Apparently, Ric Flair isn't ready to ride off into the sunset and spend his days playing shuffleboard just yet. On Monday night, the 16-time World Champion beat back yet another challenge that, were he to lose, would have forced him into retirement from the ring. His elation, however, proved fleeting as he received a wallop of devastating news.
Three weeks ago, Mr. McMahon dropped an ultimatum on the Nature Boy: if he loses a match—whether by disqualification, pinfall or submission on Raw, ECW, SmackDown or on pay-per-view—he must retire from the ring.
On Monday Night Raw, Flair proved once again that he's not going down without a fight. The Nature Boy faced off against Umaga, a former Intercontinental Champion and all-around beast.
"I wasn't looking forward to tangling with the Samoan Bulldozer," Flair told WWE.com, as he ran a hand through his shock of blond hair, "but I'm also not ready to say goodbye yet."
Despite suffering a succession of Samoan drops and near pinfalls, Flair survived the match by count-out, after Umaga ran headlong into a retaining wall outside the ring.
"I took one hell of a beating out there," Flair admitted. "I knew it wouldn't be easy, but still, he dished out even more punishment than I expected."
After defeating both Randy Orton and Umaga, both in Career Threatening Matches, Flair seemed more energized, more confident about his future. That is, until the other loafer dropped.
Mr. McMahon announced the next opponent Flair must face on Raw's New Year's Eve edition: his friend and former teammate in Evolution, Triple H.
"That was tough to hear," whispered Flair, of the announcement. "Triple H has been like a son to me in this industry."
And Flair like a father to The Game. Both men have nourished one another, feeding off of the friendship and respect they share. But now they must battle, and the ramifications of a loss for each are devastating. Does Triple H really want to be the man to put one of his mentors out to pasture? Can Flair bring himself to kneecap his protégé's career while he's in his prime?
"I've been doing this for 30 years," said Flair, his voice rising in excitement. "As I've said before, now every time I perform, knowing it could be my last, I'm going to give everything I have out [in the ring], every single time."