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Legends of Wrestling: Ric Flair – To be the man, you’ve got to beat the Man

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Most wrestling fans may be aware of the personal issues and outside of the ring life of the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair. The following history of Ric Flair will focus on Ric Flair, the wrestler and all his great accomplishments in professional wrestling.

I hope you enjoy this first in a series of Legends of Wrestling.

Fans in arenas across the nation shout a WOOOOO! as Ric Flair enters to the ring. To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man. This was one of the many catch phrases for professional wrestling’s greatest World Heavyweight Champion, The “Natural Boy” Ric Flair. In the 36-year in ring career, Flair has been a world champion 16 times.

Ric Flair – The early life

Ric Flair was born as Richard Morgan Fliehr on February 25, 1949. In Flair’s autobiography, To Be the Man Flair he claims he was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and notes his birth name is listed on different documents as Fred.

Flair also states in his book that he was adopted and shortly after his father completed a residency in gynecology in Detroit, the family moved to Edina, Minnesota. Flair attended Wayland Academy, a coeducational boarding school in Wisconsin.

As a teen, Flair took a job as a lifeguard, meeting the legendary Vachon Brothers, which was his first exposure to professional wrestling. In 1966 and 1968, Flair won the state private school wrestling championship and attended the University of Minnesota on a football scholarship, playing aside Greg Gagne, the son of Verne Gagne. Flair dropped out of college, thus never receiving his degree. Flair ended up working as a bouncer at a local club, where he met Olympic weightlifter Ken Patera who was training at Verne Gagne’s wrestling school. Patera ended up introducing Flair to Gagne, who accepted Flair as a member of the training class.

Ric Flair – The Professional Wrestler – American Wrestling Association

Under the guidance of Verne Gagne and Billy Robinson, Flair attended Gagne’s first wrestling camp just outside of Minneapolis in the winter of 1971. The camp was Gagne’s barn. Along with Flair was Vern’s son, Jim Brunzell and the Iron Sheik. Flair, weighing in at nearly 300 pounds with short brown hair, made his debut in Rice Lake, Wisconsin against “Scrap Iron” Gadaski ending in a 10-minute draw.

With his charismatic personality and in ring endurance, he adopted his in ring name of Ric Flair. During his tenure in the AWA, Flair wrestler greats such as Dusty Rhodes, Andre the Giant, Larry Henning (Father of the late Curt Henning) and Wahoo McDaniel.

The National Wrestling Alliance years

In 1974, Flair departed from the AWA and jumped to the Mid-Atlantic area for Jim Crockett’s National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). On February 8, 1975, Flair won the Mid-Atlantic TV Championship after defeating Paul Jones. Eight months later on October 4, 1975, Flair’s wrestling career almost ended when he was involved in a serious plane crash in the Wilmington, North Carolina area. Also on board the plane were Mr. Wrestling I, Tim Woods, Bob Bruggers, Promoter Jim Crockett, and Johnny Valentine (who ended up paralyzed). Sadly, the pilot did not survive. Flair broke his back in three places. At age 26, he was told by doctors his wrestling career was done. Flair was determined to get back into the ring. After intense physical therapy, in February 1976, Flair returned to the ring and resumed his rivalry with Wahoo McDaniel. Flair was forced to change his wrestling style away from the power brawling he had been used to doing. This change led him to adopt a different technique, in which the “Nature Boy” style was born.

Ric Flair went on to be Jim Crockett, Jr.’s top star. On July 29, 1977, Flair defeated Bobo Brazil to win the NAW United States Heavyweight Championship. Over the next three years, Flair would have five title reigns as the U.S. Champ, feuding with Ricky Steamboat, Roddy Piper, Mr. Wrestling II, Jimmy Snuka and Greg Valentine.

Ric Flair – NWA Championship Title 1981-1986

On September 17, 1981 was huge for Flair when he defeated Dusty Rhodes to win his first NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Flair would establish himself as the NWA’s top franchise player with quick wit, flamboyant interview style, bleached blond hair, fancy jewelry, designer clothes, and his trademark flashy custom robes when coming out to the ring.

In 1983, Harley Race defeated Flair and won the NWA title, but later that year in a steel cage match at the Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina, Flair regained the title. Flair and Race would go on to have an intense feud throughout 1984 in which Flair would win title eight more times. Flair would hold the title for two years and two months before losing it at the Great American Bash on July 26, 1986 to Dusty Rhodes. Flair would go onto win the title back two week later.

Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen

The spring of 1985 would be a big year for the NWA. The tag team of Ole and Arn Anderson began aiding Flair in attacks on Dusty Rhodes, Magnum T.A. and Sam Houston. Soon thereafter, Ric Flair, the Andersons’ and Tully Blanchard would form the most elite wrestling faction in wrestling history, The Four Horsemen. They also acquired the services of J.J. Dillon as their manager.

The group’s main goal was to rule the NWA by holding major titles, such as the NWA World Title and World Tag Team Titles and taking out the main baby faces.

Ric Flair – World Championship Wrestling 1986 – 1991

By 1986, Jim Crockett had consolidated numerous other NWA member promotions he owed into one single entity, which ran under the umbrella of the National Wrestling Alliance, and controlling most of the traditional territories in southeast and Midwestern United States. Crockett’s main goal of expanding further on a national scale would be building his promotion around Ric Flair as the World Heavyweight Champion using the custom title belt created specifically for Flair.

In 1988, new up and coming star, Sting challenged Flair to a match at the first ever Clash of Champions which ended in a time limit draw. Then booker Dusty Rhodes proposed that Flair lose the title to Rick Steiner at Starrcade ’88 after no agreement on how the finish would take place against Flair and Lex Lugar. The NWA ended up firing Rhodes and new booker George Scott came in. Scott immediately negotiated to bring in Ricky Steamboat. On February 20, 1989, at the ‘Chi-Town Rumble’ pay-per view in Chicago, IL, Steamboat defeated Ric Flair to win the NWA World Title, which began a series of matches between the two and what would go on to be a historic rival still talked about today. On May 7, 1989 at the ‘WrestleWar’ pay-per view, Flair won back the title at what was voted match of the year by Pro Wrestling Illustrated magazine.

On July 7, 1990, Flair dropped the title to Sting at the Great American Bash. On January 11, 1991, Flair defeated Sting to win back the NWA World Heavyweight Title, just following what would be the NWA’s official split from World Championship Wrestling, thus making this the first time Flair would be recognized as the WCW World Heavyweight Champion, while still be recognized at the NWA Champion. In a controversial match held in Tokyo, Japan March 21, 1991, Ric Flair lost to Fujimani. The NWA recognized him as their champion, but WCW did not because Flair was back dropped over the top rope, which was a violation of WCW rules. On May 19, 1991, Flair beat Fujinami in St. Petersburg, Florida at SuperBrawl to regain the NWA title and retain the WCW championship title, which made him a nine time NWA World Champion, passing Harley Race’s record of eight.

In the spring of 1991, Ric Flair had a contract dispute with at the time, the current WCW President Jim Herd. Herd wanted to reduce Flair’s salary. Herd stripped Flair’s head booker responsibilities and cut back on Flair’s role in the promotion despite Flair being the company’s top draw. Flair stated in several interviews, Herd proposed changes to his appearance such as shaving his head, wearing a diamond earring, and even a name change to “Spartacus.” Flair stated this was what Herd wanted in order to change with the times. Flair did not agree with any of these proposed changes. Just two weeks before the Great American Bash pay-per view, Herd fired Flair and vacated the WCW Title. Ric Flair would then go on to leave for the World Wrestling Federation.

Ric Flair – World Wrestling Federation 1991-1993

In August of 1991, Flair signed a contract with the WWF and began appearing on their Television shows with the gold title belt referring to himself as the “Real World Heavyweight Champion.” WCW began a lawsuit in an attempt to get back the title belt, but Flair claimed he ownership of the title belt in lieu of a $25,000 deposit, which had not been returned to him. In the WWF, Flair would be managed by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, and also team with Curt Henning.

At the 1992 ‘Royal Rumble’ pay-per view, Flair won the 30 man over the top battle royal to win the vacated WWF Championship after spending nearly 60 minutes in the ring. Following Flair’s title win, a feud had been planned with Hulk Hogan, but was dropped due to Hogan’s absence from the WWF following the steroid scandal, thus beginning a new storyline with Randy Savage. At WrestleMania that year, Savage defeated Flair to win the title. Later that year on September 1st, Flair would regain the title. However, his title reign would be short as he lost to Bret Hart just over a month later on October 12th, 1992. February 10, 1993 would be Flair’s last appearance in the WWF following a loss to Curt Henning in a loser leaves the WWF Match on Monday Night RAW.

