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March 25, 2008

Flair shows he’s still ‘the man’

In what was very likely his last appearance on Raw as an active wrestler, Ric Flair stole the show last night as only the “Nature Boy” can.

Flair gave one of those impassioned promos that longtime wrestling fans have seen him do hundreds of times yet never get old. The live crowd in Columbia, S.C. – the heart of Flair Country – reveled in the moment, as Flair engaged in a verbal sparring match with Shawn Michaels, his opponent at WrestleMania XXIV Sunday. Michaels told Flair how much he respected him, and then began reciting one of Flair’s signature catch phrases. Before Michaels could complete it, however, Flair abruptly cut him off and told him to shut up.

Flair took offense to what he perceived as Michaels being condescending to him. He then threw off his jacket and really got rolling. Flair even brought out the old NWA world heavyweight title belt and mentioned former opponents such as Dusty Rhodes, Harley Race, Ricky Steamboat, Sting and Bruiser Brody.

The segment already was great at that point, but then Flair and Michaels took it up yet another notch. After seeming to reach some common ground, Flair and Michaels shook hands. But Michaels wasn’t finished. He compared Flair to Old Yeller and said that, just like the dog in the old Disney movie, Flair needed to be taken behind the woodshed and put out of his misery, and that’s what he was going to do to him at WrestleMania.

Flair responded in classic fashion. With a crazed look in his eye and veins popping out of his head, he stomped on his jacket and ripped open his shirt as he got up in Michaels’ face, slapped him twice and screamed, “Go ahead. Take out Old Yeller right now!” Flair showed great intensity, while Michaels remained calm and then walked out of the ring to a chorus of boos.

This confrontation really made viewers want to see these two go at it. It looks as if Michaels will play the subtle heel role, but by the end of Sunday’s match, I’m sure Flair and Michaels will be friends again.

Flair also had a big moment later in the show. In the eight-man tag match main event, Flair scored the victory for his team when he forced Randy Orton to tap out to the figure-four leglock. It’s a questionable booking decision to have the WWE champion submit to a wrestler who isn’t in the main event with him at WrestleMania, but since it’s Flair, WWE gets a pass. …

Other thoughts on last night’s show:

The video package on Flair was well done, but, as I have said before, I think it would have been a nice touch to have had comments from past and present foes of Flair’s. I also think WWE should have done a video package on Michaels, focusing on his past WrestleMania performances as well as the fact that he is in the awkward position of trying to end his idol’s career. I thought for sure we would see that famous photo of Michaels as a teenager holding up a Pro Wrestling Illustrated magazine with Flair on the cover and Michaels emulating his pose. …

WWE also did a nice job on the video package for the triple threat main event for the WWE title. John Cena and Triple H had a good verbal confrontation backstage, too. …

The opening segment, in which Cena, Orton, Triple H, Big Show, JBL and Umaga all cut promos, was an effective way to promote several WrestleMania matches all at once. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Triple H was scripted to come off looking like the biggest star of the segment. He also got to enter the ring last during the main event. I think Cena should have had that honor…

It was great the way Umaga grabbed the microphone and looked unsure how to use it. His character would really benefit from having a mouthpiece. I’ll never understand why Armando Estrada was taken out of that role. …

The Big Show has done a great job of making the Floyd Mayweather angle seem like a shoot in his promos and training videos. Big Show hasn’t actually turned babyface – he was on the heel side in last night’s main event – even though he comes across like one in the video packages. …

It was announced that Candice Michelle is out of the BunnyMania match at WrestleMania after undergoing surgery yesterday to repair her broken clavicle. Ashley made her return and will take Candice’s spot as Maria’s partner against Beth Phoenix and Melina. I guess having Ashley in there makes sense with the Playboy theme and all, but where is Mickie James, who is more over than any of these women? It might be wishful thinking, but I hope Mickie not being on the card is part of a story line for her after WrestleMania. …

Poor Santino Marella. Not only did he have to sell for 58-year-old Jerry Lawler, but also for Maria and Ashley.

Posted by Kevin Eck at 2:34 AM | | Comments (21)
        

Comments

I know not to expect much wrestling from the WWE anymore, particularly the week before a pay-per-view - but I think I managed to cut the show down to about 40 interesting minutes by fast forwarding (thank god for DVRs). Kevin you've got a right to the opinion that Ric Flair's talk doesn't get old, but I personally can't wait for the talking to stop! Ric and HBK have been cutting the same promo week after week. Shut up and wrestle already.

