t. Here’s why.
It Wasn’t Funny
Seems like a big one for a roast, right? Over the course of well over two hours (that felt like ten), I laughed out loud one time for an anti-joke from Conrad Thompson’s sidekick Casio Kid about Torrie Wilson’s workout tape, which caught me off guard. Otherwise, there were some good zingers here and there, but to get to them would be akin to searching for pearls in a body of water that just suffered an oil spill.
More Professional Wrestling
- In Order to Make Its future, Professional Wrestling Needs to Forget Its Past
- I Hope Triple H starts Pointing at People Again
- Wheeler YUTA and Daniel Garcia Take the ROH Pure Title Into the Future
Former NHL enforcer Tie Domi was one of the early roasters and it quickly became apparent that he was about to fill a common roast trope: the random D-List celebrity who doesn’t know how to tell jokes, simply there to add any star power possible, who will be mocked by the other roasters for the rest of the night.
But what I can say about Domi is as damning as can be: by the end of the evening he wasn’t in my bottom three roasters, maybe not even my bottom five. Yes, he poorly read jokes that were written for him by someone else and got few laughs, but that was true of many this night and Domi at least brought an “Aw shucks, I know I’m not cut out for this” level of charm that others didn’t.
Shuli Egar, formerly of the Howard Stern Show, was one of the only people there that seemed to have both genuine talent for doing roasts and deep knowledge of pro wrestling; most other people had just one or the other. This was a roast where most of the wrestling figures were as bad as you feared, but most of the comedians weren’t much better and didn’t even have the wrestling tie-in to help sell it.
There Was Little Love
I’m not the biggest fan of roasts in general, but I have enjoyed some, and in my experience, the best roasts are usually done by people who know the subject best. There is a level of meanness you can go to without it feeling mean when you know there’s real love behind it. Those who know you best can cut you to ribbons in a way that even some really sharp comic minds can’t. Great roasts usually have this odd mixture of warmth and cruelty, created by a group of people who love who they’re mocking.
Most of this roast felt like the bad roasts, like the Hollywood production roasts. A few people who really cared followed by many more who only had tenuous relationships with the subject but were brought in to help the show draw, all filled out by a bunch of substandard comics. It often felt soulless, less like a tribute and more like what it likely was, just another event to squeeze out a few more fan dollars from the Ric Flair retirement parade.
It was during the Rock’s mail-in video tribute, where he talked about knowing Ric since he was a child and seemed to have genuine fondness and knowledge of the man, bringing Flair to tears on the picture-in-picture, when it hit me what this roast reminded me of: the roast of Chevy Chase.
During the night there were multiple jokes made at Flair’s former friend and biographer Mark Madden’s expense, along with one referencing Arn Anderson no longer being pals with Ric. Much like the Chase roast, the theme that started to become more and more unavoidable throughout the night was that in a marathon roast with a million names, most of the people involved, with some obvious and notable exceptions, didn’t seem to have particularly deep relationships with the Nature Boy.
Some People Didn’t Even Want to do a Roast
Multiple roasters almost apologetically noted that their jokes were written for them, which is common in roasts, but seemed ill-prepared and even uncomfortable doing them, and relieved when their part to play on this night ended. Then you had Bully Ray, who in true Bully Ray form put himself over by talking about how he does things differently, theatrically tearing up his script, and doing a kind but largely boilerplate tribute speech to Ric.
There was also the fact that a lot of the biggest names on this night only sent in short videos rather than appearing live. Chevy Chase did ten seconds and flipped Flair off, Aaron Rodgers couldn;t be bothered to turn down the volume of his living room TV when recording his sub-one minute video, Jerry West tried to “Woo” and somehow failed, and in one of the weirdest appearances of the night, comedian Ron Funches turned in a piece that seemed to be a glorification of Flair while hinting at how aware he was of the serious allegations against Ric.
Then came the man himself. The main event of all roasts is the subject taking the stage and getting revenge, telling jokes about everyone on stage. Ric showed zero interest in that and if anything, mildly browbeat the participants for joking about the three female roasters, Vickie Guerrero, Torrie Wilson, and Wendy Barlow. Flair proceeded to instead give a rambling tribute to the people on stage that he knew. It was weepy, it was sometimes touching, sometimes almost indecipherable, but it wasn’t a roast.
It Was a Dealer’s Choice of Offensive Remarks
Look, I know roasts are supposed to be offensive, we have to acknowledge the weirdness of roasting a guy that has a history — a history that has had very recent repercussions for him — of sexually harassing and assaulting women.
