As we reported here three weeks ago, today was the day Ric Flair was supposed to have his first wrestling match in over 16 months for All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW), teaming with Keiji Mutoh to face Tatsumi Fujinami and Seiya Sanada. We promised to let you know, Cagesiders, how "The Nature Boy" got on and well, the end result to this story wasn't pretty.
That wasn't because he performed badly, but because he simply wasn't able to perform at all. As f4wonline.com discussed, Ric Flair was replaced by his son Reid in the bout due to a last minute, serious health problem:
"Ric Flair's first match in a year scheduled for today in the main event for All Japan Pro Wrestling didn't happen as before the show Flair announced he was unable to wrestle due to doctor's orders. Flair apologised at the onset of the show and announced his son Reid would take his place.
Flair was taken to the emergency room before the show due to a sudden health issue and the doctor there told him there was no way he could wrestle. Those backstage said his left leg was badly swollen."
Thankfully, Ric was healthy enough to still appear at the show and even interfere in the special attraction by chopping Sanada, so whatever was wrong with Flair mustn't have been too debilitating. Still, that chop wasn't enough to save Reid from losing to Sanada's modified Dragon Sleeper hold, who'd likely have been the one to drop the fall if Ric had indeed competed.
In a rare occurrence in the depressed Japanese wrestling industry today, the event sold out the Ota Ward Gymnasium two days in advance, because people knew it would almost certainly be their last ever chance to see Flair wrestle in Japan. Many of the 4,800 fans in attendance were apparently left disgruntled, as refunds weren't offered despite the match they paid to see falling through.
It's unknown at this time whether Flair will wrestle on a future AJPW show in order to make up for not being able to perform as scheduled earlier today. If not, then the odds that he'll ever wrestle again on a major stage are extremely slim. Before this even happened, Vince McMahon seemed adamant that he would never let Flair work another match for WWE, upholding his retirement stipulation from losing to Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 24 on Mar. 30th, 2008. If he was even contemplating a change of heart due to Flair's persistent desire to wrestle again for WWE, then this incident should close the door on that possibility.
Update from f4wonline.com: It's now been revealed that Ric Flair's health scare was due to suffering a blood clot in his left leg while in Japan. Despite being advised to check into the hospital for observation, Flair appeared on the AJPW show anyway and is flying back to the U.S. immediately, so he doesn't miss a series of autograph signings in Las Vegas next week.
That's obviously not the smartest decision he's ever made in his life, but I guess he must need the money real bad.