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Thursday, 29 November 2007

Does The Nature Boy still have the Flair for the gold?

After several months in the wilderness, amid rumours of a falling out with Vince McMahon and his impending retirement, Ric Flair this week returned to WWE TV.

It was on Monday Night Raw in his home town of Charlotte, North Carolina , and the anticipation level was very high. Some believed that The Nature Boy may quit the wrestling industry for good in the ring in Charlotte, others thought that the 16-time World Champion was beginning a major storyline building to Wrestlemania.

They may both be correct.

His in-ring promo really was classic Flair. Ric has always been one of the best promo guys in the business, and he was on top form when he began to give a solemn heartfelt speech abut how the fans had been good to him, and he was having increasing thoughts about hanging up his boots, trunks and robe for good.

And just as it seemed this was the last we would see of the limousine ridin’, jet flyin’, kiss-stealing, wheelin’-dealin’ son of a gun, he suddenly burst into life, stating he would never retire.

In an exclusive interview with my colleague Simon earlier this month (click here), Ric stated that he felt he should get more time on the microphone. Why anyone would doubt this is beyond us, but if they needed convincing, then Monday night would have done the job.

Vince McMahon, though, interrupted Naitch, and basically set up what appears to be the long term plan for Flair. When he loses a match, he retires. This instantly through him into a Raw main event with Randy Orton, which gave Flair a win in front of his own fans, kept his career going, and nicely progressed the Orton/Jericho programme.

So where will this whole storyline take Ric Flair? Is he on for a 17th World Title? Signs indicate that his final match will be at Wrestlemania, accompanied by rumours that he’d be inducted in the Hall of Fame’s class of 2008.

Wouldn’t it be incredible for the two to combine? Imagine a scenario where Ric recreates 1992 by producing an amazing performance to win the Royal Rumble, setting up a title shot. He picks as his opponent Triple H, who by then has turned heel, having turned on Shawn Michaels. The clues are already there; Triple H told Jeff Hardy on Raw that he (Trips) has turned on every partner he’s ever had, and Kennedy referred to Michaels being unable to co-exist with another for long.

So DX will have disbanded for good, The Game will have gained the WWE title, and Flair wins the Rumble to earn his shot against his former Evolution cohort. If Flair wins, he’s the champ, if he loses, he must retire.

This then gives a plethora of options. The expectation might be that Flair is to retire, so a swerve seeing him winning the belt will be hugely received, and he can do similar to Trish Stratus, and end on a title winning note. On the other hand, after a hard fought, rollercoaster, thrilling match, Triple H wins (cleanly). Offers the stage up to Flair, who celebrates his career in the ring on the biggest stage of all.

Then gets Pedigreed.

Triple H then becomes a bigger heel than ever, boasting that he has now retired Mick Foley and Ric Flair. This leads to the return of John Cena for the build up to a huge feud between him and Triple H which was originally planned for Mania.

Coming away from fantasy booking the WWE (if only it was that easy), we have to look at whether Flair is up to one last ride on Space Mountain.

Don’t forget, the man is 58 years old. Although his matches are still watchable, they are not the classics of days gone by.

On the other hand, the reaction he gets from audiences is still up there with anyone. His aforementioned promo skills are second to none. More importantly, the idea which has brought him back, which was reportedly pitched to WWE by Stone Cold Steve Austin, if manufactured correctly, from here to Wrestlemania, could turn Raw into a must-see show once again.

Flair v Triple H, or indeed anyone, for the WWE Title with the prospect of his career being on the line is a mouth-watering prospect. Not just for the event itself, but for the build up to this huge occasion, should it happen.

As a Flair mark, I really hope it does.

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