'Woo!' Pro wrestling icon Ric Flair visits fans in Crystal Lake
Wearing a Ric Flair T-shirt while standing in line Saturday at Ivy Hall Dispensary in Crystal Lake, Wonder Lake resident Mike Rossi said he was nervous to meet whom he considers the greatest wrestler of all time.
Rossi said he was a child when he first saw Flair wrestle in person. In the years since, Rossi has developed into a super fan. He's read Flair's autobiography and knows all the key moments from the former wrestler's career.
"I felt like a kid going to Disney World," Rossi said. "I don't know what I should say."
Rossi was one of about 100 people who lined up to meet Flair, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time after a 50-year career.
Flair made a stop in Crystal Lake on Saturday to promote a new line of marijuana products that bear his name and in the process meet fans for photo opportunities.
In the lead-up to Flair's appearance Saturday morning, a line with dozens of people formed, some having been there since 6 a.m. to get one of the first spots. Fans throughout the morning chatted and shared wrestling stories, and threw out an occasional "Woo!" -- a catchphrase Flair is well-known for -- to those passing by.
While some older fans remember Flair in his prime fondly, having even attended some of his events, others said they either caught the tail end of his career or have seen the highlights.
McHenry resident Jeffrey Beggs said he's been a fan of wrestling all his life, but being 24, he saw Flair only toward the end of his career. He still thinks of Flair as a "legend."
Woodstock resident Carlos Pedroza said he has been watching wrestling since the 1970s -- the decade Flair made his debut.
"When you think of wrestling, you think of Ric Flair," Pedroza said. "He's on Mount Rushmore for me."
Schaumburg resident Paula Roney, 50, and Barrington resident Jennifer DeLeon, 45, attended the event together. They said they've been watching wrestling -- and more specifically, Flair -- since the 1980s. Roney said there are "so many memories" she has of Flair.
"To be the man, you've got to beat the man," Roney said, quoting one of Flair's most famous catchphrases. "He's the man. He's the best of the best."
Flair said he never tires of meeting fans, who he said never cease to throw a "Woo!" his way.
"The love and respect is unbelievable," Flair said.
Ivy Hall opened in February as Crystal Lake's first dispensary and the second in McHenry County.
Ivy Hall's marketing manager, Jonny Boucher, said part of the motivation for bringing Flair to Crystal Lake was an effort "to do things differently."
"We're trying to give people a different experience when it comes to [marijuana]," Boucher said. "Everybody's having a great time. There's smiles. It's awesome."