In shocking and tragic news, Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com has reported that Ric Flair's youngest son Reid has passed away at age 25. Dave Meltzer of f4wonline.com has just reported that he was found dead in his hotel room. No details are currently available about the possible cause of death.
During the past three months, Reid had been training in All Japan Pro Wrestling's dojo and working for them as an opening match wrestler, a position he was believed to be excelling in.
Reid's debut match for the promotion will now be remembered as the biggest match of his career. When his father Ric couldn't wrestle as scheduled in the main event of a show at Tokyo's Ota Ward Gym on Jan. 26th, 2013 with Keiji Mutoh against Tatsumi Fujinami and Seiya Sanada due to a blood clot in his leg, Reid was the natural replacement. Given his relative inexperience, he performed admirably under the pressure and looked strong before being pinned by Sanada.
Less than two weeks ago, Reid was working in front of his biggest audience ever - 6,000 fans at Tokyo's Sumo Hall, tagging with former WWE superstar Kenzo Suzuki to lose to the veteran duo of Masa Fuchi and Osamu Nishimura when Fuchi pinned the youngster with an inside cradle counter to a Figure Four leglock attempt.
Later this weekend, Reid was scheduled to make independent appearances with his father in Maryland, after recently travelling back from Japan.
Like the sons of many celebrities, he had a hard time living up to his parent's legacy, perhaps more so than most, as his father Ric is arguably the greatest wrestler ever to lace up a pair of boots and still lives the life of "The Nature Boy" gimmick to this day.
The behavioural issues started young, as although he was an accomplished amateur wrestler as a teenager, Reid once attacked a fellow competitor for a post match celebration where his opponent rubbed in the fact that he had just defeated a member of the Flair dynasty by mocking Ric's patented strut.
Amazingly, Reid's first wrestling angle came when he was just nine years old for WCW when Arn Anderson brought him out as a surprise for nWo leader Eric Bischoff. Inevitably, Bischoff was humiliated when the child took him down twice.
Reid even had part of his head shaved less than a couple of years later, just like his father Ric did, by Vince Russo and David Flair in an angle during the dying days of WCW that's best forgotten.
So it wasn't any surprise when Reid started training to be a wrestler as soon as he was old enough to do so in the summer of 2008. As part of a deal where Ric Flair became Ring Of Honor's onscreen commissioner in March 2009, Reid was supposed to be brought in as a trainee wrestler, but the company wisely backed off when he was arrested on the 4th of that month for a DUI.
That's sadly nothing out of the ordinary in professional wrestling, but his next arrest on Apr. 26th, 2009 was beyond the pale. This wasn't your bog standard DUI that led to a crash, as police found black tar heroin in his car when they investigated, proving that Reid already had major substance abuse issues just one year into his career.
To his credit, Reid's father Ric is believed to have done everything in his power at the time to ensure that his son got the urgent help that he so desperately needed, before slowly breaking him back into the business.
Given his pedigree a WWE developmental deal seemed an inevitability (indeed, Reid's sister Ashley has been working for NXT for almost a year now using the ring name Charlotte), but his past personal problems was likely why he had never been offered one before his untimely death.
The wrestling world is already reacting to the news with sorrow on Twitter. We at Cageside Seats would also like to offer our heartfelt condolences to the Flair family. The worst thing possible in the world for a loving father to have to do is to bury their son at such a young age; no-one deserves to have to go through that grief.
We'll have more updates as this story progresses, Cagesiders.
Update 1: Ric Flair's agent has released a statement confirming Reid's death:
"We are heartbroken to confirm that Ric's son, Reid Fliehr, has passed away today March 29, 2013 in Charlotte, NC. The investigation into the cause of death is ongoing. Reid was 25 and an incredible son, brother, friend, and professional wrestler. No words can describe the grief that Ric and his family are experiencing and they do request privacy during this devastating time."
Update 2: Dave Meltzer has posted a subscriber only breaking news update which included the following comments that makes you think the worst:
"I mean I'm sure everyone assumes the same thing that I assume and I don't really want to say it, but Reid had a very public history of substance abuse. He almost died once before, maybe more than once, but once that I know of several years ago. He had a best friend who died from an overdose just a couple of years back and it's been an issue. It's a weird deal, again I could be wrong about this, you know, I am friends with the family and everything and have been friends with Ric through all this and the impression I always had was that Reid would be one of these guys who would be clean for a while and then like something would happen and then it would be really bad, and one of the things that I thought was good about him being in Japan was he was away from his friends here and while you can get stuff there, especially as a wrestler, you know a wrestler is a semi-celebrity over there, I thought that because he was away from the friends I thought it was a good place for him to be.... He was back between tours and I don't want to say I was worried back between tours what would happen, but it's always in the back of your head, whether it's the friends or whatever it is and I'm not trying to make excuses for him or anything like that, but then again I suppose it could be different, but you know, come on? [He's] a 24 year old kid and [the context]."
Update 3: An update by TMZ.com gives further credence to the drug overdose theory:
"We're told authorities received a call at 10:35 AM from someone who said he found an unresponsive person in a hotel room. Homicide detectives responded and found Reid, who was already dead. We're told there does not appear to be foul play."
Update 4: The Charlotte Observer has more information on Reid Flair's death from the local police, confirming earlier reports by TMZ that he was found dead in his hotel room and foul play isn't being suspected:
"The 25-year-old son of professional wrestler Ric Flair was found dead in a SouthPark hotel room on Friday, police say.
Officers received a call at 10:35 a.m. about an unresponsive person in a hotel room at the Residence Inn on Piedmont Row Drive South. Richard [Reid] Fliehr was pronounced dead at the scene, according to a news release.
Police did not say how he died but said they found no evidence of foul play. They released no other details and said the cause of death would be determined by the Medical Examiner’s office."
According to f4wonline.com, in a heartbreaking turn of events it was his father Ric that is believed to have found him dead in his room at the Residence Inn they were both staying at:
"Those close to the situation have said that Ric Flair found his son this morning unresponsive. He called police and Reid was pronounced dead at the scene when they arrived.
He had been staying in Japan until the March 17th show at Sumo Hall in Tokyo, when the tour ended. A friend of his father's in Japan, who spoke to Reid at the show, informed us that he was enjoying himself in Japan but said he was looking forward to going home in between tours."
Reid was honoured with a ten bell salute earlier tonight at the independent show in Hagerstown, MD that both he and his father were scheduled to appear at, which can be seen below:
WWE has also reported the news on their website WWE.com along with the following message of support for the Flair family:
"WWE is saddened to learn of the passing of Reid Flair, son of WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair. Our deepest condolences go out to the Flair family and friends."
Update 5: The online report of this tragic story by Charlotte's local news station WBTV had a couple of brief comments from an obviously distraught "Nature Boy" and suggested that police are indeed considering the possibility that Reid died of a drug overdose:
"Today is a very tough day for me and my family," Ric Flair told WBTV.
One source also told WBTV that investigators are looking into the possibility that Fliehr may have died from a drug overdose....
"I loved my son very much," Flair said.