NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Ric Flair has made his mark. He led the crowd chanting “Woo!” The legendary professional wrestler even bled, the red color flooding his face and his recognizable white hair like in the 1970s or 1980s.
And fittingly, Flair’s final wrestling match ended Sunday night here in a sold-out city auditorium with the number four leglock, the knockout blow that’s synonymous with “The Nature Boy.” Flair, 73, of course, won a tag team match alongside partner and son-in-law Andrade El Idolo against the team of Jay Lethal and Jeff Jarrett. Attendance was nearly 10,000, per broadcast provider Fite TV.
Flair was clearly exhausted at the end of his first match since 2011, but he was healthy enough at the end to come 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, along with pro wrestling luminaries The Undertaker, Bret Hart and Mick Foley.
“I had one of my best games of my career here with Ricky Steamboat,” Flair said. “My whole family is here. We’ve made jokes about my marriage five times. All the kids are here. One wife, but all my granddaughters. My friends are here. I swear to god, guys. If I don’t Didn’t pressure me enough tonight, damn Kid Rock walked into the locker room tonight.”
The grueling match lasted nearly 30 minutes and, while it was clear Flair wasn’t the same man who transcended pro wrestling in the 70s, 80s and 90s and Andrade, Lethal and Jarrett made the essential to impactful movements, Flair was able to support his own weight. He landed chops and punches, his low ass kick and even took a vertical suplex from Lethal, who he practiced with for this match to prepare for the ring.
The end came when Jarrett, a legend in his own right performing in his hometown, accidentally landed his signature guitar hit on Lethal when Andrade pulled Flair away. Flair’s other son-in-law and card promoter Conrad Thompson threw Andrade a pair of brass knuckles from the front row, which Andrade passed to Flair. Flair landed a brass knuckles on Jarrett then put it in the leg four 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. “…It’s amazing. I don’t even have words for it. [Flair] feels better than 20 year old guys. He is an inspiration to me.”
Flair is a former 16-time world champion and two-time WWE Hall of Famer. He is one of the greatest wrestlers in company history, and his stardom has crossed into the mainstream even in the present day. Flair has been featured in several music videos by top hip-hop artists, including a song written about him called “Ric Flair Drip” by Offset in 2017. He was the leader of the influential Four Horsemen faction in wrestling, and his matches and work on the microphone are iconic. Many of his catchphrases – and of course, the classic “Woo!” — still repeat themselves today.
Flair’s style and swagger — with expensive suits, diamond-encrusted dresses, eye-catching jewelry and crocodile-skin shoes — have been emulated far beyond the wrestling world.
Flair wore a dress estimated at nearly $40,000 to the ring on Sunday night. But that’s where the glitz ended and things got dirtier. Midway through the match, Flair took a razor blade to his forehead to induce bleeding, a pro wrestling technique for adding intensity to a match. Lethal said Flair was his biggest concern, due to the unpredictability of a septuagenarian Flair’s reaction to a cut.
“It’s the unknown variability,” said Lethal, who also wrestles for AEW. “I hate to say too much in wrestling, but Ric, he likes to do what’s called walking and talking. There’s not much planned. But I can predict how many moves will happen. The only thing I can’t predict how much he will bleed, is it controllable Was it too much It was out of our control.
Jarrett was emotional after the game, saying it was “crushing”.
“It’s his last,” said Jarrett, 55, a WWE Hall of Famer who works as a WWE executive. “If something goes wrong, it’s on me. It’s on other people. I’m so happy for Ric, I don’t know what to say. … As a viewer, you all watched it and you went home tonight. When you participate, it’s a whole different level of pressure that I’ve never been under.”
A bloody Flair was helped up the rear ramp by Andrade. Lethal, who had been an enemy in the storyline, walked out, and he and Flair fell into a long embrace. Flair had been incredibly grateful – and confident – that Lethal was getting him ready for his final game.
“I said, ‘I fucking love you, you’re the fucking man, I’m trying to be like you when I grow up, because you’re awesome. You “I’m the greatest wrestler in the world damn,'” Lethal said. “He starts crying and says, ‘Thank you. Thank you very much.'”