By Tim Hornbaker
Between 1981 and 2000, the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair has won a combined 20 World
Heavyweight Titles in the NWA, WWF and WCW and has been arguably, the most
influential wrestler of all-time. Where men like Lou Thesz, Buddy Rogers and Hulk Hogan
have revolutionized the sport in different ways, Flair had actually given a generation of
fans the thrill of his presence. They knew when they were watching him, they were seeing
something special just as baseball fans knew when they were watching Mark McGwire in
1998. To this day and from this point on, fans will forever “Whooo” when any wrestler
chops another in the chest. All because of Ric Flair. He has drawn people into the sport
who wouldn’t ordinarily been fans.
As television and cable expanded going into the 1980s, Flair was the last World
Champion wrestler to make a tour of that had been previously expected of the NWA World
Champion. From Pat O’Connor to Dory Funk Jr. before him, Ric lived up to the
expectations. The words spoken were not just hype. He was born in Memphis, but moved
to Minneapolis as a child. Flair went to the University of Minnesota, playing football and
wrestling. He roomed with Ken Patera, who was preparing for the Olympics in 1972 and
began training under Billy Robinson and Verne Gagne at the latter’s wrestling school in
Upon graduation, Flair turned professional and began wrestling for the AWA in early
December 1972. He competed in a huge battle royal on December 29, 1972 in Chicago,
Illinois, which Wilbur Snyder won. Among the other competitors in the match were Dusty
Rhodes, Blackjack Mulligan and Andre the Giant. In 1974, Flair traveled to Jim Crockett’s
Promotion in the Mid-Atlantic Region and found his niche. He began teaming with Rip
Hawk, a seasoned veteran, and learned from the wise Anderson Brothers, who at this
time were dominating the tag team scene on the East Coast. The Andersons were billed
as cousins of Flair because all four were from Minnesota. Flair captured several regional
championships, including the television and tag team straps before suffering a near fatal
On October 4, 1975, Flair’s career should have ended. The Cessna 310 he was riding
with fellow wrestlers, Johnny Valentine and Bob Bruggers, crashed near Wilmington, North
Carolina. The Charlotte Observer covered the details of the wreck. After looking at his
broken back, doctors said that Flair would never wrestle again. Promoters were worried.
Both Valentine, the region’s top star and Flair, the future of the sport, were both seriously
injured in the same accident. He immediately entered a serious rehabilitation program.
Neither Bruggers or Valentine would return to the ring and would be hampered by injuries
for the rest of their lives.
It is on record that Flair was back in the ring as soon as February 3, 1976 in Columbia,
South Carolina. He teamed with Blackjack Mulligan and Angelo Mosca to beat Tiger
Conway, Johnny Weaver and Tim Woods. Flair also won the NWA Mid-Atlantic
Heavyweight Title. A separate report stated that Flair was back in the ring “just seven
months later.” October to February is only four months. Flair was wrestling only four
months after being in a wreck that could have taken his life. Astonishing.
In a November 1976 six-man tag team match in Greensboro, he teamed with Gene and
Old Anderson and a family feud began. Flair missed a move and Gene was put to the
floor by Sandy Scott. Gene blamed him verbally and Ole agreed. Greg Valentine ran out
to even up the sides and neither team decided it was a good time to fight it out, but the
feud was growing. Eventually, the feud did happen and the two teams battled over the
NWA Tag Title. Flair beat Bobo Brazil in July 1977 for the NWA United States Title and
then lost it to Rick Steamboat in November. He appeared in St. Louis at the Kiel
Auditorium on January 6, 1978. A crowd of 10,500 was privileged to see the young
wrestler beat Omar Atlas in 8:42 with his figure-four leglock.
Flair was matched against former NWA World Champion, Dory Funk Jr. on January
27th at the Kiel. He pinned Funk in 21:01 with a back rolling cradle and earned one of
the biggest wins of his short career. The victory propelled Flair into the national news. In
April of ’78, Flair defeated Mr. Wrestling, Tim Woods to capture his second U.S. Title. On
December 18, 1978 in Toronto, he put his title up against Rick Steamboat in a match
which if the challenger lost, he would have been shaved bald. A title vs. hair bout.
Steamboat beat Flair in a scientific match to take the belt and keep his hair. On April 1,
1979, he beat Steamboat to regain the belt. The entire Steamboat-Flair series had been
well received from Canada to South Carolina and many were expecting big things from
both men. The history between both would definitely spark interest in future matches.
The original “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers came out of retirement and wrestled Flair on
July 16, 1979 in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The much heralded contest ended when
Flair pinned Rogers. Many wondered what would have happened if Flair would have met
Rogers in his prime. Both men held the “Nature Boy” insignia proudly. The U.S. Title was
declared vacant in August 1979 after Flair teamed with Blackjack Mulligan to capture the
NWA World Tag Team Title from Baron Von Raschke and Paul Jones.
In the back of many minds, and understanding that when he regained the United States
Title for the fourth time in April 1980 it was a great achievement, but it had to be
questioned just when Flair was going to receive a clear and concise shot at the NWA
World Title. Flair later lost the championship to his former partner, Greg Valentine in
July. In late 1980, he remained the top contender to the U.S. Belt and Valentine backed
away after several matches, claiming that Flair would not get another shot. Officials would
not heed the champion’s wishes. In November, Flair beat Valentine for his fifth United
States Title. He soon entered a heated war with Roddy Piper and the two bled all over
the territory. At Raleigh in January ’81, Piper won the belt.
Flair traveled to Kansas City, Missouri and appeared on a Bob Geigel card there on
September 17, 1981. He was scheduled to compete in the main event against the NWA
World Heavyweight Champion, Dusty Rhodes and former six-time World Champion, Lou
Thesz was going to act as the special guest referee. That night, everything that Flair had
built up since making his pro debut exploded into the reality of who he was and who he
was going to be. Ric Flair became the NWA Champion and the books were never going
to be the same. A long reign was ahead. He met some of the top talent in the world
during the months that followed. Among the names Flair faced were Ole Anderson,
Tommy Rich, Blackjack Mulligan Jr., Wahoo McDaniel and Rick Steamboat.
Upon a tour of Dallas, he gave Kerry Von Erich a Christmas 1982 shot at the title. The
match was a special cage bout with Freebird Michael Hayes acting as the special referee.
Terry Gordy was assigned to be the gatekeeper. Flair was punched by Hayes, who
decided to get involved in the bout. But it was Kerry Von Erich who got the brunt of the
Freebirds attack. Von Erich refused to pin Flair after Hayes had interfered. Angry, Hayes
left the cage. Von Erich’s head landed near the cage door and Gordy slammed it on his
head. The match was stopped and Flair retained. He met Harley Race on a fateful night
in June 1983, the 10th to be exact. A two-of-three-falls match between the seven-time
champion and future of the Alliance. Flair was on the top of his game that night, but
succumbed to Race’s experience. He lost the first fall in 11:10 by pinfall, but locked his
figure-four on Race in the second and gained a submission victory to even the match.
The third was controversial. There was a backdrop to the mat and both men’s shoulders
were down for the count. The referee hit the mat once, twice, and Harley’s shoulders
raised up. Flair was pinned at the 6:17 mark. A new champion was crowned in St. Louis.
Flair was not going to leave the region entirely. The Missouri State Title was vacated
after Race won the World Belt. What did Flair do? He enlisted in the tournament. On
July 15th, a little more than a month after the loss, Flair defeated David Von Erich at the
Kiel in a two-of-three-falls match to win the one-night tournament. He had been without a
title for only a month’s time. As they always said, the Missouri Title was the stepping
stone to the World. Flair was a top-contender. He gave up the Missouri Title to Von Erich
on September 16th in St. Louis’ Kiel Auditorium on a loss. The World Title was still an
option and Flair was ready to get back in the hunt.
Promoters signed the Flair-Race match for the biggest card in National Wrestling
Alliance History. The most important in reference to national exposure and competition.
Flair was meeting Race at the first annual Starrcade at the Greensboro Coliseum in North
Carolina. Over 15,000 fans live and thousands watching on closed-circuit television saw
the two legends battle it out in a cage match. Former NWA Champ, Gene Kiniski was the
assigned ref. That night, on November 24, 1983, Thanksgiving, Flair defeated Race to
win his second NWA World Championship. A special win and an important victory. He
celebrated afterwards with many of the organization’s favorites
Going into 1984, Flair was receiving more and more challenges from the Alliance’s best
throughout the world. He went to New Zealand and Race beat him in Wellington for his
eighth NWA Title, in a match which was not recognized universally until several years ago
and then Flair regained it on March 23rd in Kallang, Singapore.
