When reports started circulating that The Nature Boy would be returning to the ring, his legendary rival Ricky Steamboat was one of the names attached to what would become the show called Ric Flair’s Last Match.
Long before we found out who Flair would be wrestling with and against, The Dragon took himself out of the running. Steamboat said it was because he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to live up to fans’ memories of him. There was also a rumor Steamboat’s asking price was too high for promoter Conrad Thompson.
Seeing as Ricky came back and did his own take on a Last Match-type show a few months after Flair’s, we figured it wasn’t really the first thing. As for the money rumor? Steamboat recently told Bill Apter:
“Conrad, who is the promoter, when we talked, I drove to Nashville and we had a sit-down and it was Conrad and his wife and then me and my wife Sandy. I was still training pretty good and feeling pretty good and so I said, ‘Okay’. We hadn’t signed or sealed the deal on the money part of it but what put the nail in the coffin is about a week after that I found out that Flair was wearing a pacemaker.
“All these years I never knew. I immediately just said, ‘You know, I don’t think I want to do this.’ I don’t want my legacy to be that I was in the ring if he happened to pass away or something went wrong.
“I’ve done some interviews after that when they found out that I said ‘No.’ [It’s] the first time I’m coming public with this. I didn’t want to throw Conrad or Flair under the bus.”
Naitch’s health — and specifically his heart — was a big reason a lot of people felt uneasy about Ric Flair’s Last Match. Thankfully everything worked out okay, but its understandable Steamboat had some of the same concerns.
And now, if Flair somehow convinces someone else to do another Last Match (for his part, Thompson swears that won’t happen)? We won’t have to speculate about the Dragon’s involvement.