NASHVILLE, Tennessee — Ric Flair trademarked it. He led the crowd in singing “Woo!” The legendary professional wrestler even bled, the color red drenched in his face and recognizable white hair as it would have in the 70s or 80s.
And fittingly, Flair’s final wrestling match ended Sunday night here in a sold-out Municipal Auditorium with the figure-four leglock, the final move synonymous with ‘The Nature Boy’. Flair, 73, was of course the winner in a tag team match alongside partner and son-in-law Andrade El Idolo against the team of Jay Lethal and Jeff Jarrett. The turnout was almost 10,000, per broadcaster Fite TV.
Flair was clearly exhausted by the end of his first match since 2011, but by the end he was healthy enough to walk out on his own and do an interview with longtime wrestling broadcaster Tony Schiavone. After the match, Flair was helped out of the ring and greeted his family in the front row, as well as pro wrestling celebrities The Undertaker, Bret Hart and Mick Foley.
“I had one of my best matches of my career here with Ricky Steamboat,” said Flair. “My whole family is here. We joked that I was married five times. All the kids are here. One wife, but all my granddaughters. My friends are here. I swear to God, guys. If I didn’t press enough me tonight, f*ing Kid Rock walked into the locker room tonight.”
The grueling match lasted nearly 30 minutes and while it was clear that Flair was not the same man who transcended professional wrestling in the 70s, 80s and 90s and Andrade, Lethal and Jarrett did most of the hard hitting moves, Flair could keep an eye on his own weight. Landing chops and punches, his ass kicked a low blow and even took a vertical suplex from Lethal, whom he trained with to get ring ready for this match.
The end came when Jarrett, a legend in his own right who performed in his hometown, accidentally landed his signature guitar shot on Lethal as Andrade Flair pulled away. Flair’s other son-in-law and the card’s promoter, Conrad Thompson, threw Andrade a few brass knuckles from the front row, which Andrade handed to Flair. Flair landed a brass knuckle on Jarrett and then put him in the quadruped to end the match.
“This match is the most important of my career,” said Andrade, an AEW star married to Flair’s daughter and the standout WWE Charlotte. “… This is unbelievable. I don’t even have words for this. [Flair] feels better than 20 year old boys. He’s an inspiration to me.”
Flair is a former 16-time World Champion and a two-time WWE Hall of Famer. He is one of the greatest wrestlers in the company’s history, and his stardom has spilled over into the mainstream even in the present day. Flair has been featured in several music videos by hip-hop artists, including a song written about him by Offset in 2017. He was the leader of the influential Four Horsemen faction and his competitions and work on the microphone are iconic. Many of his catchphrases — and of course the classic “Woo!” — are still repeated today.
Flair’s style and swagger – complete with expensive suits, diamond-encrusted robes, eye-catching jewelry and crocodile leather shoes – have been imitated far beyond the wrestling world.
Flair wore a robe valued at nearly $40,000 to the ring on Sunday night. But that’s where the glitter ended and things got more down and dirty. Midway through the match, Flair brought a razor blade to his forehead to cause bleeding, a pro wrestling technique for adding intensity to a match. Lethal said Flair’s main concern was because of the unpredictability of how a seven-year-old Flair would react to a cut.
“That’s the unknown variability,” said Lethal, who also struggles for AEW. “I hate to give away too much in wrestling, but Ric, he likes to walk and talk. Not much is planned. But I can predict how many of the moves will go. The only thing I can’t foresee is how much he will bleed, is it manageable? Was it too much? It was out of our hands.”
Jarrett was emotional after the game, saying it was “overwhelming”.
“It’s his last,” said Jarrett, 55, a WWE Hall of Famer who serves as an executive in WWE. “If something goes wrong, it’s on me. It’s on others. I’m so damn happy for Ric, I don’t know what to say. … As a spectator you watched it and went home tonight. When you join “It’s a whole different level of pressure that I’ve never been under.”
A damn Flair was helped back up the driveway by Andrade. Lethal, who had been an enemy in storyline, came out and he and Flair fell into a long embrace. Flair had had incredible appreciation – and confidence – for Lethal in getting him ring-ready for his final match.
“I said, ‘I love you, you’re the fucking man, I’m trying to be like you when I grow up, because you’re amazing. You’re the greatest wrestler in the fucking world,'” Lethal said. starts to cry and says, ‘Thank you. Thank you very much.'”