In April, Flair ventured through the Virgin Islands and battled WWC Universal
Champion, Carlos Colon. He lost a non-title match in St. Thomas by pinfall, succumbing
to an inside cradle. David Von Erich died earlier in the year and promoters scheduled a
Memorial Card in his honor for May 6th at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas. Flair would
defend his claim to the World Title against Kerry Von Erich. He was pinned before a huge
crowd and the title disappeared for the second time in seven five months. Von Erich and
Flair went overseas to Asia and were matched by promoters in Yokosuka City on May
24th. Flair beat the champion in two-of-three-falls and won his fourth NWA World Title.
A fierce warrior in the name of “King Kong” Bruiser Brody came up in November 1984
at the Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis. The referee was able to count Brody’s pin on the
champ when Jerry Blackwell entered the ring and caused Flair’s disqualification, thus,
saving his title. In January 1985, Flair gave Brody a rematch at the famous Memorial Hall
in Kansas City. The fighting was intense and brutal at times. Brody pinned Flair in the
middle of the ring by referee, Tom Andrews and the belt seemingly changed hands. A
second referee and former wrestling star, Sonny Myers ran out and announced that they
were disqualifying Flair for throwing Brody over the top rope. With the new decision, he
retained the belt. Brody had since began enjoying a victory celebration in the dressing
room area with the NWA Belt.
Flair returning to Dallas in May 1985 to face Kevin Von Erich at the second annual
Parade of Champions and wrestled the challenger to a double-countout. Magnum T.A.,
Dusty Rhodes and Nikita Koloff were among the top tier of challengers for his belt in late
1985 and into early 1986. He wrestled Koloff in a cage match in September 1985 at the
Omni in Atlanta. At the end of the match, Ivan Koloff and Krusher Khrushchev ran into
the cage and the trio beat on Flair for several moments before Dusty Rhodes ran out.
Rhodes chased The Koloff’s and their Russian Ally back to the dressing room. In turn,
Arn and Ole Anderson came out and turned on Rhodes. Flair locked the cage. The
three beat Rhodes until others ran out to save him. Dusty suffered a broken left ankle in
the attack. Flair and the Anderson’s had done in another fan favorite attempting to do
something positive. They were terrorizing the National Wrestling Alliance.
Flair appeared on the AWA’s SuperClash Show in Chicago on September 28, 1985 to
defend his belt against Magnum T.A. He won by pinfall. Rick Martel was in the main
event to defend his AWA World Belt against Stan Hansen. Before anyone knew it,
promoters had scheduled a title vs. title match between Flair and Martel for Tokyo. On
October 21, 1985, the two World Champions battled to a double-countout after over thirty
minutes of competition. The next night in Kyoto at the Kyoto Gym, Flair and Martel
teamed against the NWA International Tag Team Champions, Genichiro Tenryu and
Jumbo Tsuruta. The duo lost by countout in 17:34. In November, Flair wrestled Rhodes
in the main event of Starrcade ’85. It was filled with controversy and Rhodes ended up
defeating Flair to win the NWA World Title. The NWA President, Bob Geigel returned the
belt to Flair on a technicality and the Alliance never recognized the change.
In 1986, Flair formed the Four Horsemen with James J. Dillon, Tully Blanchard, and the
Andersons. The group’s insignia was thrown like a gang sign. Four fingers up in the air
and the fans quickly knew what was going to happen. A face was about to get beaten
down. Or Flair was about to deliver his most famous verbal call. Either way, the
Horsemen changed the face of professional wrestling. They altered the way fans viewed
groups of wrestlers and their priorities in and out of the ring. During the summer of 1986,
Flair prepared to venture out on the Great American Bash tour. Beginning on July 1,
1986 in Philadelphia and stretching through the month, Ric was going to defend his NWA
World Crown against some of the best talent in the Alliance. That first night, he faced
Road Warrior Hawk for the first time and retained his title. He met the other Road
Warrior, Animal, for the first time on July 9, 1986 in Cincinnati at the Riverfront Coliseum.
Possibly too used to having the Horsemen’s support, Flair faced Dusty Rhodes in
Greensboro on the 13th card of the Great American Bash tour at the Coliseum. The bout
took place on July 26, 1986 in a special cage match. With no help from the outside, Flair
lost by pinfall and dropped the NWA World Title. Rhodes, now a three-time champ, gave
Flair a rematch the next night in Dallas but again beat him. The Bash series was growing
to a close and Flair had defended his title against the likes of Wahoo McDaniel, both
Road Warriors, both Rock and Roll Express team members, Ron Garvin, Nikita Koloff and
Magnum T.A. Out of all of them, Rhodes was the only one that got the best of him and
walked away from the event as the titleholder. Flair traveled to the Kiel in St. Louis for an
August 9th match with the champion. A bloody bout ended with Flair’s hand raised. He
regained the belt with a pin victory as Rhodes was locked in the torturous figure-four.
Things were moving fast and furious and Flair was back on the schedule as the
champ. He traveled to Tampa for a Tuesday Night show on August 12th. The following
morning, he appeared for a television taping and then left Florida for North Carolina and
a show in Raleigh where he wrestled Rhodes. After the match, he returned to the airport
and flew back to Florida after 11:00 at night to make yet another booking. Flair wrestled
Steve Keirn in Fort Lauderdale, successfully defending the World Title at a time nearing
the midnight hour. Practically unheard of in the 1990s and into 2000.
At Starrcade 1986 on November 27th, Flair defended his NWA World Title against his
number one contender, Nikita Koloff. He won the match by disqualification. In 1987, he
heavily feuded with Barry Windham and Lex Luger, both up and coming stars within the
NWA. Flair wrestled “Hands of Stone” Ron Garvin in a cage match on September 25,
1987 in Detroit. Garvin ended up beating Flair and making history that night, capturing
the NWA World Heavyweight Crown. It was a stunning win for Garvin and many didn’t
expect the news. The two were rematched at Starrcade 1987 on November 26th and
Flair and Garvin wrestled inside of a steel cage. Ric beat the champion and won his sixth
NWA World Title.
Things began to look dismal for the Four Horsemen in March and April of ’88, but then
regained the limelight during the summer. Lex Luger left the Horsemen to challenge Flair
for the belt and J.J. Dillon was forced to find another enforcer. Flair was vulnerable and
had more than one man directly gunning for him. Sting was the other of note. On March
27th, Sting received a World Title shot in Greensboro at the first Clash of the
Champions. Flair and Sting battled to a 45-minute draw. Earlier that night, Luger and
Windham beat Anderson and Blanchard for the NWA World Tag Title. If Sting would have
beaten Flair, the Horsemen would have been void of the two most prestigious
championships in the Alliance. But Sting was victorious, although he did prove to be a
strong contender. The Flair-Sting match was immediately named as a strong Match of
the Year candidate. Sting was also named as a possibility to be Luger’s replacement and
then speculation came out that James J. Dillon was about to name himself the fourth
On April 20th in Jacksonville, things were settled. Windham turned on Luger and the
Horsemen regained the tag title. The Price for Freedom was the name of the 1988 Great
American Bash on July 10, 1988 in Baltimore. Flair was going to defend his title against
Luger in the main event. Towards the end of the bout, Luger had Flair in the torture rack
backbreaker, his finisher. In a shocking turn of events, the ring bell rang and signified the
end of the bout. Luger thought he got a submission. Fans did too. The Maryland State
Athletic Commission took over the decision by stopping the match due to Luger’s
excessive bleeding. If there had been a few more seconds, many believed Luger would
have gotten a submission victory for the championship. Instead, Ric Flair remained the
titleholder and was not going to complain about the end of that match.
The Luger-Flair feud continued throughout the rest of the summer and into the winter.
And when it seemed like it would never end, promoters signed Flair to defend his crown
against Luger at the biggest card of the year. Starrcade 1988 was held in Norfolk,
Virginia on December 26th, one-day after Christmas. In that bout, Flair pinned Luger and
retained his belt.
In early 1989, Flair was guided by former stablemate, Hiro Matsuda. Ten years before,
he wrestled a man throughout the east coast for the U.S. Heavyweight Title and had some
of his greatest bouts of his young career. In 1989, Rick Steamboat returned to the NWA
to challenge Flair for the World Title. From day one, every match was anticipated from
Charlotte to San Francisco. On February 20th in Chicago, Flair lost the NWA World Title
to Steamboat during the Chi-Town Rumble in a classic match. Showing his angst, Flair
broke the right leg of preliminary wrestler, Greg Evans on March 7, 1989 in Atlanta with
his figure-four. He was rematched with Steamboat on April 2nd in New Orleans and the
two wrestled probably the best match they had ever put forth. The contest was a two-of-
three-falls match. Flair pinned Steamboat in nearly 20-minutes for the first fall and
Steamboat came back to win the second by submission. In the final and after more than
20 additional minutes, Steamboat pinned Flair to retain his belt. The match was one of
the best in television history.