Ric Flair – Returns to World Championship Wrestling 1993 – 2001

February 1993, Flair retuned to WCW as a baby face. Because Flair had a no compete clause in his WWF contract, he was put on WCW Television as host for the short-lived talk show A Flair for the Gold. After Flair could begin wrestling in WCW again, he beat Barry Windham at Beach Blast to win the title for the tenth time. In June 1994, Flair defeated Sting in a unification match, thus merging the WCW International World Championship with the WCW World Title. Just a month later, Flair would lose the title at the Bash at the Beach to Hulk Hogan and then again in a “retirement” match in October at the ‘Halloween Havoc’ pay-per view before taking a short hiatus, then returning as a wrestler and parting time manger in 1995.

Flair played a major role in the storyline with the New World Order in late 1996 and all of 1997. He and the Four Horsemen stepped up and took lead in the fight against the Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and the heel turned Hulk Hogan. Flair had feuds with Roddy Piper, Syxx (X-Pac) and Curt Hennig.

The landscape of WCW and Ric Flair would change. In April of 1998, Flair had a dispute with WCW President Eric Bischoff after a failed appearance at a Thunder television program. Bischoff had booked Flair on the show just days prior, in which Flair claims he had already requested time off for the same night to see his son Reid at an amateur wrestling match. After a lengthy absence, Flair made a huge return on September 14, 1998 in front of a sold out Greensboro Coliseum to reform the Four Horsemen. Flair would begin a rivalry with Bischoff and eventually beat Bischoff in match with a storyline in which Flair would take over as the WCW President and eventually turning heal. His reign as WCW President came to and end on the July 19, 1998 edition of Monday Nitro when put the Presidency on the line against Sting.

A returning Eric Bischoff ordered the timekeeper to ring the bell and awarding Sting the Presidency after no decision could be made due to an unconscious referee. Sting gave up the position upon receiving it.

Flair won the WCW World Title on two occasions in 2000 which would be the company’s last full year of operation before being purchased by the WWF in March 2001. During the final episode of Nitro, which aired on March 26, 2001, Flair gave an emotion speech regarding the greatness of WCW and the NWA. Flair wrestled the very last match in Nitro history and lost to Sting.

Ric Flair – Returning to the World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment 2001 – Present

After the failed WCW/ECW Invasion angle, Flair returned to the WWF in November of 2001 in a storyline as the co-owner of the WWF in which Shane McMahon and Stephanie sold their stock in the company to Flair. In 2002, a match was booked between Vince McMahon and Flair for sole ownership of the company. McMahon won the match after interference from Brock Lesner.

Flair later joined the Evolution heal group made of Triple H, Randy Orton, and Batista. Some referred to this group as a modern day Four Horsemen. Flair did win the World Tag Team Titles in 2003 on two occasions with Batista and in 2005, won the Intercontinental Championship from Carlito. After a three month absence, Flair returned to the November 26, 2007 edition of RAW to announce he will never retire. Vince McMahon countered by announcing that the next match Flair would lose, he would be forced to retire. On March 29, 2008, Flair was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. The very next night at WrestleMania XXIV in Orlando, Florida, Ric Flair was defeated by Shawn Michaels. Pro Wrestling Illustrated voted this the Match of the year.

The following night on Monday Night RAW, Flair gave his farewell address to a standing ovation, and was thanked by numerous wrestlers (who broke character) such as the Big Show, The Undertaker, Chris Jericho, Shawn Michaels, Ricky Steamboat and Arn Anderson. Flair made appearances on WWE Television on June 16, 2008 and February 9, 2009 episode of RAW to confront Chris Jericho on bashing the Legends.

Flair recently had signed with Ring of Honor as the companies on air ambassador. On May 17, 2009, Flair made a surprise return to the WWE at the Judgment Day pay-per view coming to the aid of Batista. On the June 1st edition of RAW, Flair trapped inside a steal cage was punted in the head by Randy Orton and thus had been off WWE Television since the attack.

As of June 25, 2009, various reports, indicate that the WWE has not offered Ric Flair a new contract as many in the wrestling media have been lead to believe.

Sources: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and the Wrestling Observer

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