'The Nature Boy' Ric Flair stops in Albany, says he's returning to ring

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- Ric Flair was famous for saying, "to be the man you gotta beat the man."

And for the better part of four decades, Flair, one of the most recognized professional entertainment wrestlers in the world, was the man.

On Thursday evening, the 62-year-old wrestler spent two hours at Wal-Mart on Ledo Road signing autographs and posing for pictures for hundreds of fans during a joint promotional event sponsored by Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart.

After he was done signing autographs, Flair told The Albany Herald that he plans to return to the ring in September, quieting those who thought his storied wrestling career was finished.

He had been sidelined for the previous three months with a shoulder injury.

"I don't know for sure, but it will be either Sting or Kurt Angle," Flair said about the prospective opponent in his comeback match. "It just depends on whoever wins between them on (Aug. 7). You got the scoop right there, brother."

Fans both young and old lined up outside of Wal-Mart's Garden Center to meet Flair. He took pictures with members of the crowd and signed everything from mock title belts to his book.

"This is very rewarding to meet the people who have followed me for four decades, four generations of people," said Flair, who has won 16 World Heavyweight Championships in the WWF, WCW, TNA and PWI. He's also a member of the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame, being inducted after WWE was formed.

Surrounded by an entourage of body guards and Wal-Mart employees, Flair -- known for trademark moves like the "Flair Chop" and the figure four leglock -- walked into the store amidst a chorus of "Woooos!" by hundreds of wrestling fans who had been lined up more than three hours to meet the wrestler commonly known as "The Nature Boy."

Albany's Ryan Ortiz, who was first in line to meet Flair, said he had been waiting with memorabilia in hand for three and a half hours.

"I have just been a huge fan, and anytime I get a chance to meet a legend, I just jump at it," Ortiz said.

Flair's journey from one professional wrestling circuit to the next eventually landed him at TNA's Impact!, where he last wrestled April 16, tapping out to Robert Roode. Writers of the show used Flair's loss to temporarily write him off the show while he recouped from a torn rotator cuff. According to the "Pro Wrestling Torch" website, Flair returned to Impact! on May 12 in an out-of-the-ring role. Other wrestling legends currently with TNA include Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff, Jeff Jarrett and Mick Foley.

The opponent in Flair's next match won't be decided until Sting, the current TNA Heavyweight World Champion, and Angle battle during TNA's Hardcore Justice, which will be aired live on pay-per-vew Aug. 7 from Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla.

TNA's Impact! airs each Thursday night on Spike TV and is the program's No. 1-rated show.

Several live TNA events will be held in Georgia this year when the Impact Wrestling World Tour performs at the Columbus Civic Center on Aug. 18, the Forum Civic Center in Rome on Aug. 19 and the Tabernacle in Atlanta on Aug. 20.

Matches will be taped for television on Oct. 26 when the tour will be at the Macon Coliseum.