The next pay-per-view was the Music City Showdown live from Nashville on May 7th.
Flair made a challenge to Steamboat for the belt and ended up winning his seventh NWA
World Title. Ringside for the event was a former champion, Terry Funk, who was doing
commentary for the match. During the celebration ceremony, Flair went from hated to
beloved in one instant. Funk attacked him and piledrove him through a wooden table.
The new champion suffered a cracked vertebrae in his neck and a partially ruptured disk
in his back. He would be out of action for 76 days.
The NWA Commission did not decide to strip Flair for failure to defend, instead granted
him an immediate revenge match against Funk upon his return at the Great American
Bash in Baltimore on July 23rd. Flair pinned Funk to retain. Again, though, the feud was
far from over. The Flair-J-Tex Corporation battle was going through the holidays into the
‘90’s. He teamed with Sting on September 12th in Columbia at the Clash. Their
opponents were Gary Hart’s Great Muta and Dick Slater. The bout ended when Funk
interfered. Flair and Sting were victorious. Flair was attacked by Funk and a bag was
placed on his head, causing the World Champion to suffocate. He was in danger. Brian
Pillman rushed to his aid, performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to revive the downed
grappler. Flair was rushed to the hospital and recovered from the attack.
Funk was immediately handed an indefinite suspension for his actions. Later, wanting
to get his hands on his enemy, Flair paid a $100,000 fine which allowed him back into an
NWA ring. The Flair-Funk war continued. He beat Funk on September 27th in Worcester
by pinfall. The next month at Halloween Havoc, promoters arranged a “Thunderdome”
electric cage match. In the bout was Flair and Sting against Muta and Funk. The fan
favorites won again and it seemed that the feud was totally one-sided at that point. Flair
finally met Funk in a match to end their prolonged feud on November 15, 1989 in Troy,
New York at the Clash. The stipulation was an “I Quit” match for the NWA Crown. The
match was a wild brawl, all over the RPI Fieldhouse and eventually ended with Funk in
Flair’s figure-four. Afterwards, the two shook hands. Gary Hart, in turn, attacked Terry
and the World Champ saved his past enemy. Muta and the Dragon Master jumped Flair
in the ring. Sting ran out and was met by a Lex Luger chair. Muta, Dragon Master and
Luger triple-teamed Flair in the ring, leaving him nearly unconscious.
At the same show, Ric was presented with the Wrestler of the Decade Award. He
received a trophy, but Luger busted it into pieces. An Iron Man Tournament was
scheduled for the main event of Starrcade ’89 in Atlanta. On December 13th, Flair, Sting,
Luger and Muta participated in a round-robin tournament to decide the “Iron Man” of the
organization. Flair pinned the NWA World TV Champion, Muta in his first match at the 1:
55 mark. Luger and Flair drew and in the World Champ’s final bout, he met Sting. After
15:54, Sting pinned Flair and won the competition.
Between 1981 and 1989, Ric Flair had won seven World Titles and people always
wondered who would win a match between him and the WWF’s leader, Hulk Hogan. In
science, Flair had the advantage. In brawling and exposure, Hogan was tops. The 1990s
were upon them and Flair was still the “Nature Boy” and was still the NWA World
Champion. New challengers were ahead. On January 2nd, 1990, the future of the
National Wrestling Alliance changed forever. At the television taping in Gainesville,
Georgia, Flair, Ole and Arn Anderson asked Sting to be the fourth member of the
Horsemen. Sting, realizing the history of the organization, accepted. It was said that Flair
and the Anderson’s had respect for the young man’s talents. He, after all, pinned Flair at
Starrcade and was the number-one contender to the NWA World Title. Other rumors
quickly spread that Flair only wanted Sting to be a member to deny him from title shots.
The Horsemen were back, no matter how you looked at the situation.
More than a month later, the Horsemen appeared at Clash X in Corpus Christi, Texas
on the 6th of February. At the beginning of the card, the Andersons and Flair met Sting
in the middle of the ring and told him that he was no longer a Horsemen. Simply put, if
Sting did not back out of the February 25th WrestleWar match with Flair, he would
seriously regret it. Flair slapped Sting and a confrontation ensued. Flair and the
Andersons were in the main event, a cage match against Gary Hart’s Dragon Master,
Buzz Sawyer and Great Muta. The Horsemen won. Sting ran out during the bout and
tried to enter the cage. During the madness, Sting injured his left patella. Flair and his
partners attacked the limb and ruptured it, not only causing Sting to be out of action and
miss his February 25th match, but remain out of action until July.
The Horsemen were running wild. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to know who would be
in line for the title shot in February. It was the former heel and United States Champ, Lex
Luger. WrestleWar was held at the Greensboro Coliseum on Flair’s birthday. During the
Flair-Luger bout, Sting departed the dressing room on crutches to help motivate Luger.
The Andersons ran out and attacked him for his appearance. Luger had Flair in the
torture rack when he saw Ole and Arn beating on Sting. He dropped the World Champion
and dropped out through the ropes to save Sting on the floor. At the 38:08 mark, Luger
was counted out by the referee. His title had been saved.
Flair gained the support of a talented manager, Woman, who had dumped her tag
team, Doom. On April 23rd in Marietta, the Horsemen attacked Sting once again, trying to
keep him out of wrestling forever. In May, Flair faced Luger once again during the main
event of Capital Combat in Washington DC. Trying to prevent a Horsemen interference,
NWA Promoters lowered a cage over Flair and Luger. Woman had accompanied Flair
and was searched prior to the lock-up. A weapon was found and she was later
suspended indefinitely. Despite the cage, the Horsemen found a way to interfere and
alter the finish. Barry Windham returned to the Horsemen and when Ole raised the cage,
he slipped underneath and caused Flair’s disqualification. The Horsemen pummeled the
out-manned Luger unmercifully. Once again, Flair had retained his belt in controversy.
Sid Vicious joined the group during the summer.
Promotions for Sting’s return began to highlight each NWA program. The date was set
for July 7, 1990 in Baltimore at the Great American Bash. Flair would meet Sting for the
first time since Starrcade, seven months before. Several stipulations were also offered by
officials to keep things stable. The “Dudes with Attitudes,” a group formed to conquer the
Horsemen, would be allowed to surround the ring and halt any outside interference. Ole
Anderson would be handcuffed to El Gigante, a seven-foot plus wrestler. In another great
match, both men exuded everything they had. Flair delivered some hard hitting chops
which broke the blood vessels in Sting’s chest and did everything he could to remain the
champ. The Horsemen even ran out to stop the action, but were turned away. In the
end, Sting pinned Flair with a three-count and won the NWA World Title.
Flair began to team with Arn Anderson on a constant basis, gunning for the World Tag
Title which was held by Butch Reed and Ron Simmons. A match between the four was
held on October 27th at Halloween Havoc. The bout was a wild double-countout. The
fans didn’t know who to root for and neither team was directly playing the favorite. During
the fall, a mysterious voice began haunting Sting from arena to arena. The words were
callous and boomed over Sting every chance the unknown got. The being became
known as the Black Scorpion and no one knew who it was. The Horsemen-Doom feud
The stipulations for the main event of Clash of the Champions XIII on November 20,
1990 in Jacksonville were the following: If either Flair or Anderson won, Teddy Long
would be forced to wear a chaffer’s outfit and be Flair’s driver. Also, The Horsemen would
receive another tag title match at Starrcade. If Doom won, Long would get Flair’s Rolls
Royce Limo and his yacht. And no title shot. Both teams met in the Florida ring and a
coin toss was the deciding factor in who would meet who in the singles contest. It turned
out to be Flair for the Horsemen and Reed for Doom. During the melee, referee Nick
Patrick was knocked out and Anderson hit Reed with a steel chair. Flair scored the pin
after Arn helped the ref back up. The Horsemen were in line for a title shot at Starrcade
in St. Louis.
Word came down through commentators that Flair was injured and would be unable to
team with Anderson against Doom on December 16, 1990. Barry Windham was going to
be a late substitute, but the duo were unable to wrest the belts. In the event’s main event,
the Black Scorpion wrestled Sting in a special cage match with Dick the Bruiser, one of
the toughest men in wrestling history, as the guest referee. Even during the bout, no one
was quite sure who the Scorpion was. The style was unfamiliar. Sting pinned his
challenger to retain the belt and after the match, the festivities continued. The Scorpion’s
mask was removed and it was Flair. He had cut his long blond hair to wear the cover.
