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Falls Count Anywhere

04-04-08

I miss fish and chips.

Welcome to Falls Count Anywhere! My name is Chris and I’m back from England.

There 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.

The 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.

With 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.

It was truly emotional and beautiful and I was choking. You could see some folks in the crowd choking up as well.

HHH 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 into it.

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).

The post-death 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.

Probably 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.

It was 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.

The 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.

Chris Garcia

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