Nashville, Tenn. – Ric Flair struts his trademark. He said “Woo!” He led the crowd shouting slogans. The legendary pro wrestler also shed blood, his face drenched in red color and recognizable white hair like it would be in the 1970s or 1980s.
And appropriately, Flair’s final wrestling match ended with a figure-four leglock at a sold-out municipal auditorium here on Sunday night, the finishing move that’s synonymous with “The Nature Boy.” Flair, 73, was, of course, the winner in a tag team match with partner and son-in-law Andrade against the team of Jay Lethal and Jeff Jarrett. Fit TV’s attendance per broadcast provider was around 10,000.
Flair was clearly exhausted by the end of his first match since 2011, but he was so healthy by the end that he passed out under his own power and did an interview with longtime wrestling broadcaster Tony Schiavone. After the match, Flair was helped out of the ring, and he congratulated his family in the front row, as well as wrestling pro The Undertaker, Bret Hart, and Mick Foley.
“I had the best match of my career here with Ricky Steamboat,” Flair said. “My whole family is here. We joked about getting married five times. All the kids are here. One wife, but all my granddaughters. My friends are here. I swear to God, if I didn’t have enough today The pressure on me tonight, f—ing Kid Rock went to the locker room tonight.”
The grueling match was about 30 minutes long and, while it was clear that Flair was not the same person who had permeated pro wrestling in the 70s, 80s and 90s and that Andrade, Lethal and Jarrett made several tough moves, Flair made his mark. Was able to handle the weight on its own. He landed with chops and punches, his ass kicked low and even took a vertical suplex from Lethal, with whom he trained to prepare the ring for this match.
The end came when Jarrett, a performing legend in his hometown in his own right, accidentally landed his signature guitar shot on Lethal when Andrade pulled Flair. Flair’s other son-in-law and card promoter, Conrad Thompson, threw Andrade a pair of brass knuckles from the front row, which Andrade gave to Flair. Flair hit a brass-knuckles shot on Jarrett and then put him into a figure-four leglock to end the match.
“This match is the most important match of my career,” said AEW star Andrade, who is married to Flair’s daughter and WWE standout Charlotte. “… It’s unbelievable. I don’t even have words for it. [Flair] Feels better than 20 year old boys. He is an inspiration to me.”
Flair is a 16-time former World Champion and a two-time WWE Hall of Famer. He is one of the greatest wrestlers in the history of the business and his stardom has gone mainstream even today. Flair has been featured in several music videos by top hip-hop artists, including a song written about him by Offset in 2017 called “Ric Flair Drip”. He was the leader of the influential Four Horsemen faction in wrestling, and his matches and work are iconic over the microphone. Many of his phrases – and of course, the classic “Woo!” – Still repeating today.
Flair’s style and swagger – complete with expensive suits, diamond-studded robes, flashy jewelry and crocodile-skin boots – have been emulated well beyond the wrestling world.
Flair wore a cloak worth nearly $40,000 to the ring on Saturday night. But that’s where the glitz ended and things got more down and dirty. In the middle of the match, Flair took a razor blade to his forehead to cause bleeding, a pro-wrestling technique used to add intensity to a match. Lethal said his biggest concern was for Flair to do so, because of the unpredictability of how a septuagenarian flare would react to a cut.
“It’s unknown variability,” said Lethal, who also wrestles for AEW. “I hate to give too much to wrestling, but Rick, he likes to do what’s called walking and talking. Not a lot is going as planned. But I can see how many moves that would go. The only thing I can’t see is how much blood he would shed, is it controllable? Was it too much? It was out of our hands.”
Jarrett became emotional after the match, saying it was “overwhelming”.
WWE Hall of Famer Jarrett, 55, said, “This is his last match.” “If something goes wrong, it’s on me. It’s on others. I’m so happy for Rick, I don’t know what to say. … As a spectator, you all saw it and today Night went home. When you’re participating, it’s another level of pressure I’ve never been under.”
A bloody flair is helped back to back up the ramp by Andrade. Lethal, who was the enemy in the story, came out, and he and Flair fell into a long embrace. Flair was incredibly appreciative of—and trusting Lethal—to prepare him for his final match.
“I said, ‘I’m f—ing love you, you’re f—ing man, I’m trying to be like you when I grow up, because you’re f—ing great. You’re f– –ing is the greatest wrestler in the world’,” Lethal said. “He starts crying and says, ‘Thank you. Thank you very much’.”