I just watched Ric Flair’s “retirement” match with Shawn Michaels from WrestleMania 24. It wasn’t the most technically impressive match I’ve ever seen, but in terms of storytelling and playing with the crowd’s emotions, few can top it. More importantly, it was the perfect send-off to Flair’s wrestling career in North America. With rumors swirling that Flair will sign with TNA for a series of matches with Hulk Hogan, I’m totally bummed that “The Nature Boy” is even considering ruining his storybook ending.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s absolutely Flair’s right to make a living any way he sees fit, but he’s not “The Nature Boy” anymore. He hasn’t been for a long, long time. Although I haven’t followed all of his career, I’ve watched a great deal of it. From the NWA to WCW to WWF to WWE, I have no doubt that Flair is the best wrestler of all time. His matches with Harley Race, Kerry Von Erich, Sting, and (especially) Ricky Steamboat were brilliant. He was also able to carry limited wrestlers (Lex Luger) to excellent matches. In the ring and on the mic, nobody was better than Flair and I can’t imagine anyone topping him.
It makes me sad that there’s a whole generation of WWE fans that know Flair as this old guy with a fake tan and loose skin. They see him as this guy that hits his opponents in the balls and pokes their eyes. If Flair works for TNA, there are going to be even more fans that will see this watered-down version of Naitch.
When Yankee great Joe DiMaggio retired in 1951, his brother Tom said, “He quit because he couldn’t be Joe DiMaggio anymore.” Flair can’t be “The Nature Boy” anymore and I wish he’d take a cue from the Fuel song WWE used for his retirement run: “Leave the Memories Alone”.