Ric Flair's retirement match against Shawn Michaels from WrestleMania XXIV is one of WWE's most famous matches, and one of the reasons it stays in the pro wrestling discussion is because of the notion that Naitch broke a promise to HBK and/or WWE by wrestling after it for TNA.
In a recent interview with Greg Beck of WrestlingNews.co, the man himself addressed that while talking about if Michaels would ever return, as Shawn has said he's been asked to for next year's 'Mania in Texas. First of all, Flair says that he wasn't even capable of calling a match when he and The Showstopper had their legendary bout in 2008:
He carried me in the match in Orlando. Bottom line. I'm the first to admit it. I was just lucky to be there. I just went through the motions and followed his lead, which i've never done.
That's how The Nature Boy, while he never comes out and says he didn't unretire to work for Dixie Carter, seems to justify those matches in TNA to himself...they weren't good:
Good by whose standards? Ric Flair standards or TNA standards? Could I entertain them, yeah. I was far from being Ric Flair back then. I just got bored. I missed the business. There are nice people there. Dixie's [Carter] a nice person. Hulk [Hogan] talked me into it and I went with it. I love Kurt Angle, I love Sting, and I love James Storm. I have a lot of friends [in TNA] that I still think the world of. It wasn't like I was working. It wasn't like I was Ric Flair.
At the same time, Flair says he could come back again with the right partner:
I could wrestle tomorrow. I wouldn't want to be in the main event of WrestleMania but if I had to wrestle Hogan tomorrow I could pull that off or a guy like Kane. He's the best in the world. I could wrestle Randy Orton blindfolded.
Beyond the word that WWE wants to hold him to the retirement stipulation from WM 24, the other rumor you hear is that he wouldn't be cleared to wrestle. Ric dismisses that as well. Outside of what he calls "cosmetic issues", Naitch says he's in better shape than he was in 2008. But despite Hulk Hogan pitching him on working in Arlington next April, Ric says Vince McMahon is focused on other, very interesting, names:
It's a cosmetic issue, not a health issue. I'm in better shape than when I wrestled Shawn Michaels.
Hogan's been pitching me and him for Dallas forever. I could pull it off...I need like six months of serious training and dieting cause I've never been exactly a cosmetic dream, but if I had time, I could pull it off. It's not gonna happen...you know he [Vince] respects us, but he's not gonna go back in time. They've got kids now that they've got to work on because all I hear them talking about for WrestleMania is Austin, Undertaker, Rock, Ronda Rousey, I mean...they've got a roster they've gotta figure out how to get in there, not the guys that aren't working full time.
Check out their whole chat for more on these topics, and a lot of talk about his daughter Charlotte, his pop culture resurgence in hip-hop & NFL locker rooms and more.
What do you think, Cagesiders? Are you buying Naitch's justification, or his belief he could go today if WWE called? How badly did he bury TNA?