Ric Flair is considered to be one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time with a professional career that spans 40 years. He is currently working for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA), and is noted for his lengthy and highly decorated tenures with the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), World Championship Wrestling (WCW), and the World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment (now known as WWE). Flair is officially recognized by WWE, TNA and PWI as a 16-time World Heavyweight Champion (seven-time NWA Champion, seven-time WCW Champion and two-time WWF Champion) although his actual tally of World Championship reigns varies by source—Flair considers himself a 21-time world champion.
In World Championship Wrestling (WCW), he also had two stints as a booker—in 1989–1990 and 1994. Flair also became the first and only man to have won the WWF Championship in a Royal Rumble match, when he accomplished this in the 1992 edition of the event. In 2012, Flair became the first ever double inductee in the WWE Hall of Fame, first inducted in 2008 for his individual career, and for a second time in 2012 as a member of theFour Horsemen. He is also an NWA Hall of Famer (class of 2008). Flair’s hair styles and mannerisms are based on those of Buddy Rogers, who previously and famously used the “Nature Boy” gimmick in the 1950s and ’60s. Coincidentally, Flair also followed Rogers in becoming the second man to win both the WWF and the NWA World Heavyweight Championships.
Flair was the first WCW World Champion, having been awarded the title following WCW’s secession from the NWA in 1991. With that, he also became the first WCW Triple Crown Champion upon being awarded the title, having already held the United States and World Tag Team titles. In 2005, he completed WWE’s version of the Triple Crown when he won the Intercontinental Championship, after already holding the WWF (now WWE) Championship, as well as the World Tag Team Championship, becoming the third man to win both the WCW and WWE Triple Crown (after Bret Hartand Chris Benoit). Using the officially recognized totals (by WWE, TNA and PWI) of 16 World Championships and a record-tying five U.S. Championship reigns, Flair has won a total of 30 different major championships between the NWA, WCW, and WWE, with numerous regional titles also to his credit.
Richard Fleihr (Ric Flair) was born on February 25, 1949. In the opening chapter of his autobiography To Be the Man, he notes that his birth name is given on different documents as Fred. At the time of his adoption (arranged by the notorious Tennessee Children’s Home Society, later shut down for adoption fraud), his father was completing a residency in Detroit. Shortly afterward, the family settled in Edina, Minnesota, where the young Richard Fliehr lived throughout his childhood. After grade 9, he attended Wayland Academy, a coeducational boarding school in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, for four years (five years total in high school) during which time he participated in interscholastic wrestling, football and track.
As a teen, Flair took a summer job as a lifeguard at a local pool in Minnesota, where he received his first exposure to the wrestling business when he met the legendary Vachon brothers. In both 1966 and 1968, Flair won the state private school wrestling championship and was recruited to the University of Minnesota on a football scholarship, where he played alongside Greg Gagne, the son of Verne Gagne. Flair dropped out of college before receiving his degree, and he then worked as a bouncer at a nearby club, where he met Olympic weightlifter Ken Patera, who was preparing for a ring career at Verne Gagne’s wrestling school. Patera introduced Flair to Verne Gagne, who agreed to take him on as a member of his training class.
Professional wrestling career
American Wrestling Association (1972–1974)
Under the tutelage of Josh Klemme and Billy Robinson, Flair attended Gagne’s first Wrestling camp with Greg Gagne, Jim Brunzell, Iron Sheik, and Ken Patera at Gagne’s barn outside of Minneapolis in the winter of 1971. Flair met Ken Patera when he was working as a bouncer after dropping out of school at the U of M after completing his freshman year there in 1968-69. They lived together for a while in South Minneapolis. Flair made fast progress, and in December 1972, he made his debut in Rice Lake, Wisconsin, battling George “Scrap Iron” Gadaski to a 10-minute draw while adopting the ring name “Ric Flair.” Then weighing nearly 300 pounds with short brown hair, Flair scarcely resembled his future “Nature Boy” image. But he drew attention with his charismatic personality and ring endurance. During his time in the American Wrestling Association, Flair had matches with Dusty Rhodes, André the Giant, Larry Hennig, and Wahoo McDaniel.
National Wrestling Alliance
Becoming the Nature Boy (1974–1981)
In 1974, Flair left the AWA for Jim Crockett’s Mid-Atlantic region in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA); and he soon captured his first singles title when, on February 8, 1975, he beat Paul Jones for the Mid-Atlantic TV Championship. On October 4, 1975, however, Flair’s career nearly ended when he was in a serious plane crash in Wilmington, North Carolina that took the life of the pilot and paralyzed Johnny Valentine (also on board were “Mr. Wrestling I” Tim Woods, Bob Bruggers, and promoter David Crockett). Flair broke his back in three places and, at age 26, was told by doctors that he would never wrestle again. Flair conducted a rigorous physical therapy schedule, however, and he returned to the ring just six months later, where he resumed his feudwith Wahoo McDaniel in February 1976. The crash did force Flair to change his wrestling technique away from the power brawling style he had used early on, which led him to adopt the “Nature Boy” style he would use throughout his career.