After the match, the Horsemen ran in and a wild battle ensued.
On January 11, 1991, the NWA held a big show at the Meadowlands Arena in East
Rutherford, New Jersey. Lawrence Taylor was going to be there and a rematch between
Sting and Flair was signed. A bloody surprise came out of that city and many didn’t
expect a house show to have such drastic results. Flair beat Sting to regain the NWA
World Title for the eighth time, tying Race’s record.
The next month saw WrestleWar and War Games in Phoenix. The Horsemen and
Larry Zbyszko beat a team of babyfaces led by Sting when Sid Vicious landed two
powerbombs on Brian Pillman. Flair returned to the Orient for a combined WCW/ New
Japan Supershow or “Starrcade” on March 21st. Flair wrested the IWGP World
Heavyweight Champion, Tatsumi Fujinami in a title vs. title match at the Tokyo Dome. A
humongous crowd was in attendance to see the controversial match. Flair ended up
losing by pinfall and promoters within New Japan recognized Fujinami’s victory and the
title switch. He was the new NWA World Champion. Flair returned to the U.S. and WCW
continued to recognize him as the World Champion.
In one way of looking at it, Fujinami captured the NWA Title, but Flair remained holder
of the WCW Title. Two-halves of a championship, which was at this time, not viewed as
separate entities. Not yet at least. A Fujinami-Flair rematch was scheduled by WCW
Officials in America for a May pay-per-view in Florida. The event was labeled SuperBrawl
and was held on May 19th in St. Petersburg. Flair wrestled Fujinami through more than
18-minutes and pinned the IWGP Champion to regain the NWA Title. It was his 9th
victory. Flair had broken Harley Race’s record.
Longtime Midnight Express member and World TV Champion, Bobby Eaton challenged
Flair for the title on June 12th in Knoxville. The two battled in a two-of-three-falls contest,
which Flair won, but the match was highly respected by all who had witnessed it. Breaking
away from kayfabe, rumors were that Flair was being prepped to “lose” the title to Barry
Windham at the Great American Bash. Instead of going with the flow of the sketch, Flair
decided to leave the organization. Another report was that he broke off contractual
negotiations with the promotion on July 1st and decided to leave. Either way, Ric Flair
was out of WCW and was stripped of the World Title. He remained recognized by the
NWA Board of Directors as the World Champion.
In a side note to the possible politics to that situation, Windham did not win the WCW
World Title in July but Lex Luger did, so the reports of his scheduled “win” over Flair at
the Bash may not be true. The World Wrestling Federation opened their arms for Flair
and they did not have to wait for a contract to end. He appeared with the “Gold Belt” he
wore in WCW and claimed to be the Real World’s Champion. A suit was filed to keep Flair
and the WWF from allowing the former WCW’s World Belt from appearing on WWF
On September 9th in Ottawa, Flair brawled with a former foe in Roddy Piper and Vince
McMahon was a causality of the fight. The next day in Cornwall, Flair wrestled under the
WWF Banner for the first time. He competed against Jim Powers and beat him by
submission. Like the “Nature Boy” of the 1960s, Flair was going to alter history. He
began to feud with Piper and took Mr. Perfect as his technical adviser on November 11th
in Utica. Flair’s first WWF pay-per-view experience came on November 27th in Detroit.
With Ted DiBiase, Warlord and the Mountie, he wrestled against Piper, Virgil, Bret Hart
and Davey Boy Smith. Flair pinned Smith for the first elimination of the match and when it
was all said and done, he was the only one standing. After his match, Flair did not leave
the building. He had other things on his mind. Hulk Hogan was defending the WWF
World Title against the Undertaker in the main event. Flair came down and interfered in
that contest, causing Hogan to lose the belt. Fans were appalled.
The following Tuesday provided a second pay-per-view show and Hogan was able to
regain his title. Between all of the controversy, WWF President, Jack Tunney decided to
strip Hogan of his claim and put the title up for the winner of the 1992 Royal Rumble in
January. Flair was announced as one of the 30-competitors. On January 6th at the
Miami Arena, Flair wrestled Hogan and lost by countout. The two faced off throughout the
country and a countout for either wrestler seemed normal. The Flair-Hogan war had
been longed for by fans since 1984. The result occurred again in Daytona on a television
taping a day later.
Although the Flair-Hogan feud had been silently growing for years, the two never met on
pay-per-view while in the WWF together. The 1992 Royal Rumble was held in Albany,
New York on January 19th. Flair entered the ring at number 3, behind Ted DiBiase and
Davey Boy Smith. During the madness, he eliminated Smith, Kerry Von Erich, a former
enemy, and the Big Bossman. Astonishing those who didn’t know his career record, Flair
remained in the ring through an added 27 wrestlers. Hogan and Sid Justice, formerly Sid
Vicious, were also in the finals. Hogan was thrown out by Justice and then Flair flipped
out Sid. He had won the event and captured the vacant WWF World Title becoming only
the second man in history to have held both the WWF and NWA World Titles. The only
other was “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers.
Flair sided with Justice in a war against Hogan and Piper. On March 7th in Chicago,
the two teams battled. Hogan pinned Flair to win the match. On March 23rd in New York
City at Madison Square Garden, it was the same match and same result. Many expected
Flair vs. Hogan to be announced for WrestleMania in Indianapolis, but it wasn’t. Instead,
Flair wrestled Randy Savage and lost on April 5th before a huge crowd at the Hoosier
Dome. Savage pinned Flair in 18:05 to capture the WWF Title. He made a jump for
Elizabeth after the match but brawled with Savage until officials cleared the area. In the
months prior to WrestleMania and even after, Flair claimed to have pictures of him and
Elizabeth together. The alleged comments added to their feud intensely.
In Kalamazoo, Michigan on April 8th, Flair was again pinned by Savage. After the bout,
Flair and Mr. Perfect were involved in a shoving match. The two quickly made up.
Genichiro Tenryu defeated Flair on April 18, 1992 in Tokyo at the Gym in two-of-three-
falls. Trouble was brewing. On June 29th in Glens Falls, New York during a television
taping, Flair and Perfect walked out during a Gene Okerlund interview with Randy Savage
and the Ultimate Warrior. Flair claimed he could be both in the same night. The two then
attacked Savage. The Warrior almost did not help Savage, but in the end, he did. Flair
and Perfect assisted the Savage-Warrior feud along.
On a house show in Hershey, Pennsylvania at the Arena on September 1st, Flair
defeated Savage to win his second WWF Title. His second reign was shorter than the
first. Former Intercontinental Champion, Bret Hart forced him to submit to his
sharpshooter leglock on October 12th in Saskatoon and won the World Belt. Flair soon
broke up with Perfect and their feud began. He entered the 1993 Royal Rumble at
number one and was eliminated by Perfect after the latter came in at position 10. The 1-
30 win wasn’t going to happen. He lost a loser-leaves-WWF match to Perfect during the
January 25, 1993 Monday Night Raw. Flair’s WWF days were numbered. He did finish a
few select dates for the promotion through early February, but quickly vanished.
In the months of March-June, Flair returned to World Championship Wrestling, did
color-commentary, hosted his own segment on WCW TV, “Flair for the Gold,” and
reunited the Four Horsemen. This version included Arn and Ole Anderson with part-time
boxer, Paul Roma. He made his return to wrestling on June 17, 1993 in Norfolk, Virginia
at the Clash of the Champions. After three years without the distinction of being the
“NWA Champion,” Flair pinned Barry Windham to once again reign as title-holder on July
18, 1993 at WCW’s Beach Blast in Biloxi, Mississippi. It was his tenth victory. In early
September, WCW and the NWA parted ways for good and Flair was stripped of NWA
recognition. WCW had to continue recognizing him as some kind of champion and finally
settled on “WCW International World Title.”
Flair was attacked by Rick Rude with the gold after an interview during “Flair with the
Gold” with Ric’s personal maid, Fifi. The attack led to a World Title match between Flair
and Rude at Fall Brawl on September 19th in Houston. Rude went to the ring with a
picture of Fifi on his tights as she looked on from Flair’s corner of the ring. Using a pair of
brass knuckles while in the figure-four leglock, Rude was able to pin Flair and captured
the World Title. Less than a week later, Flair pinned Rude at Fort Bragg, North Carolina
in a non-title match. He traveled overseas with WCW in October. He beat WCW World
TV Champion, Steven Regal on October 26, 1993 in Cardiff, Wales. Flair exchanged
victories with Rick Rude in Blackburn and in Birmingham, England. He teamed with Rick
Steamboat on the 30th in London, England to defeat former WCW Tag Champions, Steve
Austin and Brian Pillman. The four wrestled a tough, but memorable match.
