The past couple of years have seen plenty of discussion of an upcoming 30 for 30 on wrestler Ric Flair, which was initially teased in November 2015, had some details announced a year later, had a teaser unveiled in December 2016, and had an interview list revealed in May (along with a Sept. 8 airdate, which ESPN said was incorrect).
Now, we have an official airdate for it, with ESPN announcing Wednesday at the Television Critics Association Press Tour that the documentary will air November 7 at 10 p.m. Eastern. And they even brought Flair along to promote it; here’s a video he did announcing the airdate, complete with a signature “Woo!”
And here’s a new trailer ESPN released:
— ESPN Films 30 for 30 (@30for30) July 26, 2017
The film is directed by Rory Karpf, who has previously directed 30 for 30s I Hate Christian Laettner and The Book of Manning. The quotes in ESPN’s release show how this came out of an interview with Flair Karpf did for I Hate Christian Laettner about sports villains, and how it will involve a who’s who of professional wrestling:
“This film was basically borne out of working with Rory Karpf on our ‘I Hate Christian Laettner’ documentary,” says 30 for 30 Executive Producer John Dahl. “Rory interviewed Ric for his take on sports villains and wanted to do a film on him next. After watching that interview for the Laettner film, we were convinced that Ric would be a fascinating subject to explore for our first feature-length 30 for 30 on a pro wrestler.”
“Nature Boy” features two in-depth conversations between Karpf and Flair over a 16-month span, surrounded by interviews with those closest to the man himself; including Triple H, Hulk Hogan, Ricky Steamboat, Baby Doll, Tully Blanchard, The Undertaker, Arn Anderson, Shawn Michaels, Sting and Road Warrior Animal as well as his first wife, Leslie Jacobs, and children along with others who know Flair best.
“I grew up a huge wrestling fan in the 1980s and I was captivated by Ric Flair,” says director Rory Karpf. “It’s been a personally rewarding experience to tell the story of arguably the greatest wrestler of all time. Ric’s story transcends the wrestling business, and my hope is that it will appeal to wrestling and non-wrestling fans alike.”
Diving into a wrestling 30 for 30 is a new step for ESPN, and one that some will undoubtedly criticize with “this isn’t sports,” but the sports/professional wrestling overlap is both real and significant, as ESPN’s research has previously shown. That’s why they’ve been covering WWE more, and despite pushback from external and internal critics who think viewers might be “confused” by ESPN covering something with predetermined outcomes (which isn’t much of a criticism, really; viewers know WWE outcomes are predetermined at this point, and they’re not going to be confused by ESPN talking about it), it doesn’t really seem like a bad fit for the company initially known as the Entertainment and Sports Programming Networks.
The reaction to this 30 for 30 should be particularly interesting, though. If it’s received well and gets a big audience, there might be many more wrestling 30 for 30s down the road. There are certainly plenty of fascinating stories in professional wrestling, and some of them might well make for good documentaries. But if the audience isn’t there, that might end this particular experiment. We’ll see how it goes, and just how many tune in to watch.