Groomed by Jim Crockett Jr. as his future top star, Flair won the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship when he defeated Bobo Brazil on July 29, 1977; and during the next three years, he held five reigns as U.S. Champion while feuding with Ricky Steamboat, Roddy Piper, Mr. Wrestling II, Jimmy Snuka, and Greg Valentine (with whom he also formed a championship tag team). Flair, however, reached elite status when he began referring to himself as “The Nature Boy” in order to incite a 1978 feud with the original “Nature Boy”, Buddy Rogers, who put Flair over in one encounter.
NWA World Heavyweight Champion (1981–1986)
On September 17, 1981, Flair reached the top of the mountain when he beat Dusty Rhodes for his first NWA World Heavyweight Championship. In the following years, Flair eventually established himself as the promotion’s main franchise in the midst of emerging competition from Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation. With his outlandish wit and entertaining interview style, Flair embodied the role of the World Champion—sporting bleached blond hair, elegant jewelry, designer suits, and elaborate custom robes while dishing out his trademark chops and figure four leglock. All the while, Flair taunted his opponents with his “Wooo!” shout while boasting that “To be ‘The Man,’ you gotta beat the man!”.
In 1982, Jack Veneno and Flair had a series of matches. Veneno defeated Flair for the World Title, but the NWA did not recognize this change. Flair also wrestled matches with Ricky Steamboat throughout the year. Harley Race won the title from Flair in 1983, but Flair regained the title at Starrcade in Greensboro, North Carolina in a steel cage match; afterward, Race and Flair fought in many different matches in early 1984. Flair won the NWA title, officially, eight more times. As the NWA champion, he defended his belt around the world. Flair lost the title to Race and won it back in the span of three days in New Zealand in March 1984. At the first David Von Erich Memorial Parade of Champions at Texas Stadium, Flair was pinned by Kerry Von Erich. Flair regained the title eighteen days later in Japan.
He then reigned for two years, two months, and two days, losing his title to Dusty Rhodes on July 26, 1986 at The Great American Bash; Rhodes had been an ever-present foe in Flair’s career after Flair helped break Rhodes’s ankle on September 29, 1985. Flair regained the title two weeks later. Flair defended his titles against opponents like Harley Race, Ricky Steamboat, Roddy Piper, Kerry Von Erich, Jay Youngblood, Sting, Ronnie Garvin, Magnum T.A., and Rhodes throughout his career, as well.
The Four Horsemen
In the spring of 1985, the tag team of Ole Anderson and Arn Anderson began aiding Ric Flair (whom they claimed as a “cousin”) in attacks against Dusty Rhodes, Magnum T.A., and Sam Houston. A few weeks later, the Andersons interrupted Houston’s match against Tully Blanchard, and the three villains combined to rough up the youngster while sending a message to the rest of the NWA. Shortly thereafter, Flair, Blanchard, and the Andersons formalized their alliance, calling themselves the Four Horsemen, with Blanchard’s manager J.J. Dillon also coming on board. Upon the group’s inception, it was clear that the Horsemen were unlike any villainous alliance that had ever existed. The four rule breakers immediately used their strength in numbers to decimate the NWA’s top fan favorites while controlling the majority of the championship titles. Over the years, there would be various incarnations of the group, with Flair and Arn Anderson as the two permanent members, while a number of different wrestlers, including Lex Luger, Barry Windham, Sting, Sid Vicious, Paul Roma, Brian Pillman, Chris Benoit, Jeff Jarrett, Steve McMichael, Curt Hennig, and Dean Malenko, have held the other two spots in the Horsemen.
World Championship Wrestling (1986–1991)
By 1986, wrestling promoter Jim Crockett had consolidated the various NWA member promotions he owned into a single entity, running under the banner of the National Wrestling Alliance. Controlling much of the traditional NWA territories in the southeast and Midwestern United States, Crockett looked to expand nationally and built his promotion around Flair as champion. During this time, Flair’s bookings as champion were tightly controlled by Crockett, and a custom championship belt was created for Flair. In 1987, Flair and Barry Windham had a series of matches for the NWA World Championship. Flair defeated Windham at the Crockett Cup tournament and they fought to a time limit draw in January. Flair lost the NWA World Championship due to his flamboyant ways in Detroit to Ron Garvin on September 25, 1987. Garvin held the title for two months before losing to Flair on November 26, 1987 at WCW’s first pay-per-view event, Starrcade, inChicago.
In early 1988, rising star Sting had challenged Flair to a match at the first ever Clash of the Champions. Flair accepted and fought Sting to a 45 minute time-limit draw. In late 1988, booker Dusty Rhodes proposed that Flair lose the NWA World Heavyweight Championship to Rick Steiner in a short match at Starrcade when no agreement could be met regarding the finish to the scheduled main event between him and Lex Luger. Rhodes was fired for various issues within the company, and former JCP booker George Scott was given his role as a booker. Scott immediately negotiated to bring in Ricky Steamboat for a series of matches. On February 20, 1989, at Chi-Town Rumble in Chicago, Steamboat pinned Flair to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. This prompted a series of rematches, where Steamboat was presented as a “family man” (often accompanied by his wife and young son), while Flair opposed him as an immoral, fast-living “ladies man”.
