to Falls Count Anywhere! My name is Chris and I’m
back from England.
are few real moments in the history or wrestling that bring
real, deep emotion to the top. There’s a lot of anger,
disbelief and bitterness, but sometimes there’s the
moment when the best of what a human can feel comes up and
presents itself to us.
RAW this week
was one of those moments.
Ric Flair was
retired at WrestleMania by Shawn Michaels and a SuperKick.
Sadly, I have yet to see the show because I’ve been
in the UK (where it was being advertised everywhere). I
heard the match was good, but the official retirement moment
for Flair was incredible and probably the most moving experience
I’ve ever witnessed as a wrestling fan. It was incredible
to witness, largely because Flair meant so much to me from
the time I was a kid.
entire event was this: Flair came out for the final segment
after they’d been making comments about the match
all night. Michaels said he hated that he had to retire
him, but that it was his duty to bring the full storm to
the match because he respected Flair so much. They then
had him face off with Batista and there’s something
brewing. Playing off on the fact that Batista and Flair
were portrayed as mentor and student is a solid idea.
Flair out, the crowd gave him a huge reaction, not just
cheering, but real emotionally powerful applause. He said
that the fans should rejoice because his career ended at
the hands of a real champion and a great man. He did more
to put Shawn Michaels over as a Legend than anyone other
than HHH did when he came back from the back injury. He
said that he loved the fans, that wrestling was ready to
live without him and that he could go out.
truly emotional and beautiful and I was choking. You could
see some folks in the crowd choking up as well.
came out, which at first worried me. He said that he had
some people who wanted to say Thank You. The crowd was chanting
"Thank You, Ric" all night. They brought out Tully
and Arn, JJ Dillon, Barry Windham, Batista, Ricky Steamboat,
Harley Race (that was one I didn’t expect), Greg Valentine,
Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho, John Cena and the rest of Flair’s
family. It was incredible. The crowd was brought up and
down and the moving scene was powerful. They had the entire
roster come out and give thanks. Flair was in tears and
it was the best possible way to end a career.
There have been
other times of similar emotions from Flair’s career.
The ending of the Flair-Vader match from 1993’s Starrcade
comes to mind. He beat Vader when he said that he’d
retire if he didn’t. This was the year that Flair
returned after his WWF run that was only so-so after you
take away some of the big events, and this was before Hogan
came in and ruined WCW while making them a ton of money.
Flair did a great promo and you could see the crowd getting
There was another
moment that comes to mid from the WWE. That would be the
retirement of Trish Stratus. Without question she’s
the Ric Flair of modern Women’s wrestling and they
gave her a great going-away present. I was moved by it and
everyone in the company seemed to think that it was a dry
run for the Flair retirement. There were also people saying
that it served as something of a template for Steve Austin’s
retirement when that comes along. There are also people
who say that Steve Austin pitching that idea for Flair was
his way of applying for a job in creative and for how they’ll
treat his final run (and there are more folks than ever
saying that he needs to do it next year).
RAWs have also been very powerful, but with the exception
of the Pillman episode, they were very sad affairs. The
Pillman RAW was the closest to a celebration of life and
was a beautiful thing, though still had many tears flowing.
There have been
moments in Japan that had deep emotional content. The retirement
of Dick Beyer, aka The Destroyer, was one. In 1993, Beyer
retired after one last match and they had a ceremony where
at the end, he stood in the ring in a single spotlight and
they read a proclamation. Even without being able to understand
what was said, it was still very powerful. They carried
him out of the arena on the shoulders of a few folks after
the ceremony. I haven’t seen it, but I heard the recent
Dory Funk Jr. retirement was also powerful.
the retirement that meant the most to Japan was the original
Terry Funk retirement in the 1980s. They did a tour and
after the last match, Terry retired. The heat for the finish,
Terry pinning Stan Hansen with the Sunset Flip, was incredible.
The crowd was chanting incredibly for Terry after the match,
very similar to what the crowd gave Flair for his going
away. Referee Joe Yamaguchi helped Terry up and he then
did a little going away speech with Dory.
incredible to watch, and I remember seeing it for the first
time when I was in my late teens. Terry got the mic and
said ‘Japan Number 1 forever’ and was teary
and yelling and the audience just chanted louder than any
crowd I’ve ever heard. There was another Terry retirement
in 1997 that was supposed to be the last but lasted less
than a year. The match against Bret Hart was really good,
but the post-match was much better.
Flair retirement may not be permanent (though there are
those who say that he’s serious about it), but at
least there will be this moment to look back on as one of
the best of his career.