Why ESPN's 30 For 30 For Ric Flair Was So Difficult To Put Together

Ric Flair ESPN

When filmmaker Rory Karpf was given the green light by ESPN to make a 30 For 30 on one of wrestling's biggest superstars Ric Flair, he knew it wouldn't be an easy task. Beyond the fact that Flair's documentary would be the first of its kind that the network aired, Karpf was tasked with dissecting 40 years of The Nature Boy's career into a digestible format ESPN, WWE, and a general audience would enjoy. Karpf says the task was so difficult, that it resulted in three versions of the documentary being made:

The film actually went through three totally different versions. The very first version of the film I edited myself, and when I turned it in, the folks at ESPN -- mainly John Dahl -- were not thrilled with it. He felt that I didn't really take many risks and it was kind of a "by-the-book" presentation. That was disheartening. We went back and did a second cut that was very centralized on the 1980s, where the '80s as a decade were more the main character than Ric Flair. John really disliked that cut. But then I edited a new open that he did really like, and that shaped the way the film ultimately turned out. It was a very personal open -- just Ric in his own words.

So Rory Karpf went back to Ric Flair and did just that. 30 For 30 "Nature Boy" features a back and forth between Karpf and Flair as the stylin', profilin', limousine riding, jet flying, kiss-stealing, wheelin' n' dealin' son of a gun gives an honest telling of the man he was back in the day, and is today. As Karpf tells ESPN, these conversations include cuts to animated sequences which recreate the stories Flair is telling. Karpf says he felt the animation route was better than cuts to photographs, as he says 80s wrestling (which is viewed as Flair's prime) was a bit cartoonish as well.

Unfortunately, condensing Ric Flair's career wasn't the only stumble 30 For 30 "Nature Boy" had along the way. Flair was placed in a medically induced coma in August, and there were concerns about whether or not the documentary could end the way they originally intended-- with Flair living vicariously through his current WWE Superstar daughter, Charlotte Flair. A small change was made to the presentation to discuss the incident, although Rory Karpf says the doc remains unchanged:

We thought about it, and we decided to address the health situation in a director's statement, which will run during a commercial break. Once it looked as if he was going to make a full recovery, we decided to not actually put it in the body of the film. We like where the film ends right now, with Ric living vicariously through his daughter and her wrestling career. That's not changing. That has already happened, and that's how he views himself.

30 For 30 "Nature Boy" will air November 7th at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN. The documentary has been said to be a very "raw" look into the life of the wrestler, and even Ric Flair is a bit embarrassed at the things he admitted. For more on Flair, read about the time he predicted he'd win an Oscar for his cameo in Magic Mike XXL, only to have his scene cut from the film. For more on other upcoming fall shows, visit our fall premiere guide.

Mick Joest
Content Producer

Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.