Following a best-of-three falls match with Steamboat that lasted just short of the 60-minute time limit (and ended with a disputed finish where Steamboat retained the title) at Clash of the Champions VI: Ragin’ Cajun on April 2, Flair regained the title from Steamboat on May 7, 1989 at WrestleWar. This match was voted 1989′s “Match of the Year” by Pro Wrestling Illustrated, and is widely considered among the greatest matches of all time. Flair was attacked by Terry Funk (serving as a judge for the match, as per its stipulations) after the match when Flair refused to grant Funk a title match, telling Funk that he had spent too much time in Hollywood and out of wrestling, and was not a listed title contender. The attack reached its conclusion when Funk gave Flair a piledriver onto the judges’ table.
Months later, a “recovered” Flair returned to competition in an emotional match against Funk at The Great American Bash. The two continued feuding through the summer and eventually Flair reformed the Four Horsemen, with the surprise addition of longtime rival Sting, to combat Funk’s J-Tex Corporation. This led to an ”I Quit” match at Clash of the Champions IX: New York Knockout. Before the match, Funk stated that he would shake Flair’s hand if he lost, a promise he kept when he shouted, “Yes, I quit!” after being in Flair’s figure four leglock. Flair then kicked Sting out of the Horsemen upon his challenge for the NWA Championship, resulting in a revived feud between the two which had to be delayed due to Sting injuring his knee, forcing WCW to slot Lex Luger as Flair’s main challenger until Sting returned. On July 7, 1990, Flair dropped the title to Sting at The Great American Bash. After being unmasked as the Black Scorpion at Starrcade in 1990, Flair regained the title from Sting on January 11, 1991, in front of a near empty house due to the blizzard conditions in the New York City area. Prior to this reign, WCW split their recognition of a World Heavyweight Champion from the NWA, and Flair was subsequently recognized as the first WCW World Heavyweight Champion, while still being recognized as NWA World Champion.
At the Clash of the Champions XIV: Dixie Dynamite on January 30, he wrestled Scott Steiner to a draw. On March 21, 1991, Tatsumi Fujinami defeated Flair in a controversial match in Tokyo at the WCW/New Japan Supershow. While the NWA recognized Fujinami as their new champion, WCW did not because Fujinami had backdropped Flair over the top rope in a violation of WCW rules. On May 19, 1991, Flair defeated Fujinami at SuperBrawl I in St. Petersburg, Florida to reclaim the NWA title and retain the WCW Title. In doing so, he became a nine time NWA World Heavyweight Champion, breaking Harley Race’s record of eight reigns. On June 12, at the Clash of the Champions XV: Knocksville USA, he defeated Bobby Eaton in a two out of three falls match.
In the spring of 1991, Flair had a contract dispute with WCW president Jim Herd, who wanted him to take a substantial pay cut. Herd had removed Flair as head booker in February 1990 and wanted to reduce Flair’s role in the promotion even further, despite the fact that Flair was still a top draw. According to Flair, Herd also proposed changes in his appearance (i.e. by shaving his hair, wearing a diamond earring and going by the name “Spartacus”) as well as his in-ring name in order to “change with the times”. Flair disagreed with the proposals, and two weeks beforeThe Great American Bash, Herd fired him and vacated the WCW Championship. While Flair had left for the WWF he was still recognized as the NWA World Champion until September 8, when the title was officially vacated.
World Wrestling Federation
The Real World Heavyweight Champion (1991)
Flair signed with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in August 1991 and began appearing on television as one of the most hated heels the next month. Initially, he appeared on WWF shows with the “Big Gold Belt,” calling himself “The Real World Heavyweight Champion.” Led by his “financial advisor” Bobby Heenan and his “executive consultant” Mr. Perfect, Flair repeatedly issued challenges to WWF wrestlers like Roddy Piper and Hulk Hogan, wrestling a team led by Piper at Survivor Series in 1991 and helping The Undertaker defeat Hogan for the WWF Championship that same night. WCW sued Flair in an attempt to reclaim the belt, but Flair claimed that he owned the belt in lieu of the $25,000 deposit paid by NWA champions upon winning the title, which had not been returned to him when he was fired from WCW. In the 2008 DVD Nature Boy Ric Flair: The Definitive Collection, Flair claimed that to this day he has never been paid $25,000 deposit, plus interest. Later in the DVD Triple H said that Flair gave him the actual WCW title belt as a gift.
WWF Champion and feud with Randy Savage (1992–1993)
At the Royal Rumble in 1992, he won the Rumble match to claim the vacant WWF Championship. Flair drew number three in the Rumble match and lasted a then-record nearly 60 minutes, last eliminating Sid Justice with help from Hulk Hogan, who had been eliminated by Justice seconds earlier. In so doing, Flair joined Buddy Rogers as the only men to win the WWF and NWA World Championships in their careers.
After a planned program with Hogan was scrapped due to Hogan’s hiatus following the WWF’s steroid scandal, Randy Savage challenged Flair for the WWF title as part of the double main event atWrestleMania VIII. In the storyline, Flair taunted Savage by claiming that he had a prior relationship with Savage’s wife, Elizabeth, and that he had the pictures to prove it (which were later revealed to be doctored photos). Savage defeated Flair for the title at WrestleMania. In July 1992, as Savage prepared to defend the title against The Ultimate Warrior at SummerSlam, Flair and Mr. Perfect sowed distrust between the two by suggesting that they would back one or the other during their match. They actually attacked both Savage and Warrior and injured Savage’s knee, an injury that Flair exploited to regain the title in a match with Savage on September 1. His second reign was short-lived, however, as he lost the title to Bret Hart on October 12, 1992.
