February 25, 1949
6', 243 pounds
Ric Flair, the Nature Boy
In a sport filled with legends, Ric Flair's legacy surpasses them all.
Trained by Verne Gagne
, Flair cut his teeth in AWA rings after debuting with a ten-minute draw against George "Scrap Iron" Gadaski in 1972. After remaining with the AWA for the first two years of his career, Flair headed south to the Mid-Atlantic area where he defeated Paul Jones for the Mid-Atlantic Television title.
In October 1975, his career was almost cut short after a plane crash in North Carolina when he broke his back in three places. Although the doctors said he would never wrestle again, a year later, he was back in the ring and winning the United States Championship from Bobo Brazil
and, later, teaming with Greg "the Hammer" Valentine
to take the NWA World Tag team titles.
It was during his early U.S. title reigns that Flair first crossed paths with Ricky "the Dragon" Steamboat. Over the years, these two competitors would battle in an untold number of exciting matches, many of which would go down as all-time classics.
After his fifth U.S. title reign ended at the hands of Rowdy Roddy Piper
, Flair turned his attention to the NWA World Heavyweight title, then held by Dusty Rhodes. Flair's next major challenge would come from then-six-time NWA Champion Harley Race
. Race would regain the title from Flair but the two would meet again, inside a steel cage at Starrcade '83. During the match, referred by Gene Kiniski
, Flair would come off the top rope with a hi-cross bodypress to win the match and begin his second reign in grand fashion.
Race would briefly regain the title from Flair during a tour of the Far East, but Flair returned to North America as champion, reclaiming the title on the next night. A trip to Texas to face Kerry Von Erich would not be quite so fortunate as Von Erich, the home town favourite, would take Flair's World title, on a card dedicated to Von Erich's brother, David.
But Flair would remain a challenger for only a few weeks before taking back the title. Flair's next challenger would be part of one of his biggest fueds of his career: Dusty Rhodes.
Throughout 1985, 1986 and 1987, Flair would battle Rhodes, along with a myriad of other challengers (including Barry Windham, Nikita Koloff and the Garvins) while setting a standard that few champions could measure up to, wrestling six or seven times a week, with a different opponent every night. While Flair demonstrated his ability to outwrestle (and with more than a few one-hour draws on his resume, outlast) his opponents, one important ingredient to his successful title defences was the Four Horsemen. Initially comprised of Flair, Arn Anderson, Ole Anderson and Tully Blanchard with manager James J. Dillon, the Four Horsemen would set a standard that is still looked to when it comes to wrestling supergroups.
Flair would drop the title on several occasions, including to Rhodes in July 1986 at the Great American Bash and to Ron Garvin
in Detroit in September 1987. Flair would quickly regain the title from both men before enjoying a long run as champion from late '87 through the early part of 1989. It would be as 1989 began that Flair found himself challenged by an opponent from the past: Ricky Steamboat.
Steamboat would quickly defeat Flair for the NWA World Championship but the pair would battle in classic matches throughout the spring of 1989. On May 23rd, 1989, Flair would regain the championship in Nashville in a match that many rate as the greatest of all time. However, his celebration would be short-lived, as Terry Funk
, sitting ringside as a judge, attacked Flair after the match, putting him out for several months with a piledriver onto a table.
Flair would get his revenge at the 1989 Great American Bash, although the fued between the two men would continue for much of the remainder of 1989. Meanwhile, Flair's friendship with rising star, Sting
would lead to a reformation of the Four Horsemen, following the return of the Andersons to the NWA.
By 1990, however, jealousy between Sting and Flair and Sting's desire to win Flair's NWA World Championship prompted the Horsemen to turn on Sting. However, that would be the undoing for Flair's latest NWA title reign as Sting returned from an injury at the Great American Bash to defeat Flair and win the title.
Although he would challenge Sting for the NWA title, it seemed as if Flair was switching gears, teaming with good friend, Arn Anderson to challenge Doom (Ron Simmons
and Butch Reed) for the NWA World Tagteam titles. However, by year's end, the Black Scorpion, the masked wrestler who had been hounding Sting, was unmasked as Flair who would quickly regain the NWA World title.
With World Championship Wrestling breaking away from the National Wrestling Alliance, Flair would briefly hold both the NWA and WCW World titles. He would lose both titles in the boardroom, as the NWA stripped Flair of their championship after WCW's departure, and the WCW World title would become vacant when Flair would leave WCW due to a contract dispute.
In the summer of 1991, Flair would finally arrive in the WWE and was quickly in position to challenge Hulk Hogan
for the WWE World Championship. However, while the two men would battle in the one-on-one "dream match" that fans had been clamouring for for years, they would never lock up in a high profile bout while in the WWE.
