Hi folks. Today, we’re looking at the career of Ric Flair in its twilight years. After watching WWE 24’s “Final Farewell” documentary highlighting the retirement of The Nature Boy, I felt that I should bring something to light. The fact of the matter is, Ric Flair did not work his last match at WrestleMania XXIV. WWE history will try telling us otherwise, but it isn’t true by a long shot. Let’s go through the history of Ric Flair’s final matches after he said farewell to his career on WWE TV.
What WWE failed to mention in Final Farewell, is that he worked one more time in WWE fifteen months later. In a match with Randy Orton which started in the parking lot, they were involved in an “unsanctioned” street fight with no referee. Looking good for his age, the fight found its way to ringside and the two fought outside of a steel cage. Later, Cody Rhodes & Ted DiBiase of Legacy helped their leader by ambushing Flair and throwing him in to the ring.
They locked the steel cage door so Batista, who had come to save his mentor, couldn’t get in to save him. Orton gave Flair a RKO and Punt Kick to play further mind games with Batista, and the match came to an end with no apparent winner. This was the last time The Nature Boy got physical to the point it could be considered a match of any sort in WWE. During this time, he was also serving as the on-air authority figure for Ring Of Honor. I could not find any decent videos of the brawl with English commentary.
Hulkamania Running Wild
Later in November 2009, Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff hosted the events titled “Hulkamania: Let The Battle Begin” in Australia. On the 21st, 24th, 26th, and 28th, Ric Flair went one-on-one with Hulk Hogan and took a loss in the main event of each show. Of course, many fans had an issue with Flair coming out of retirement, considering his grand farewell after WrestleMania XXIV. They bled profusely in at least one of the encounters.
It was supposed to air on Australian TV, but the company behind the show filed for bankruptcy and Hogan denied the DVD release til they were paid in full for their appearances. Regardless, some photo images do still exist.
Ric Flair describes (in 2016) the next step as the biggest regret of his career; wrestling in TNA. Having provided a suitable alternative for die-hard wrestling fans since 2002, Dixie Carter & Jeff Jarrett’s TNA Wrestling had done well to become arguably the second biggest promotion in America. With TNA Originals like AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Abyss, Christopher Daniels, and former WWE/WCW talent like Kurt Angle, Sting & Christian Cage, it proved to be a viable product to expand in to something more.
All it needed was some hype, and what better than to bring in Hulk Hogan? So the date was January 4th, 2010, and after considerable advertisement, Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff, Jeff Hardy, and many more appeared on a special live episode of TNA Impact. Ric Flair made a surprise appearance, and it was confirmed he had signed a 1-year deal. Apparently, he had been waiting for WWE to call him for over six months, so when this opportunity came up, he decided to take it as he needed the money. You can see his TNA debut below:
Hall Of Fame Rings
From here, Flair began his new career move as a manager for the TNA World Champion AJ Styles. During this time, AJ would sometimes dress in robes similar to Flair. They began a feud with Hulk Hogan and Abyss, which led to Flair having his first TNA match as a tag team with Styles against them.
He was also loosely managing Beer Money Inc (Robert Roode & James Storm) and Desmond Wolfe (Nigel McGuinness), and led Team Flair at the Lockdown PPV in a losing effort to Team Hogan. In an odd turn of events, just to rub it in I guess? Flair lost his WWE Hall Of Fame ring to Abyss after losing his first singles match in TNA; Hogan’s ring was also on the line. You can watch that match at this link: Abyss vs. Ric Flair – He did get it back of course, but I would say it led to the two most memorable things he did in TNA.
“That’s My Line! Wooooo!”
Later in June, after AJ Styles dropped the World title to Rob Van Dam, Ric Flair announced he was introducing a new stable similar to The Four Horseman, named “Fourtune”. It originally consisted of AJ Styles, Robert Roode, James Storm and Desmond Wolfe, but after Wolfe was dropped, and others like Kazarian, Douglas Williams and Matt Morgan were added, the name was altered to “Fortune”.
