That includes him getting back in the ring again on a semi-regular basis even though he did have a retirement match several years ago while working with the WWE that was followed by a huge ceremony. But the man loves the wrestling business and it didn't take long before he got the itch to lace up the boots again and that meant officially cutting off ties with the WWE and joining TNA.
Now, he's is stylin' and profilin' once again as the figurehead of Fortune alongside AJ Styles, Kazarian, Matt Morgan and Beer Money. He has several big matches coming up including a Last Man Standing match against Mick Foley on the live edition of "Impact" Thursday night on Spike TV (9 p.m. ET/8p.m. CT). Then on Sunday, it's the TNA "Bound for Glory" pay-per-view where Flair and Fortune square off against EV2.0 in a Lethal Lockdown match.
Recently, FanHouse spoke with the "Nature Boy" as he talked about working in TNA, the decision to join the promotion, getting the approval from a friend to return to the ring, the biggest issue in the growth of the company and more.
Brian Fritz: What's it like for you now being with TNA and working with Fortune and so many young guys. Has it revitalized your career?
Ric Flair: I don't know about revitalizing it but it's very rewarding and a lot of fun. They're a bunch of good kids ... they're not kids, they're men and they're such good guys. They know I love the business, they love the business and that makes it something special. They're some of the best wrestlers in the business today, they really are. To have that group together is very similar to the Four Horsemen. They're probably four of the best in the business right now and to be together is a lot of fun for me.
Are you ever hesitant to be a part of a group? Obviously you were a big part of the Four Horsemen and so many people remember that so fondly. Do you jump at the opportunity to be a part of a group or do you hesitate because of the legacy of the Four Horsemen?
No, I've only done it twice. Of course, I did it the other time with the WWE. The quality of the guys and who I'm with ... if I couldn't have control I wouldn't consider doing it. The fact that they asked for my input on that and pretty much let me get to know the guys that I'm working with and to be happy with them. Of course, I loved being with Dave (Batista) and Randy (Orton) and Hunter (Triple H). That was a great time up there but I don't know if anything will ever follow the Four Horsemen just because we were together for so long. These guys are just tremendous athletes and they're really the tops in the business right now. I'm having a great time. I'm living my life vicariously through them!
What was it about those guys specifically that made you say I want to be with these guys?
Well, it didn't really come out like that. They just made suggestions and when I got to know the guys better on a personal note which is important to me I just felt the chemistry which is huge part of our relationship. And then I saw how much ability they had in the ring and it wasn't a hard decision to make at all.
Has there been a better tag team over the last decade than Beer Money?
No, not in my estimation. Not in the past ten years. I can't tell you when Shawn (Michaels) and Hunter are together but they're not considered a tag team. The DX thing they did a couple times. These guys have been together for a while and they're considered a tag team. So many of them split up but it takes time to make the chemistry between the two guys and, of course, their opponents. They are absolutely fabulous.
The match they had on TV a few weeks which was the last in the series of five against the Motor City Machine Guns was unbelievable. Sitting in the back, do you still get excited watching a match and seeing guys tearing it up?
Oh yeah. I can't wait to meet those guys are the curtain and tell them how good they were. They are that good.
You obviously have such a passion for the wrestling business after being in it for so long and being so successful. Where does that passion come from? Is it something you've always had or did you develop it over the years?
It's something I obviously had a passion for when I started but as I got better at it and saw that I have the ability to be different from anybody else, I suppose I just blew myself up. (laughs) I'm bigger than life.
Do you ever get tired of people asking you about retirement?
No. It's a normal question. If I was 35 it wouldn't be.
Were you even at your prime at 35?
Let me see ... I started when i was 23. Hell, I was really good at 25. (laughs) I'm just kidding. At 35 I was untouchable.
I still think your best year was 1989.
With (Ricky) Steamboat.
Yeah, the series with Steamboat and (Terry) Funk.
I was 40 then right?
Yeah that sounds right. You had the big match against Shawn Michaels a few years back at WrestleMania in what WWE was terming as your retirement match. At that time, could you have imagined that not only will I step in the ring again but it's going to over in TNA?
No. I never saw that coming.
What was it about TNA that intrigued you to thinking I'll join them and get back in the ring?
Actually, it was a trip to Australia with (Hulk) Hogan in November that convinced me that I wanted to do it again. He worked on me for a while. (laughs)
Did it take a lot of convincing?
Not really. I missed the business and I was extremely loyal to the WWE and extremely loyal to Shawn and, of course, to Vince (McMahon) for the time that they gave me. You know, I said what the hell, I'm bored. I'm tired of signing autographs. I'd rather be wrestling inside the ring than signing autographs. But I did call Shawn Michaels and told him what I was doing because that was a great moment for both of us and, of course, the personal relationship. I didn't want him to think that I was walking around behind a great moment but he said Ric, it's your life and it's what you like doing. You've got the health in place, go do it. It was that brief, that short and that's all I had to hear.
