Professional wrestling star and Charlottean Ric Flair, who was admitted to the intensive care unit of an Atlanta hospital Saturday, was put into a medically induced coma and underwent surgery Monday, according to multiple reports.
A tweet sent out by his management team early Monday sought prayers for “tough medical issues.”
TMZ Sports tweeted Monday afternoon that Flair had been put in a medically induced coma and was being prepared for surgery. The site credited the information to a WWE rep, and added that it was not clear what procedure Flair was expected to undergo.
Flair rep Melinda Morris Zanoni of Legacy Talent and Entertainment tweeted shortly after 7 p.m. that the surgery, which was not heart-related, was a success. She said he still had a “long road ahead” and asked for prayers to continue.
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The website WrestlingInc.com reported that 68-year-old Flair – known as “The Nature Boy” – was admitted Saturday morning to the intensive care unit of an Atlanta hospital.
“Are u a Fan/Friend of Ric Flair?” asked a Monday morning tweet from Zanoni. “If so, we need prayers & positive energy 4 our Living Legend as he is dealing w/some tough medical issues.”
That was a change in tone from what Zanoni was saying Saturday, when she described the hospital visit as “routine monitoring” and said there was “no reason to panic.”
WWE agent and promoter Michael PS Hayes of Atlanta tweeted Monday that he had visited Flair in the hospital and added: “I can assure that he needs everyone’s prayers.”
Fans quickly took to social media to express their support for Flair, including NASCAR’s Dale Earnhardt Jr. and professional wrestler John Cena, who tweeted: “Sending every ounce (of) energy to #TheMan and asking that all of you do the same #NeverGiveUp.”
Many fans noted how quickly Flair’s health seemed to change from Saturday to Sunday and that added to their growing concerns.
“Last night, it was routine. Tonight, it’s tough medical issues,” posted Larissa Angel on Facebook. “As a true life-time dedicated fan, my heart is breaking and I just wish we had more information! I have been praying since he missed his show in Virginia on the 5th. I know we are not technically family but … it’s really hard to sit back and have to wonder.”
Added Tobi Kallbach on Facebook: “(Is) there any more information about the tough health issues Ric Flair is dealing with? I think I am not the only person who is very concerned about his well-being.”
Flair earned 16 world championships since the late 1970s, but became just as famous for his in-ring antics, including rule breaking, a cocky interview style, strutting and shouting the catchphrase “WOOOOO!” The latter has become his trademark.
An Aug. 8 Observer story noted Flair’s hard-edged wrestling persona has appeared to mellow in recent months. The former “world champion” has given a series of painfully honest interviews leading up to a documentary about his career on ESPN’s acclaimed “30 for 30” series. It will air Nov. 7.
Flair spoke of some regrets in the interviews, including not being able to draw a line between his big, loud wrestling persona and his personal life.
However, true to his wrestling style, he made no apologies.
Flair’s fame has endured a decade after his heyday, in part because his glitzy, jewelry-wearing persona was embraced by a younger generation of rappers. In a recent article, Complex.com called Flair “Hip-Hop’s Favorite Wrestler.”
As a result, he has experienced a resurgence in popularity since retiring a decade ago.
“His lifestyle has become the rapper blueprint, and his name has become a metaphor for pageantry,” wrote Complex. “In Ric Flair, rap artists have found the embodiment of their brashest selves, co-opting his character’s brand as a stand-in for extravagance and excess.”
Ric Flair moments in the Carolina’s