Flair teamed with Razor Ramon to take on Savage and Perfect at the Survivor Series 1992. After losing a Loser Leaves the WWF match to Mr. Perfect on the January 18, 1993 edition ofMonday Night Raw, Flair appeared in the Royal Rumble in 1993 (although the match with Perfect had been taped six days prior, it did not air until the following night) and then fulfilled his remaining house show commitments, making his last appearance on February 10, 1993, before returning to WCW. On The Ultimate Ric Flair Collection DVD, Flair described his first stint with the WWF as “the greatest year and a half of my career, outside the time I spent with Arn Anderson and The Four Horsemen.”
Return to World Championship Wrestling
Flair returned to WCW as a face in February 1993 and, as a result of a “no-compete” clause, hosted a short-lived talk show in WCW called A Flair for the Gold as he was unable to appear wrestling. Arn Anderson usually appeared at the bar on the show’s set, and Flair’s maid, Fifi (portrayed by Wendy Barlow), cleaned or bore gifts. Once he returned to action, Flair briefly held the NWA World Heavyweight Championship for a tenth time after defeating Barry Windham at Beach Blast before WCW finally left the NWA in September 1993. At Starrcade in 1993, Flair was placed in a match, which was billed that if Flair lost, he would retire from wrestling. The match ended with Flair using a chop block and roll-up on the gigantic Vader to win the title for the second time.
In June 1994, Flair defeated Sting in a unification match, merging the WCW International World Heavyweight Championship with the WCW World Championship. This concluded a slow heel turn for Flair that started when he defeated Ricky Steamboat in a controversial manner some months earlier. Flair later feuded with Hulk Hogan upon Hogan’s arrival in WCW in June 1994, losing the WCW World Championship to him in July at Bash at the Beach. Flair lost a retirement match to Hogan at Halloween Havoc and took a few months off before returning as a wrestler and part-time manager in 1995 (explained on-air by having Flair nag Hogan for months until Hogan agreed to let Flair come back). He and Randy Savage renewed hostilities when Savage arrived in WCW late in 1994, and their feud continued off and on for almost two years with each wrestler winning the WCW World Championship from each other at different times. Flair defeated Savage in a steel cage match at SuperBrawl VI to win the WCW World title, which saw Savage betrayed by Elizabeth in favor of Flair. The Nature Boy also defeated Konnan on July 7 at Bash at the Beach to win the United States Championship. He vacated it in November of that year due to an arm injury he suffered in Japan, during a match with Kensuke Sasaki.
Feud with nWo (1996–1997)
Once again as a top babyface, Flair played a major role in the New World Order storyline in late 1996 and throughout 1997. He and the other Horsemen often took the lead in the war against Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and Hulk Hogan. Flair also feuded with Roddy Piper, Syxx, and his old nemesis, Curt Hennig, in 1997 after Hennig was offered a spot in the Four Horsemen only to turn on Flair and the Horsemen at Fall Brawl in 1997. Hennig punctuated the act by slamming the cage door onto Flair’s head. After Fall Brawl. Flair would return a month later to feud with Curt Hennig over the US title (which Hennig won from Steve McMichael). Flair would challenge for the title at Halloween Havoc and World War 3, losing both times.
Return from hiatus and various feuds (1998–2001)
In April 1998, Flair disappeared from WCW television, due to a lawsuit filed by Eric Bischoff for no-showing a WCW Thunder TV taping. After the case was settled, Flair made a surprise return on September 14, 1998 to ceremoniously reform the Four Horsemen (along with Steve McMichael, Dean Malenko, and Chris Benoit). Flair feuded with Bischoff for several months afterward. This culminated in a match at Starrcade 1998 between Eric Bischoff and Ric Flair. Bischoff was victorious after interference from Curt Hennig, a former member of the Four Horsemen. The following night in Baltimore on Nitro, Flair returned with a crazy streak angle in what became one his most notable interview promos reviving the “custom made from head to toe” catchphrase. He began by stripping to his boxers and threatening to leave WCW, demanding a match against Bischoff for the presidency of the company, and later handcuffing himself to the ring. The match was made, and despite the nWo interfering on Bischoff’s behalf Flair won and was granted the position of president of WCW. This resulted in a match at Superbrawl between Flair and Hollywood Hogan for the WCW Championship, which Flair lost after being betrayed by his own son David Flair. In spite of this betrayal, Flair signed a rematch at Uncensored 1999 which was billed as a First Blood Barbed Wire Steel Cage Match against Hogan where Flair’s presidency and Hogan’s WCW World Heavyweight Championship were on the line. Despite being the first to bleed, Flair won the match by submission thanks to the bias of the referee Charles Robinson, who counted Hogan out. This match was a double turn for Flair (who turned heel) and Hogan (who turned face). Robinson would be nicknamed “Lil’ Naitch”, idolizing Flair and officiating all of Flair’s matches in his favor.
