Last week’s debut of Chris Jericho not withstanding, good mic time and story building has been lacking on WWE programming lately. Needless to say I was again pleasantly surprised this week, and happy to see the shows headed back in this direction.
Not to mention I still got goosebumps watching the recap of Jericho’s return from last week. Call me nostalgic or just a kid at heart, but you all know how I feel about the great mic work.
Well, let’s jump in shall we?
Sunday night I had to swing by the newspaper office and do the editor thing, and happened to be at the office with the wrestling historian I’ve spoke of in the past. We began a discussion regarding Ric Flair’s return and what we thought were the best ways for his last hurrah to unfold.
Tonight, I’m left debating whether we have a form of collective foresight.
The Nature Boy did make his return in Charlotte after months away, and after much fear – caused mostly by the way Flair had been used most recently – I was excited to see that he’s got himself what looks to be one hell of a storyline.
Some feared tonight would be an announcement of his retirement. Even Jerry “The King” Lawler said “I hope it’s not the announcement I think it is” as we watched Flair step out of his limousine and walk into the arena.
When Flair hit the ring, he began by thanking fans everywhere and even began tearing up – fueling the theories that this speech might be one of his last. He spoke of his future, getting involved in politics and his own business, and said that he knew his wrestling career couldn’t go on forever. He even used the “R” word in his speech.
But then he began to compare himself to sports greats who continue to perform well in their formitive years, such as Cal Ripken Jr. and Brett Favre. But tonight, in front of the world, Flair said he had to announce …
“That I will never retire! I will only retire when I’m dead in this ring! Over my dead body, I’ve got too much juice left. I love this business, and I’m not going anywhere! WHOO!!!”
But just as Flair’s tirade and dancing were hitting on all cylinders, music hit the speakers – and it wasn’t Flair’s. It was the chairman, VKM.
Vince said that Flair had him going for a minute thinking he was going to retire, and in fact said he liked the fact that he’d never retire. He said Flair was a “pretty good piece of property” as far as he was concerned, and that he hoped he’d go on forever as long as he kept on winning. Then, the twist, as he stressed the last part.
He then revealed to Flair that the first match he lost would end his career.
Well, a legend’s career was now at stake, so what would be more appropriate than to have The Legend Killer, WWE Champion Randy Orton, enter stage right? The champ claimed to have come to thank Flair – for all the advice early in RKO’s career, for being a friend during his formidative years, for being there for him when he had personal problems, and for being the legend and role model that Flair was.
Then he thanked him in advance for the honor and pleasure of ending Flair’s career. Vince then announced it would be Flair vs. Orton tonight.
Fast forward a bit, and we see Flair getting ready backstage for his match. Shawn Michaels enters, saying he’d come tonight just to see Flair but didn’t realize he’d be coming to possibly see Flair’s last match ever. “For me, this industry without Ric Flair isn’t something I’m ready to put my arms around,” said HBK. He then had some encouragement for The Nature Boy, using the old Flair phrase, “to be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.” And tonight, Michaels said he didn’t think Orton could do it.
Flair thanked him and promised that worst-case scenario, he’d go out in a blaze of glory. They parted with smiles, but the happiness faded from Shawn’s face as Flair departed – as though he didn’t believe Flair could possibly succeed.
Jump ahead a bit more, and Flair exits the locker room to find a crowd of wrestlers all applauding him. Jericho, Hardcore Holly, Dusty Rhodes, Sgt. Slaughter were but a few of the men seen. Then, Triple H was face-to-face with Flair, shook his hand, gave Flair a hug and told him to “Show him who you are.” Another round of applause from his comrades followed.
Then, the match. The two locked up and Flair seemed to gain the early advantage with his signature chops and blows, putting Orton down with an elbow and raking the champ’s face with the bottom of his boot. Orton turned things around soon, though, dishing out blows to put the 16-time champ down.
After a couple of pin attempts, Orton was preparing to go for a suplex which Flair reversed into an inside cradle for a near fall. Orton exploded out of the pin attempt with a clothesline. Flair recovered and hit a couple of chops, but Orton put him down with a blow to the head and began stomping away at the legend.