A feud between Flair and Vader, who was managed by Harley Race, grew as the latter
seemed to have control of his war with Sting. The two wrestled on November 10, 1993 at
the Clash of the Champions XXV in St. Petersburg. Flair won by disqualification there in a
title match even though he appeared to have won the crown by pinfall. The referee
declared the disqualification for a Vader clothesline which had accidentally hit him. At
BattleBowl on the 20th in Pensacola, Vader and Race attacked Flair during the battle
royal portion of the event. Ric was escorted from the ring in a stretcher. The Starrcade
main event between Vader and Sid Vicious for the World Title was voided because of
Vicious’ out-of-the-ring brawl in Blackburn with Arn Anderson. Flair was announced as his
replacement in mid-November, agreeing to put his career on the line for the December
27th bout in Charlotte.
One of Flair’s longest rivals, Harley Race, picked up two of his protégé’s bouts in
Florida on November 26th in Davie and 27th in Orlando. Flair won both matches.
Starrcade took place at the Independence Arena. That night, Flair took the WCW World
Crown. He beat Vader in a Thundercage return match on February 20, 1994. Rick
Steamboat challenged Flair for the belt and the fans were cheering both men. At the
Spring Stampede PPV on April 17, 1994, Flair and Steamboat wrestled to an inconclusive,
double-pin in Chicago. Steamboat immediately claimed he was the new champion, but
Flair remained the rightful owner.
On Saturday the 30th, Flair gave up the title belt to the Commissioner, Nick Bockwinkel,
and the title was held-up. A rematch was scheduled for May 14th in Atlanta on Saturday
Night. Flair defeated Steamboat to regain the title. The two matches were actually held in
successive nights in April, 23rd and 24th, but stretched out over a month’s time on TBS.
Going into June, the hype surrounding Hulk Hogan’s arrival was growing. The jump for
Hogan into World Championship Wrestling from inactivity was going to be made. Fans
knew what was going to happen. The Flair-Hogan match-up that was had been seen
earlier in the WWF, was going to be repeated. This time, the WCW World Title was in the
balance. Flair wrestled Sting on June 23rd in Charleston at the Clash. The contest was a
special WCW World vs. WCW International World Title Unification Match. Flair won the
match and the highly anticipated with Hogan was scheduled.
The Bash at the Beach show was held on July 17th in Orlando, Florida. At the Arena,
Flair wrestled Hogan and lost by pinfall, dropping the World Title. A new era for WCW
began. Hogan was attacked by a mysterious person on August 24, 1994 in Cedar Rapids
and the WCW Commissioner, Nick Bockwinkel was about to hand the World Title back to
Flair. Bockwinkel scheduled a match between Flair and Hogan for later in the night and if
the latter was unable to present himself, he would be stripped of the belt and it would be
awarded to Flair by forfeit. Later in the night, Hogan returned from the hospital and
wrestled on a bad wheel. And Flair capitalized. The “Nature Boy” won the bout by
countout. The special ring announcer, Michael Buffer announced that Flair was the new
champion after the match and Ric conveniently left with the World Belt. A masked man,
the same man who had earlier hit Hogan’s left knee with a pipe, again ran out and
attacked Hogan. Sherri Martel, who had joined Flair in WCW, helped him and the masked
man before escaping. Sting made the save. Hogan was then escorted back to the
hospital for his second examination.
On October 23rd in Detroit at the Joe Louis Arena, Flair wrestled Hogan in a retirement
match. Flair was pinned, which was counted by Mr. T, and was forced into inactivity.
1995 began slow, but he remained to be as active as he could. At the February PPV,
Flair interfered in Hogan’s match with Vader, earning the latter’s disqualification. On
March 17th during WCW Saturday Night, Flair joined Vader to the ring for a match against
prelim foe Tracy Benton. Vader pinned his foe easily. David Sullivan, who was mingling
around the ring for the bout, was attacked by Flair and thrown into the ring. Vader
attacked Sullivan harshly, nailing a powerbomb and then a moonsault from the top rope.
A big splash followed. Flair joined the attack with a barrage of punches. Things were out
of control. Commentator Bobby Heenan and Commissioner Nick Bockwinkel ran to the
ring to attempt and halt the attack. Sullivan was carried out on a stretcher and was
Vader was later stripped of the U.S. Title. Because Flair was already retired, he
suffered no serious penalties. Vader and Flair became close allies. He accompanied the
mammoth wrestler at Uncensored in Tupelo on March 19th to his match with Hogan. The
WCW Champion was supported by the normal outcry of fans and relative newcomer,
Renagade. The match was full of antics and Hogan ended up with the victory. A host of
people were involved from Arn Anderson to Randy Savage. During this same time, word
was being spoken about Flair’s possible reinstatement. WCW’s International Board of
Directors met on television with a vote in early April. The results were positive and Flair
returned on an April 12th taping. He teamed with Anderson to beat Tim Horner and Brad
Armstrong. Afterwards, Hogan and his mates ran out. Flair continued to support Vader in
the ongoing war.
Later in April, Flair added to his legacy despite a loss to Antonio Inoki in their first ever
mat battle. The two legends met on April 29th in Pyongyang, North Korea before 170,000
fans, the largest crowd ever to witness a live wrestling event. Inoki got the pin, but the two
served up the main event and the record draw was recorded. Flair was defeated by
Savage on July 16th in Huntington Beach, California. In one of the shockers of the ‘90’s
and after years of partnership, Anderson turned on Flair and the two feuded for several
months. As they had at the first Clash of the Champions in 1988, Flair wrestled Sting on
the first episode of Monday Nitro on TNT. The date was September 4, 1995 and the show
was held at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. Sting won the bout by
disqualification. Lex Luger made his return to WCW and appeared during the Flair-Sting
match. Flair wrestled Anderson at Fall Brawl on September 17, 1995. Anderson beat
Flair by pinfall after Brian Pillman interfered.
The next month at Havoc, he teamed with Sting against Anderson and Pillman. Flair
turned on his partner and the Horsemen were reunited. He wrestled Sting on November
26th and lost by submission. NBA Basketball Star, Charles Barkley appeared with Flair
during an interview segment with Gene Okerlund on December 4th. Flair backed Pillman
after the latter berated Paul Orndorff during a December 11th interview in Charlotte, the
home of the Horsemen. Orndorff was beaten down by Flair, Pillman and Anderson until
he was carried away on a stretcher. The “new” Horsemen made another example.
Later in the night, Flair and Anderson lost a tag match to Sting and Hogan. Anderson
was pinned by the latter. Pillman ran to the ring and attacked Sting, then beat Hogan,
taking turns. The group left the ring with their dignity intact while the drama continued.
Flair faced a young blood in Eddy Guerrero on December 18th. He won by pin while
entertaining his opponent in the figure-four leglock. After the match, Flair and Anderson
met Jimmy Hart and Kevin Sullivan, leaders of the Dungeon of Doom. Hart and Sullivan
spoke about Pillman’s recent negative comments about their faction. The Horsemen
backed their teammate and a feud was brewing. It seemed that Pillman’s words were
getting them into all kinds of trouble, but the Horsemen backed their man.
Flair wrestled Savage for the WCW World Title in a taped broadcast on Nitro on
Christmas Evening ’95. Lex Luger interfered in the finish, causing Flair’s disqualification.
Two days later, Flair was in Nashville for the rematch at Starrcade. He went in as the
challenger and left the building as the champion, reminiscent of many Starrcades before.
Savage was pinned and he had won his fourth WCW Title.
On January 1st, Flair rang in the New Year with a defense against the organization’s
top face, Hogan. The Horsemen, Giant and Savage all were involved in the finish and
Flair retained his belt. Hogan and Savage challenged Flair and Anderson to a tag match
for the following Monday Night. The Horsemen lost that contest when Hogan pinned
Anderson. Flair retained his belt in a defense against Sting on January 15, 1996. He was
accompanied by Jimmy Hart and his megaphone. Both the manager and his weapon got
involved in the finish along with Luger. Flair wrestled Savage in a rematch match for the
title in Las Vegas on January 22nd at Caesar’s Palace. He lost the belt after a mistaken
punch by Anderson and on illegal object. Woman, a former Horsemen member, was one
of a group of women to accompany Savage to the ring. No one knew why.
