Greetings. Well, that didn?t take long. After exercising a year’s worth of restraint, Ric Flair has apparently decided he no longer needs to honour the implicit stipulation of his retirement match at Wrestlemania 24, i.e. retirement and thus has been talking loudly and lengthily about his burning desire to return to the ring and the likelihood of this happening very soon.
I adore Ric Flair. In my eyes, he was (past tense) everything a professional wrestler should strive to be in terms of attitude, ability and charisma. Alas, nothing in wrestling (or life) lasts forever, and ?Slick? Ric’s time in the sun concluded quite some time ago.
After being afforded one of the greatest finales in the history of the business, Flair promised to respect the implications of his loss to Shawn Michaels at ?Mania and stay retired. Now, I?m no fool, and I?ve been fully expecting Ric to renege on his retirement vow. He’s personally done it before, and if I had a penny for every time a professional wrestler ?retired? I?d be, to quote the late DeForest Kelley: ?Rich beyond the dreams of avarice?.
The magic of promoting is ultimately the reason why flogging a dead horse is so prevalent in wrestling. As Terry Funk (an expert in such matters) once said: ?It’s not who’s the best, it’s who the promoter wants you to think is the best?. Hence, physical decrepitude is no barrier to an enterprising imagination. Ric Flair has been busy deluding himself into believing he can still hang with guys more than half his age, and look good in the process. Do not let nostalgia or loyalty cloud your judgement: Flair is finished. Done. Beyond any debate or allowance, Ric Flair absolutely cannot handle the physical rigours of performing. To suggest otherwise is simply not funny.
What Flair accomplished in his twilight convincingly emphasised his superior conditioning and aptitude for pro wrestling, but it also served as a depressing backdrop for the decline of a man who once lived by the highest standards. Witnessing Flair’s rapidly declining and increasingly sporadic physical capability was, at times, a soul-destroying sight. It was never anything less than splendid to hear him on the microphone and marvel at his presence, humour and joy de vivre, but year-on-year watching him wrestle was a reality unworthy of a legend like Ric Flair.
In a more noble and gracious environment than that found in wrestling, Flair would have had the requisite humility and pride to walk away of his own power, and the industry would have let him go whilst the magnificent memory endured. Sadly, Flair’s own galactic, deeply paranoid ego, coupled with the legions of unscrupulous men obsessed with name recognition as a means of making money have conspired to corrupt the memory of Ric Flair. Instead of the suited and booted ring general of old, modern wrestling fans are presented with an ancient, sweaty, balding and uncoordinated geezer, endlessly back-dropping, chopping and dancing. Whilst tolerable and even amusing on occasions, this unedifying spectacle was righteously euphonised one year ago, and deserves to fade into oblivion before Ric Flair permanently tarnishes his great and worthy contributions to the business that so celebrates his name.
The odd, Wrestlemania-level spectacle against a fully capable opponent is one argument I foresee being made to justify this stupidity. The truth of all this is the man is sixty years old. However much the heart may yearn, the journey’s over, and the love and tears of last year are, as expected, in danger of being devalued beyond worth. We all knew this would happen, yet I?m sad nevertheless. When George Harrison died in 2001, a national newspaper in England ran, as it’s front page, the album cover of ?Let It Be?, The Beatles? final album. The insinuation of the piece was simple enough. With John Lennon already gone and with only two members remaining, the time of The Beatles was at an end. Let it be, in glory and memory but nothing more, as is correct and expected. Ric Flair the athlete is dead. Ric Flair the legend is immortal. Please Ric, don?t go testing this undeniable truth. It will be painful in the extreme if you do?
Daniel R. Browne.