Is tonight the night?
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Ever since Mr. McMahon imposed a win or you must retire ultimatum on Ric Flair, the "Nature Boy" has wondered whether each singles match would be his last. He is determined to fight for his career, but he also realizes that one day, it must end. And tonight, it could all come to an end for the 16-time World Champion when he faces the 348 pound Samoan Bulldozer, Umaga.
When WWE.com caught up with Flair earlier today at HSBC Arena, he was a ball of mixed emotion. He took a deep breath and sighed slowly as he pondered his match tonight with Umaga. Flair ran his hands through his silver mane and looked off in the distance.
"Three weeks ago, I thought my career was going to end when I faced Randy Orton … and it might very well have ended then if it wasn't for Chris Jericho," the Nature Boy said. "Tonight, I am facing an absolute monster, arguably the best big man in the game today, Umaga. He has injured guys like Triple H, the best in our sport today, and pushed Jeff Hardy, who is on then verge of Superstardom, to the limit. I'm a realist; these guys are in their prime. I'm not."
Flair then paused as a sheepish grin crept across his lips. A slow fire began to burn in his eyes.
"I know I'm living on borrowed time," he said. "I know the odds are against me tonight. I would have a hard time betting on me against Umaga. But know this: if the end comes tonight, I'm not going quietly. I'm not going to make it easy for the Samoan Bulldozer."
Flair then shook hands and asked to be excused so that he could have some time alone. He has had a lot of quiet time alone ever since the Chairman gave him the win or retire ultimatum. Each week, the Nature Boy's cell phone has exploded with numerous phone calls from friends, relatives, admirers and former opponents expressing well-wishes and concern. Every time he enters an arena, he said, he looks around and wonders whether this will be the last time he competes.
Flair reflects on his memories over a career that has spanned more than 30 years and smiles. He smiles whenever he sees the ovation he receives from fans who have loved him for decades. Before he walked away, Flair was barely able to choke back his tears when he thought about the supporters who have stayed loyal to him.
"Every time I compete, knowing it could be my last time as a WWE Superstar, I'll give every ounce of energy I have for myself, this great industry and most importantly, for all of our great fans," he said, lips trembling. "This is a major challenge that will force me to be the best I possibly can be."
With that, Flair took the special garment bag holding one of his million dollar ring robes. He looked around the HSBC Arena and let the tundra-like Buffalo air fill his lungs.