Every joke about Flair pulling out his dick or womanizing, and there were a million, hit differently in the context of things like the recent Dark Side of the Ring episode on the Plane Ride From Hell and quite frankly, a million other well-known stories. Ditto for some comments about African Americans. Roasters were in a no-win situation: you could either joke about these things and be a downer, or avoid them, leaving them as a giant elephant in the room as you tried to act like you were being shocking and leaving no stone unturned.
I think all subjects can be on the table when you’re among friends, but as we’ve established, we weren’t. There were many jokes made about how no one black was on the stage. One joke, about how Flair was now in so many rap music videos with people he would normally not want to be associated with, hung uncomfortably in the room and seemed to bother Flair. There were also multiple jokes about Torrie Wilson being one of the only women Flair chased but couldn’t sleep with which once again, hit differently in light of everything around the man.
There was a joke about Chinese women. There was a trans joke about Nyla Rose. Dan St.Germain, in one of the most memorable sets of the night, went darker than anyone else by far, referencing everything from Bruiser Brody’s murder, to Tammy Sytch’s vehicular manslaughter, to Teddy Hart being a suspect in missing women’s cases, to Velveteen Dream. He was one of the only people on the dais who joked about rape and wrestling’s problems with it, and he went there fairly often. It was a fascinating set that drew a few big laughs, a lot of groans and silence, and seemed to have both Flair and overseer or all things Ric, Conrad Thompson, visibly uncomfortable at a couple points.
I’m not here to tell you what to be offended or not offended by. Maybe you were offended by the jokes towards minorities, maybe you weren’t. Maybe you were offended by the joking around Flair’s very real, very serious criminal accusations, maybe you weren’t. Maybe you were offended by the jokes about a lot of the darkest crimes that have happened in the industry, maybe you weren’t.
The point is that there were so many different avenues of offending things, there is probably one that is going to hit you. It wasn’t long before I saw tweets to the effect of, “That was really funny and people are overreacting except for ___,” the blank different each time. Again, if this felt like a group of people who intimately knew and loved each other, like roasts can be, a lot of the sharpest of edges get softened. Not here.
If Flair Dies, Hoo Boy
Ric Flair will probably be fine tomorrow. Yes, he nearly died in recent years. Yes, he is a man in his 70s on blood thinners who claims he can just “turn off his pacemaker” for the match. Yes, by his own admission he is coming into it with a foot injury and hasn’t worked in years. But I have to believe, with how public this is, with how much attention this is drawing, with those closest to Ric being around him on this weekend, that people have been given reason to be comfortable and believe he can do this.
But if he dies? No one can say they didn’t see it coming. There were multiple jokes about Flair drinking again, and “Flair could be dead after this weekend” was one of the recurring jokes throughout the roast, and it sometimes even crossed into the realm of “Conrad is taking advantage of you to make money.” One comedian even joked that he is also an EMT and was only booked so that Conrad could get insurance.
I’ve seen random people online get flack for raising the possibility that Flair could be risking his health or even his life this Sunday. Well, if you watched the Roast of Ric Flair, you saw a group of friends, family, and fans say it to his face.
But let’s throw in a bonus, the only reason to actually watch the Roast of Ric flair.
Eric Bischoff Went Insane.
Okay, I can’t in good conscience tell you to spend money on the Flair roast, both for moral reasons and because I don’t think it’s a good entertainment value for your dollar. But if you are somehow put in front of it, there are things of value. A few performers who did ok, a few “oh shit” lines, a few genuinely touching moments, Brian Knobbs not having a script and talking about how high he was, a sweet moment of gratitude from Ric to Wendy. But that’s not what you need to see. You need to see one thing.
You need to see Eric Bischoff.
Eric Bischoff took the stage and did not roast anyone, nor did he pay much in the way of tribute to Flair. In fact, he didn’t even talk about Flair that much.
No, what Eric Bischoff did was a mini-one man show about how he was getting older and confronting his mortality, describing in incredible detail his pubic hair going white, his barber discovering ear hair, and his sagging balls.
And then he pulled out an electric razor. A Manscaped electric razor.
The whole thing was a covert ad. But it didn’t stop there. Oh no. He proceeded to scream about his balls while pantomiming, on stage, his shaving them, as well as his asshole.
After that, he attempted to transition back to a serious and somber speech about Brian Knobbs almost dying and the fragility of life, but just when you were starting to get lulled into a state of normalcy, he turned it into a joke about Knobbs needing to live because he lost so much weight from the experience he could finally see his penis.
It was one of the most insane, off-topic, bizarre, entertaining things I have ever seen at any kind of public event. It was the best part of the Roast of Ric Flair, by far. It had almost nothing to do with Ric Flair.