|Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels: Wrestlemania 24|
Let me start off by saying that Ric Flair is my favorite wrestler of all time. Growing up though, I loved to hate the guy. He was so cocky and pompous, and a real pro on the mic. Love him or hate him, most of us wanted to be "stylin' and profilin'" at some point in our lives. And how many used that Space Mountain line? Anyone?
Okay, I digress. I'm writing this today because I read last night that "the Nature Boy" is wrestling Mick Foley on TNA Impact in a couple of weeks in a Last Man Standing Match. I have a beef with that, and here's why...
More than two years ago, Natch retired from wrestling. I was there. I saw it with my own two eyes. His last match was supposed to be at Wrestlemania 24 in Orlando. My friend Chad and I sat in the 4th row that night and watched our boyhood idol give it his all, but come up short against Shawn Michaels. It was a great match. There was a buzz in the air that night, I think because most everyone knew Flair would lose. And losing any match would make that his last one, as the stipulations had been laid out months earlier.
The night before the match, Flair was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. He gave a great speech. Emotional. Heartfelt. Driven. He spoke for more than an hour, but I think I could have listened to him all night. He's got that kind of charisma.
WWE went all out with the farewell too. After all, Ric Flair is an icon. 36 years of wrestling, 16 world heavyweight champions, other countless secondary titles like the Intercontinental championship, the U.S. championship, and several tag team title runs. The E sold special Tshirts honoring Flair's career. The following night on RAW there was a special ceremony with many of Natch's old friends coming back to say goodbye. Chad and I were in the crowd for that too. What an amazing night. Seeing guys like Ricky Steamboat, Tully Blanchard, and Arn Anderson come out to the ring was almost surreal.
|Undertaker pays homage.|
Even current superstars came to the ring to show their appreciation. Guys like Triple H, Chris Jericho, and the Undertaker (who actually came out AFTER the show went off the air.) It was a really cool couple of days. The mark in me was running wild that weekend.
While I was sad to see Flair's career I understood that it was probably time for him to hang up his sequenced, feathered robes. He was 59 years old at that time and the years were catching up with him. Of course he could still talk, and I was hoping the WWE would use him in a general manager or manager role. Someone who could mentor the young talent and help mold a new generation.
The honeymoon of Flair's retirement didn't last long. He was back on TV within months of his career ending match and had a confrontation with Chris Jericho on an episode of RAW. I thought that might actually lead to him returning to the ring, but Flair held up his end of the bargain and instead backed a group of legends who challenged (and lost to) Jericho at Wrestlemania 25.
It wasn't long after that though that Flair left the WWE. Once that happened, I was sure he'd climb back into the squared circle and do battle again. And he did. Against Hulk Hogan on a tour of Australia. Shortly after that, both Hall of Famers signed with TNA and Flair has wrestled a hand full of times for that company.
I don't blame the man. Wrestling is in his blood. He's good at it. I'm sure financially it is good for him too. I just wish his opponents weren't guys he faced years earlier in WCW and WWE. I also feel kinda jibbed being in the crowd at Wrestlemania that year when Ric Flair wrestled his last match. Or so we thought. It's an experience I'll never forget though, no matter how many more times "the Nature Boy" walks that aisle.
As Kenny Rogers said, you've got to know when to fold them. Ric, I love ya brother. But it's time to fold 'em.