It has been a while since I’ve posted something here, but here is a Q&A I conducted recently via e-mail with 16-time world champion Ric Flair — real name Richard Fliehr — who will be appearing at Heavy on Wrestling’s Rumble at the Garden on Thursday, May 27, in Duluth.
Jimmy Bellamy: After your emotional retirement sendoff from World Wrestling Entertainment in 2008 — the WWE Hall of Fame induction, the match at WrestleMania XXIV, and the goodbye on “WWE Monday Night Raw” — did you intend for your WrestleMania match with Shawn Michaels to be the final match of your career?
Ric Flair: I don’t know what I thought at the time. Remember that it was WWE that decided to retire Ric Flair. Obviously it was very emotional for myself, Shawn, and my fans. It is not easy to do this for as long as I have and then all of a sudden quit because the company you work for tells you to. I’m not bashing WWE as I have great respect for the group. I believe that the whole set up was beautiful and they did a great job with the hall of fame ceremony and the goodbye on Raw afterward. But I am not ready to sit at home and build a garden. I feel great, I work hard, and I am ready to keep going.
JB: In sports (and sports-entertainment, copyright Vince McMahon), fans often complain about an athlete’s career length, saying, “He played/competed too long. His legacy will be tarnished.” I’ve been one to think that is overblown. Who is anyone to tell someone else when it’s time to go? Athletes only have a certain amount of time to compete. Why should someone else have a say in when that athlete “hangs it up”? What are your thoughts?
RF: The athlete in question is the only person that truly knows if they are ready to retire. No one else.
JB: What did you think of Shawn Michaels’ similar exit from WWE in April (the WrestleMania match with the Undertaker and his “Monday Night Raw” farewell address)? Do you think that was his final match?
RF: I think Shawn definitely wants to be a family man and be home with his wife. I do, however, feel that he will have a return match at a pay per view sometime down the line.
JB: Have you heard from WWE officials since your return to the ring? Have you spoken to Michaels since his retirement?
RF: I have a lot of friends in WWE and I do keep in contact with them. I have spoken with Shawn since his retirement.
JB: What’s your response to those who say your last match should have been in 2008 against Michaels?
RF: The only one that truly will know the right time to stop is myself.
JB: Was it money that brought you back (doing the wrestling tour of Australia with Hulk Hogan, and coming to TNA) or something else?
RF: I was provided a unique opportunity and had a blast going to Australia. I feel I have a lot more to offer and that is what I am doing. I love TNA and feel that they have the right tools to be something huge. I am having just as much fun now as I did in the ’80s and that is saying something.
JB: Your footprint in wrestling spans decades and generations. Someone’s father might remember you as the NWA champion; someone else might remember you as the frontman of the Four Horsemen in WCW; and younger generations see you as the mentor in Evolution. What’s one thing you want all fans that have seen you over the years to remember you for?
RF: I want them to remember me as someone who appreciates the love and respect they give me every week when I head out in front of the camera. I am an entertainer and I feel when people pay to see me they feel they got their money’s worth.
JB: What do you enjoy about making appearances like the one for the upcoming Heavy on Wrestling show Thursday in Duluth?
RF: I love meeting all my fans. They are really something. The amount of respect they give me is amazing and it makes me feel great that they are excited to see me. I am just as much excited to meet my fans as they are to meet me. Grandma’s Sports Garden and Dave Sabick are presenting a rare opportunity and I truly hope everyone in Duluth comes out and has a great time. Dave is a great guy who has a lot of class and I know he’s doing a great job organizing everything.
JB: How much of Ric Flair the character is in Richard Fliehr the person?
RF: Enough to give my attorney a few sleepless nights.
JB: What has wrestling allowed you to do that you didn’t expect when you broke into the business? Travel the globe? Meet countless fans?
RF: It has allowed me a chance to fully develop a character and market myself as an entertainer that has gained the love of millions of people.
JB: How big is Flair Country?
RF: Flair Country is bigger than the United States, it is bigger than Canada, Australia, England, you name it; it is something NASA better start studying!
JB: When was the last time and place you were able to be anonymous?
RF: I honestly do not remember.
Here’s my Duluth News Tribune column on Flair.