As on-air President, Flair began abusing his power much like Bischoff had, favoring villains over fan favorites and even awarding the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship to his son David and resorting to whatever means necessary to keep David U.S. Champion. This also led to many more notable promos with Flair proclaiming, “I am the President”. Flair eventually formed a stable of followers which included Roddy Piper, Arn Anderson, and the Jersey Triad to keep things in order. Flair’s reign as president came to an end on the July 19 episode of Nitro, facing Sting for the WCW presidency. During the course of the match, Sting had Flair in his Scorpion Death Lock, but with the referee knocked unconscious, no decision could be reached. A returning Eric Bischoff came to the ring and began ordering the timekeeper to ring the bell, which he eventually did, awarding the match and the presidency to Sting (who promptly gave it up upon receiving it).
Flair won the WCW World Championship twice during 2000, the company’s last full year of operation. When WCW was purchased by the WWF in March 2001, Flair was the leader of the villainous group called the Magnificent Seven. During the final episode of Nitro on March 26, 2001, he gave an emotional speech regarding the company’s greatness and his best matches and opponents in WCW throughout the years, including Sting. Later in the night, Flair lost the final match of Nitro to Sting, recreating the first main event of Nitro in 1995. Nevertheless, Flair has repeatedly stated in various interviews how happy he was when WCW finally closed down; although, at the same time, the fact that many people would lose their jobs saddened him.
Return to World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment
WWF/E co-owner (2001–2002)
After hiatus from wrestling, Flair made a popular return to the WWF in November 2001 as the on-camera co-owner of the company and as a face in Charlotte on RAW in November 2001. Flair reappeared on Raw following the end of the “WCW/ECW Invasion” that culminated in a “Winner Take All” match at Survivor Series won by the WWF. Flair’s new on-screen role was that of the co-owner of the WWF, with the explanation that Shane and Stephanie McMahon had sold their stock in the company to a consortium (namely Flair) prior to purchasing World Championship Wrestling andExtreme Championship Wrestling. Flair’s feud with Vince McMahon led them to a match at the Royal Rumble in 2002 in a Street Fight, where Flair defeated McMahon. Flair also wrestled The Undertaker at WrestleMania X8 in 2002 where Flair lost after a hard fought battle and interference by Arn Anderson. From then, the “co-owner” angle culminated in early 2002, when Flair controlled Raw, and McMahon controlled SmackDown!. AfterSteve Austin abruptly left WWE while in a program with Flair, a match was hotshotted between Flair and Vince for sole ownership of WWE, which McMahon won, thanks to interference by Brock Lesnar.
Flair later became a villain by joining Triple H’s “Evolution” stable. Flair won the World Tag Team Championship with Batista twice in 2003 and 2004. After HHH took time off followingVengeance and for the rest of the summer, Flair would become a fan favorite again by beginning a short feud with Kurt Angle. Later, at Unforgiven in 2005, Flair defeated Carlito for theIntercontinental Championship.
On the October 3 edition of Raw, Flair was attacked by his Evolution tag team partner Triple H, after Triple H threw him into a limousine and smashing into limousine window for using sledge hammer. On November 1, 2005 at Taboo Tuesday, Flair defeated Triple H in a steel cage match. Flair continued his feud with Triple H until Survivor Series, when Triple H defeated him in a Last Man Standing match to end the feud.
Various rivalries and retirement (2006–2008)
At the end of 2005 Flair had a feud with Edge, culminating in a WWE championship TLC match on the RAW in early 2006. On the February 20 edition of Raw he lost to Shelton Benjamin. Flair then took some time off in mid-2006 to rest and marry for the third time; he returned in June to work a program with his real life rival Mick Foley that played off their legitimate past animosity. Flair defeated Foley at SummerSlam in an ”I Quit” match.
Subsequently, he was involved in a rivalry with the Spirit Squad on Raw. On November 5, 2006 at Cyber Sunday, he captured the World Tag Team Championship from the Squad with Roddy Piper. On the November 13 edition of Raw, Flair and Piper lost the Tag Titles to Rated-RKO, due to a disc problem with Piper and had to be flown immediately back to the USA as soon as Raw was off the air. On November 26, 2006 at Survivor Series, Flair was the sole survivor of a match that featured himself, Ron Simmons (replacing an injured Piper), Dusty Rhodes and Sgt. Slaughter versus the Spirit Squad. Flair then left television due to his divorce hearings. On the December 11, 2006 edition of Raw, Flair returned to team up with DX again. They defeated Rated-RKO and Kenny Dykstra.
Flair then began teaming with Carlito after Flair said that Carlito had no heart. Flair defeated Carlito in a match after which Carlito realized that Flair was right. Flair and Carlito faced off against Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch in a number one contender’s match for the World Tag Team Championship but were defeated. The two teamed up at Wrestlemania 23, and defeated the team of Chavo Guerrero and Gregory Helms. After weeks of conflict between Flair and Carlito, the team split up when Carlito attacked Flair during a match. At Judgment Day, Flair defeated Carlito with the figure four leglock. His career was put at risk following a match with Randy Orton on June 4, 2007.
On the June 11 edition of Raw, Flair was drafted from Raw to SmackDown! as part of the 2007 WWE Draft. He briefly feuded against Montel Vontavious Porter and rejoined forces with Batista to feud with The Great Khali; the alliance was short-lived, however, as Flair was “injured” during a match with Khali.