Ah , Monday night 9 p.m. what shall I do ?
a).laundry
b).dishes
-
-
g).prepare taxes
-
-
k). discuss alimony w/ ex-wife
-
-o). watch Blue Lagoon rerun
-
-
r). pull fingernails out with pliers
-
-
z). watch "Raw"

I hate to sound so negative . I actually like most of the WWE roster and had watched it for years . I exaggerate my dislike for WWE (well maybe not). But anything that has Vince McMahon's fingerprint , I have a hard time supporting . Everytime I watch , I'm wondering how long before he shows . When he does I actually have to "step back" because I find myself getting angry ... not worth it . Not to mention the percieved nepotism toward Triple H . For the wrestlers sake I hope this years Wrestlemania is huge . It just pains me to know that I'd be helping to line McMahon pocket if I want to view it .

All I can say about Flair is woooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!
And was he ever the man at Raw or what?
I have to agree with ya Kevin, what about Mickie James? Why her instead of Ashley? Ashley coming back from an injury again and a healthy Mickie James sitting on the sidelines. Ashley and Maria don't match up with Beth or Melina. Mickie would have at least made the sides a little more even. I gotta go with Beth and Melina in the Bunny Match as if anyone cares. But I have so much sympathy for Candice who has busted her butt so hard to get where she is only to have to sit out again. What bad luck has she run into. She deserves a big hug to let her know someone cares. Maybe we will see either Beth or Melina turn face a square off for the Womens Title. But I doubt if that would ever happen.

Given WWE's track record, I almost expect them to release Mickie. She just doesn't fit in with the WWE program, i.e. insult our intelligence.

Couple of thoughts on all this.
Its just my opinion but I'm tired of Flair and I can't wait to see him gone. I stopped liking him after he left WCW the second time.

Mickie James should be ringside for the Bunnymania match, it being lumberjack rules and all so we'll see.

Kennedy takes the MITB because everyone else will waste the shot. I think Matt Hardy will take Jeff's spot as a surprise. Also look to this being the first time the MITB winner doesn't win the title after the cash in.

Ashley probably won't stay healthy for the 6 days between now and Mania.

Santino may just have to become a full time manager/escort type.

Flair really got into it...at one point I was afraid he was going to have a heart attack on the spot, he was so red. That can't be good for him.

I thought the spot where Flair put Orton in the figure four was very effective and awesome. Kudos to Orton for selling it like crazy! Granted, it looked rather bad for Orton to look weak going into WM, but then again, I'm sure he's going to lose anyway.

***

I think they took Armando away from Umaga, because they were considering on turning Umaga face. I mean, there was a short period during the time Santino was turning heel, that they had him in a program with Umaga, if you remember. Maybe they wanted to do a double turn but I guess they changed their mind.

Also, I miss Armando doing his intro. Now it's just Armando Estrada. It used to be Armando Alejandro Estrada. Fans would start doing his intros with him so WWE stopped him from doing that.

***

Yes, Mickie should have totally been in that match. She is a better worker than Maria and Ashley IMO.

I am glad to see the Ric can still pump the crowd up like no one can. I have been worried about him wrestling at his age, but hey if he can still lace up the boots then so be it. I see these series of matches as his farewell tour. He is giving everyone no last shot at The Man! I hope HBK does not win because then we will have to hear his mouth about how he took at Flair. I predict that Flair will win and retire on Monday Night Raw.

Before yesterday, I had not watched a full episode of Raw in quite awhile, but I'm glad that I made the time, last night. I have never been a huge fan of Ric Flair, but the Flair/Shawn Michaels segment was by far my favorite thing on the show. The Flair video was pretty good, too, but not as good as the video which WCW made after Flair lost his retirement match to Hulk Hogan back in 1994 or whenever it was.

HHH overshadowing the others was such a shame, but really not a surprise. Surely he will win at wrestlemania or else why the Cena title shot at NWO, when fans would have been more than satisfied with a Hardy/Orton return. The life of a Raw main eventer must be frustrating, with the likes of JBL, Jericho and even Cena knowing they will ultimately be forced to always put over a vastly inferior and less charismatic worker who has always had to be pushed intensely to get a reaction out of fans, right from his Kliq days. When Cena mimicked him briefly in the promo I
hope it made people realise how many times we've had to sit through protracted "I am the game!!" promos, and how tiresome they are.
I'm ranting a lot but I feel sorry for the other guys and its frustrating for a lot of fans. I think the guy needs to move on or freshen up his image, because for a WM main eventer, he just isn't giving a lot to the fans.

Mickie James has no right at all to be apart of the BunnyMania match other than being a lumberjack. Let's not forget how badly she screwed up at WM 22 in Chicago while acting crazyed

Dude, what do you have against Triple H? He's most definately one of the few reasons why wrestling has still got the 'bump' it does in the 21st century. Cena's great, but has no credibility because he unable to polarise the fans-he gets as many jeers as he does cheers.

RESPONSE FROM KEVIN ECK: I have nothing against Triple H. He's one of WWE's biggest stars, but Cena is the top guy in the company.

