With a tear in my eye, I watched the greatest pro-wrestler alive wrestle his very last match. At least I hope it was because it looked like it nearly killed the 73-year-old man.
I was there in person for the first last match at WrestleMania 24. It was a night I will never forget. Tonight, sitting at home here in Toronto, Canada, the atmosphere wasn’t nearly the same but the emotions certainly were. When I first started watching wrestling it was the stars of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling that pulled me into the crazy world that has dominated most of my life in one way or another. Names like Ricky Steamboat, Sgt. Slaughter, Dusty Rhodes, Ray ‘The Crippler’ Stevens, Jimmy Valiant, Greg Valentine and two of my all-time favourites: Roddy Piper and The Masked Superstar.
Both Ric Flair and myself have come a long, long way since those days. I went from cheering on the couch to covering WrestleMania 18 from the press box in SkyDome. I have been very fortunate in that regard and I have never taken the opportunity to cover one of the loves of my life for granted, ever.
Ric Flair has come a long, long way too but I won’t delve into all of those highlights, accomplishments and all that history. That is for another time and another place.
There was much carping and criticism from fans and the media alike when this event was announced and all of it was justified. The Nature Boy already had his retirement match back in 2008. Some felt cheated. Some felt confused. Some were happy just to see Flair back in the ring one last time. Me? I refer to the wise words of my pal and former slammer Chris Gramlich who always maintained it was hard and awkward to watch Flair compete in his senior years. It was like “watching someone beat up grandpa”.
The good news is it didn’t feel that way tonight. They booked the match smartly playing to everyone’s strengths and not exposing The Nature Boy’s limitations far too much. He never looked like a weak, doddering old man as he was kept within his bounds of what would seem genuine and realistic. A tag team match was the right way to lower the curtain on a career that will never be duplicated ever again.
Flair had his own cheering section at ringside too. There was his family as well as wrestling legends Bret Hart, Mick Foley, Michelle McCool and The Undertaker. There were some celebrities like Kid Rock too.
There were guest stars like Jerry Lawler and Jerry Jarrett.
Mike Chioda was the official in the ring while Tony Schiavone and David Crockett called the action. While he brought a lot of enthusiasm Crockett should not have been on commentary simply because it was clear that he hasn’t kept up with today’s stars and that was obvious throughout the broadcast. During the various matches, other commentators would join in like Impact’s Tom Hannifan, RoH’s Ian Riccaboni and Impact’s Scott D’Amore, among others. That was very cool.
Andrade showed more emotion than I have ever seen from him. He seemed genuinely concerned about Flair throughout the match and cradled him after it was over. Jarrett and Lethal played fantastic heels with Jarrett really going all out. Jarrett was absolutely fantastic turning back time, really giving his all in every regard. In many ways, he made the entire match as good as it was.
Jay Lethal came to the ring with a chorus of boos following him. Lethal baits them with his many ‘Wooooos!’.
Karen proceeds Jeff Jarrett as he arrives guitar in hand. Jarrett walks over to the announce team taunting them. A fan flips Jarrett off. Jarrett shoves him and throws a drink in his face.
“You ain’t s–t!” someone yells.
He stalks around the ring shoving Conrad Thompson then challenges another fan daring him to get into the ring.
Andrade enters wearing silver mask and robe. He stops outside the ring and waits on The Nature Boy. He isn’t stupid. He isn’t entering that lion’s den alone.
The lights dim and Flair’s music hits as he makes his final entrance with Also Sprach Zarathustra blasting away.
Flair is in a white robe and fumbles with it when revealing he is wearing the ‘Big Gold Belt’. Flair gets a standing ovation as he enters the ring. Jarrett continues to antagonize the official, Flair and Andrade.
When Lethal is introduced he does the Flair strut. Jarrett is roundly booed on his home turf.
The entire arena starts chanting…”Nature Boy! Nature Boy!”
Flair demands to face Jarrett to start the match. Jarrett gets in Flair’s face. Flair slaps him. Jarrett back off and tags Lethal in. He too gets in Flair’s face. Flair and Lethal chain wrestle on the mat.
The fans start chanting…”You still got it!”
Flair takes Lethal down with a headlock. Flair backs Lethal into a corner. Lethal reverses things and slaps Flair. Flair slaps him back. Lethal demands Flair tag Andrade in. Flair obliges.
The two get into a shoving match. They start throwing fists and forearms. Lethal tags in Jarrett who enters laying in punch after punch. Andrade slams Jarrett around and around. Flair tags himself in. Jarrett bails back to his corner.