Flair avoided a knee drop, then got in another chop before feeling a drop kick from RKO for a two count. A standing drop kick from Orton earned him another near fall. Flair then fought up from what was close to a sleeper hold with blows to the ribs and a hard chop before Orton clotheslined him over the top rope.
Orton pursued, hitting a suplex on the ringside floor. Flair made it back into the ring with one notch left in the 10-count. Orton kept on the offensive, but Flair finally got things going again with a back suplex. As both rose from the mat, Randy looked to hit an RKO but Flair escaped and started with the chop blocks to the legs, eventually locking in the Figure Four to the delight of the crowd.
Orton made it to the ropes for the break, and Flair rose and pulled him back away from the ropes hoping to lock the move right back on. He was kicked away by Orton, however, who then hit the RKO – seemingly sealing the fate of Flair. Orton wasn’t able to follow up immediately though, and by the time he went for the cover Flair had enough sense to grab the bottom rope to avoid the career-ending pin.
Orton mounted Flair and started dishing out fists, and continued to deliver blows to the objection of the ref. He then locked in a neck vice on Flair when suddenly, Chris Jericho (for reasons I’ll cover later) appeared and distracted both the ref and Orton.
The dirtiest player in the game took full advantage, dropping down to deliver a low blow to the champ, then rolling Orton up and grabbing a handful of tights to get the pin and save his career for now.
Hey, Chad. Did we call this one or what?
Jericho celebrated the win as Flair exited, then had a stare-down with a writhing Orton as the show ended.
There was an eight-man tag match pitting Cody Rhodes, Hardcore Holly, Super Crazy and Hacksaw Jim Duggan against Lance Cade, Trevor Murdoch and The Highlanders. It was a bore. After a bit of action, things degenerated into an all-out brawl, and Holly hit the Alabama Slam on Robbie for the win.
But the funny quote for the night came from Jerry Lawler right afterwards, when he said “that’s a big victory for those four young men!” Um, King? Did you forget Duggan was on the team?
We also saw Brian Kendrick get completely squashed by Mr. Kennedy. Must have gotten on someone’s bad side or something.
Then, we had to go back to the cartoon-like antics for Hornswoggle, didn’t we? Vince sent him for, of all things, an ice cream sandwich. Headed down the hall to get his “dad” the treat, Hornswoggle found an empty box, then a door with a sign reading “Free ice cream sandwiches.” When he entered the room, he found Carlito waiting for him – still angry from his loss to the little guy last week.
Hornswoggle stops Carlito from attacking him by pulling out a can of spray paint, painting a door on the brick wall, then (although we don’t see any special effects or anything on camera) he runs through. A flabbergasted Carlito pondered it for a moment, then decided to pursue. Of course, he ran straight into a solid wall. Sprawled on the floor, he was then a victim of a strong “Damn!” from Ron Simmons.
I’ll make this one simple. I’m giving the High-fliers distinction to the match between Flair and Orton. Not because it was filled with textbook technical wrestling or lots of high-impact action, but because of the impressive stakes and for once again getting to see Flair do what he does best – being the dirtiest player in the game.
– Triple H and Jeff Hardy teamed to defeat Umaga and Snitsky. Aftewards, GM William Regal came out and announced that at Armageddon the Survivor Series victors would face each other in a match. Hardy in an interview later started to say that he was honored to wrestle HHH, but hoped it wouldn’t have an effect on their …
– Mr. Kennedy did a promo, basically doing a mock promo of Shawn Michael’s new DVD, Heartbreak and Triumph, and telling HBK that his career would hit an all-time low when he faced him in the ring.
– Flair was seen backstage talking with fellow Four Horsemen alumni Arn Anderson and Barry Windham.
– Jericho came out to do another great promo, telling everyone that he could only conclude that the reason he hadn’t gotten an answer to his demand for a title match was because Orton didn’t understand the question. (Actually, he said he had the IQ of a kumquat.) So he brought visual aids to simplify things.
– Mickie James defeated Melina to become the number one contender for the Women’s Championship. Disappointing that we didn’t get to see the “long kiss goodnight,” but James did blow the Glamazon a kiss as they stared down.
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