Well, it’s finally happened: Ric Flair has stepped into the ring for one last match—and for the sake of his health, it really does need to be the last time. We’ll get to that in a minute, but overall, Ric Flair’s Last Match, promoted by Jim Crockett Promotions and Conrad Thompson and taking place as part of Starrcast V, was great entertainment, with short, snappy matches where the emphasis was on fun, plenty of loving nods to the past and ultimately, a great sense of celebration. While it might not be the show of the year come December when everyone’s tallying their rankings, it will certainly be remembered as one of the most fun shows of the year, and that absolutely counts for something in my book.
Here are the top 5 talking points from Ric Flair’s Last Match.
1. Ric Pulled Through, But Barely
There’s always going to be an element of thought that dumping on a man’s last match, especially when it is a legend like Flair, is going to be just mean-spirited and unnecessary. I understand that completely, but I also can’t say it was a great contest either if it wasn’t. I’d also say that many people decided not to watch out of concern for Ric’s health and my reservations come from a similar place of concern. So let’s start with the good and go from there.
If I’m being honest, I was expecting a car crash and we were given a passable main event. I’ll take that as a victory. Andrade and Jay looked great, and Jeff did his best to be the heat-seeking heel and got a great response from the audience for his trouble.
The first half-to-two-thirds of the match saw Ric protected well, with the other three mean—Andrade, Jeff Jarrett, and Jay Lethal—doing their utmost to do the heavy lifting and keep Ric safe. Much respect to them there. Even later, Jay had the good sense and wherewithal to take Ric down off the top turnbuckle, where it looked like a superplex was on its way, and nail a normal suplex from the mat instead. They picked up on the fact Flair was spent. But there lie the negatives of the match.
When Flair was just coming in and applying a headlock and throwing a chop before tagging out to Andrade, that was fine. I could even cope with him looking a complete shadow of himself when he fumbled his own legendary strut. But the match seemed to change mood and complexion once Flair bladed. Bladed. At 73 years old. With the state of his health. That was completely unnecessary, and I certainly would have lived without seeing that occur. He didn’t need to do it, but Ric obviously felt he did. But that left the ‘Nature Boy’ very noticeably weakened, to the point where I was worried Ric wasn’t going to be able to get up off the mat. In fact, Andrade has to force brass knucks into Ric’s hand and help him up so he could nail Jarrett with the climatic strike. The match-winning figure four was barely there. By the end, Flair was barely there.
Look, the match was always going to be more spectacle than wrestling contest, and as spectacle, it was fine, watchable, enjoyable even. But this really does need to be Ric Flair’s last match. Yes, he came out of this one unscathed. But that doesn’t mean he would should he try it again. This match was enough to sew the seeds of doubt permanently.
2. There Were Surprise Appearances Galore
Throughout Ric Flair’s Last Match, numerous faces appeared, either live in the arena or by video, to pay tribute and homage to the nature boy. And indeed, some of those appearances were surprising, and some were very big names indeed.
There were some video tributes that you would absolutely expect from the likes of Jim Ross, Sting, Cody Rhodes, and Nick Aldis. There were the likes of Trish Stratus, Jake Roberts, Dixie Carter, Lex Luger, JBL, and Kurt Angle. Perhaps the most obvious video tribute was from Shawn Michaels, the man who originally retired Ric in the first place.
But it was the names in the audience that really caught the eye: J.J. Dillon, Vickie Guerrero, Kid Rock, Mick Foley, DDP, and, watching the main event in the front row, The Undertaker and Bret Hart. Wow. Talk about a show of respect from some of the biggest names in the history of the sport. No one had to come, but the fact Flair’s peers did speak volumes.
There were also some surprise appearances in the ring too, with Matt Cardona, Mark Sterling, and Brian Myers interrupting the Impact title match, only for DDP to run in and drop Cardona with the Diamond Cutter. Then there was independent wrestler Frank the Clown, Noelle Foley’s partner, who previously had a confrontation with Mick Foley at Warrior Wrestling and was thrown back in the ring by Foley here to be smashed by Jacob Fatu.
It all helped to add to the celebratory, party-like atmosphere.
3. The Show was a Little Love Letter to Jim Crockett Promotion’s Glory Days
Ultimately, while Ric Flair’s Last Match was a lot more about Flair than Jim Crockett Promotions, it made my old-school heart sing to see so many loving nods to Jim Crockett Promotions’ days as the jewel in the NWA’s crown.
From the legendary Bob Caudle greeting the fans at home via video to both start the show to using the old Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling theme music throughout, and from the perennial World Championship Wrestling commentary team of Tony Schivone and David Crockett reuniting to their commentary area being a loving recreation of the old World Championship Wrestling white studio set complete with a video screen, the show really was a tribute to the JCP as much as Flair, and that’s no bad thing.
In fact, by the end, I was almost begging for Jim Crockett Promotions to come back and promote regular shows again. Would it work? Who knows away from the lure of Flair, but I’d be watching if they tried it!
4. David Crockett Is Amazed By Modern Wrestling
You know that friend you have who is genuinely, happily bemused and surprised by everything, and it’s in such a good-natured way that you can’t help but love them for it? That was me listening to David Crockett’s amazement at modern wrestling during Ric Flair’s Last Match.
From his jaw-dropped bafflement at the luchador’s skills to incredulous amusement to the fact that both the Von Erichs and the Briscoes are farmers outside of the ring, to his simple delight in everything Mark Briscoe did (and the names of his moves) to his genuine respect and awe at the athletic ability a man the size of Jacob Fatu has, Mr. Crockett was an absolute joy to listen to. The anti-J.R. (at least modern J.R.) in lots of respect, this was a man seeing something new to him and delighting in it.
Wrestling fans: be more David Crockett!
5. Jonathan Gresham Gets a Frosty Reception From Commentary
After the surprising events in the aftermath of Death or Dishonor between Jonathan Gresham and Tony Khan, events that we still don’t know whether they’ve been resolved or not, it was curious to see ‘The Octopus’ make his first public appearance since that show.
While the fact that he came out with his normal ring jacket on and Octopus mask on suggested Gresham wanted to get on with the job at hand (especially as he won here), commentary, in particular, AEW stalwart Tony Schivone seemed to be quite frosty towards Gresham, to say the least.
While David Crockett didn’t seem too fussed, Tony Schivone went noticeably very quiet whenever Gresham was on the offence, or even taking offence for that matter. While Ian Riccaboni seemed much happier to commentate on Gresham during the match, even he came out with the following fascinating statements: “He really was Mr. ROH for quite some time, and now with a bit of an uncertain future, let’s call it what it is…what a bounce back win for Jonathan Gresham. With an uncertain future, this was a great win to put him back on track and maybe get his mind back into things.”
Tony Schiavone noticeably talked up Claudio Castagnoli…