The Gangsta Rapper Tully Blanchard


None of you can be first. But all of you can be next...
    --Ric Flair

I watched Ric Flair and The Four Horsemen with the boy the other night, and it really struck me how Bad Boy/Death Row these dudes were. The whole aesthetic--"private jets...finest women...most expensive cars...biggest house"--is basically what popular hip-hop became as it matured. And then of course emphasis on mike skills (someone in the doc literally called it that, I think it was Triple H) the ability to be able to talk, almost off the dome, and expound on the character your playing.

Likewise, there were all these moments where wall of reality came down. If you listen to Arn Anderson talk, it's really not clear when he's talking himself or when he's talking about the character he's playing. Less interesting, but still with on the same theme, is the Flair v. Bischoff beef. You have a guy basically cursing out his boss in front of millions of viewers, except he means it. Of course a lot of the similarities boil down to the respective target audience for wrestling and hip-hop--young boys. Hip-hop pulls from the post-pubescent angst, and wrestling pulls from post-pubescent fantasies. Of course the "rapping" in wrestling is ultimately centered around an actual fight, and is a little less meta. But while I loved watching, say, the Road Warriors do work, I think I liked listening to Ric Flair rap at least as much as I liked watching him wrestle.

One thing I'd like to know more about is what actually makes a "good wrestler." They were pretty harsh on Sid Viscious and Lex Luger, basically saying that these were two big muscle-bound dudes who had all of the physical skills, but zero technique. I'd love to have heard more about it. As a fan, I knew Ric Flair and Arn Anderson were great, in the sense that I liked watching them. But I didn't actually know why.

A shout out to Triple-H, Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes. They all had some really sharp points about wrestling and what the Four Horsemen meant. Triple H had a great breakdown on how the Horsemen fit into the whole psychology of the 80s. He talked about how Dusty Rhodes, the son of the plumber, represented the common man going to war against Horsemen, on the representation of villainous, capitalist excess. And capitalist excess almost always won.

Also a shout out to Tully Blanchard. I had forgotten how good this cat was. It's almost sad that he was teamed with Flair. I think he overshadowed him a bit. Blackness ran deep through all of these guys. Or call it The South, if you want. You get to a point where you can't separate anymore.


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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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