Pro wrestling icons are larger-than-life figures, and few are as iconic as Ric “The Nature Boy” Flair. Despite still hanging around the ring in some capacity, Ric Flair’s retirement took place nearly a decade ago. This occurred following a legendary match that’ll echo in the wrestling history books like a resounding “Woooo!”
On March 30, 2008, at WWE’s WrestleMania XXIV, in front of nearly 75,000 fans at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Flair faced Shawn Michaels. The stipulation was that Flair would retire from wrestling if he suffered a loss. Take a look at some highlights from this unforgettable match and the drama surrounding it.
WWE Hall of Fame
The day before facing Michaels at WrestleMania, Flair became the first active WWE wrestler to be inducted into its Hall of Fame. Triple H inducted Flair, introducing him by saying, “This next man not only deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, but he should have his own wing.” Flair holds the distinction of being the only wrestler to be inducted twice. In 2012, he returned to the Hall of Fame podium again as a member of The Four Horsemen.
At WrestleMania XXIV, Flair immediately commanded the crowd’s attention by strutting to the ring wrapped in an elaborate blue robe with lush, white feathered trim. The more-than-ample sequins on Flair’s robe were only eclipsed by the bursts of fireworks accompanying his entrance.
The Figure Four
Of course, a classic Ric Flair match wouldn’t be complete without his trademark figure-four leglock. At one point, Flair diverted Michaels’ Sweet Chin Music finisher and soon tied up the younger wrestler in the figure four. Later on in the match, when Michaels secured Flair in his own modified version of the figure four, Flair broke loose with a thumb to Michaels’ eye.
At age 59, Flair gave it his all, matching Michaels bump for bump. He soared from the top rope, delivered his patented knee drop, suplexed Michaels, and more. While standing on the arena floor, he took the impact of Michaels backflipping from the ring and landing on top of him. After a brutal battle, Michaels stood in the ring and said, “I’m sorry” and “I love you” before delivering one final Sweet Chin Music. Michaels then pinned Flair, ending the match. Flair kissed and embraced his emotional family ringside. Before exiting backstage, Flair faced the crowd, tears filling his eyes, and waved and blew a kiss goodbye. Praised by fans and critics alike, the match subsequently became the 2008 “Pro Wrestling Illustrated” Match of the Year.
The next evening on “Raw,” Ric Flair’s retirement included a formal goodbye to the fans. At the close of the emotional speech, Triple H gathered an array of active and retired superstars to honor Flair. Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, Harley Race, members of The Four Horsemen, The Undertaker, and Vince McMahon were among those in attendance. This proved to be a rare moment when wrestlers broke character, and both babyfaces and heels stood together in the ring.
Flair’s 2008 retirement didn’t last terribly long. He appeared and wrestled for various promotions from 2009 to 2012. Officially swearing off in-ring action in 2012, he returned to WWE in December of that year as a non-competitive personality. This included eventually supporting his daughter Charlotte Flair, the current WWE Raw Women’s Champion. This lasted until spring of 2016 when Charlotte severed ties. Yet, that wasn’t the last we’ve seen of “The Nature Boy” in WWE. Surely, there will be countless “Wooooos” to come.