The next night, Flair and the Giant won over Hogan and Savage at the Clash. Flair
pinned Hogan in a singles match on January 29th on Nitro after nailing his opponent with
one of Elizabeth’s shoes. Elizabeth and Woman had both accompanied Hogan to the
ring. Hart was again at ringside to help Flair. The Horsemen regained the services of
Woman on February 5th on Nitro when she attacked Savage during a match between
Savage and Chris Benoit. Benoit, by this time had become the Fourth Horsemen. Flair
and Anderson began to beat on Savage before Hogan ran out to make the save. Flair
continued to harass the stars through an interview segment, busting Hogan open. He
won a match with Marcus Alexander Bagwell by submission later in the evening. Flair held
his figure-four on Bagwell after the bell and Savage ran out to end the drama.
Woman accompanied Flair to the ring before his match with the World Champion at
SuperBrawl VI on February 11, 1996 in St. Petersburg. Savage had Elizabeth in his
corner. Flair defeated Savage in a cage match to regain the WCW World Title when
Elizabeth turned on Savage. That night also saw Brian Pillman walk out of his match
against Kevin Sullivan. Anderson went to the ring to meet Sullivan, but Flair went out to
stop the impromptu affair. Pillman soon left the organization. The next night during Nitro,
Flair, Elizabeth and Woman spoke about the previous night’s event and bashed Savage.
He later helped Anderson get a pinfall victory over Hulk Hogan. Flair wrestled Savage on
February 19th and won by pinfall. Seven of the organization’s most hated individuals
teamed in a loss to Hogan and Savage at Uncensored. Both Flair and Anderson were
apart of the wild melee.
On April 1st, Flair used some help from Woman and some swift cheating to beat Lex
Luger. He teamed with the Giant on April 15th against the WCW World Tag Team
Champions, Luger and Sting. At one point, Flair and the Giant got into it and the World
Champ chopped his partner. Their team was not going well. The match ended in a no
contest and a lot of different conversations were asking different questions. WCW
Promoters signed a match between the mammoth athlete and Flair for April 22nd at the
Civic Center in Albany, Georgia. In the span of a week, the two had gone from partners
to semi-partners, and finally to wrestlers competing for the World Championship. The
World Title Match was taped on the 22nd for an April 29th broadcast on TNT. So, they
didn’t have to wait long before they stood across from each other in the ring. The match
did not go long. The Giant hit a chokeslam on Flair and got the pin, capturing the WCW
During the Lethal Lottery, Flair was forced to team with Savage in Baton Rouge on May
19th. Their opponents were Anderson and Eddy Guerrero. His team managed to get a
victory. In the second round, Flair and Savage lost by forfeit to the Public Enemy. He
had words with Steve McMichael. Flair told McMichael to get any partner he wanted for a
tag match at the Great American Bash. McMichael brought out Kevin Greene, another
NFL Star. The next night, Flair beat Eddy Guerrero. He sat in on commentary for the rest
of the show. Flair’s comments were as memorable as ever.
Anderson joined him on June 16th at the Bash against McMichael and Greene.
Stunning many, McMichael turned on his partner and became the newest member of the
Horsemen. Flair had the accompaniment of Debra McMichael, Elizabeth and Woman for
his match against Savage on June 17th. The Horsemen played a part, but Anderson and
Benoit were turned back. Finally, McMichael appeared with a briefcase of Savage’s
money. The illegal object put Savage to the mat. The Horsemen rode away victors. Flair
was penciled in for a United States Title shot against Konnan in Daytona Beach on July
7th. The Bash at the Beach showdown ended with some help from Woman and her
famous shoe. Konnan was laid out and Flair won his first WCW Untied States
The Bash also saw the formation of the New World Order, which had seen Hulk Hogan
make the transition from fan favorite to heel. Also with the group were the Outsiders,
Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. On July 29th, Arn Anderson was attacked by the Outsiders
backstage of Nitro. The attack forced the Horsemen into the war with the NWO. Flair
retained his U.S. Title over Eddy Guerrero at Hog Wild on August 10th. Two days later,
Flair battled Savage and won by pinfall with the aid of World Champion, Hulk Hogan, a
chair, the ropes and Woman. He battled Hogan on August 15th and won by
disqualification at the Clash. Flair teamed with Anderson on Nitro against the Rock and
Roll Express on August 26th. The Horsemen-Express war had been going since the mid-
1980s. Flair pinned Robert Gibson after an Anderson DDT. For the NWO to bring the
Horsemen into the war with WCW might not have been a good idea, but the rebel group
was not concerned even after Fall Brawl.
Flair teamed with Anderson, Sting and Luger in a War Games contest with Hogan,
Nash, Hall and what seemed to be…Sting. Flair entered the ring at number six and the
war was as violent as could have been expected. The final Sting entered the match only
to attack all members of the NWO and then get on the house microphone. He left the
bout, leaving the match at four-on-three. Luger was forced to submit and the match was
over. The NWO were victorious in a major battle. Flair suffered a torn rotator cuff and
surgery was a necessity. Officials were forced to strip him of the U.S. Title and the
Horsemen were crumbling. On November 18th, Flair went to the ring with a wrapped
shoulder after Jeff Jarrett’s match with Bobby Eaton. Gene Okerlund got in-between the
two for comments. Flair made an announcement that Jarrett was the newest member of
the Horsemen along with Benoit, McMichael and Anderson, whose career was also
nearing an end due to injuries.
Between the holidays of 1996 and early 1997, there were many disagreements from
within the group and Jarrett was in the middle of most. On a side note, Jarrett was also
using the figure-four leglock in the ring successfully against his opponents. In ’97, an old
enemy began helping the Horsemen in their war with the NWO. When Flair returned at
Slamboree, Roddy Piper was at his side. The two teamed with Kevin Greene on May 18th
to beat the Outsiders and Syxx. Flair scored the winning pin on Scott Hall. On June 15th
in Moline, Flair and Piper teamed again against Nash and Hall, who were still reigning as
the WCW World Tag Team Champions. They were unsuccessful in their title bid. Flair
and Piper broke up and their long feud restarted. On July 13th at the Bash at the Beach,
they wrestled each other and Piper won with a sleeperhold. Prior to the event, Flair
kicked Jarrett out of the Horsemen. Debra McMichael followed Jarrett as did the U.S.
Title, after she assisted in his Bash victory over McMichael for the strap. Many people
were predicting the end of the Horsemen.
On July 14th on Monday Nitro, the day following the Bash in Daytona, Flair and
company proved that wrong. He wrestled Jarrett for the U.S. Title and while in control of
the action and had his opponent in the figure-four leglock, Benoit and McMichael ran into
the ring and attacked the champ. A disqualification loss for Flair, but in the end, they
were victorious. The Horsemen were rebuilding. After months of questions, they were
ready to tear down the house. Flair won over Syxx, a member of the NWO, at Road Wild.
Also in August, Arn Anderson asked Curt Hennig to join the Horsemen with his own
retirement and become the enforcer of the group. Hennig accepted and the group was
once again, seemingly complete. Flair had history with Hennig while in the WWF and the
two worked together for some time before breaking up and feuding. Hennig, who
competed as Mr. Perfect, was responsible for putting the “Nature Boy” out of the
organization. Flair teamed with Hennig in Milwaukee on September 8th to beat Marcus
Bagwell and Konnan.
The Horsemen were scheduled to compete in War Games against the NWO on
September 14th at Fall Brawl. Flair, Hennig, Benoit and McMichael were booked to face
Nash, Bagwell, Konnan and Syxx. Prior to the bout, word came down that Hennig had
been attacked and that he would be unable to compete due to an arm injury. The
Horsemen fought the match anyway. Flair and his teammates were stunned with Hennig
went to the ring and helped the NWO gain the victory. The former AWA Champion also
slammed the cage door onto Flair’s head. Hennig was a traitor and once again, the
Horsemen appeared to be at it’s weakest point. Flair matched up with his former ally on
November 23rd in Auburn Hills. The no-disqualification match ended with a Flair loss. He
made another public challenge to Hennig on December 15th during Nitro in Charlotte.
It was also on that card that he and Arn Anderson made a donation of $15,000 to the
local Charlotte Police Department. In late 1997, Bret Hart signed with WCW and it
seemed that the organization was stocking the best wrestling talent in the world. Flair
wrestled Hart in a classic match on January 24, 1998 in Dayton, Ohio. Hart beat him. In a
match reminiscent of the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s, Flair wrestled Lex Luger in the main
event of WCW Thunder on February 12th in Oklahoma City. The ending served as a
reminder of those contests as well, Luger won by disqualification.