After three month hiatus, Flair returned to WWE programming on the November 26 edition of Raw to announce “I will never retire”. Vince McMahon retaliated by announcing that the next match Flair lost would result in a forced retirement. Later in the night, Flair defeated Orton after a distraction by Chris Jericho. It was revealed on the 15th anniversary of Raw that the win or retire ultimatum only applied in singles matches. Flair won several “career threatening” matches against the opponents such as Triple H, Umaga,William Regal, Mr. Kennedy, and Vince McMahon himself among others. On March 29, 2008, Flair was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as a part of the Class of 2008 by Triple H. Flair became the first active wrestler to be inducted into the Hall Of Fame. The day after, Flair wrestled at WrestleMania XXIV in Orlando, Florida, losing to Shawn Michaels. This match was voted the 2008 PWI Match of the Year. Flair’s fight to keep his career going garnered him the 2008 PWI Most Inspirational Wrestler of the Year award.
Part time appearances (2008–2009, 2012)
On the March 31, 2008 edition of Raw, Flair delivered his farewell address. Afterward, Triple H brought out many current and retired superstars to thank Flair for all he has done, including Shawn Michaels, some of the Four Horsemen, Harley Race, and Chris Jericho, followed by The Undertaker and thenVince McMahon. Along with the wrestlers, the fans gave Ric a standing ovation. This event represented a rare moment in WWE as both the heels and the faces broke character and came out to the ring together. The Undertaker’s and McMahon’s entrances, however, were not shown on the TV taping ofRaw for the week in order to preserve their characters, more in the case of the Undertaker as it involved him hugging Ric Flair and then raising his arm in victory, but were included in Nature Boy Ric Flair: The Definitive Collection DVD as extras.
Flair made his first post retirement appearance on the June 16, 2008 edition of Raw to confront Chris Jericho about his actions during a rivalry with Shawn Michaels. He challenged Jericho to a fight in the parking lot, rather than an official match, but was ejected from the building by Vince McMahon. The following year on February 9 Flair once again confronted Chris Jericho on Raw. Jericho was attacking Hall of Fame members and Flair demanded he respect them, before punching Jericho. Flair appeared a month later to distract him during a Money in the Bank. Jericho then challenged Flair to come out of retirement for WrestleMania XXV; instead Flair managed Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka and Ricky Steamboat in a three-on-one handicap match at WrestleMania in a losing effort.
On May 17 Flair returned to WWE during the Judgment Day pay-per-view, coming to the aid of Batista, who was being attacked by The Legacy (Randy Orton, Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase). On his last appearance in WWE, on the June 1 episode of Raw, Flair challenged Randy Orton in a parking lot brawl match, after an interference from the rest of The Legacy, the fight ended with Flair was trapped inside a steel cage and was punted by Orton. After Raw, Flair left WWE when his contract expired on June 2, 2009. On March 31, 2012 Flair became the first person to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame twice, the second time as part of the Four Horsemen.
Ring of Honor and Hulkamania Tour (2009)
Flair signed with Ring of Honor (ROH) and appeared at the aptly titled Stylin’ And Profilin’ event in March 2009, clearing the ring after an ROH World Championship match ended with a run-in. He soon served as the company’s ambassador, in an on-screen authority role, and appeared on the television show Ring of Honor Wrestling in May to cement his role. After a number one contender’s match ended in a time-limit draw, and the following week a double count out, Flair announced Ring of Honor Wrestling’s first ROH World Title match as a four-way contest.
On November 21, 2009, Flair returned to the ring as a heel on the “Hulkamania: Let the Battle Begin” tour of Australia, losing to Hulk Hogan in the main event of the first show by brassknuckles. Flair lost to Hogan again on November 24 in Perth, Australia. Both men bled and Flair was pinned after being hit with a megaphone by Hogan. Flair also lost to Hogan on the two remaining matches on the tour, both times after being struck by a megaphone.
Total Nonstop Action Wrestling
On the January 4, 2010, live, three-hour edition of Total Nonstop Action Wrestling’s Impact! television show, Flair as a face made his debut appearance for the company arriving via limo and later observing the main event between A.J. Styles and longtime rival Kurt Angle. It was later reported that Flair had signed a one-year deal with the company. In the past, Flair has openly stated that he was loyal to the McMahons and wanted to end his career in WWE, however he had not had contact from WWE since June 2009 and decided to sign with TNA Wrestling after waiting for the call from WWE for six months.
On January 17 at Genesis, Flair helped A.J. Styles cheat to pin Kurt Angle and retain the TNA World Heavyweight Championship thus once again becoming a heel. On the following episode of TNA Impact!, Flair announced that he was going to make A.J. Styles the next Nature Boy. In addition to Styles, Flair began informally managing Beer Money, Inc. (Robert Roode and James Storm) and Desmond Wolfe as a loose heel alliance. Flair has also confirmed that he will return to wrestling in TNA. On the February 25 edition of Impact!, Hulk Hogan announced that both he and Flair will make their in-ring TNA debuts on the March 8 Monday night edition of Impact!, when Hogan and Abyss face Flair and Styles in a tag team match. On the March 8 Monday night edition of Impact! Hogan and Abyss defeated Flair and Styles, when Abyss pinned Styles. Afterwards, the returning Jeff Hardy saved Abyss and Hogan from a beatdown at the hands of Flair, Styles and Beer Money, Inc. At Lockdown Team Flair (Sting, Desmond Wolfe, Robert Roode and James Storm) was defeated by Team Hogan (Abyss, Jeff Jarrett, Jeff Hardy and Rob Van Dam) in a Lethal Lockdown match. On the April 26 edition of Impact! Flair was defeated by Abyss in a match, where Flair’s and Hogan’s WWE Hall of Fame rings were at stake and as a result Flair lost possession of his ring to Hogan. The following week Hogan gave the ring to Jay Lethal, who returned it to Flair out of respect. This, however, was not enough for Flair, who attacked Lethal along with the members of Team Flair. After Styles dropped the World Heavyweight Championship to Rob Van Dam, then failed to regain it in a rematch and later was pinned by Jay Lethal, Flair adopted Kazarian as his newest protégé, seemingly replacing Styles as his number one wrestler.
