Ric Flair: The Greatest

Tom ClarkFeatured ColumnistJune 19, 2010

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 21:  Hulk Hogan's opponent Ric Flair is greeted by the crowd during Hulk Hogan's Hulkamania Tour at Rod Laver Arena on November 21, 2009 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Dadswell/Getty Images)
Mark Dadswell/Getty Images

Ric Flair is the Greatest Of All Time. It’s a term used by NBA fans worldwide to describe Michael Jordan, but I think it also firmly applies to the Nature Boy. I’ve heard arguments made for other guys through the years, but for me no one measures up to the talent, the work ethic, and the longevity of the “sixty minute man.” Yes, Ric Flair is The GOAT.

Okay, yes, I’m marking out for him, it’s true, but considering who we’re talking about here it’s more than justified.

Legendary matches, the best promos, the complete character and image, Ric Flair did it better than anyone before him anyone who’s come after him. He set the standard for what being the best truly means in this business and no one can deny his accomplishments.

Sixteen times World Heavyweight Champion. Think about that for a second. As fans, we’re so used to hearing it that maybe it begins to lose its impact. But on sixteen different occasions, a promoter, whether it was Jim Crockett or Vince McMahon, decided that Ric Flair was the best wrestler in the world, and the man to represent his company to the fans.

These were the days when the strap wasn’t just handed out randomly to the flavor of the month, as is often the case now. Being the World Champion was important, meaningful, a symbol of being not just a draw, but the top draw, the guy that everybody paid to see. That’s what the World Champion is supposed to be, and no one carried it better than Ric Flair.

But, being The GOAT also means you’re wide open to not only love and admiration from the fans when you succeed, but also to hatred and scathing criticism when you fail.

Wrestlemania XXIV was to be Flair’s last match. An instant classic against Shawn Michaels, Ric was supposedly going out on his own terms, doing it his way. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame the night before, and was wrestling a man who had been compared to Flair during his career. HBK was the right man at the right moment, and Flair’s send off was one for the ages.

The truth is, it wasn’t over. After a few more appearances for the WWE, Flair finally exited the company and headed for the would-be competition. His run in TNA so far? Open for debate.

This is where the biting criticism comes in. Some fans are out of their minds with bile and disgust for Flair’s actions since joining the company. I have to be honest here, maybe some of them have a point.

Flair no longer needs to be in the ring. His body is not what it used to be, and he’s lost more than one step. On top of this is the fact that he bleeds. ALL THE TIME.

If there’s anyone in the business who understands what getting color in a feud means in adding intensity to that feud, it’s Ric Flair. He’s shed an Olympic sized pool of it during the course of his career, and the spout still seems to be on. It’s lost its intensity at this point. In fact, it’s getting a little ridiculous. At some point, the ring career of Flair needs to end. That time is now.

Some fans are also upset that he’s getting quite a bit of air time. More than he should, perhaps, with so many talented young guys in the locker room, just sitting there, waiting for their turn. Maybe they’re right about this one too. After all, he and Chump Hogan seem to have words on nearly a weekly basis, by now you would think that TNA creative (do those two words even go together?) could come up with something different for Flair to do. It does seem that Flair, or at least his character, is living based on old feuds that have been over for a long time.

So, do all the fans who are so upset at Ric really have a point? Yes. I can see where they’re coming from . And, no. They need to take a step back and remember who they’re talking about.

If Ric Flair, after headlining three worldwide wrestling promotions, winning sixteen World Titles, and giving thirty-eight years of his life to this business, can’t call his own shots, then who in the world can? This is the Nature Boy, people. The man who defined what being World Champion is and has inspired so many guys to lace up the boots and attempt to capture some of the magic that Flair created every time he was in the ring.

This is not Kevin Nash, The Nasty Boys, or Hogan we’re talking about, all guys who are often criticized for not doing much in the way of giving back to the business, all guys who seem to be in it for all the wrong reasons. Ric Flair has done more for this business, given more, than anyone else, and I believe he’s earned the right to say when enough is enough.

Yes, he received a great send off from the WWE. But, let’s not forget that he was pushed into that storyline, and until the undefeated streak began, they had done little to nothing for Flair. One minute he was stuck in a pointless feud with Carlito, the next minute he was being held up as The GOAT, and the focus of the WWE Hall of Fame.

Why the big change? Because the WWE obviously felt that it was time for Flair to move on. The problem was, Ric didn’t exactly feel the same way.

It should be up to him how he goes out. Okay, so his run in TNA thus far has not exactly been the stuff of legend. But TNA obviously wants him there, and if there’s any doubt as to whether or not he’s contributing to the product, just ask the guys Flair is currently giving the rub to.

The newly formed faction known as Fortune consists of Kaz, Beer Money, Desmond Wolfe and AJ Styles. All good workers, all top notch talent. With Ric Flair at the helm, this group could very well reign at the top of the company for a long time, provided TNA does it right.

Instead of making it all about him, Ric is doing what veterans do--he’s giving back. He could’ve said no to the whole idea, demanded that he be in a storyline that was completely focused on him and no one else. But, Ric is doing what a true professional does. He’s using his name and legacy to put over the next generation. This is why he’s considered one of the best of all time. Ric gets it. He knows how the business is supposed to work. And, he should. He’s Ric Flair.

Ric Flair will hang it up eventually. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. Let’s face it, he might keep going until the very end, or until he physically just can’t do it anymore. It’s up to him. But for anyone out there who believes he’s making a fool of himself, remember this. Ric Flair and has done more for this business than anyone in any locker room he’s ever been in. He should be the one to decide when he’s done. Michael Jordan’s career was not tarnished by his run with the Wizards. Flair’s career will not be tarnished by his run with TNA. After all, he’s Ric Flair. And, more importantly, he’s The GOAT.

Tom Clark June 19 2010