Flair beat Scott Norton in Baltimore on March 25th at the Baltimore Arena. In mid-April
1998, rumors of the Horsemen getting back together were spread. On May 3rd in
Marietta, Flair’s name was mentioned numerous times at the Cobb County Civic Center
during ECW’s Wrestlepalooza pay-per-view. Shane Douglas reminded the world once
again that he wanted a match with Flair. A WCW crowd in Uniondale on June 15th
chanted for Flair to appear, but it didn’t happen. Chris Benoit and Steve McMichael
united in the ring and held up the famous four fingers. Again on June 24th in Orlando,
more of the same. Each week, fans called for his return but due to political issues
backstage, Flair was not scheduled to ever return. Rumors circulated on the internet and
it seemed like the fad to open a new message on the newsgroups with “Flair at Nitro
Tonight!!!” There were Ric Flair sightings all over the country. James J. Dillon, Benoit
and McMichael asked Arn Anderson on August 31st in Miami to reform the Horsemen and
almost quilted him into it.
After months of talking, one of the biggest moments in World Championship Wrestling
History came on the night of Monday, September 14, 1998 in Greenville, South Carolina.
In front of a Horsemen Crowd, Dillon went to the ring and called Anderson. The crowd
chanted for the “Nature Boy.” Anderson asked McMichael, Benoit and Dean Malenko to
walk out and join him and they did. And in the highly anticipated finale, Anderson called
to his longtime friend, former NWA, WWF and WCW World Champion, Ric Flair.
Flair responded to his music and entered to one of the largest “pops” in recent history,
maybe the largest in WCW history. With tears in his eyes, he walked to the ring and met
his cohorts happily. Flair recovered and then spoke to the crowd with emotion. He had
words for Anderson and eventually Eric Bischoff, who had come down the aisle and was
met with more of the same. Finally, WCW cut to a commercial. Many fans were stunned,
wondering if what they had just seen was a work or shoot. Either way, it was a work of art
and for the fans of Flair, it was a moment they were waiting for.
That Thursday, Anderson lost a arm-wrestling contest to Buff Bagwell and Bischoff
claimed that Flair would never wrestle again because of it. Flair appeared a week later on
September 21st in Boston to confront Bischoff and Elizabeth in the ring. Behind him were
the Horsemen. The two exchanged words. Flair explained that the reason why he was
out was because he wanted to be with his ten year old son as he wrestled in a national
competition. More of Flair’s style returned. He spoke of the following week’s show at
Norfolk. The set-up for a grudge match between Flair and Bischoff continued up until
Starrcade 1998 on December 27th in Washington DC. The two finally met in the ring
surrounded by ropes. The promoter pinned Flair after Hennig interjected his two-cents
before more than 15,000 fans. An upset to say the least.
Flair gained the WCW Presidency on January 4, 1999 with a defeat of Bischoff on
Nitro. Flair’s career was also on the line. He teamed with his son David on January 17th
in Charleston against Hennig and former Horsemen mate, Barry Windham at Souled Out.
David pinned Hennig for the win. The next night on Nitro, David beat Bischoff in a singles,
hair vs. hair match. Ric helped shave the man’s head. Flair received a shot at Hollywood
Hogan’s World Title on February 21st. The SuperBrawl match-up took place in Oakland,
California, before a large crowd. Ric lost by pinfall but his days were not over there. At
the next pay-per-view in March, Flair defeated Hogan for his sixth WCW World Title. His
sixteenth overall between the Alliance and WCW.
He had some help from Charles Robinson and Arn Anderson. Flair traveled to
Tacoma, Washington to defend his World Title against three others in a four-way, Texas
Tornado Match on April 11th. The challengers were Sting, Hollywood Hogan and Dallas
Page. The match also had a special referee, someone Flair had a long history with,
Randy Savage. Hogan suffered a knee injury and was forced to leave the ring, but the
match continued with three-wrestlers. Flair locked in a figure-four on Sting. After the
latter grabbed the ropes and instead of breaking the hold, Savage kicked Sting free and
pulled Flair into the middle of the ring. Savage went to the top rope and delivered his
elbowdrop. Minutes later, Page hit Flair with a diamond cutter and won the bout.
Flair made an appearance along with Rick Steamboat in Cincinnati for the 2nd Annual
Brian Pillman Memorial Show on May 19th. Ric named Roddy Piper his Vice President on
June 14th. He decided in July to invoke more of his presidential powers. On the 5th in
Atlanta, Flair awarded the vacant WCW United States Title to his son, David, stating that
he was the number one contender. The Flairs became the first father-son duo to have
held the WCW U.S. Title. The Valentines had both held the NWA U.S. Title. Flair lost his
WCW Presidency on July 19th to Sting. Remained on the sidelines through Fall Brawl.
He returned for a match against Page on October 24th at Halloween Havoc in Vegas.
Page pinned Flair. He did not compete at Starrcade.
In February 2000, it was 1989 revisited when he feuded with Terry Funk. On the 20th
in San Francisco, Flair wrestled and beat Funk at the Cow Palace. He lost to Hogan at
Uncensored. On April 10, 2000, WCW changed forever. Eric Bischoff teamed with Vince
Russo and declared every belt in WCW vacant. The New Blood was taking over. Flair
was apart of a new group known as the “Millionaires Club” along with Lex Luger, Sid
Vicious, Kevin Nash, Hulk Hogan, Sting and Dallas Page. It was said that the old timers
were not making way for the younger stars of today. That night in Denver, Flair went to
the ring for an interview and called out Vince Russo. Scott Steiner walked out instead
with some false teeth. While Flair was engaged with Steiner, he was attacked from behind
by Shane Douglas, a man who had been berated and badgered Flair from a far since
1993 or 1994.
Douglas knocked Flair out and announcers said that he was not currently employed by
WCW. After the attack, Flair announced that he wanted a match against Douglas later in
the show. He went to the ring in street clothes, ready to fight Douglas, who also went to
the ring in civilian attire. The highly anticipated Flair-Douglas match wasn’t a match at all,
but a brawl. Russo appeared from the back area with a baseball bat. He helped the
“Franchise” by taking the weapon to Flair, giving him the disqualification win. Douglas
took the bat and then smashed Flair. Douglas proceeded to choke him with the baseball
stick. Russo took Flair’s Rolex Watch off his wrist and walked away with it as the former
World Champion laid unmoving.
Six days later, the belts were up for grabs at Spring Stampede in Chicago. Flair
teamed with Luger in the small tournament for the tag straps. They beat the Harris Boys
and the Mamalukes earlier in the show before meeting Buff Bagwell and Douglas in the
finals. Whatever hatred had culminated between Douglas and Flair in seven years, was
in that United Center ring and seemed to push the “New Blood” over the top. Bagwell and
Douglas captured the belts. The Flair-Douglas feud was not yet over. On May 7th, they
were matched in a singles bout in Kansas City. Douglas pinned Flair. Vince Russo wore
Flair’s gold watch on a chain around his neck as a prize.
During the May 15, 2000 edition of Monday Nitro from Biloxi, the site of his tenth NWA
World Title win, Flair walked to the ring in civilian attire for his WCW World Title Match
against Jeff Jarrett. Immediately after scoring the winning pinfall, Flair was attacked by
Jarrett, Russo, David Flair and Dafney. Kevin Nash went to the ring to make the save and
powerbombed Jarrett through a weakened portion of the ring. Nash held the belt out for
Flair to take rather than attacking him. He had captured his seventh WCW Title,
seventeenth overall. During the May 22nd edition of Nitro, Russo stripped Flair of the
World Title and awarded it back to Jarrett. Nash later beat him for the belt. On May 29th,
Nash gave the WCW Title back to Flair, stating that he never lost it. Later that night in
Salt Lake City, Jarrett beat Flair for the championship. David Flair and Russo both played
a part in the finish.
The Flair-Russo war continued. On Nitro, a video tape of Russo, David Flair and
Dafney at Ric’s house in North Carolina was shown. As the trio went through the rooms
and made references to the “Champ,” Flair’s wife and two of his other children arrived
home. The war had become extremely personal. All the way to “Space Mountain” and
back to the set of Nitro. Flair wrestled Vince Russo in the main event of WCW’s June 5th
edition of Monday Nitro on TNT. The match was set in a steel cage and exceeded many
expectations. The sting of the hard chops onto Russo’s chest were clearly visible to a
David Flair emerged from under the ring during the contest to make it a two-on-one
battle, but Ric was able to fight the men off. At one point, Russo and Flair climbed to the
top of the cage to continue the war. Flair pulled out the tricks and finally got his hated foe
in the figure-four leglock. For what seemed to be minutes, Flair held Russo in the famed
maneuver and the referee continued to ask for a submission. But there was none.
Where hundreds and hundreds of wrestlers had given up to the historic submission move,
Russo did not. In the end, a reddish substance fell from the skies above. The liquid
covered the participants. Russo ended up getting a pinfall victory. A cheapened loss,
but a loss nevertheless.
