Flair is counted out as WCW champion for refusing 'drastic' cut in pay, he says


He didn't lose a loser-leave-town match.

Didn't go down for the count.

Wasn't caught with a foreign object.

But make no mistake: "Nature Boy" Ric Flair no longer is champion of Ted Turner's World Championship Wrestling.

He was fired.

Flair said he was stripped of his coveted gold because he refused a new contract that would have cut his pay by more than half.

Flair, who has been WCW champion and a main-event villain for most of the past 10 years, said the group asked him to take a "drastic" cut from his $780,000 salary by immediately signing a two-year contract.

Flair, 40, whose real name is Richard Fleihr, would not comment on what was offered, but a source said it was about $350,000 a year.

That's a figure the "jet-flying, limousine-riding son of a gun" found most inappropriate.

"I don't know how they could possibly expect me to accept their offer," Flair said yesterday from his home in Charlotte, N.C. "Imagine a baseball manager walking up to Jose Canseco and saying, 'Jose, tomorrow we're going to cut your check in half.' Would they expect him to say, 'Oh, fine?' "

Flair said his attorney, Dennis Guthrie, was notified Monday that WCW would terminate his contract Aug. 1, using a provision that allows the WCW to end the contract with 30 days' notice. The group already has stopped booking him.

WCW announced Flair's firing during a television taping Monday in Macon, Ga., that will air at 6:05 p.m. Saturday on TBS.

WCW executive vice president Jim Herd was in New York yesterday and unavailable for comment. He said in a statement (similar to one he used for the TV taping) that WCW was unable to agree upon a "mutually satisfactory contractual relationship" with Flair and a new champion would be crowned July 14 at the Great American Bash pay-per-view show in Baltimore.

Lex Luger, who briefly played football for the University of Miami in the late 1970s, was scheduled to wrestle Flair in the main event. He will face Barry Windham for the vacant title.

Flair said he doesn't know where he's headed, but one possibility is the rival World Wrestling Federation. After all, he is a free agent.

"I'm stunned," Flair said. "I just talked to Herd two weeks ago and he said I'd be there the rest of my life. They had always called me their flagship wrestler."

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