The Living Wwe Legend Ric Flair - He Is Wrestling
At the beginning of Impact TNA like to say "TNA, we are wrestling." Well after watching the Hall Of Fame, Wrestlemania and the farewell segment, I think it's safe to say the living legend Ric Flair is indeed the one true icon in pro wrestling.
A little under a year ago when Ric Flair was jobbing to Carlito and floundering in the lower ranks of the WWE I wrote a very negative piece entitled "Ric Flair From Designer to Desperate," calling for the WWE to put him out of his misery. Little did I know that just a few months later the company would finally learn what Ric Flair is about and give him the kind of send off only Flair can live up to.
Leading up to his five star match against Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania there was a certain degree of panic and worry about how it would all pan out. There were rumors that WWE had turned down an initially great angle for Flair's retirement from Steve Austin and then Naitch had a falling out with the company, leading to him taking time off camera. Hell even the TNA loyalists thought he might jump ship (in hindsight how awful would that have been!)
They eventually worked through all the kinks in their relationship and WWE and Flair were back on the same page - although the "lose a match and get fired" storyline left little to be desired. Facing jobbers, being kept off Raw for 2 weeks and then losing but still keeping your career on Smackdown doesn't make it career threatening and led many to believe WWE were not putting their full force behind it. We barely even got any classic Flair mic work. Maybe it's because Vince still saw Ric as a WCW guy (heaven forbid pushing a talent you didn't create) or perhaps the writers being mini Vince clones from Hollywood didn't "get" what Ric Flair was. Why should they? He was never a major player in the company so they would probably not know any better, I mean part of what Vince looks for in new creative employees is that they aren't die hard fans.
Then came the single most important factor in this retirement angle - Shawn Michaels. Poor booking and creative failure, no matter how bad can never stop somebody like Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair shining through and making it their own. Cream rises to the top in any scenario. Some may argue that Flair needed to pass the torch, but in this case he was. Flair was the biggest thing in the 70s-80s and still dominated in the 90's, HBK was the biggest thing in the 90s-00s and will still dominate in to the 2010's.
Were they friends, weren't they friends? Did they truly respect each other or not? Was their any jealousy? Would HBK superkick Flair? OLD YELLA! All of these factors came together to set the wheels for a classic wrestling story. But one which was ultimately told in the ring like it should be.
The Hall Of Fame is something I look forward to each year, despite being too young to have seen any of the inductees in their prime (not to say I haven't got the tapes). But this year was special, not just because Ric is the only active performer to be inducted, but because there was special heart jumping atmosphere that said, this is the end of an era. Every year you get those heart felt messages and acceptance speeches, but you can tell on the face of every single person at this years ceremony that Flair is the man and that anything said about the guy wasn't fluff. It was true. I am 17 years old and I dropped a tear - what the hell was happening to the people that grew up idolizing Flair?
To me most Wrestlemania's are like all PPVs. They have a few good matches I want to catch and the rest I just listen to or watch with a portion of my attention. This one was different, purely because of Ric Flair. Something during that Hall Of Fame rekindled my passion and I sat and watched every single bit of Wrestlemania from start to finish without a break and I loved it. Watching the recap videos still sends shivers. The sheer enormity of it all was overwhelming and if non fans can't sit there and be inspired by this event then they aren't human.
The match itself was 5 stars, perhaps Flair's greatest match in the past 20 years. I fear it was the last "old school" match we'll ever see - where a story starts, grows and ends in the ring. When Flair stood up teary with fists raised and Michaels said "I'm sorry, I love you" I was proud to be a wrestling fan. If the nay sayers wonder why we watch wrestling and not UFC then this is why. UFC could ever and will never pull heart strings like this match did, period. The outcome was just as good as the match itself - we all wanted to see Flair win but in the context of the story, like th ending of a movie, the logical and most realistic conclusion occurred. If the saga ended there I'd have died a happy man, but the real tissues were yet to be reached for.
The following night on Raw was Ric Flair's farewell speech. What makes this even more special was the fact that Flair had no idea what was going to happen, it was like a surprise birthday party. Flair went out to the ring and cut a rather generic thank you and goodbye promo, he went to put the mic down and "boooom" Triple H's music hit. Flair did not know this was going to happen so he looked confused. Hunter gave him a hug and Flair burst in to tears "I was doing great until you came out here." Helmsley said "if you think these people and I'm the only person that want to thank you Ric, then your wrong...my fingers are starting to cramp up." He did the finger sign and out came the Horsemen! Followed by a whole host of important legends in Ric Flair's career, along with the younger stars and in the end the whole lockeroom.
Every single wrestler under contract, fan in the arena and viewer at home (at least I did) chanted "thank you Ric." What an amazing feeling - it made me feel part of one huge wrestling family. We don't need anybody else. This for us, the people that understand and respect the business and we want to thank the man that made the business what it is!
THANK YOU RIC FLAIR - Dusty called you a national treasure, well I'm from the UK and call you an International treasure. Your legacy will live on in all the stars you helped and in all the DVD collections of the fans.
What's next for Flair? Well he won't be in the ring again, unless it's with his son Reid, who is currently in development. He is still under contract for a number of years, so there is the potential that he'll be an on air character although I don't think he will cheapen his departure by doing that. As of now I have heard that he'll be going in to Public Relations and promotion for the company, as well as helping his son train and running his own company Ric Flair finance.