Ric Flair’s self-descriptions are outdated. Jet-flying, kiss-stealing must be the AARP-promoting, Werther’s Original-loving, slow-moving son of a gun! The now 73-year-old Flair as the greatest American professional wrestler ever is not left out. His combination of entertainment and athletics is second to none. And he should have known when to hang up his boots.
Under the banner of Jim Crockett Promotions, “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 is still more than a month to reconsider. Why does Flair, who retired 18 years ago, feel the need to get back into the square circle? To relive its glory days? Is it because he has little money?
Flair said at a press conference on Thursday that he wants someone “who can go” if his opponent wants the match, which has yet to be revealed publicly. There are plenty of theories about Jay Lethal, Flair’s training partner who inspired him to step into the ring one more time as his opponent. Lethal has been contracted to All Elite Wrestling. There’s no chance Tony Khan, CEO of AEW, will let any of his guys step into the ring with anyone who could hurt them, despite Flair’s heritage.
Flair’s physical condition is a big 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 are in peak condition perform movements incorrectly. Accidents happen, but who would voluntarily plunge into a tornado? Flair’s last game to date was on September 15, 2011 as part of TNA, and he looked extremely sluggish throughout his two-year career in the company.
Flair was asked about his health before training and returning to the ring. He mentioned problems with the inner ear, blood thinners and his pacemaker. How do you communicate on-the-fly changes in a match? By talking, but it is a problem that is easy to avoid. The other TWO? Oh boy, nature boy. Going off medication for a day while pumping blood into the ring seems counterintuitive. It’s really stupid for Flair to be his own doctor here. And a pacemaker? Even if this was a joke, it’s self-owned. Strange flex, but ok.
“I won’t be better than Ric Flair ’89, but I will be better than Ric Flair ’99. Well, maybe 2009 Ric Flair,” the 16-time WWE World Champion said Thursday, with his actual championship in the low 20s. It just so happens that Flair mentioned 2009 because I met him on an independent wrestling show in June. And he hadn’t retired for nothing. He signed autographs, shook hands and left. After his Hall-of-Fame career, that’s good enough.
The game taking place in Nashville is no mistake. The Tennessee Athletic Commission does have a rule for how young you must be to participate in a martial arts event (18), but does not have an age limit. One of the bylaws of the Commission states: “Professional fighters who are thirty-five (35) years of age or older must, within thirty (30) days of applying for a license or renewing it. The Commission will not grant a license until it has had the opportunity to review the report.” Hope Flair has already passed.
Remember the scene in the 2007 movie the comebacks portraying a Rocky-esque rebound where one blow turns an old Balboa to dust? It may have been déjà vu. The year before I saw Flair in Manassas, Virginia, a prime 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 wrestler who still tries to sink his teeth into his long legacy, ignoring health complications and other issues in his personal life. Although Flair hasn’t wrestled in over a decade, he did appear in the Mexican version of WrestleMania, AAA Triplemanía, accompanying son-in-law Andrade “El Idolo” to a match and participating in physical aspects.
If Flair insists on putting on his boots one more time, a six or eight man match makes the most sense. Let Flair get a late tag, knock down some opponents, put his signature prop and do an over-the-top sell job in one move. To end the match, he will lock his finisher, the Figure Four Leg Lock, so that someone under half his age must submit and he will continue. How he single-handedly lasts for more than three minutes, especially in a heavily promoted main event, is beyond comprehension. Charge me if I see a 73-year-old man wearing nothing but glorified underwear.