I watched Ric Flair’s return to IMPACT the other night and was struck by what an embarrassment he is. Not just to himself or to TNA, but to the wrestling business in general. He’s even an embarrassment to wrestling fans. Would you show someone you know who’s not into wrestling footage of Flair in TNA as an example of how good wrestling can be? Of course you wouldn’t.
If you’ve not seen the episode in question you didn’t miss much. Throughout the course of the show Flair claimed to have wrestled Sting 1,500 times (a fallacy), told ‘The Hulkster’ in a backstage segment that they should go out and party (Hogan is 58, Flair is 62), jumbled his lines during a backstage shout-fest (“It’s Ric Flair I’m talking to right now and I wanna see him!” was the highlight), and challenged Sting to a match with retire stipulations (just a couple of years after his guaranteed last match ever against Shawn Michaels).
He clearly hasn’t wrestled Sting anywhere near 1,500 times. Even when touring schedules were at their worst Flair and Sting weren’t wrestling more than around 250 matches per year. It would have taken six years to reach the number Flair claims. Even interspersed over a longer period that number would have been impossible to reach. He also said Sting won, at most, two matches against him. That too is untrue.
The partying comment made me imagine an awful sitcom starring Hogan and Flair, in which they continually try to prove to themselves, each other, and anybody else unlucky enough to be near them, that they can “still go” by partying the night away and making themselves bleed hard way. As bad as such a sitcom would be I still think it would be an improvement on the nonsense IMPACT offers up on a regular basis. That doesn’t mean I want to see it though.
Flair jumbling his lines is nothing new. It’s a perfect example of why he shouldn’t be allowed to work without a script. Some guys (The Rock, ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, and CM Punk spring immediately to mind) excel without a script while others actually harm the product. If TNA insists on using Flair in a speaking role (and I’d like to be clear that while I dislike him in a speaking role it’s preferable to using him in a wrestling role) he should be told exactly what to say beforehand. If Flair can’t even cut a promo properly then there’s nothing he can do to help TNA.
The retirement comment was his worst offence. ‘The Nature Boy’ told Sting he wanted to wrestle him and that if Sting won Flair would guarantee him the match he wants with Hogan. If Flair won, then Sting would have to retire. Flair then talked about how this wouldn’t be a “phoney retirement” and that Sting would have to “go home and wish he’d never stepped in the ring” if he lost. Yeah that was going to happen. Honest.
Flair talking about retirement stipulations is always going to destroy a storyline’s credibility, solely because of how he has ruined the perfect send-off he was given by Shawn Michaels, Vince McMahon, and the entire WWE locker room and backstage crew at WrestleMania XXIV and the following evening’s RAW in 2008. I appreciate he loves the business but that was the best retirement he could have hoped for and it should have remained his final match. He has financial problems, yes, (all self-inflicted) but he could have taken a non-wrestling role in TNA. At his age he should be acting as a manager or spokesperson, not an active wrestler.
The argument form TNA fans will likely be that the promotion wanted to get an angle across, but that’s a poor excuse because the match didn’t need the retirement stipulation. It’s a gimmick for the sake of adding a gimmick. If this were an isolated incident it wouldn’t be a big deal, but as TNA does it all the time it can’t be overlooked. It’s an ongoing problem within the promotion and ought to be addressed. They could have included another storyline development here, or put a young wrestler who could use the chance to progress in Flair’s role.
Basically, Flair is a hypocrite and long past his prime. I’m not saying he has no use in the modern wrestling business but I am saying that use is not active competition. Nor is it unscripted promos. The business and the expectations of viewers have changed since Flair’s heyday. He and TNA need to come to terms with that and adapt how ‘The Nature Boy’ is used, before he completely destroys his legacy.