“To be the man, you gotta beat the man!”
‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair has uttered those words into the microphones of a hundred pro wrestling interviewers for six decades. Now one more opponent will get a chance to prove they can beat the man, as the 16-time world champion has announced he will return for one more match at the age of 73.
Flair will take to the ring at the Nashville Fairgrounds on 31st July under the banner of Jim Crockett Promotions for an event entitled ‘Ric Flair’s Last Match’. JCP operated as an NWA territory during Flair’s 80s pomp, with his classic battles against Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat, ‘American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes and Sting falling under the auspices of the company. Triller offshoot Thuzio will co-promote, continuing Triller’s house style of reviving ageing stars for one more shot at the big-time.
Fite TV will carry the pay-per-view, but no announcement has yet been made concerning Flair’s opponent. Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer recently reported that ‘The Dirtiest Player in the Game’ is expected to team with AEW tag team FTR against old foes The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express and an as-yet-unnamed partner. A six-man tag team match certainly feels like the best course of action for a 73-year-old who has not wrestled since 2011. Flair’s last outing was a loss in Impact Wrestling to Sting, who himself is still active at the age of 63. His last WWE bout came in 2008, when he lost what was ostensibly a “Retirement Match” to Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania in 2008. In professional wrestling though, retirement is just what superstars do until the next match comes along.
Flair has suffered from a litany of health issues in recent years, and spent time in a coma after suffering kidney failure during a medical procedure in 2017. It is to be hoped that every precaution is being taken to ensure Flair’s safety in this situation.
Despite his advancing years, ‘The Nature Boy’ is far from the oldest grappler to lace up the boots. Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young both wrestled for WWE well into their 80s, while WWE Chairman Vince McMahon returned to the ring in an impromptu match with Pat McAfee at this year’s WrestleMania. If handled sensibly, with more showmanship than physicality, Flair’s final bow can be a rewarding one.
With FTR there to carry the physical load, ‘Naitch’ should be used in fits and starts. Let the great man come in and sling the famous old chops around. The Flair strut is a must, and the Figure Four Leglock is a straightforward way to make the crowd lose their mind. Even the Flair Flop would be a popular and relatively harmless way of eliciting cheers and making the Nashville crowd feel like they’re watching a Ric Flair match.
Flair is certainly in-shape for the outing. He has released videos of himself training with AEW’s Jay Lethal, a former opponent who rose to prominence for being able to do a spot-on impression of Flair. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and the pair appear to be firm friends these days. The former Horseman does take a few too many bumps for a man of his years, so hopefully he dials it back a little bit ahead of the big night.
A personality as ingrained in the wrestling lexicon as Flair needn’t do too much. Fans will be delighted to see a handful of carefully-selected signature spots. What they won’t want to see is Flair take lasting damage. ‘Slick Ric’ is known to be fond of the razorblade, so hopefully someone can talk him out of bleeding all over Nashville on the night. The flip-bump off the top rope can go too, that was hard to watch him take even in his 50s. Flair’s place on wrestling’s Mount Rushmore is secure. Watching him remind us all why his face is carved into that hypothetical stone, followed by Flair being in good enough health to enjoy the spoils of his legendary status is the best outcome here.