With the exception of Muhammad Ali, I refuse to believe there has been a more referenced sports figure in rap than Nature Boy Ric Flair. The record-breaking 16-time Heavyweight Champion of the World is synonymous with decadence, glamour, prestige and the most elite level of balling. “Naitch” as he is affectionately referred to by his peers and fans the world over is the gold standard in flexing and alcohol-fueled, money-driven shit talking. To this day, Ric Flair still lives atop a mountain in his own ocean view villa somewhere on Stunna Island. Rumor has it everyday at sunrise a flock of the most majestic tropical birds known to man greet the beams of light piercing the horizon with an enthusiastic “WOOOOOO” to give thanks to the creator and god of what we now call swag.
The dirtiest player in the game has been a point of reference for the extravagant excess and bravado for rap music’s elite for decades. Now, through the channels of carefully curated social media and a merchandise game second to none, Flair’s figure-four leg lock on pop culture seems to have only strengthened, allowing the legend to continue his thriving legacy and reach a new audience. Lost on new fans or ones only old enough to remember the tail end of his WWE career where the 59-year-old legend put on a retirement match masterpiece against Shawn Michaels, is the fact that at the peak of his physical powers in the late ’70s and early ’80s, Flair really was the jet-setting world champion who defended his coveted title across the globe.
Among his travels, Flair frequently brought his NWA title to Puerto Rico with stints in the island’s biggest wrestling promotion, the WWC. His rivalry with the island’s biggest star, Carlos Colón, is the stuff of brutal legend. Partaking in blood-soaked 40 minute matches in front of tens of thousands of screaming boricuas endeared Flair to adoring fans in the Caribbean.
Fast-forward 35 years and Flair finds himself locking horns with the latest star to emerge from San Juan. Bad Bunny is the 23-year-old global ambassador of trap en Español. If ever there was a Spanish language equivalent to Migos, Future or Gucci Man, Malo Conejo would be it. The last two years have found the shining star of Puerto Rico lending his unmistakable earth-shaking baritone to Latin music’s biggest hits, all without releasing a proper studio album. This year alone Bunny has managed to rack up half a billion views for two different singles, “Tu No Vive Asi” and “Krippy Kush.” The later of which birthed a massive remix featuring 21 Savage and Nicki Minaj.
Bad Bunny’s unique sense of style and masterful understanding of social media also put him on the radar of racist white America as he took on Donald Trump in the wake of the president’s oafish and inhumane handling of relief efforts in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. The San Juan native took to national television with a shirt reading, “Tu Eres Twitero o Presidente?”(Are you a Twitterer or President?) The only thing that could have made that burn more searing would have been if he had added a graceful “pendejo” at that end, but I digress.
Bad Bunny is the hero Latin rap needs in these dark times and his holy union with one of wrestling’s most beloved figures is just what the doctor ordered. In the clip for “Chambea,” Bunny finds himself strutting, styling, profiling and walking the walk with the wrestling icon. Flair has been able to touch millions around the world despite language and culture barriers with his impressive ring résumé. Bunny is currently Latin rap’s Nature Boy and his breakthrough and crossover is surely eminent. To be the man you have to beat the man, and at this very moment Bad Bunny is the real world champion.