Flair would be instrumental in Hogan losing the WWE title to the Undertaker
at the 1991 Survivor Series but Flair would take the title himself after outlasting the rest of the field at the 1992 Royal Rumble. With Hogan (briefly) departing the WWE after Wrestlemania VIII, Flair would be challenged by Randy Savage
and lose the WWE title to the Macho Man. Flair, with Curt Hennig at his side would be a thorn in Savage's side for the summer of 1992 before defeating the Macho Man, but dropped the title a short time later to Bret Hart
. Flair would, in turn, feud with Hennig before leaving the WWE shortly after the 1993 Royal Rumble.
Back in WCW, Flair would turn his attention to the NWA title, which WCW had resurrected. His former Horsemen running mate, Barry Windham had the title and the two men battled over the championship, with Flair once again coming out on top. However, soon after Flair's title reign began (it would end at the hands of "Ravishing" Rick Rude
) WCW pulled out of the NWA again, leaving the championship dubbed the "WCW International World title".
No matter. When Sid was forced out of a title match against WCW World Championship Vader at Starrcade '93, Flair stepped in and won the title. Later, as 1994 began, Flair would once again battle Sting, unifying the WCW World Championship with the International title.
However, Flair's reign at the top, in all regards, would soon come to an end. Hulk Hogan was signed by WCW and in his first match with the company, defeated Flair for the WCW title. Flair would continue to battle Hogan and later Randy Savage for the WCW Championship, with Flair regaining the title (from Savage). In addition, Flair would reform the Four Horsemen, with Arn Anderson, Brian Pillman
and Chris Benoit
. After Pillman left for the WWE, Steve "Mongo" McMichael would be brought in to fill the opening.
After losing the WCW Championship to the Giant
, Flair would turn his attention to the U.S. Championship. Flair defeated Konnan
for the belt but was forced to vacate the championship due to a shoulder injury. Shortly after Flair returned from his injury, the New World Order arrived on the scene and the Horsemen joined in the war against this new group. However, the NWO struck a blow against Flair when newly-inducted Horsemen Curt Hennig (taking the place of the retired Arn Anderson) showed his true colors and joined the NWO.
After missing a Nitro show to attend his son's amateur wrestling event, Flair was held in breach of contract and kept off WCW Television until September 1998, when he returned and reformed the Horsemen with McMichael, Benoit and Dean Malenko. Flair battled his real life nemesis Eric Bischoff while the rest of the Horsemen took on the NWO. In early 1999, Flair defeated Bischoff in a match where Flair became WCW President.
The battle between the Horsemen and the NWO would involve Flair's son, David (who turned on Ric) and Hollywood Hulk Hogan. With Anderson's help, Flair defeated Hogan to become WCW World Champion at Uncensored '99
. As 1999 wore on, Flair was portrayed as being more and more erratic, turning heel and fueding with Roddy Piper.
A year later, Flair would team with Hogan and the rest of the Millionaire's Club, against the New Blood. Flair would team with Lex Luger as "Team Package" and become an intrical part of the Millionaire's Club, even defeating Jeff Jarrett
for the WCW title, in between fueding with Vince Russo and his son, David.
The day after the 2000 Great American Bash
, Flair lost a match to Russo, forcing him to retire. But Flair was not out of action long, as he returned to take the reigns as the CEO of WCW. Although Flair seemed to favour the faces in WCW at first, battling Commissioner Mike Sanders
before turning heel and forming a stable consisting of the Steiners, Jarrett, Luger, Buff Bagwell and Road Warrior Animal
. Flair would return to the ring to battle his old nemesis Dusty Rhodes and his son, Dustin.
With the close of WCW, Flair took on Sting, losing to his long-time rival on the final edition of Nitro. After being out of the spotlight for over a year, Flair showed up as the "co-owner" of the WWE with Vince McMahon, in November 2001. He and McMahon clashed for weeks over various issues in the WWE before they battled in the ring in the 2002 Royal Rumble
. After battling the Undertaker at Wrestlemania XVIII
, Flair was given full control of the Raw brand after the brand split.
While Flair seemed to be back as a "man of the people" it wasn't long before he was back to being "the dirtiest player in the game" turning on Stone Cold Steve Austin and joining the NWO, but only briefly. Flair was soon ousted from his role as the head of the Raw brand after losing a bout to Vince McMahon on the June 10th, 2002 edition of Raw.
Back as an active wrest1ler, Flair would battle Eddie Guerrero
, Brock Lesnar
and Chris Jericho
. In September, 2002, he turned on Rob Van Dam
, costing RVD the World title match at Unforgiven and aligning himself with Triple H
. That alliance would expand to include Randy Orton
and Dave Bautista to form Evolution.
