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‘Wooooo!’ Ric Flair gets a surprise 70th birthday party

‘Wooooo!’ Ric Flair gets a surprise 70th birthday party
Rams running back Todd Gurley poses with Hall of Fame pro wrestler Ric Flair at his surprise birthday party Friday. (Arash Markazi / Los Angeles times)

As Ric Flair entered the 1818 Club for what he thought would be a quiet dinner with his wife, Wendy, he began to cry when he looked around the room and realized he had just walked into a surprise birthday party for him.

The Hall of Fame pro wrestler will turn 70 on Monday but his family and friends gathered in Atlanta on Friday for a birthday party that attracted Todd Gurley, Charles Barkley, Dennis Rodman, Evander Holyfield, Brad Nessler and several past and present wrestling legends including Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, Triple H, Shane McMahon, Chris Jericho, Booker T, Michael Hayes, The Nasty Boys, A.J. Styles, Charlotte Flair and Jeff Hardy.

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No wrestler has influenced traditional sports quite the way Flair has. Many professional and college teams mimic his famous “Wooooo!” or recite his famous “Rolex-wearing” promo in the locker room before or after games. Flair, who is an avid sports fan, has been seen on the sidelines of football games during the season after being invited to talk to teams such as the Indianapolis Colts and Michigan Wolverines.

Gurley and Flair became friends when Gurley was a running back at Georgia, and their relationship has continued in Los Angeles. Flair was on the sidelines for the “Monday Night Football” game between the Rams and Kansas City Chiefs at the Coliseum last season. Rams coach Sean McVay usually ends his postgame locker room speech by leading the team in a Flair-like “Woooo!” and “Ric Flair” is one of the calls you’ll hear Rams quarterback Jared Goff use as an audible at the line of scrimmage.

“I love the Rams,” Flair said. “Todd is such a good guy and a good friend.”

When Flair saw Gurley at the birthday party, he pointed at Gurley’s knee and asked what most in Los Angeles were wondering after watching Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, “You doing OK?” Gurley smiled and said, “Yes sir, I’m doing great.”

Flair seemingly had a drinking story with every athlete at the party. He recalled closing down a bar in New Orleans with Barkley during NBA All-Star weekend, doing shots with Nessler before a Georgia football game and being amazed he remembered every player’s name the next day, holding court at the Renaissance Hotel bar in Atlanta with Holyfield when they were both world champions, and making bad decisions in South Beach with Rodman. The fact that Flair is alive to tell stories of those nights still amazes him.

“I can’t even begin to tell you what it means to see everybody here tonight,” Flair said. “To end up with so many friends at this age. ... I’m supposed to be long gone. I remember being out with Angelo Mosca, a Canadian wrestler, one night when I was younger and he told me, ‘If you live to be 30, you’ll be overstaying your welcome.’ True story and here I am.”

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ESPN+ and Major League Soccer will release “WE ARE LAFC,” a 10-part all-access documentary series, on Monday. It’s the first sports all-access series chronicling a new franchise’s inaugural season. LAFC manager Bob Bradley was mic’d during practices and matches for the film, and opens up the first episode by laying out his vision for the club. “Somewhere in there there’s a soul of certain clubs,” Bradley said. “There’s a culture and there’s an identity, so here we are. We show up here every day and we have a chance to be different. It’s awesome.”

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Who knows what the Lakers’ roster will look like next season, but it’s fun to project what players might come to Los Angeles solely based on those with ties to LeBron James’ production company, SpringHill Entertainment, or Klutch Sports, the agency founded by his friend Rich Paul. This week it was announced that Anthony Davis, who is represented by Paul, would be a guest on James’ show, “The Shop” on HBO, and it was reported that Draymond Green would be leaving the Wasserman agency to sign with Klutch. That doesn’t mean Davis and Green are coming to the Lakers to team up with James but it does make the summer of 2020, when both will be free agents, interesting.

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Alex Trebek has been the host of “Jeopardy!” for 35 years and will continue to do so until the end of his current contract, which runs through 2022. But he isn’t sure what he will do after that. He reiterated this week that if he does decide to retire, he believes Kings play-by-play announcer Alex Faust, who is in his second season with the team after replacing Bob Miller, would be his suggested replacement. Trebek first mentioned Faust as a possible replacement over the summer while talking to TMZ’s Harvey Levin. Faust responded at the time by tweeting, “I guess there are worse ways to randomly see your name show up on TMZ! I’m flattered by Mr. Trebek’s kind words and delighted to hear he’s a big Kings fan!”

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I lost one of my good friends on Friday with the passing of Brody Stevens, who was a beloved comedian and actor. Brody, like me, grew up in the San Fernando Valley, went to Arizona State, as I did for my freshman year, and was a pitcher on the baseball team. He loved sports. I would often text him about games I was covering and he would often text me about games he was watching. When the news of his passing broke, many of his friends in baseball, such as Justin Turner and Dan Haren, tweeted photos and memories of him. He was the funniest person I’ve ever met and lit up every room he walked into. My last text to him was a picture of his signature on the wall at the Comedy Store with our favorite hashtag: #818ForLife. Love you forever, Brody.

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