EDWARDS: On Ric Flair, the art of reinvention and a convincing Ticats playoff win.

Ric Flair is 69 years-old and he looks every bit of it. The luscious blonde hair is thinning and dyed to a yellow sheen, the voice is raspy and the words less eloquent (and comprehensible) than his glory days.

When the Ticats brought him to Hamilton for the East semi-final on Sunday, it was hard to know what to expect – from him or the team. Like the wrestler, the Tiger-Cats arrived substantially diminished from their former selves, losers of three straight and missing leading receiver Brandon Banks.

But the Nature Boy still has some mojo and so do the Ticats. To paraphrase the man, the Ticats were “stylin’, profilin’, limousine riding, jet flying, kiss-stealing, wheelin’ n’ dealin’ son of a gun!”

And on their way to the East Final.

Hamilton dismantled the B.C. Lions 48-8 in Sunday’s East Semi-Final, dominating from moment Flair unleashed a series of his “Wooooooooooooo” catchphrase on the increasingly amped up crowd. The Ticats scored early and often, staked themselves to 28-0 halftime lead and cruised from there.

Receiver Bralon Addison was a revelation registering five catches for 124 yards, including some highlight reel grabs. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli threw for 259 yards and three touchdowns, completing 74 per cent of his passes. The defence generated three turnovers and slammed quarterback Travis Lulay to turf repeatedly.

It was so one-sided the outcome almost felt pre-determined, wrestling style.

The B.C. Lions won the toss and elected to kick off, a decision the Ticats promptly stuffed down their throat. Addison, who got the start over Terrell Sinkfield, caught a long pass from Masoli, took a big hit and hung on for a 38-yard gain. Six plays later, short yardage quarterback Dane Evans tried to punch it in from the one and looked to be stopped but fumbled into the end zome where offensive lineman Kevin Palmer fell on it for an improbable fat guy touchdown. The replay – looking at whether Evans might have been down – went the Ticats way.

B.C.’s bad start promptly got worse. Lulay fumbled on their first offensive play, then watched as Hamilton defensive end Adrian Tracy scooped it up. Five plays later Masoli hit Luke Tasker for a more conventional 14-yard touchdown pass and a quick 14-0 lead.

The Ticats finished the first quarter with more 11 minutes of possession into the wind and kept things rolling in the second. Another long pass to Addison set up a nine-yard touchdown grab from Sean Thomas-Erlington who celebrated with the famous Ric Flair strut.

Hamilton almost had another score mid-way through the second quarter but a punt return touchdown from Frankie Williams was called back on what TSN’s Duane Forde called a “borderline call. ”

It didn’t matter. The defence forced another turnover, stopping the Lions on third down when Larry Dean stuffed the short-yardage attempt. Masoli hit Tasker for a 25-yard touchdown strike and a 28-0 lead.

The only thing that went wrong for the Ticats? Lirim Hajrullahu missed a field goal on the last play of the second quarter.

The two teams played the second half, the Ticats slapping the sleeper hold on B.C. and slowly squeezing the life out of the Lions season. A safety and a pick six in the third quarter turned a thumping into a laugher and the rest of the game was basically one long, extended “Wooooooooooo!”

The capper: B.C. looking to break the goose egg at the Ticats one-yard line only to fumble and have the Ticats Simoni Lawrence return it all the way to the Lion one-yard line. They punched it in for a 44-0 lead.

The loss brings an ignominious end to Wally Buono’s illustrious coaching career, a final blemish on a sterling record that includes five Grey Cup wins. The CFL’s al-time wins leader is retiring after this season and, based on this loss, it’s time.

As for the Ticats, they move on to face the Redblacks next Sunday in the East Final with a trip to the Grey Cup on the line. Like Flair, they have re-invented themselves yet again… this time as legitimate contenders for the title belt.

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