A man who’s said it all and done it all, Ric Flair’s reputation as the greatest wrestler of all time is difficult to dispute, given his 16 world championships, (with credible evidence he’s held even more), multiple regional singles and tag team titles, and his irrefutable career as a top draw during the 1970’s, 80’s, and 90’s. Factor in his legendary ability to “carry a broomstick to a five-star match,” and you have a true Hall of Famer, or as Triple H noted during Flair’s Hall of Fame induction, someone who should have his own wing.
After dropping out of college, Flair began working as an insurance salesman. While moonlighting as a bouncer at an upscale restaurant, Flair befriended Olympic weight-lifting hopeful Ken Patera and began training with Patera. Both tried out for American Wrestling Association (AWA) promoter Verne Gagne’s wrestling camp and although Flair quit twice, Gagne talked him back into it and Flair graduated the camp.
Flair worked in the AWA from 1972 to 1974 before a good word from fellow wrestler Wahoo McDaniel led to an invitation to Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP). Flair’s name would become synonymous with the Mid-Atlantic based promotion from its days to a territory through its national expansion in the 80’s, and to its sale to Ted Turner and rechristening as World Championship Wrestling.
Flair became a breakout star in Jim Crockett Promotions. Here, Flair slowly transformed into the “Nature Boy” persona he would forever be known by, dropping the “k” in Rick to become Ric Flair; and adopting the “Nature Boy” nickname at the suggestion of booker George Scott (Flair would also work a program with “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers over the “Nature Boy” nickname). Flair’s combination of technical wrestling and brawling abilities made it easy to work with a variety of opponents. His JCP opponents included names that became legendary such as Wahoo McDaniel, Dusty Rhodes, Harley Race, Jack Brisco, Ricky Steamboat, and Roddy Piper. Flair’s work caught the attention of promoters in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and he was considered a candidate for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship early during his run in JCP.
The NWA eventually voted Flair in as champion, with “The Nature Boy’s” first reign beginning in 1981. His famous admonition “To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man” would see wrestlers far and wide challenging him for the ten pounds of gold. Flair traveled throughout the NWA’s territories including North America and Japan. Flair proved a top draw as world champion, making challengers look good, but somehow keeping the belt around his waist to entice fans to pay to see rematches.
Flair’s abilities and success contributed to JCP’s groundbreaking show, Starrcade. Flair’s role in the main event led to the show’s success, proving pay-per-view was a viable way to increase an audience without resorting to larger venues. Through the 80’s, Flair would serve as JCP’s linchpin, giving the area’s wrestlers someone to focus on. Flair’s notoriety only increased when he allied himself with fellow heels Arn and Ole Anderson; Tully Blanchard, and manager James J. Dillon, forming the unforgettable heel faction known as the Four Horsemen.
After two decades in the business, Flair continued being a major player in the game. A short run in the World Wrestling Federation shocked many fans due to Flair’s association with JCP and WCW, but he managed to win the WWF Championship twice before returning to WCW. While Flair himself was unhappy with his return to WCW in the 90’s, he was still the man fans loved to hate (or occasionally cheer during the rare babyface turn). After WCW’s demise, Vince McMahon brought Flair into the WWF, knowing he still had much to contribute.
Ric Flair may have lost a step during the 21st century but he was still steps ahead of younger wrestlers. Whether he’s appeared as a manager, a competitor, or an authority figure, Ric Flair knows how to hold the crowd in the palm of his hand. In an industry known for hyperbole, the saying “Diamonds are forever, and so is Ric Flair” is a statement of fact.
Flair, Ric. Mark Madden ed. Ric Flair: To Be the Man. World Wrestling Entertainment, 2004.
Race, Harley and Gary Tritz. King of the Ring: The Harley Race Story. Sports Publishing, 2006.
Ric Flair: The Definitive Collection. Directed by Kevin Dunn, performances by Ric Flair, Hazem Ali, Muhammad Ali, and Terry Allen, World Wrestling Entertainment, 2008.
Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen. Performances by Terry Anderson, Arn Anderson, and Gene Anderson, World Wrestling Entertainment, 2007.
Rickard, Michael. Wrestling’s Greatest Moments. ECW Press, 2008.
The Ultimate Ric Flair Collection. Performances by Ric Flair and Arn Anderson, World Wrestling Entertainment, 2003.
WWE Legends: Greatest Wrestling Stars of the 80’s. Directed by Kevin Dunn, performances by Arn Anderson, Ole Anderson, and Steve Austin, World Wrestling Entertainment, 2005.
Flair, R. &. (2004). Ric Flair: To Be the Man. New York: Pocket Books.
Race, H. &. (2004). King of the Ring: The Harley Race Story. Champaign: Sports Publishing, L.L.C.
WWE Home Video. (2003) The Ultimate Ric Flair Collection Volume One
WWE Home Video. (2005). WWE Greatest Wrestling Stars of the 80’s.
WWE Home Video. (2006). The Spectacular Legacy of the AWA