On the June 17 edition of Impact! Flair announced that he would reform the Four Horsemen under the new name Fourtune, comparing A.J. Styles to Arn Anderson, Kazarian to Barry Windham, Robert Roode and James Storm to Ole Anderson and Tully Blanchard and Desmond Wolfe to Lex Luger, while also stating that each of them would have to earn their spots in the group. Flair made a return to the ring on July 11 at Victory Road, losing to Jay Lethal. On the July 15 edition of Impact! Flair announced A.J. Styles and Kazarian as the first two official members of Fourtune and two weeks later added Robert Roode and James Storm as the final two members of the group. On the August 5 edition of Impact! Flair faced Lethal in a rematch, this time contested under Street Fight rules, with the members of Fourtune banned from ringside. Flair managed to win the match, after an interference from Douglas Williams. The following week Williams and Matt Morgan were added to the renamed Fourtune, as the stable attacked EV 2.0, a stable consisting of former Extreme Championship Wrestling performers. On September 23, Flair headlined a live event in Oklahoma City titled Lord of the Ring in his honor. Competing in his first TNA house show match, Flair lost to Kurt Angle in the main event. In the weeks leading to Bound for Glory, Flair’s stable’s name was tweaked to Fortune to represent the expansion in the number of members in the group. On the October 7 live edition of Impact! Flair was defeated by Mick Foley in a Last Man Standing match. At Bound for Glory Flair was in Fortune’s corner, when Styles, Kazarian, Morgan, Roode and Storm were defeated in a Lethal Lockdown match by EV 2.0 membersTommy Dreamer, Raven, Rhino, Sabu and Stevie Richards.
On the following edition of Impact! Fortune formed an alliance with Hulk Hogan’s and Eric Bischoff’s new stable, Immortal. On the November 18 edition of Impact! Flair returned to the ring, competing in a match, where he faced Matt Morgan, who had been kicked out of Fortune the previous month. Morgan won the match, after Douglas Williams turned on the rest of Fortune, when they interfered in the match. On January 25, 2011, it was reported that Flair had pulled out of TNA’s Maximum Wooo! tour of Europe mid–tour, after monetary disputes. After missing a show in Berlin, Germany, Flair returned to the tour on January 27 in Glasgow, Scotland, reportedly apologizing to the locker room prior to the show. On January 29 Flair wrestled his only match of the tour, defeating Douglas Williams in London, tearing his rotator cuff in the process.
Flair was often popular with the crowd due to his in-ring antics, including rulebreaking (earning him the distinction of being “the dirtiest player in the game”), strutting and his shouting of“Woooooo!” (Flair got the inspiration from Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire”) Flair’s moveset became limited in the last ten years of his career due mainly to his age and years of competition taking a toll on his body, but remained a visible character. The “Woooooo!” yell has since become a tribute to Flair, and is often shouted by the crowd whenever a wrestler performs a knife-edge chop, one of Flair’s signature moves. From the late 1970s, Flair wore ornate fur-lined robes of many colors with sequins during in-ring appearances, and since the early 1980s, his approach to the ring was usually heralded by the playing of the “Dawn” section of Richard Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathustra” (famous for being used in the motion picture 2001: A Space Odyssey).
On May 19, 2003 in Greenville, South Carolina, Triple H defended the World Heavyweight Championship in a match against Flair. After Raw went off the air, most of the people who were backstage came out to honor Flair, including Vince McMahon, the Undertaker, Shane, and Stephanie McMahon. Triple H then appeared, and after a stare down, he placed the World Heavyweight Championship belt on Flair’s shoulder and embraced him. Flair then gave a speech thanking everyone for the tribute.
Flair released his autobiography, To Be the Man, in July 2004. The title is taken from one of his catchphrases, “To be the man, you gotta beat the man!”
Over the years, Flair has personally trained Stan Lane, Scott McGhee, and, David Flair, his son, to be professional wrestlers.
On the February 18, 2008 edition of Raw, Shawn Michaels announced Flair as the first inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2008. The induction ceremony took place on March 29, 2008, with Triple H inducting him. This made him the first, and, as of 2009, only, person to be inducted while still an active competitor. On March 24, 2008, Mayor Bob Coble, of Columbia, South Carolina, declared March 24 to be Ric Flair Day in Columbia. Flair also received the key to the city. Flair was later inducted into the NWA Hall of Fame in Atlanta, Georgia, his second straight Hall of Fame induction in four months, but he did not participate in the event. He received the key to the city of Greensboro, North Carolina on December 5, 2008, to commemorate Flair’s victory in a steel cage match against Harley Race at the inaugural Starrcade event. April 18, 2009 was declared “Ric Flair Day” in Charleston, West Virginia and he was presented with the key to the city by the mayor. Also, on June 12, 2009, Flair was presented with the key to the city of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and, in September, he received the key to the city in Marion County, South Carolina. On July 17, 2010, Flair made a special appearance at Scotland Motors in Laurinburg, North Carolina and received the key to that city, as well.
