Legendary Ric Flair coming to Altoona

Ric Flair is known for stylin’ and profilin’ but the professional wrestling legend spent last Saturday night doing the same thing most area wrestling fans were doing – enjoying Penn State’s third consecutive NCAA championship.

“[Penn State wrestling coach] Cael Sanderson is a great friend,” Flair said. “I’m a huge amateur wrestling fan. It’s great watching all his success.”

Flair, who will appear in Altoona this Saturday at the Jaffa Shrine with Big Time Pro Wrestling, said he’s been working with Sanderson, Olympic gold medalist turned pro wrestler Kurt Angle and Olympic and collegiate legend Dan Gable to keep amateur wrestling in the Olympics.

That isn’t the only thing Flair is adamant about defending.

“The worst thing is when someone passes [in pro wrestling], they want to blame it on steroids,” Flair said. “We’re scrutinized more than any other sport, but look at Lance Armstrong. They killed this guy. None of the people criticizing him could climb a mountain even with steroids.

“Look at baseball players. You need hand and eye coordination. Steroids are for cosmetics. That’s all it is. Nobody from the NFL to the NBA tests athletes harder than the WWE [World Wrestling Entertainment]. You can’t do anything there.”

Professional wrestling appeared regularly at the Jaffa Shrine for decades, but in recent years the Shrine has been passed over by the WWE on its tours through Pennsylvania.

Big Time Wrestling co-owner Steve Perkins is trying to bring some of those big names back into the area.

Perkins’ company made its first appearance in Altoona in December and brought along WWE Hall of Famer Bret Hart.

Saturday, fans will get the chance to meet the only two-time inductee into the Hall of Fame. Internet reports claimed Flair was hospitalized in Philadelphia Monday and released, but Perkins said Flair will still attend the Jaffa Shrine show.

“To have a legend like Ric Flair, one of the men who made wrestling what it is today, return with us to Altoona, we couldn’t ask for a better scenario,” Perkins said.

Flair was first inducted into the WWE’s Hall of Fame in 2008 as an individual before going in again in 2012 as a member of his faction, The Four Horsemen.

“Being inducted into the WWE Hall for a second time was huge,” Flair said. “It makes me second to none and separates me from everyone else.”

Flair will not be the only big name appearing Saturday.

Former WWE and WCW champion Kevin Nash, WWE Hall of Famer “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, TNA wrestlers Miss Tessmacher and Robbie E, and former ECW stars Tommy Dreamer, Balls Mahoney and Axl Rotten are confirmed for the show.

Autographs and photo sessions will begin at 5 p.m. and go until 7 p.m. Tickets to the show, which begins at 7:30 p.m., begin as low as $15, but autograph and photo sessions require a separate fee.

“I’ve wrestled in Altoona for 20 years,” Flair said. “It’s a wonderful sports town with a lot of Flyers and Pittsburgh fans. I always enjoy going through Pennsylvania, signing autographs and getting a chance to meet and greet with the fans.”

Flair, who lost a retirement match to Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania in 2008, also likes shows like Saturday’s because of the familiar faces.

“I love seeing guys like Kevin Nash and catching up with the guys,” Flair said. “We don’t see each other very often, and I don’t do a lot of independent shows.”

The 16-time world heavyweight champion said he’ll give advice to younger wrestlers on the show.

“Ask me advice, and I give it to them,” Flair said. “But if someone asks me for advice and they ask someone else after me, I’m done with them. If I give you advice, it’s pretty sound. You better have two WWE Hall of Fame rings to disagree with me.”

Flair, who survived a plane crash in 1976 that broke his back, turned 64 in February, but he did not hesitate when asked why a casual wrestling fan should attend Saturday’s show.

“The greatest wrestler in the world will be there,” Flair said with a chuckle. “I’m the greatest.”