Walking that aisle one final time for a match at 73 will forever go down as a controversial decision.
A few weeks back, I wrote a piece talking about how the card for this show looked promising and discussed Flair’s illustrious career. I stated in that piece, that I think Flair’s last match should have been his WrestleMania 24 match with HBK as it was an incredible way to end his illustrious career and the sendoff WWE gave him was second to none. However, Flair wrestled again because he needed the money. According to Flair, that this final match wasn’t about the money, and he wanted to go out on his terms and my stance has always been I cannot fault him for that especially since doctor’s apparently cleared him to do it. After seeing the match though, I had serious questions about these doctor’s judgement, but I will get to that in a few minutes.
Let me start by talking about the show, Conrad Thompson did an absolutely amazing job building hype around this show. From the documentary style videos that were produced for the buildup leading into this show and to the suspense of who Flair was going to face and the sheer number of promotions that Conrad was able to convince to participate is amazing. You can say whatever you want about Ric Flair the person, he isn’t perfect, but there is no question this man left an unquestionable mark as one of if not the greatest to ever be in this industry. The feel of this show leading up to it reminded me a lot of All In, because of the multiple promotions’ involvement and that feeling anything could happen and anyone could show up.
I love stage that they went with for this show, it paid HUGE tribute to the legendary JCP setup, but had a absolute modern feel to it at the same time. The separate entrances for the faces and heels are always a great visual and the one main tron in the middle looked classy. The announcer/interview segment space that was identical to the old JCP 6:05PM Saturday Night show setup was really classic.
The videos from a list of who’s who in this business paying tribute to Flair was an incredible touch especially the surprise people that were allowed to submit them. One of the biggest shocks being that WWE allowed current stars Dolph Ziggler and Cody Rhodes to record videos for this show. If it was anyone other than Flair, I’m not so sure WWE would allow any participation in a non-WWE show, although they did allow AJ Styles to appear in the same way for Impact’s Slammiversary show. Flair has always been close to Ziggler and Flair’s rivalry with Cody’s father, Dusty, is one of the greatest of all time. Cody recording videos to give this show representation from the Rhodes family was an incredible get for this show. Everyone from legends, hall of famers and talent that looked up to Flair thanking him gave this show a positive feel of respect and legacy and tradition.
Nick Aldis cut an amazing promo saying that Flair MADE the NWA title and Flair’s contributions to the business particularly the NWA are still felt today. He stated he is able to put food on his family’s table thanks to what Flair did for the business and the NWA. It was a passionate promo, and it really was a very classy video.
This was a surprise segment where both Jerry “The King” Lawler and Jerry Jarrett, made an appearance in Jeff Jarrett’s dressing room. Jarrett and Lawler are Tennesse wrestling legends and them all burying Flair was a nice old school heel style promo and segment.
There were multiple matches on this show that I was looking forward to, but as a whole I think a lot of them in my opinion underdelivered. It is just pure speculation on my part, but I would think backstage politics is the reason there was a run in during the Impact World Championship match, because Impact wasn’t going to have their champion beaten by a MLW talent and MLW didn’t want their monster talent beaten clean either. It is very common for inter-promotional matches especially those involving World champions to end by DQ or count out or draw.
This match was probably the one that I was most looking forward to and had the most potential to steal the show. They smartly chose to open the show with this dream tag team match and these men absolutely delivered. It was a solid competitive match to set the tone for the show and all four men were elevated in this match. The Guns picked up the win, but they could easily setup another match between these teams down the road. These teams have chemistry together and they gave notice to the rest of the locker room to follow that.
These men had arguably the match of the night, this was a tremendous showcase match. This was a fast-paced exciting match that allowed all the talent in this match the ability to shine. Taurus was an absolute beast in this contest and Bandido showed the world just how good he truly is. Laredo Kid and Fenix did what they do best and maximized their high-flying style.
The rest of the matches on the card, like I said didn’t really deliver in my opinion.
The Main Event:
As Flair came out on the stage to the roar of the crowd, he appeared to be walking funny, but that was because he had a surprise for everyone as he made his way down the aisle one final time wearing the original Big Gold belt that is synonymous with him. Having Ric wear that title one final time was such a nice move on Conrad’s part.
One of the most shocking moments of the night was seeing The Undertaker, Mick Foley, DDP and Bret Hart all at ringside there to support Ric. Taker being the most shocking of all of them that WWE allowed him to be shown on camera. It was a great moment to see them there and when they embraced Ric after the match it was so iconic and unexpected.
We all knew going into this match with Flair’s age and health issues that this was not going to be any 5-star classic but was being done for Flair to play his greatest hits one last time. The ring rust was evident, but the crowd was behind Flair, and it was great as a longtime fan to see Naitch strut and chop one final time. The chops didn’t have the bite they once did, but the fans were willing to forgive it because we all knew Flair was giving us everything he still had in the tank, and we are so grateful for all the memories he has given us over the years.
We knew Flair would bleed, but to me that’s when it went from fun nostalgia to fear and concern for Flair. As I and the other members of the WRTD watch party were watching this match, the one constant we all kept saying was that’s enough this is too far as none of us wanted to see Flair die in the ring. There were multiple scary moments, where Flair had a look in his face that the lights were on, but no one was home and the look of someone that may die. It became incredibly uncomfortable to watch and I know that certainly wasn’t Ric’s intention at all.
At one point, it appeared they were going for the iconic spot of Flair getting tossed off the top rope, but it was clear that Lethal did not feel Flair was capable of the spot so an audible was called to cut the spot out. I cannot say this enough, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Andrade, Lethal and Jarrett, who did everything they possibly could to give Ric one final great match. You could see they were all trying to help him in the match because the love and respect all these men have for Ric.
Personally, I think Flair was in the ring too much and the bulk of the match should have been wrestled by the other three men, but at the same time Ric wouldn’t have it any other way to give his fans everything that he had. Despite, all the concern including blacking out during the match, Flair had a smile on his face when it was over. Flair’s only concern when he addressed the crowd post match was that he hoped that he didn’t disappoint the fans. As fans, considering his age, health, legendary career and us knowing he gave everything he had left in the tank, we couldn’t possibly be disappointed with his efforts.
Ric’s legacy is one of the greatest of all time and he was able to do the thing that he loves one final time, and the fans were able to cheer him on one last time. He should never wrestle ever again and there are many who feel that this match should have never happened. However, the most important thing is that Ric is healthy, and he got to go out on his terms in the main event.
Thank you, Nature Boy, for all the memories!
Photo Credits – JCP, Starrcast, Jason Kempin/Getty Images, Conrad Thompson & Phillip Lee Dixon & For1Fall’s Instagrams