On December 13th, Flair and Batista would team to win the WWE Tag Team Championships in a Tag Team turmoil match at Armageddon, but would lose the belts in February to Booker T and Rob Van Dam. After Flair and Batista helped Orton defeat the Rock and Mick Foley at Wrestlemania XX, they regained the tag titles on the night of the Draft Lottery.
Even after he and Batista lost the Tag Team Championships to Chris Benoit and Edge, Flair continued to lead Evolution to prominence over the rest of the Raw brand. However, as the summer of 2004 ended, the unraveling of Evolution began. After Orton defeated Chris Benoit for the WWE title at SummerSlam, Triple H ejected him from the group.
With Orton out for revenge over the dismissal, Flair found himself facing his former charge, losing a steel cage match to Orton at Taboo Tuesday. A week later, Flair defeated Orton, denying Orton a title shot during Triple H's current title reign.
Then it was Batista, who began to distance himself from Triple H, despite Flair's best efforts to keep things together. In the end, Batista would leave Evolution, and win the title at Wrestlemania XXI. Evolution, once four strong, now consists of Triple H and Ric Flair.
Flair would prove he is still "the dirtiest player in the game" by fooling Batista into believing that Flair was still on his side during the May 23rd match against Edge, only to turn on him upon Triple H's arrival. Flair would also prove that he could still be counted upon to deliver a great match, battling Kurt Angle on Raw.
After several months away from the ring, Flair returned this past summer and promptly found himself feuding with Carlito, a program that saw Flair defeat Carlito for the Intercontinental Championship at Unforgiven. What should have been a triumphant night at WWE Homecoming turned sour when a returning Triple H turned on Flair after a tag team match and bloodied Flair.
The two former friends battled in a cage match at Taboo Tuesday with Flair victorious in a successful title defence. He was not so lucky at the Survivor Series in a non-title Last Man Standing match.
Flair's next challenge came from Edge who invoked Flair's real life legal and marital troubles in order to get Flair's goat. But it was Flair who was victorious in an Intercontinental title defence at New Year's Revolution.
Edge's elevation to WWE Champion later that night did not immediately terminate hostilities between the two men. Flair interrupted Edge's "Live Sex Celebration" the next night on Raw, only to fall victim to a one-man con-chair-to. A week later, Flair fell to Edge in a TLC match for the WWE title.
Flair's reign as Intercontinental Champion would come to an end in February when Shelton Benjamin used his "Momma"'s oxygen tank to steal a victory and the title.
Flair rebounded by winning a slot at the Money In the Bank match at Wrestlemania 22 (won by Rob Van Dam). The next night, Flair was injured at the hands of Umaga. When he returned, Flair took aim at Mick Foley, a nod to their real life disagreements.
Flair may not agree with Foley's style of wrestling, but he's not above engaging in some hardcore style himself, taking on the Big Show for the ECW Championship during the July 11th ECW on Sci-Fi show.
An autobiography, a DVD set and a special night in Greensville, NC where the entire WWE paid tribute to
Flair shows that his popularity and importance to the wrestling business is
just as evident now than it ever was. And he continues to be recognized for his contributions to wrestling. On the weekend of May 19-20, 2006, Ric Flair was be part of the fifth induction class of the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum at a ceremony held in Amsterdam, New York.
In spite of his induction, Flair was still a long way from hanging up his boots. Flair engaged Foley in a series of intense promos before beating him in a savagely bloody “I Quit” match at Summerslam. (With a charged up Flair looking like a bloodied murderous barbarian wielding a club and menacing Melina, Foley instantly quit to save his friend.)
Oddly, and definitely unfortunately for his fans, Flair’s next major feud would pit him against The Spirit Squad. Flair beat various individual members of the kafabe cheerleading troupe before recruiting old guard retired wrestlers “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Sgt. Slaughter and Dusty Rhodes to help him take on the whole squad. At Cyber Sunday, Flair and Piper beat Kenny and Mikey to capture the Tag Team titles.
A genuine cancer scare took Piper out of action and Flair was forced to defend the titles alone. About a week after winning them, he lost the belts to Orton and Edge on RAW. But a worse blow was dealt when Flair jobbed to Kenny at New Year’s Revolution. He saved face by beating Kenny at the next RAW, but the win was somewhat hollow and cheap, for Flair needed to use the ropes for leverage to get the pinfall.
