Ric Flair worked what was billed as his final wrestling match last night, teaming with son-in-law Andrade El Idolo to defeat Jeff Jarrett and Jay Lethal in Nashville, Tennessee.
Promoted by Starrcast, the event labelled Jim Crockett Promotions Presents: Ric Flair's Last Match drew what looked like a bumper crowd for the much-hyped occasion, which Flair ultimately won for his team in around 26 minutes.
One last Figure Four ultimately finished Jarrett off. Flair scored the pinfall for his team after 'Double J' had been put down by a brass knuckle shot, calling time on his in-ring career 50 years after first stepping through the ropes.
The match was about what you'd expect from a 73-year-old who almost died from kidney failure in 2017, then had a pacemaker fitted after undergoing four heart surgeries over a two-month period in 2018. Ric's limitations were apparent even during his ring entrance. As he limped onto the stage in his iconic white robe, any lingering doubt that this was to be an awkward, uncomfortable viewing experience was eradicated.
As expected, the bout's opening stages were largely calibrated to protect Flair and his limitations, with Andrade, Lethal, and Jarrett carrying the load. Ric was required only to land a few chops and forearms, draw "wooooos!" from the crowd, and answer Jeff's mocking strut with one of his own. So far, so steady - considering the context.
But the match became legitimately scary towards the end. It appeared, for a long period, that Flair was incapable of standing up. Having shed bucketloads of blood, Ric had to crawl meekly over the bottom rope when tagged in by Andrade, then couldn't slide the brass knuckles over his fingers of his own volition. El Idolo had to do this for him, then haul Flair up for the decisive shot on Jarrett.
The Figure Four resembled Ric's signature submission in name only. He flopped down to the mat the moment it was applied, motionless as referee David Miller counted the fall.
The good news? Flair is fine. He walked up the ramp after cutting a lengthy post-match promo, was checked out by medics, and hit the town:-
Update: Ric Flair is completely fine after his final match and at his after party right now in Downtown Nashville, hanging out with Kid Rock, family and more.— Marc Raimondi (@marcraimondi) August 1, 2022
Not that this erases the match's ugliness. As hard as Jarrett, Lethal, and Andrade worked, this was a long, laborious professional wrestling match that inspired legitimate concern for its 73-year-old victor's physical condition. Flair was shaking as Andrade put the brass knuckles in his hand. Watching on a screen, there was no special atmosphere, no spectacle, and no theatre: only discomfort.
And not of the worked variety. The greatest American wrestler of all time leveraging real-life concerns into pro wrestling drama as he may have done even 13 years ago this was not.
May Ric Flair never do this again.