Jarrett grabs onto the ropes and halts Flair’s Irish Whip. Jarrett does the Fargo Strut and reclines in a corner. Flair puts the brakes on Jarrett’s Irish Whip. He does his strut and directs a crotch chop at Lethal and Jarrett. Flair chops Jarrett back into a corner. Lethal jumps in. Flair mule kicks Lethal in the “lower abdomen”. Andrade clotheslines Lethal over the top rope and to the floor.
The fans chant “You suck!” and “Asshole!” at Jarrett as he bails from the ring. Karen has to convince him to come back. As Andrade backs Lethal into their corner, Flair chokes Lethal from behind. Flair unleashes punches and chops on Lethal.
It takes eleven minutes but we finally get a ‘Woooo!’ from The Nature Boy. Lethal lands a Macho Man flying axe handle from the top rope on Andrade. Lethal and Jarrett double team Andrade.
Flair has Lethal in the figure four but Jarrett makes the save. On the floor, Jarrett borrows Karen’s shoe and brains Flair in the head with the heel. It wouldn’t be a Ric Flair match if he didn’t bleed…and he does. Karen slaps him in the face. Jarrett rams Flair’s head in the barricade. Megan Fliehr, Ric’s daughter, takes a swipe at Karen.
“I will f——g kill you!” yells Karen.
Jarrett hoists Flair up on the top rope. Lethal seems to have some misgivings, takes Flair down and suplexes that way instead. Andrade makes the save stopping the pin. Jarrett puts Flair in the figure four. Andrade saves him once again.
Flair rolls out of the way of Lethal’s King’s Elbow. The fans start to cheer for Flair again encouraging him to get back to his feet. He tags in Andrade. Andrade goes mental just running rampant on the heels. Andrade might have pinned Jarrett with a DDT off the ropes but Karen saved Jarrett by putting his foot on the ropes.
Lethal accidentally super kicks Jarrett and the official. Andrade stuns Lethal with a poisonrana. Flair covers Lethal but there is no official. Fans count to eleven as Jarrett brings in a guitar. Lethal holds Flair for Jarrett. Andrade pulls Flair out of the way. Jarrett smashes the guitar over Lethal’s head.
Conrad Thompson throws Ric Flair some brass knuckles. Andrade helps Flair put them on. Flair haymakers Jarrett but there is still no official.
Another official takes over. Flair puts Jarrett in the figure four. Although both men’s shoulders are down, Flair is declared the winner.
While confetti falls from the ceiling Andrade holds Flair and helps him to his feet. Flair cries in the ropes with blood streaming down his face. He hugs his family at ringside. The Undertaker, Bret Hart and Mick Foley congratulate him as the fans chant…’Thank you, Flair!’.
Flair gives Kid Rock a hug too.
“You are the greatest pro-wrestler ever and I am honoured to be standing next to you. You can bleed all over me. I don’t gave a damn!” says Tony Schiavone to Flair before handing him the microphone.
“I don’t know how anything so special in a man’s life could happen twice much less happen better for the last time,” said Flair.
Flair explained that if there wasn’t enough pressure for him to perform tonight, Kid Rock greeting him in the locker room pushed him even further.
“Thank you for coming out. This one is my last. I adore all of you. You are what make people like me and everyone who walks through that door tick. We cannot lose it and I appreciate you all coming. I hope I didn’t let you down. I don’t remember half of it (the match) but thank you all!” said a crying and a very grateful, humble Flair.
Andrade assisted Flair up the rampway and helped him raise the ‘Big Gold Belt’ for an appreciative crowd one final time.
For those who missed the show the replay is available to watch on FITE.
Ric Flair’s Last Match Results
Ren Narita versus Yuya Uemura
Uemura absorbs Narita’s lethal strikes. As he bounces off the ropes Narita outsmarts him with a bridging suplex.
Winner: Ren Narita at 5 minutes and 50 seconds.
Match Rating: 7 / 10
We think we are going to hear from The Nature Boy himself. Instead, we get Jay Lethal and Karen Jarrett. Lethal comes out doing his Flair shtick then stops dead telling Tony Schiavone how ‘silly’ all of that is. Lethal says Flair mentioned he would be willing to die in tonight’s match. Lethal is going to make the spoiler a reality.
Wrestler Frank The Clown interrupts the proceedings. He puts down Flair and the event. This is just Flair’s last cash grab before he dies. Jacob Fatu has heard enough. He storms the ring. The Clown flees but he backs up into Mick Foley. Foley grabs the clown and throws him back into the ring where Fatu just mauls and clobbers him.
