The WWE Universe is still in shock about the retirement of Shawn Michaels. The Undertaker pinned Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 26 to send HBK into retirement. The WWE sent off Shawn Michaels in style with a farewell tribute on WWE RAW. However, as moving as Shawn Michaels’ farewell was it was the farewell to Ric Flair that still has fans and WWE superstars talking.
I thought it would be a great opportunity to look back at what some people call one of the greatest moments in WWE and pro wrestling history. It was two years ago, March 31 2008 when the pro wrestling world stood still as Ric Flair walked that aisle for what we all thought would be the final time of his career. While the moment may be slightly tarnished by Flair’s eventual return to the pro wrestling world, the night the WWE paid tribute to Ric Flair will still go down as one of the most special nights in all of pro wrestling.
[adinserter block=”1″]It is rare that anyone does a retirement ceremony right in sports or entertainment. Unfortunately, retirement ceremonies cease to exist or usually come too late for the fans truly appreciate the greatness of the individual. On March 31, 2008 the WWE did it right with a retirement ceremony for the ages dedicated to the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair.
Ric Flair wrestled what we were all led to believe would be his last match at WrestleMania 24 against Shawn Michaels. A Shawn Michaels kick to the chin theoretically ended the career of one of the greatest wrestlers of all-time. WWE Raw allowed Ric Flair to give a farewell address to the fans. The farewell address turned into one of the greatest moments in wrestling history.
Ric Flair came out at the end of the show to say farewell to the fans, his peers, and the pro wrestling business. Ric Flair gave a modest speech and looked all cried out by this point between the WWE Hall of Fame two days earlier and WrestleMania 24. The WWE for all of its issues, showed more class than even the biggest sports organizations in the world with the way they followed Flair’s speech.
Immediately following Flair’s speech, Triple H hit the ring. Is it me or do you always have the feeling in the back of your head, “I think he may turn heel” every time Triple H hits the ring with another babyface? Anyway, Triple H hit the ring and proceeded to thank Ric Flair and pay homage to his favorite wrestler and close friend. Who knew the party was just getting started?
Triple H then proceeded to bring out several very special guests from Ric Flair’s past that wanted to pay tribute to the former world champion. For the first time in twenty-years, the combination of Four Horsemen including Barry Windham, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, J.J. Dillon and Ric Flair appeared on live television together. As someone that grew up as a big Four Horsemen fan, this was an amazing moment in wrestling history. I predicted a Four Horsemen appearance at WrestleMania 24. So I got it one day wrong, but I am glad someone got it right after all.
The Four Horsemen weren’t the only ones from Ric Flair’s past to pay tribute to Flair. Flair’s greatest rival, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat was next to walk down the stage. This was another great moment as just one hour earlier, Raw showed clips of the classic Flair vs. Steamboat match from WrestleWar 89′. Other notable guests from Flair’s past included ex-Horsemen Dean Malenko, former rival and tag team partner Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, former world champion Harley Race, and of course Flair’s family.
The show closed with members of the WWE roster hitting the ring including Ric Flair’s ex-Evolution mate Batista, John Cena, and Chris Jericho. The rest of the WWE’s roster surrounded the ring and said thanks to a man that has influenced every single wrestler in one way or another that you watch in a pro wrestling ring today. The show ended with Flair in tears, hugging his family and a unison fans and wrestlers screaming “Thank you Ric.”
Sadly, Ric Flair would tarnish this moment by returning to the ring both in Australia and on live United States television for TNA Wrestling. It didn’t come as much of a surprise as Flair started telling people in interviews shortly after the ceremony about how much he missed the ring. Regardless of how things turned out today for Ric Flair, nobody can ever take away this great moment in pro wrestling history.
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