March 24, 2008
This will most likely be the last article I write during Ric Flairís active career. If things go as we all expect them to, Ric Flair will be having his last professional match this coming Sunday at WrestleMania XXIV. I hadnít thought that much about this until listening to Dave Meltzer on Bryan Alvarezís Figure 4 Daily audio show, but after this coming Sunday the wrestling business will not include Ric Flair as an active performer. There has been a lot of big names that have retired over the years but with no one else does that statement seem so monumental.
Ric Flair has been wrestling since 1972, which means heís been an active wrestler for over 35 years, thatís amazing. I was three years old when Ric started his wrestling career, and only eight when he won his first major title (NWA United States Championship July 29 1977). On September 17, 1981 Ric Flair became the NWA World Heavy Weight Champion, and he has been on top of the Wrestling World ever since. Ric Flair has been a part of this business for more than 35 years and a major player in the industry for more than 30 of those. If you polled the industry to find out who was the greatest performer of all time, Iíd bet his name would come up more than anyone elseís. When it comes to pro-wrestling Ric Flair is ďThe ManĒ and if all the rumors are true, after this coming Sunday he will be retired and the wrestling business will no longer have Ric Flair performing in it.
In some ways Sunday will be a very sad day, but in others it will be a day of celebration. Saturday night Ric Flair will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, a more deserving inductee there has never been and on Sunday he and Shawn Michaels, will likely put on one of the most emotional and heated matches in wrestling history. With a career as storied as Ric Flairís itís hard to picture a fitting send off but the WrestleMania weekend should be it exactly that. There wonít be a dry eye in the house at the HOF induction and I have no doubt Sunday night, on the grandest stage of them all, Ric Flair will receive the standing ovation of a life time, showing him the respect he so deserves.
Iím actually going to order WrestleMania this year for the sole purpose of seeing Ric Flairís last match. Ric Flair is wrestling to me. I have never known a wrestling business that did not include the Nature Boy, and now that I think about it, I have a hard time imagining one without him. When I first became a wrestling fan (1983-1984) Ric Flair was feuding with Harley Race over the NWA World Heavy Weight Title. Some seven years later when I broke into the wrestling business (October 1990) he was again feuding over the World Title, this time with Sting. I then proceeded to have a successful 17-year career and as I type this sitting at home, a completely retired performer, Ric Flair is just now wrapping up his amazing pro career. Ric Flair is the Iron Man of this industry.
I was very fortunate in my career to get to know the Nature Boy and have nothing but great things to say about the man. I first met him in WCW and he was one of the most gracious and considerate men Iíd ever met. Iíve had the honour and privilege to work with Ric Flair during my career and though it would be cool to share one of my personal Ric Flair experiences.
As I mentioned I first met Ric in WCW and our paths crossed again in 2001 when he returned to the WWF just after the WCW buy out. Flair and I always had a bit of a connection, I think partially because I had worked out in the ring a fair bit with David Flair and Ric appreciated my helping him out. This was the year they were building towards the Ric Flair vs. Undertaker match at WrestleMania 18 in Toronto. Flair had been fairly inactive at that point in his career and I guess was feeling the need to get back in top shape for WrestleMania and asked me if I would mind working out in the ring with him to help him get back into shape. He told me he needed someone who was very safe and would take care of him and he thought I was probably the best choice.
This was both the greatest compliment of my career and without a doubt the dumbest question Iíd ever been asked. Would I mind working out in the ring with Ric Flair? Thatís like asking a basketball fan if heíd like to shot hoops with Michael Jordan, or asking the Pope if heíd like to go to church on Sunday. Not only did I not mind, I couldnít think of a single thing Iíd want to do more.
So in the weeks leading up to WrestleMania Ric Flair and I would get to TV early lace up our boots and get in the ring. For the most part Ric was just looking to get some ring rust off and take some bumps. I gave him suplexes and backdrops and did my best to take care of him while bumping the hell out of him at the same time. If that wasnít great enough, and believe me if there was ever a time in my life when I was a ďmarkĒ this was it, Ric asked me if when we got to Toronto Iíd be willing to have a couple full matches with him.
Ric explained to me that the ring in the Sky Dome was supposed to be set up all week while we were there and he could get access if I was willing to come down and have a few matches with him before WrestleMania; again, an absurd question has never been asked. I jumped at the chance and said absolutely. I donít think Iíve ever been more excited about anything in my life. What a great experience and amazing story this was going to be. I was going to wrestling a singles match (or two) with Ric Flair in the empty Sky Dome a day or two before WrestleMania.
This is where the story falls apart unfortunately, and itís likely the biggest regret of my career, if regret is even the right word. Itís certainly the biggest disappointment of my career. The ring didnít get set up early, and we never got to have our match. Fan access was extra busy for both of us and it just didnít come together. It was going to be the greatest match (certainly the most fun match) of my career and in a very cool irony it was also going to be the match that no one saw. It was just going to be me and the Nature Boy. I feel disappointment all over again just thinking about it. As dumb as this sounds, I still picture it in my head like a dream. Ric Flair and I tying up in the middle of the ring in a vacant Sky Dome, it would have been so cool.
Even without our conditioning match, Ric went on to have an awesome match with The Undertaker at WrestleMania. I eventually even got my Ric Flair match. A few years later, on a live event in Pittsburgh, Christian and I defending the World Tag Team Titles against, oddly enough, Ric Flair and The Undertaker.
Congratulations Ric on quite possibly the greatest career of all time. Retirement or not you will always be THE MAN!!! It was my privilege to be your colleague, my honour to be your friend, and like millions of others, a pleasure to be your fan.
All the best my friend,