I'm not quite ready to give WWE a pass on having Orton tap out to Flair. It's not just the fact that he tapped out, but how quickly he did it (although lately during the Flair retirement angle his figure four seems to have gotten somehow harder to endure than it used to be; MVP and Mr. Kennedy both tapped quickly also when put in it).
I wish they had resisted the urge to make Michaels even slightly heel for the match, as it was already a well presented storyline; why do it to him on the last show before Wrestlemania when they had stayed friendly up until this point?
And lastly, I had the same thought about Mickie James. It drives me crazy how every women's match for Mania now has to be Playboy-centric. And Lawler constantly suggesting that women who can actually wrestle and have been champions are forever "jealous" of the Maria's of the world because they are on the cover of Playboy is insulting to them as athletes.

Sorry ...

I just don't get the attraction of Santino Marella. He's about as funny and entertaining as taking a seat in the dentist’s chair.

I honestly forget about his appearances by the time the next promo for House comes with the commercials and don't remember him until I read your columns (which I do look forward to reading, by the way).

that was a great promo by Ric, and i was surprised they let him bring out the old NWA world title belt.

Hey Kevin. Nice column yet again but...

"It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Triple H was scripted to come off looking like the biggest star of the segment."

Are you agreeing that it's pretty obvious that Trips has been using his backstage power recently and will probably win the 'Mania match?

I wouldn't be surprised if it was pretty convincingly either. Since guys like Angle are gone, hopefully we'll see HHH in the ring with stiff workers like JBL and Finlay and Jericho, but probably not.

Thanks

I am afraid that we are going to see the last of the 'Naure Boy' Ric Flair come Wrestlemania 24. A career in the spotlight for over 35 years wil come to an end.

Ric Flair by far is the face of professional wrestling. To know what he meant to Mid Atlantic and the NWA can only be cherished by the ones who saw him. Ric Flair was the same in 1974 when he was the tag team champion with Rip Hawk as he is going to be when he steps in the ring with Shawn Micheals at Wrestlemania XXIV.

You can grarantee we will never see the end of the 'Nature Boy'. He is the best of all time.

Kevin, great column. I quit watching Raw completely until I read that Flair was coming back for this last run. I have watched every Raw since and I am afraid that I will be crying coming Sunday night. I am 28 and have been the hugest Flair mark since I was 3 years old. I am gonna guess there are going be a lot of grown men, some much older than me trying to fight back the emotion come Sunday night. I don't think it will be easy. Also, that was great Orton tapped to Flair, that's what should happen when he locks his signature hold on you, which is what has been the opposite of what has happened to Flair in every Match for the last 15 years (It gets reversed or they make it to the ropes). I am glad Orton did the job, I am sure it was an honor for him to do so.

I think Arn has to make an appearance and bail him out somepoint in the match, it would be good if the Brain could possibly be in his corner ala 1992. But other than that I think we can expect a surefire classic at Mania, especially if this is truly his last match.

One final thought of HHH, I think people need to layoff this guy. He is an unbelievable performer, the best in the sport today, and deserves any accolades he gets. He comes off getting star billing because he is the best in the business regardless who his family is. He has not had the title in quite some time and that loss to Cena at mania two years ago was a mistake. Orton is a great performer and deserves his accolades as well, but it is time HHH is crowned again.

I REMEMBER WHEN RICK FLAIR COME IN THIS AREA.HIM AND RIP HAWK WRESTLED JOHNNY WEAVER AND GEORGE BECKER.
DURING THIS MATCH GEORGE BECKER TURNED ON JOHNNY WEAVER. SO IT TURNED INTO A THREE ON ONE.
THAT WAS THE FIRST TIME I SAW RICK FLAIR IN 1974.
I REMEMBER BUDDY ROGERS AND LYNN DENTON GANGED UP ON RICK. BUDDY PUT THE FIGURE FOUR LEG LOCK ON RICK.
RICK WAS SHOWING BUDDY IF HE WAS DOING THE FIGURE FOUR LEG LOCK RIGHT. AND THAT WAS WHEN BUDDY AND LYNN JUMP HIM.YES I KEPT UP WITH RICK OVER THE YEARS..THERE WILL NOT BE TWO RICK FLAIRS..
GOOD LUCK RICK FOR ALL THE YEARS I HAVE WATCHED YOU WRESTLE.YOU WILL BE MISSED

JIM FULMER

I was in Columbia for RAW Monday night. I have never in my life been to a concert, sporting event, or wrestling event where the electricity and excitement in a building was that hype. I have never experienced anything like it. It was so appropriate that Ric Flair stole the entire show that night, especially since it may be his last Monday Night Raw. Was it ironic that his family was in attendance and he made the champ tap out with the figure-four? Hmmmmm.

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About Kevin Eck
The Baltimore Sun's Kevin Eck blogs about professional wrestling.
E-mail Kevin.
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