Ric Flair's appearance on the December 17th episode of WWE Raw ended up causing a lot of chatter amongst current and former talent contracted to TNA Wrestling. A lot of people are obviously affected by the WWE/TNA lawsuit, so every twist and turn has talent on the edge of their seat.
Although Flair hasn't signed a WWE contract, there are still a lot of people wondering why WWE would put him on television while telling others they can't touch them. The reasoning behind using Flair is multi-layered, but the gist of it is that WWE feels they can win if TNA goes after them for using Flair and that if TNA doesn't go after them, it weakens TNA's overall position.
Part of TNA's strategy in setting up potential damages in the event that they win (or settle) is that they spend money cultivating new talent and the investment of time, money and energy that is wasted if that talent leaves is substantial. If that talent leaves because trade secrets were compromised [by Brian Wittsenstein] and they were tampered with by WWE, a judge would most likely side in TNA's favor.
However, Flair is different from most of the talent in question. His value to WWE has nothing to do with any time or money spent by TNA to develop him (you could actually make the case TNA hurt his value). Flair has worked for WWE previously, his name and value established long before ever working for TNA, and he's been free of any legal obligation to TNA since September.
We're told WWE legal came to the conclusion that an appearance from Flair wouldn't hurt their case. They're taking the position that Flair is free to work for TNA if he wants and has no legal obligation to WWE.
Of course Flair has no interest in working for TNA, but the way WWE is setting things up, if TNA doesn't fight back on the Flair appearance, WWE feels it helps them and if TNA does fight back, WWE doesn't think TNA can win. So this is a litmus test of sorts to see what TNA's reaction will be from a legal standpoint. Triple H has wanted Flair on TV for months, but had been waiting for the legal department to finish their due diligence. Only after learning more about TNA's strategy was WWE legal able to come up with a position they were comfortable with that involved using Flair.
Some talent immediately contacted WWE in hopes the signing freeze was over, but were sad to learn that was not the case, at least not yet.