On October 19, 1998, it was declared “Ric Flair Day” in Minneapolis, Minnesota by Mayor Sharon Belton and on November 15, 2008, it was declared “Ric Flair Day” in Norfolk, Virginia.
On April 15, 2008 Flair was honored in Congress by a representative from North Carolina, Republican Sue Myrick, who praised his career and what he means to the state. On September 29, 2008, it was announced that Flair’s signature sequin covered robe that he wore at WrestleMania XXIV, in what was to be his last match, would be placed in the pop culture section of the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.
Flair also lends his voice and image to the Carolina Hurricanes hockey team. During home games, he appears on the monitor giving his trademark “Wooooo” whenever the Hurricanes score a goal.
In 2002, Flair was named the greatest pro wrestler of all time in the book The Top 100 Wrestlers of All Time by John Molinaro, edited by Dave Meltzer and Jeff Marek.
On January 9, 2012 it was announced that the Four Horsemen would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame making Flair the first person to have been induced into the Hall of Fame twice.
Championships and accomplishments
- All Star Pro Wrestling
- NWA World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- All Japan Pro Wrestling
- NWA World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Central States Wrestling
- NWA World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling / Jim Crockett Promotions / World Championship Wrestling
- NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship (3 times)
- NWA Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Championship (3 times)—with Rip Hawk (1), Greg Valentine (1) and Big John Studd (1)
- NWA (Mid Atlantic)/NWA Television Championship (2 times)
- NWA (Mid Atlantic)/WCW United States Heavyweight Championship (6 times)
- NWA World Heavyweight Championship (7 times)
- NWA World Tag Team Championship (Mid-Atlantic version) (3 times)—with Greg Valentine (2) and Blackjack Mulligan (1)
- WCW International World Heavyweight Championship (2 times)
- WCW World Heavyweight Championship (7 times)
- First WCW Triple Crown Champion
- National Wrestling Alliance
- NWA Hall of Fame (Class of 2008)
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI ranked him #2 of the top 500 singles wrestlers of the PWI Years in 2003
- PWI ranked him #3 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 1991, 1992, and 1994
- Feud of the Year (1987) Four Horsemen vs. Super Powers and Road Warriors
- Feud of the Year (1988, 1990) vs. Lex Luger
- Feud of the Year (1989) vs. Terry Funk
- Match of the Year (1983) vs. Harley Race (June 10)
- Match of the Year (1984) vs. Kerry Von Erich at Parade of Champions 1
- Match of the Year (1986) vs. Dusty Rhodes at The Great American Bash in a steel cage match
- Match of the Year (1989) vs. Ricky Steamboat at WrestleWar
- Match of the Year (2008) vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXIV
- Match of the Decade (2000–2009) vs. Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania XXIV
- Most Hated Wrestler of the Year (1978, 1987)
- Most Inspirational Wrestler of the Year (2008)
- Rookie of the Year (1975)
- Stanley Weston Award (2008)
- Wrestler of the Year (1981, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1989, 1992)
- Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum
- Class of 2006
- Pro Wrestling Report
- Match of the Year (2008) vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 24
- Most Memorable Moment—retirement
- St. Louis Wrestling Club
- NWA Missouri Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- St. Louis Wrestling Hall of Fame
- Class of 2007
- World Wrestling Federation / World Wrestling Entertainment
- WWF Championship (2 times)
- World Tag Team Championship (3 times)—with Batista (2) and Roddy Piper (1)
- WWE Intercontinental Championship (1 time)
- Royal Rumble (1992)
- WWE Hall of Fame (Class of 2008)
- WWE Hall of Fame (Class of 2012) – with Four Horsemen
- Thirteenth Triple Crown Champion
- Slammy Award for Match of the Year (2008) vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXIV
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter
- Best Heel (1990)
- Best Interviews (1991, 1992, 1994)
- Feud of the Year (1989) vs. Terry Funk
- Match of the Year (1983) vs. Harley Race in a steel cage match at Starrcade
- Match of the Year (1986) vs. Barry Windham at Battle of the Belts II on February 14
- Match of the Year (1988) vs. Sting at Clash of the Champions I
- Match of the Year (1989) vs. Ricky Steamboat at Clash of the Champions VI: Rajin’ Cajun
- Most Charismatic (1980, 1982–1984, 1993)
- Most Outstanding (1986, 1987, 1989)
- Readers’ Favorite Wrestler (1984–1993, 1996)
- Worst Feud of the Year (1990) vs. The Junkyard Dog
- Worst Worked Match of the Year (1996) with Arn Anderson, Meng, The Barbarian, Lex Luger, Kevin Sullivan, Z-Gangsta and The Ultimate Solution vs. Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage in a Towers of Doom match atUncensored
- Wrestler of the Year (1982–1986, 1989, 1990, 1992)
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (Class of 1996)