This led up to Flair’s first PPV match since WrestleMania XXIV against the man who returned his Hall Of Fame ring. With possibly the greatest Ric Flair impression of all time, Jay Lethal killed it with these memorable promos. As an Impact Wrestling fan, I can admit that 2010 was its worst year… but these segments were some of the best in its history. At Victory Road, Jay Lethal did come out of it the victor, but he also returned the favor by giving Flair his first victory in TNA a few weeks later in a street fight. Close your eyes and imagine Flair talking to himself. Woo! Woo! Woooooo! That’s my line!
Somehow it all went downhill after his matches with Jay Lethal. Flair & Fortune joined, and quickly blended in, with Hulk Hogan’s stupidly enormous Immortal stable. Seriously, 90% of the roster were part of Immortal at one point, with the sole purpose of pushing Jeff Hardy as the “Immortal Champion”. And it didn’t seem to fit, because Flair was Hogan’s natural enemy, yet he was now playing second fiddle to him and Bischoff. The group never recovered from that, and while they enjoyed decent airtime, they just became a stable within a bigger stable for no apparent reason. A few months later, with Flair out of the picture due to a torn rotator cuff, Fortune did the right thing by turning on Immortal.
When Flair returned, they looked ready to go full steam ahead with the feud, but Flair turned on AJ Styles and revealed he was still with Immortal. Abandoning the group meant Styles became the new leader, and all Flair could do was team up with Hogan’s soldiers against them. Some of Flair’s matches at this time, included losses to Kurt Angle, Mick Foley in Last Man Standing, Matt Morgan, a win over Douglas Williams, and yet another loss in Lethal Lockdown with Team Immortal against Team Fortune. That’s a record of two victories… to twelve defeats since leaving WWE. Yikes.
The Last Match
After taking a few months away in 2011 following Lockdown, Ric Flair emerged to face off with old rival Sting. This time, he was looking to protect Hulk Hogan by serving as a roadblock. Sting would have to defeat him to get a match with Hogan, but if Flair won, then Sting would be forced to retire. On September 12th, 2011, they fought in what nobody knew would be Ric Flair’s last match of his career.
Almost eighteen months since his encounter with Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXIV, and 39 years since debuting with his trainer Verne Gagne’s AWA promotion, Ric Flair had finally worked his last match. But it wasn’t his decision… not at first anyways. In this “Legends Match” that almost mimicked the last-ever WCW Nitro main event, Ric tore his left triceps in the Superplex spot at the 6:20 mark in the video. Flair didn’t have the strength to kick out of the pin, so they covered up for it as Immortal ran down to interfere. You can see Flair sitting in the ring, talking to Hogan.
He passes some brass knuckles to Flair, and while he’s clearly in pain, Ric gets up and punches Sting in the face with ’em. Holding on to his tricep, he carries on and finishes the match. Sadly, he tries to do the vintage Flair flop… but he knows he has to protect his arm so it doesn’t look like it usually would. Sting carefully turns Flair over for the Scorpion Deathlock and this one is over, as the Nature Boy tells the referee he submits rather than tapping out.
The Fire, The Belief, The Money?
There was some controversy on his way out of TNA, as he tried having his contract terminated while WWE was accused of tampering. TNA granted him his release shortly after in May 2012. Flair returned to WWE as a sporadic on-air personality, and remains so to this day.
In December 2012, over a year since his last match with Sting and four 1/2 years since WrestleMania XXIV, Flair admitted to being retired from the ring. Jerry Lawler’s heart attack played a major factor in the decision, although I’m sure his repeated injuries told him his body couldn’t handle the bumps anymore. Some fans will say Flair tarnished his legacy when he didn’t retire in 2008. Others will say he needed the money. From what I saw in the documentary, you could tell that he wasn’t ready yet.
He still had the fire and the belief he could go out there and do what he loves. Flair needed one more run to prove to himself that he really was finished, and TNA gave him that closure. I felt like WWE pushed for his retirement too hard, and it backfired because Flair’s his own man and it should be up to him; much like The Undertaker has been doing for years now.
Flair claims he only did it for money, but had he not been through that, he could be sitting at home today wondering if he had one last run in him. At least he was able to write his last chapter on his terms, even if he did come to regret it. Or he really is telling the truth that it was all about the money and he didn’t have a choice in the matter. Who’d want to work for TNA after such an amazing sendoff like the one he got in WWE? And with that said, I thank you for reading! Woooo! See you next time.