Arguably the two greatest wrestlers of all time that embody the professional wrestler everyone strives to be, Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels, delivered the greatest feud of the year, and maybe the greatest ever. Both have it all: charisma, leadership, athleticism, dedication, and they eat, sleep, and breathe the industry. Also, both have led two of the most influential factions of all time: Flair with the Four Horsemen and Michaels with D-Generation X. The stage was set: Wrestlemania 24, the greatest wrestling event the business has to offer, at a huge venue: The Orange Bowl.
The events leading up to this match were intricately planned and done perfectly. At the mercy of a maniacal chairman, Vince McMahon, we saw Ric Flair transform from a legend and timeless athlete to someone very vulnerable and literally fighting for his life.
For many of us who live for professional wrestling, professional wrestling is the life of Ric Flair. A certain part of us faded when we saw Shawn Michaels retire the Nature Boy. As Greg Gagne stated, "I can't imagine a wrestling business without Ric Flair...it's like a world without sunlight."
And I agree. If it was going to be anyone who Ric Flair would have his final match with, it would be Shawn Michaels. Other great opponents, like Sting, Steamboat, and even Dusty Rhodes, just couldn't give Ric the respectable match he deserves to go out on.
I remember, I think it was one or two weeks before Wrestlemania, that Flair and Michaels had their final confrontation leading up to the pay-per-view. Michaels was still unsure about carrying the burden of possibly retiring him, and Ric Flair delivered one of the best motivational speeches of all time to coax Michaels into accepting the challenge.
He pulled out all stops, whipping out the NWA World Heavyweight Championship (which was a complete shock to me), getting in Michaels' face, and even slapping him.
Flair wanted Michaels so bad he could taste it. Michaels finally gave in, accepted the challenge, and took it to the Nature Boy in the greatest match of the night. That night gave me goosebumps, to see the two greatest wrestlers ever fight for their respect and careers.
Ric Flair has always said, "To be the man, you gotta beat the man." Well, it has already been proven that Michaels fits the role, and Ric Flair knew it too. Thank you Ric and Shawn for delivering and representing what it means to be a wrestler today.