Some curious news has emerged in the last few days regarding ‘The Nature Boy’ Ric Flair, and while I was semi-expecting it in some respects, it still caught me by surprise: Flair is returning to the ring to wrestle a match!
Now, I genuinely believed Flair had been angling to get into AEW and manage Andrade until Dark Side of the Ring seemingly quashed that. I believed he would continue to try to get back on-screen somewhere as an on-screen, non-wrestling presence, and I suspected it would be in the NWA after his appearance at that promotion’s NWA 73 PPV last August. But one thing I didn’t anticipate, and I probably should have, is that Flair would attempt to get in the ring once more.
Rumours abounded after a video went viral of Flair in a training facility somewhere taking bumps and running the ropes. Now Flair has confirmed the rumours are true. The big question is: should Flair really get back into the ring at all?
From the point of view of legacy, it probably won’t harm him. He has already reneged on retirement promises before, wrestling in TNA after Shawn Michaels ‘retired’ Flair in their great, super-emotional WrestleMania 24 match. If Flair had left it at that, it would have been the perfect full stop to a sensational career. The fact that Flair wrestled again spoke volumes about his financial situation and his desire to remain in the spotlight, even as wrestling was passing him by and moving towards the future. One more match isn’t going to take away the harm to his reputation that the TNA run did for him. Having said that, the legend of Flair’s great prime from the mid-70s to the mid-90s is so revered and monolithic that fans tend to just focus on that anyway and dismiss the rest as just Flair nonsense. The legacy will remain intact, whatever happens.
More troubling is the fact that Flair is 73 years old and he really isn’t in great health. ‘The Nature Boy’ is known for having a heart condition called alcoholic cardiomyopathy, no small matter, and this is before you take into account his hospitalisation in 2017 when he was in a very bad way with kidney failure relating to complications from surgery to remove a bowel obstruction. For a promotion to book Flair knowing what sort of state his health is in is ignorant at best and immoral at worst. I’m not going to be overdramatic and say that he is at risk of death from one match, but if Flair chooses to wrestle more than once then we’re looking at a whole different scenario.
A popular concern I see on social media is that the ageing Flair, much past his physical prime, will be taking away time from younger, hungrier talent by wrestling again. At least here, Flair has offered some minor reassurance. He has revealed that his return match is to be part of the much anticipated Starrcast V fan-fest in Nashville and that his match is to be promoted by Jim Crockett Promotions. The talk is that Flair is to tag with FTR against the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, with their partner to be decided (Ricky Steamboat has declined to take part after being asked). The encounter is billed on the Starrcast website as being “Ric Flair’s Last Match.” Now, if that’s true, there’s something quite nice about Flair deciding the right the wrong of returning after his previous retirement match by putting it right in a final match for JCP, the company that gave Flair the platform to be a superstar (and a company that Flair pulled to the forefront of the NWA in return).
Therein lies the problem, though: Flair has said was retiring before, and look at how that turned out. Money is of course an important factor when it comes to Flair and his finances, but we know how much Flair loves the limelight. Will he get a taste for the old life and want to continue wrestling if he hears the cheers and basks in their glory? If so, are any of the big promotions actually going to want to sign him up? It’s unlikely, but at the same time, it would be less than desirable should it happen.
So what’s the verdict? For me, I wouldn’t like to see Flair wrestle again for two reasons: 1) I don’t think his health can really withstand it and 2) I don’t really need to see Flair, very much past his prime by this point, stinking up the ring. However, if it really is just one last match to really say goodbye in a way more befitting than how he reneged on the deal by wrestling for TNA, then I think that’s OK. It’s at a fan-fest and not on a major promotion’s show, so he isn’t really taking time away from young talent trying to get over. His health should withstand one more match if he trains for it.
But if one last match snowballs into several last matches, then that’s a different story, and I don’t anticipate it having a happy ending.