NASHVILLE, Tennessee — Ric Flair has made his trademark. He led the crowd and sang “Woo!” The legendary pro wrestler was even bleeding, the color red drenching his face and recognizable white hair as it would have been in the 1970s or 1980s.
And fittingly, Flair’s final wrestling match here on Sunday night to a packed Municipal Auditorium ended with the quadruped, the finishing move that stands for “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 number of visitors was almost 10,000 per channel provider Fite TV.
Flair was clearly exhausted by the end of his first match since 2011, but by the end he was healthy enough to go 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 he greeted his family in the front row as well as pro-wrestling luminaries The Undertaker, Bret Hart and Mick Foley.
“I had one of the best matches of my career here with Ricky Steamboat,” Flair said. “All my family is here. We joked that I’ve been 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 have enough pressure on me tonight, damn Kid Rock came into the dressing room tonight.”
The grueling match lasted nearly 30 minutes, and while it was clear that Flair wasn’t the same man who pushed beyond pro wrestling in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, and Andrade, Lethal, and Jarrett pulled the majority of the hard-hitting moves, Flair could hold its own weight. He landed chops and punches, his donkey kick low blow, and even took a vertical suplex from Lethal, who he was training with for the match to get ready for the ring.
The end came when Jarrett, a legend in his own right who performs in his hometown, accidentally landed his signature guitar shot at Lethal as Andrade pulled Flair away. Flair’s other son-in-law and the card’s promoter, Conrad Thompson, tossed Andrade a pair of brass knuckles from the front row, which Andrade passed to Flair. Flair landed a brass knuckle shot at Jarrett and then stuck it in the four leglock to end the match.
“This match is the most important of my career,” said Andrade, an AEW star who is married to Flair’s daughter and WWE Star Charlotte. “… This is incredible. I don’t even have words for it. [Flair] feels better than guys in their 20s. He’s an inspiration to me.”
Flair is a former 16-time World Champion and two-time WWE Hall of Famer. He’s one of the greatest wrestlers in the history of the business, and his fame has continued to flow into the mainstream today. Flair has been featured in several music videos by top hip hop artists, including a song called “Ric Flair Drip” written about him in 2017 by Offset. He was the leader of the influential Four Horsemen faction in wrestling and his fights and work on the mic 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-studded robes, flashy jewelry and crocodile-skin shoes — have been emulated far beyond the wrestling world.
Flair wore a gown Sunday night that was valued at nearly $40,000. But that’s where the shine ended and things got more seedy and dirtier. Midway through the match, Flair ran a razor blade to his forehead to induce bleeding, a pro wrestling technique to add intensity to a match. Lethal said Flair was his biggest concern because it was unpredictable how a seventy-year-old Flair would react to being cut.
“That’s the unknown variability,” said Lethal, who also wrestles for AEW. “I hate revealing too much in wrestling, but Ric, he likes to do what’s called walking and talking. Not much is planned. But I can foresee how many of the movements will run. The only thing I can’t predict is how much he’s going to bleed, is it controllable? was it too much It was out of our hands.”
Jarrett was emotional after the match and said it was “overwhelming”.
“It’s his last,” said Jarrett, 55, a WWE Hall of Famer who serves as an executive at WWE. “If something goes wrong, it’s on me. It’s up to others. I’m so damn happy for Ric I don’t know what to say. … As viewers you all saw it and went home tonight. When you participate, it’s a whole different kind of pressure that I’ve never faced before.
Andrade helped a bloody flair up the ramp backwards. Lethal, who had been an enemy in the storyline, came out and he and Flair engaged in a long hug. Flair was incredibly grateful – and trusting – in Lethal to get him ring ready for his final match.
“I said, ‘I love you, you’re the f*cking man, I’m trying to be like you when I grow up because you’re f*cking great’ are the greatest wrestler in the f*cking world,'” Lethal said. “He starts crying and says, ‘Thank you. Many Thanks.'”