Promotions for the Great American Bash in Baltimore began. Flair’s involvement in the
pay-per-view was one of the card’s highlights. A retirement match against his son, David.
From the December 1993 retirement match victory over Vader to his late 1994 retirement
loss to Hulk Hogan, Flair had been in predicaments with such stipulations before. His
Bash match was nothing new. Flair beat his son to remain active. The following night in
Richmond, Flair and Russo verbally challenged each other for another match in the ring
together. If Flair lost, he would retire. If Russo lost, he’d lose his hair and control of the
booking. Flair would become the new booker. The match became first a singles match,
then a handicap match and lastly a tag bout. Ric and his son Reid vs. David Flair and
Russo. Ric ended up losing the match when the towel was thrown into the ring by one of
Ric’s daughters. David and Russo proceeded to shave Ric’s head with a pair of horse
clippers, then Reid followed. The victors left the ring area much to the she grin of the
crowd, who were throwing items at them all the way. R&B Security held the family back.
Ric would be forced to retire. He was also bald. This all set up a vacation for Flair, which
during he would face shoulder surgery and be out for an undetermined amount of time.
After several months of constant WCW changes, Flair returned to join his son David for
his wedding ceremony on September 11, 2000 at the Independence Arena in Charlotte
during Nitro. Vince Russo had Charlotte Police Officials pull Flair from the ring and
arrested him before the event could even begin. Flair had violated a restraining order
preventing him from coming within 100-feet of the arena. Arn Anderson later said he
would take care of things and the wedding never happened.
On October 30, 2000, Flair became the CEO of World Championship Wrestling.
Change was in order and he was prepared to lay down the law. The matches for WCW
Mayhem were announced on November 6th in Chicago. Flair announced the main event.
Booker T vs. Scott Steiner for the World Title in a straight-jacket, cage match. He
threatened Steiner by stating that if he laid his hands on another non-wrestler, he would
be fired. Steiner went to the ring and grabbed Flair. He had some words to say. Booker
ran out to stop the assault. Steiner beat Booker for his first World Title at Mayhem. For
the main event at Starrcade, Flair scheduled Sid Vicious to challenge Steiner for the belt.
Vicious had never lost the title in April when it was taken away, and was a logical choice
for most. Steiner was able to get by Vicious at the show.
Flair announced on December 18th in Richmond that he had scheduled a four-way
elimination tournament to decide one of the two challengers for Steiner’s World Title at
the January PPV, Sin. Among those in the series of matches were Mike Awesome, Jeff
Jarrett, Lance Storm and Rey Misterio Jr. Storm and Jarrett survived and Jarrett won in
the finals. The third of the three participants at the Sin show was going to be an unknown
“mystery” opponent for Steiner and Jarrett. Flair also had words for Mike Sanders and
the Natural Born Thrillers, giving the Mid-Atlantic fans something to cheer about while
they all went down memory lane. At the end of the show, the mystery man, in a straight-
jacket, protected Flair from an attack by Steiner backstage. Internet Web sites predicted
that the unknown third party was none other than Scott’s brother, Rick Steiner.
During Sin, Road Warrior Animal was revealed as the surprise and Steiner retained the
World Championship. The Magnificent Seven was born with Flair at the helm. The group
soon got into a feud with Dusty and Dustin Rhodes. On March 18th in Jacksonville, he
teamed with Jeff Jarrett against the Rhodes’. Flair and Jarrett were defeated.
WCW was sold to the WWF in the days that followed and the March 26th edition of
Nitro was announced as the final on TNT. Flair was in Panama City that night and much
to the delight of the crowd, his music reigned out over the resort early on in the show. He
spoke to the audience about the sale of WCW and current events. Before it was over, he
mentioned former NWA Champions and issued a challenge to Sting. The match was set,
just as they had wrestled on the very first episode of Nitro in September 1995 or the very
first Clash in 1988. Flair and Sting locked up as fans were reminded of some of WCW’s
greatest matches. A Scorpion Deathlock by Sting ended the bout, but both men
An era of WCW had ended but a new era was beginning. Whether Flair was going to
be apart of the new WCW was unknown. He made several appearances on radio talk
shows. Flair spoke about the possibilities of starting his own Mid-Atlantic Promotion.
During one of his appearances, Flair had a memorable interview segment with Roddy
Piper, a longtime friend and foe.
As with anything in wrestling these days, many people began to speak and write about
possible Flair sightings. The words were all put to rest on November 19, 2001, the night
after the Survivor Series, in Charlotte, North Carolina. The first major event of the
evening was the return of Jerry Lawler. The second was the return of the “Nature Boy”
Ric Flair. It all began late in the two-hour program. Vince McMahon and Kurt Angle stood
in the ring with the WWF World Title Belt. McMahon was about to strip Steve Austin of the
World Title when one of the most recognizable songs in wrestling history played over the
Ric Flair walked out to a huge ovation, reminicent of September 1998. He got into the
ring and announced that he had purchased both Shane and Stephanie McMahon’s WWF
shares when they sold them to buy both WCW and ECW. McMahon and Flair both owned
50% of the WWF.
Steve Austin ran out and attacked both McMahon and Angle. A staredown between
Flair and Austin ensued, but rather than end in violence, it ended in celebration. Beers
were thrown into the ring and the party began. The WWF entered a new chapter of
sports entertainment and finally the “Nature Boy” was in the thick of things.
On December 3, 2001 in Milwaukee, Flair interrupted a in-ring promo by Chris Jericho,
who had been calling himself a future “Living Legend.” The two had words in the ring
before Flair scheduled “Y2J” to wrestle Steve Austin later in the evening. Ric also
interrupted a Kurt Angle and Vince McMahon segment with the Rock. McMahon had
booked the Rock and Trish Stratus into a match with himself and Angle for the main event
of Raw. If the Rock’s team lost their match, he would have to kiss McMahon’s butt during
Smackdown. Flair walked out and changed things a little bit. If McMahon’s team lost, he
would have to kiss the Rock’s butt in Chicago. Flair finished with a famous Rock
catchphrase, “if you smell what the Nature Boy is cooking.” The Rock gave a “Whooo” for
In January 2002, Flair returned to the ring to wrestle Vince McMahon at the Royal
Ric Flair’s remarkable achievements will forever remain unmatched.
-Co-holder of the NWA Atlantic Coast Tag Team Title (1974-’75) w/ Rip Hawk
-A two-time NWA Mid-Atlantic Television Champion
-Defeated Paul Jones (1975)
-Defeated Rufus R. Jones (1977)
-A three-time NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion
-Defeated Wahoo McDaniel (1975)
-Defeated Wahoo McDaniel (1976)
-Defeated Wahoo McDaniel (1976)
-A two-time co-holder of the NWA Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Title
w/ Greg Valentine (1977) defeated Dino Bravo and Tiger Conway Jr.
w/ John Studd (1978) defeated Paul Jones and Rick Steamboat
-A two-time co-holder of the NWA World Tag Team Title
w/ Greg Valentine (1977) defeated The Minnesota Wrecking Crew
w/ Blackjack Mulligan (1979) defeated Paul Jones and Baron Von Raschke
-A five-time NWA United States Heavyweight Champion
-Defeated Bobo Brazil (1977)
-Defeated Tim Woods (1978)
-Defeated Rick Steamboat (1979)
-Defeated Jimmy Snuka (1980)
-Defeated Greg Valentine (1980)
-A ten-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion
-Defeated Dusty Rhodes (1981)
-Defeated Harley Race (1983)
-Defeated Harley Race (1984)
-Defeated Kerry Von Erich (1984)
-Defeated Dusty Rhodes (1986)
-Defeated Ron Garvin (1987)
-Defeated Rick Steamboat (1989)
-Defeated Sting (1991)
-Defeated Tatsumi Fujinami (1991)
-Defeated Barry Windham (1993)
-NWA Missouri State Heavyweight Title (1983) tournament final
-A two-time WWF World Heavyweight Champion
-Won Royal Rumble (1992)
-Defeated Randy Savage (1992)
-An eight-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion
-Defeated Sting (1991)
-Defeated Big Van Vader (1993)
-Defeated Rick Steamboat (1994)
-Defeated Randy Savage (1995)
-Defeated Randy Savage (1996)
-Defeated Hulk Hogan (1999)
-Defeated Jeff Jarrett (2000)
-WCW International World Heavyweight Title (1994) unified w/ World Title
-WCW United States Heavyweight Champion (1996) defeated Konnan
Copyright 2010 by Tim Hornbaker
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