We’re one week away from WrestleMania XXX, and NZPWI is counting down the 10 best matches from the last 10 years of the showcase of the immortals.
We’re covering 10 different matches featuring 13 different superstars held at seven different WrestleManias over the past decade. Will your favourite make the list?
Today’s countdown piece is one of the most emotionally-charged matches is WrestleMania history, with one man’s career and another’s reputation on the line.
Coming in at number seven, it’s Ric Flair’s bout against Shawn Michaels from WrestleMania XXIV.
NZPWI’s 10 BEST WRESTLEMANIA MATCHES OF THE LAST 10 YEARS
#7: RIC FLAIR VS. SHAWN MICHAELS (WRESTLEMANIA XXIV)
Some never want their story to end.
At WrestleMania XXIV, there was no avoiding it.
Shawn Michaels announced Ric Flair would be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and proclaimed him the greatest of all time. But this announcement caused Flair to reflect on his past, his legacy – and his future.
Ric Flair was in the twilight of his career. He knew it. But he refused to go quietly into the night. He vowed to never retire.
Enter Vince McMahon, who stated Flair’s career would be over the next time he lost a match.
Flair’s journey had him take down a number of superstars over the months, all who jumped at the chance to etch their names in history as the man who retired the Nature Boy.
And all Flair wanted was the privilege of competing against his friend, Mr WrestleMania himself, at the 24th WrestleMania.
Except Shawn Michaels didn’t want the responsibility. He didn’t want to do what he felt would be the only outcome if he took on Flair at WrestleMania; he didn’t want his idol’s career to be over.
Flair took this personally. If he couldn’t beat Shawn on the grandest stage of them all, then what good was he anyway? He might as well hang up the boots if there’s a man he can’t beat. And if it did lead to his retirement, then who better to have the honour than one of his best friends?
Shawn came around to the idea. The match was set and Shawn paused to fire up his idol, by comparing Flair to the title character from the movie Old Yeller. HBK promised to put his mentor out of his misery. Flair was incensed and struck his friend in the face repeatedly. He was ready to “Wooo!” loudly into the night. And on the day in question he had only one goal.
“To be the man.”
The match started appropriately for such long-standing veterans, with chain wrestling, as they both looked for an advantage. It wasn’t long before the insults started flying either. Everything was on the line. It became obvious early on that Flair would do anything to win, attempting to hit a flying cross body from the top rope – and landing it for what must have been the first time in years. Michaels retaliated with a moonsault off the top rope to the outside – except HBK wasn’t so lucky with his aerial attempt and he crashed through the announce table. As the match wore on he tried it once more, this time knocking Flair down with the impressive backflip to the hard floor.
The time came for Michaels to go for Sweet Chin Music – but he couldn’t pull the trigger. He hesitated in front of Flair, who was incensed and immediately applied his patented figure four leglock. HBK escaped and both men traded moves with a desperate edge to them.
When Flair paused to do his trademark strut, HBK took advantage with a superkick that didn’t have any hesitation attached to it this time. Flair shocked everybody by kicking out. He still had life in him.
But it could never last. Eventually Shawn Michaels found himself standing in the corner of the ring as Flair struggled to his feet and begged Michaels to bring it. And bring it he did. But only after staring down his friend and uttering five simple words.
“I’m sorry. I love you.”
One kick and a three count later, Ric Flair’s WWE in-ring career was over.
HBK immediately hugged his fallen friend, then left the ring so Ric could take in the moment. An entire arena of fans paying their respects for the blood, sweat and tears that The Nature Boy has shed over the decades.
Shawn Michaels would eventually put his own career on the line against a WWE legend, with a result not in his favour. He’s stayed true to his word and hasn’t returned to the ring for a match, despite getting involved in a number of issues over the years.
Ric Flair would go on to compete in a few matches in TNA, but would never again wrestle in a WWE ring. Flair has also been an ambassador for WWE at various intervals since then. Nobody will ever be able to deny the impact Ric Flair has had on the business of professional wrestling. And nobody will ever be able to chop an opponent in the chest without a hearty “Wooo!” being elicited from the crowd.