When it comes to Shawn Michaels, it's amazing that you're still wrestling and he's retired. Do you think he'll stand by that?
I do because ... I'm not saying he won't wrestle again but he's got young kids and he's been able to make money. He made money before the kids were born and he enjoys the things that I didn't get to enjoy in regards to my first family. I did get to enjoy more with my second set of kids but at that point in time I really didn't get to do much with them until the time they were about 12 or 13. His kids are like 6 and 3 or 6 and 4, maybe 7 and 4. He's enjoying that day to day stuff that you don't get to do as a wrestler working full-time because you're gone every weekend.
It's funny because years ago when you were wrestling all the time and traveling the country, you were very popular but it seems like over the past few years you're really become a part of pop culture more than ever before. How do you explain that now in the latter stages of your career?
You know, I ask my wife that everyday because I am bigger now than I ever was. It's funny. I think YouTube is part of it. People love to watch YouTube and the old days. The fact that I can still do it now just adds to the legacy. Anything they ask me to do I can do. I'm proud of that. I'm in good health. Plus, I feel like I'm 13 which is my biggest problem in life. (laughs) I refuse to grow up.
When it comes to now in TNA, you have been one of the best wrestlers ever but also when it comes to cutting promos. It feels like now, as good as you've always been, it seems like things have picked up with that again in TNA mores than the previous few years with the WWE. How much of that is because things aren't being written for you? In TNA, it's more of here are the bullet points and go out there.
In TNA, they turn me loose. They don't tell me anything. Bullet points, of course, it's my job to know them anyway but I'm on my feet by myself. They're like that and they just say entertain us. (laughs) I say OK, no problem. How much time do I have?
How much does that help guys knowing that you don't have to worry about memorizing a script and just having to know what to get across and doing it in your own words?
I think it's harder to learn with a script. I can't be scripted. In WWE, they harnessed me. (laughs) I even said it when I retired at the Hall of Fame ceremony.
I wish I was still down at the your ceremony. I think you'd still be doing your speech.
I could still be talking. I left Jack Brisco, Dory Funk, Terry Funk off the list of guys I wrestled. Wahoo (McDaniels), (Ricky) Steamboat, Sting ...
They could have just stopped the TV broadcast and left everyone in the building with you talking until 4, 5, 6 in the morning.
I know. If I could have had a couple beers in me, I could have gone for at least two more days. (laughs)
I spoke with 'The Pope' (D'Angelo Dinero) a few weeks ago. I asked him who is the better promo right now between you two and he thinks it's him.
Give me a break. He comes to me and asks to go through his stuff. (laughs)
I'd like to see the two of you in the ring talking it out.
Nah, he's on the money man. He has a lot of ability. He's just a respectful, wonderful human being. He has a lot of gifts and is very charismatic. I love that kid.
It was just a few months ago when TNA did the ECW themed pay-per-view ("Hardcore Justice"). There was a lot of talk about Shane Douglas being a part of that and he went out of his way to talk it up and say I"ll only be a part of it if i can wrestle Ric Flair. Did you ever get approached about doing that match?
I never was approached. That is all a figment of his imagination. He wishes. He's a clerk at Wal-Mart for Christ's sake. How could he be a wrestler?
If they did approach you, would you have done it?
I don't wrestle clerks at Wal-Mart. (laughs) That's the answer.
What's the next step for you in your career? Is there anything that you want to do that you haven't done yet?
Nope. There's nothing that I want to do that I haven't done. TNA is a great organization. They have a great atmosphere of people to be around. Dixie Carter is a great owner with a vision. I'm just having a great time. For me, it's not like going to work.
How long do you think it's going to be before TNA takes the next step? They tried out Monday nights and that did work out and are back on Thursday nights. What is the maturation process and do people get anxious about wanting to take that next step?
I'm actually not involved in that equation. Obviously, I hear conversations and people talking about it. But it's going to take a year or two and it takes effort from Spike as much as from the wrestlers. The biggest problem is one key word: it's called awareness. I hear more and more about TNA every day but when I first started six months ago, people had no idea I was even wrestling again. It's just an awareness issue. It's no fault of the promotion. It's no fault of lack of work or work ethic. It's just the budget is different there and they've got to earn their stripes as they go but they got marching orders and the guys are working hard. It's just a matter of time. I think it's a year away.
How is Reid's (his son) wrestling career coming along?
Well, he's just on hold right now. They're going to give him a developmental deal with TNA eventually. They just have to figure that out for themselves too because they've never had a developmental school or program before. I think that's fundamentally something that they have to do to start building their own talent from within.