Ric Flair’s self-descriptors are outdated. Jet-flying, kiss-stealing needs to be the AARP-promoting, Werther’s Original-loving, slow-moving son of a gun! There’s no discounting the now-73-year-old Flair as the greatest American professional wrestler ever. His combination of entertainment and athleticism is unmatched. And he should’ve known when to hang up his boots.
Under the Jim Crockett Promotions banner, “Ric Flair’s Last Match” will take place July 31 in Nashville, Tennessee. It’s also a Triller production, the same company that housed Jake Paul’s fights against Ben Askren and Tyron Woodley. There’s still over a month to rethink this. Why does Flair, who qualified for retirement 18 years ago, feel the need to step inside the squared circle again? To live out his glory days? Is it because he’s low on money?
Flair said during a press conference Thursday that he wants someone “who can go” as his opponent for the match, which has yet to be publicly revealed. There are plenty of theories about Jay Lethal, Flair’s training partner who inspired him to step into the ring one more time, being his opponent. Lethal is contracted to All Elite Wrestling. There’s zero shot AEW CEO Tony Khan allows one of his guys to step in the ring with anyone who could hurt them, despite Flair’s pedigree.
The physical condition of Flair is a huge part of this. Professional wrestling is scripted and the moves can be choreographed weeks in advance. Just ask Stone Cold Steve Austin what can happen when wrestlers in peak physical condition perform moves incorrectly. Accidents happen, but who would throw themselves willingly into a tornado? Flair’s last match to date was Sept. 15, 2011 as part of TNA, and he looked extremely sluggish through his entire two-year run in the company.
Flair was asked about his health for training and returning to the ring. He mentioned inner ear issues, blood thinners and his pacemaker. How do you communicate changes to a match on the fly? By talking, but it’s a problem that’ll be easy to avoid. The other two? Oh boy, Nature Boy. Going off a medication for a day, when your blood will be pumping in the ring, seems counter intuitive. It’s truly dumb if Flair became his own doctor here. And a pacemaker? Even if this was a joke, it’s a self-own. Weird flex but OK.
“I won’t be better than Ric Flair ’89, but I’ll be better than Ric Flair ’99. Well, maybe Ric Flair 2009,” the canon WWE 16-time world champion said Thursday, with his actual championship reigns being in the low 20s. It’s coincidental Flair mentioned 2009 because I met him at an independent wrestling show that June. And he’d retired for good reason. He signed autographs, shook hands and left. After his Hall-of-Fame career, that’s good enough.
The match taking place in Nashville is no mistake. The Tennessee Athletic Commission does have a rule for how young you have to compete in a combat sports event (18) but doesn’t have an age limit. One of the commission’s bylaws states “Professional combatants who are thirty-five (35) years of age or older shall have a neurological examination by a neurologist or neurosurgeon and submit a medical report thereof within thirty (30) days of applying for a license or renewal thereof. The Commission will not issue a license until it has the opportunity to review the report.” Hope Flair already passed.
Remember the scene in the 2007 movie The Comebacks depicting a Rocky-like rebound where one punch turns an aged Balboa to dust? It was maybe deja vu. The year before I saw Flair in Manassas, Virginia, a decent example of Flair also made its way to the silver screen in The Wrestler with Mickey Rourke earning an Oscar nomination for playing the lead role. Rourke’s character, Randy “The Ram” Robinson, is a past-his-prime wrestler still trying to cut his teeth on his long legacy, ignoring health complications and other problems in his personal life. While Flair hasn’t wrestled a match in more than a decade, he did appear at Mexico’s version of WrestleMania, AAA Triplemanía, accompanying son-in-law Andrade “El Idolo” to a match and taking part in physical aspects.
If Flair insists on lacing up his boots one more time, a six-man or eight-man tag team match makes the most sense. Have Flair get a late tag, chop a few opponents, do his signature strut and do an over-the-top-sell job of one move. To end the match, he’ll lock in his finisher, the Figure Four Leg Lock, getting someone less than half his age to submit and he’ll move on. How he’ll carry a match longer than three minutes by himself, especially in a highly promoted main event, is beyond comprehension. Count me out on seeing a 73-year-old man wearing nothing but glorified underwear.