Flair’s next program would be against Carlito, which started with Flair taking Carlito under his wing as almost a protégé. They even tagged together, including a dark match at WrestleMania 23. In a move that surprised no one, Carlito turned on Flair in a tag match on RAW. Flair would submit Carlito at Judgment Day, but the next night on RAW, Carlito would have the last laugh, delivering a couple Backcrackers and spitting apple in Flair’s face following their no contest return match.
After getting drafted to SmackDown, Flair briefly chased MVP for the U.S. title, but was beaten at Vengeance.
The last major push for Ric Flair came after McMahon told him his career would be through unless he kept winning. This began a major winning streak for Flair, who defeated big names like Orton, Umaga, and even Triple H. All these victories, however, allowed his opponents to continue looking strong, as Flair’s wins against Orton and Triple H came with the aid of outside interference, and against Umaga, Flair won by count out. Flair, though, would shine in his submission wins against MVP at Royal Rumble, and Mr. Kennedy at No Way Out.
Flair’s last win came on the March 24 RAW in an eight-man tag match in which Orton tapped to Flair’s figure-four leg lock. The next few days would be a whirlwind for Flair as he approached his WrestleMania match against Shawn Michaels.
The day before the big event, Triple H inducted Flair into the WWE Hall of Fame. At WrestleMania 24, Flair and Michaels enthralled fans before Michaels took the duke with a super-kick, thus ending Flair’s fabulous 35-year pro wrestling odyssey. The next night on RAW, Michaels joined Triple H, members of the Four Horsemen, other legends, and the entire WWE roster to give an obviously touched Flair a warm send-off.
-- compiled by John Milner and Richard Kamchen
RIC FLAIR STORIES
Ric Flair Career Record
Jan. 9, 2014: Ric Flair receives death threats from Panthers fans
Oct. 13;, 2013: Flair and Funk great storytellers on new DVD
July 17, 2013: Ric Flair wanted by North Carolina police
March 29, 2013: Wrestling legend Ric Flair's son, Reid Fliehr, found dead in Charlotte hotel
March 2012: The Streak: Whooo! A battle with the Nature Boy
August 7, 2009: Starrcade '83: The show that almost wasn't
June 30, 2009: Ric and Roddy make perfect pair in Roundtable DVD
May 19, 2009: Ric brings a certain Flair to ROH
Feb. 10, 2009: Flair whoooos 'em in Edmonton
Feb. 7, 2009: A real Flair for the dramatic
Feb. 2, 2009: An Evening with Ric Flair days away
Jan. 26, 2009: Keeping Fit with Ric Flair
Jan. 6, 2009: Flair shoot classy, not scandalous
Dec. 5, 2008: Reid Flair about to strut into the spotlight
April 1, 2008: Raw report: Thank you, Ric
April 1, 2008: Orlando fans as emotional as Flair
March 31, 2008: Mayweather, Orton survive Mania; Edge, Flair don't
March 30, 2008: WWE HOF show had Flair
March 28, 2008: Wooooooo! to the end
March 28, 2008: Fans flock to Flair memories
Mar. 26, 2008: SLAM! Speaks: A tribute to The Nature Boy
Mike Lano's Ric Flair Gallery
Feb. 26, 2008: Triple H sad to see Flair go
Apr. 11, 2007 Review:Horseman DVD honest if not always accurate
July 27, 2006: A great Flair for Toronto
Dec. 6, 2005: Heenan announced as 2006 PWHF inductee
April 2, 2005: Going toe to toe with Ric Flair
July 25, 2004: Nature Boy's a straight shooter
July 22, 2004: A Flair for Mississauga
July 12, 2004: Flair bio fascinating, brilliant
July 11, 2004: Winnipeg's greatest match: Flair vs Bockwinkel
June 27, 2004: Flair rips Mick Foley
Mar. 18, 2004: Wrestling remains in David Flair's blood
Feb 15, 2004: Do yourself a big favour: Buy Flair DVD
Dec 17, 2003: Flair set a must-see
Oct. 7, 2003: Flair DVD set to hit stores next year
Mar. 22, 2003 Tempers Flair with Bischoff
Feb. 14, 2002: Flair on the state of wrestling
Nov. 25, 2001: Flair back on TV is a no-brainer
Nov. 23, 2001: Flair's return a blessing or a curse?
July 21, 2001: Flair and Rhodes tangle on WCW Classics
Apr. 24, 2001: Flair, friends remember Johnny Valentine
Dec. 29, 2000: The plane crash that changed wrestling
July 5, 1999: Ric Flair is tarnishing his legacy
Apr. 24, 1999: WCW - Flair lawsuit reveals truth
Sep. 15, 1998: A return with Flair
February 21, 1998: Ric's my man
January 17, 1998: Flair for the dramatic