Bunkhouse Battle Royale
A crew from Game Changer Wrestling invades the battle royal led by Nick Gage and Joey Janella. The last four men are Bully Ray, Mance ‘The American Psycho’ Warner, James Storm and Joey Janella. Ray and Mance rid the ring of the trash…and Storm. Ray puts Mance through a table. It looks like he is well on his way to a win. Mance turns the tables on Ray pitches him out to win. Mance and the GCW rabble celebrate. As Mance is interviewed by Tony Schiavone, Bully interrupts. Instead of kicking his tail into next Sunday he raises his hand and shares a beer with him.
Winner: Mance ‘The American Psycho’ Warner at 15 minutes and 32 seconds.
Match Rating: 7 / 10
The American Wolves versus The Motor City Machine Guns
Scott D’Amore joins the commentary team. D’Amore explains that this match brough the Wolves back together, despite their differences. They want to prove they are the best tag team of their generation. These teams haven’t faced each other in 12 years. The Machine Guns have The Wolves off their game early on. The Guns double-team Davey Richards. That has him yelling for his partner but he’s been knocked off the apron. The Wolves roar back but they just cannot find their groove, like ever. The Guns with Skull and Crossbones on Eddie Edwards. Alex Shelley is limping a bit after the match.
Winners: The Motor City Machine Guns at 10 minutes and 52 seconds.
Match Rating: 7.5 / 10
Davey Boy Smith Jr. versus Killer Kross
Good to see Davey Boy. He is awesome. He needs to be back in a top promotion. I still miss Killer Elite Squad. Same with Scarlett and Kross. I still cannot believe the WWE let them go. Kross and Smith go back and forth with neither gaining the advantage. Smith works over Kross’ arm with a hammer lock slam. Scarlett demands the official do something as Smith stretches his arm in the ropes. Kross and Smith trade a series of back suplexes. Smith gets the last one in. They then switch to forearm shots and haymakers. Scarlett demands Kross hit him harder. Smith tries a bridge but falls into a rear naked choke. Kross wins with his Quickening finisher, a strike to the back of the head. I really thought this one would go longer but…
Winner: Killer Kross at 5 minutes and 17 seconds.
Match Rating: 7 / 10
Alan Angels versus Jonathan Gresham versus Konosuke Takeshita versus Nick Wayne – Four Corners Four-Way Match
The winner gets a shot at the Progress World Championship. The announce crew hype up Takeshita as a rising talent who has taken on top stars like Jon Moxley in the last year or so. It is interesting to see Gresham back in the ring after everything that has happened since Death Before Dishonor. Wayne moves well and handles himself well for just being a teenager. Gresham takes Takeshita down with a Great Muta tribute. The fans actually boo Gresham. What’s that all about? Angels has Gresham pinned but Takeshita hit a massive deadlift suplex. Gresham wins with a waist lock off the ropes and an O’Connor Roll. The announcers call it a “bounce back” win and hope it put him back on track after losing the Ring of Honor World Championship.
Winner: Jonathan Gresham at 5 minutes and 20 seconds.
Match Rating: 7 / 10
Rock ‘n’ Roll Express (Ricky Morton and Kerry Morton) vs. The Four Horsemen (Brian Pillman Jr. and Brock Anderson)
Arn Anderson is backstage giving his team a pep talk. They are representing Brian Pillman, The Horsemen and the legacy of the Four Horsemen. They need to remember that. Pillman gets ticked at the crowd breaking into a ‘Rock n’ Roll’ chant. The crowd should be more into this match and they aren’t. Don’t get it. The young dudes need the support and enthusiasm. Pillman slaps Kerry in the face. Kerry responds with a very recognizable monkey flip. Brock is tagged in and he wants Ricky. The fans cheer. Instead of breaking cleanly, Brock shoves him. The crowd counts off as Ricky lays in haymakers in a corner. Ricky gets the crowd back into the match. The Horsemen cut Kerry off from his dad for quite some time. The Horsemen mess up. Kerry turns things around mashing Pillman’s head into Brock’s knee. Ricky is hot tagged in. Kerry has the official’s attention. Ricky hits the ropes. Pillman nails Ricky from the apron. Brock hits the Gourdbuster for the win.
Winners: The Four Horsemen (Brian Pillman Jr. and Brock Anderson) at 6 minutes and 54 seconds.
Match Rating: 7 / 10
Bandido versus Laredo Kid versus Rey Fénix versus Taurus
There is too much action to call as with any Lucha Libre match. Taurus goes mental though just bowling everyone over until Kid slows him down. It is incredible to watch Fenix and Bandido go at it. Two of the best of their generation. Fenix walks the ropes and kicks both Lardo and Taurus. A super kick from the second rope by Bandido has Fenix counting his teeth afterwards. Bandido spins and spins and spins and spins and spins around Taurus sending him flying. Just crazy. Taurus takes over throwing and tossing everyone around the ring. All three attack Taurus but he bats them away and slams them. Taurus hits an avalanche, gorilla slam from the top rope on Laredo Kid. Bandido crushes Lardo with a fallaway slam from the top rope to the floor on Fenix and Taurus. Feniz pins Taurus with a Fear Factor-ish slam. Best match of the night.
Winner: Rey Fénix…at 11 minutes and 49 seconds.
Match Rating: 8.5 / 10
Josh Alexander (c) vs. Jacob Fatu – Impact World Championship Match
Fatu gets in Alexander’s face seconds after he enters the ring. Fatu chops and shoulder tackles Alexander in the corner and rearranges his spine with a backdrop. Alexander hits back with a shotgun drop kick off the ropes. Alexander grounds Fatu with an ankle lock. Fatu clotheslines him over the ropes back into the ring. Alexander catches him on the top rope and suplexes him back in. Fatu gets a two count with a springboard off the ropes. Fatu almost wins the title with a split-legged moonsault of the top rope. Alexander dodges Fatu’s charge and locks in an ankle lock. The Mighty Moonsault only gets Fatu a two count. Fatu survives a number of German Suplexes to Samoan Slam Alexander. Both men are spent at this point. Brian Myers and Matt Cordona hit the ring with Smart Mark Sterling. Alexander and Fatu fight the heels off.
Diamond Dallas Page comes out of the audience, enters the ring spiking Cordona with a Diamond Cutter. Alexander and Page fist bump.
Winner: …and still Impact World Champion…Josh Alexander at 10 minutes and 14 seconds. Match is thrown out.
Match Rating: 8 / 10
Jerry Jarrett answers the door of Jeff Jarrett’s dressing room. Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler is there to support Jeff. “This is the biggest night of Jeff Jarrett’s life,” he says. Lawler wants Jarrett to humiliate Flair and make his last match an embarrassment. Lawler claims that Flair stole the Fargo Strut from Jackie Fargo. He asks Jarrett to do the Strut as Flair lays on the canvass in Dreamland.
The Von Erichs (Marshall Von Erich and Ross Von Erich) versus The Briscoes (Jay Briscoe and Mark Briscoe)
It is the sheep farmers against the chicken farmers. These are the sons of Kevin Von Erich. Marshall doesn’t wear wrestling boots just like his dad. The Briscoes use brute force and experience to get the edge on the young team. Jay dives on both Von Erichs on the floor taking them down. The Briscoes set up a chair in the ring. Mark dives off the chair, over the ropes and onto the Von Erichs. Mark unleashes some Redneck Kung Fu on the Von Erichs. Marshall slaps the claw on Mark Briscoe. Jay has to break things up and save his brother. Jay nails the neckbreaker. Mark lands the Frog Splash.
Winners: The Briscoes (Jay Briscoe and Mark Briscoe) at 7 minutes and 33 seconds.
Match Rating: 7 / 10
Jordynne Grace (c) vs. Deonna Purrazzo vs. Rachael Ellering – Impact Knockouts World Championship Match
Rachel Ellering has hurt her ankle and cannot seem to continue. Grace rolled Ellering over and Ellering’s leg was caught underneath. She takes a seat on the apron. Ellering limps back into the ring. She toughs it out so big props to her. Ellering throws Grace into the ropes. She slides through the ropes booting Purrazzo in the face. Purrazzo trips up Grace from the floor. Ellering uses the ropes as springboard for her leg drop. Purrazzo and Grace get out of synch in what is supposed to be a sunset roll-up. Grace spinebusters Ellering. Purrazzo puts a Fuji armbar on both women. Grace puts Purrazzo in a submission. Ellering submits to Jordynne Grace.
Winner: …and still Impact World Champion…Jordynne Grace at 9 minutes and 2 seconds.
Match Rating: 7 / 10
Ric Flair and Andrade El Idolo versus Jay Lethal and Jeff Jarrett
Winners: Ric Flair and Andrade El Idolo at 26 minutes and 58 seconds.
Match Rating: 8 / 10
- July 31, 2022: Mat Matters: Flair’s retirement elicits emotions one more time
- Ric Flair and family story archive
Ric Flair's Last Match
Besides the main event, the Luchadores, Josh Alexander and Fatu tore down the house. The rest of the matches were better than average making for an entertaining show especially with all those match styles and different kinds of wrestling on display. There was something for everyone. A tag team match for Flair’s last was the right call. It was memorable, fun and never made Flair look frail, vulnerable or feeble. It instead made him appear as the true, iconic, unforgettable legend he is. It capped off an extraordinary legacy. Please, let this be the very last match though. Please. Please. Please.