Flair at MagicCity Comicon 2016
|Birth name||Richard Morgan Fliehr|
|Born||February 25, 1949|
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
|Residence||Lawrenceville, Georgia, U.S.|
Reid, David, and Ashley
|Professional wrestling career|
|Ring name(s)||The Black Scorpion|
|Billed height||6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)|
|Billed weight||243 lb (110 kg)|
|Billed from||Charlotte, North Carolina|
|Trained by||Verne Gagne|
|Debut||December 10, 1972|
|Retired||December 3, 2012|
Richard Morgan Fliehr[a] (born February 25, 1949), better known as Ric Flair, is an American professional wrestling manager and retired professional wrestler signed to WWE under its Legends program.
Widely regarded as the greatest professional wrestler of all time and the best American performer of the 1980s, Flair had a career that spanned 40 years. He is noted for his tenures with the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), World Championship Wrestling (WCW), the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, later WWE) and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA). Since the mid-1970s, he has used the moniker "The Nature Boy".
A major pay-per-view attraction throughout his career, Flair headlined at the premier annual NWA/WCW event, Starrcade, on ten occasions, while also co-headlining its WWF counterpart, WrestleMania, in 1992, after winning that year's Royal Rumble. PWI awarded him their Wrestler of the Year award a record six times, while Wrestling Observer Newsletter named him the Wrestler of the Year (an award named after him and Lou Thesz) a record eight times. The only two-time WWE Hall of Fame inductee, first inducted with the class of 2008 for his individual career and again with the class of 2012 as a member of The Four Horsemen, he is also a member of the NWA Hall of Fame, Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, and Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame.
Flair is officially recognized by WWE as a 16-time world champion (eight-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion, six-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion, and two-time WWF Champion), although the number of his world championship reigns varies by source, ranging from 16 to 25. He has claimed to be a 21-time champion. He was the first holder of the WCW World Heavyweight Championship and the WCW International World Heavyweight Championship (which he also held last). As the inaugural WCW World Heavyweight Champion, he became the first person to complete WCW's Triple Crown, having already held the United States Heavyweight and World Tag Team Championships. He then completed WWE's version of the Triple Crown when he won the Intercontinental Championship, after already holding the WWF Championship and the World Tag Team Championship.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Professional wrestling career
- 2.1 American Wrestling Association (1972–1974)
- 2.2 Japan (1973–2013)
- 2.3 Jim Crockett Promotions/World Championship Wrestling (1974–1991)
- 2.4 World Wrestling Federation (1991–1993)
- 2.5 Return to WCW (1993–2001)
- 2.6 Return to WWF/WWE (2001–2009)
- 2.7 Independent circuit (2009–2010)
- 2.8 Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (2010–2012)
- 2.9 Second return to WWE (2012–present)
- 3 Legacy
- 4 Other media
- 5 Personal life
- 6 Real life feuds and backstage problems
- 7 Championships and accomplishments
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
Fliehr was born on February 25, 1949, in Memphis, Tennessee. His birth name is widely believed to be Fred Phillips, although on different documents he is also credited as Fred Demaree or Stewart, while his biological parents were Luther and Olive Phillips (the latter of whom was also credited under the Demaree and Stewart surnames). He was adopted; at the time of his adoption (arranged by the Tennessee Children's Home Society), his adoptive father, Dr. Richard Reid Fliehr (1918–2000), was completing a residency in obstetrics and gynecology in Detroit, Michigan. His adoptive mother, Kathleen Kinsmiller Fliehr (1918–2003), worked for the Star Tribune. Shortly afterward, the family settled in Edina, Minnesota, where the young Fliehr lived throughout his childhood. After ninth grade, he attended Wayland Academy in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin for four years, during which time he participated in interscholastic wrestling, football, and track.
Professional wrestling career
American Wrestling Association (1972–1974)
Flair trained as a professional wrestler with Verne Gagne. He attended Gagne's first wrestling camp with Greg Gagne, Jim Brunzell, The Iron Sheik and Ken Patera at Gagne's barn outside Minneapolis in the winter of 1971. On December 10, 1972, he made his debut in Rice Lake, Wisconsin, battling George "Scrap Iron" Gadaski to a 10-minute draw while adopting the ring name Ric Flair. During his time in the American Wrestling Association (AWA), Flair had matches with Dusty Rhodes, Chris Taylor, André the Giant, Larry Hennig and Wahoo McDaniel.
Flair first competed in Japan in 1973 for International Wrestling Enterprise (IWE), due to a working agreement between AWA promoter Verne Gagne and the IWE. After Flair left the AWA for Jim Crockett Jr.'s Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling (MACW) in 1974, he began working tours for All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW). On April 27, 1978, Flair challenged for the NWA United National Championship in a losing effort. Throughout the 1980s, Flair defended the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in All Japan against the likes of Genichiro Tenryu, Riki Choshu, Jumbo Tsuruta, Harley Race, and Kerry Von Erich. On October 21, 1985, Flair wrestled Rick Martel in a double title match where he defended the NWA World Heavyweight Championship and challenged for the AWA World Heavyweight Championship, but the match ended in a double countout. As All Japan withdrew from the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) in the late 1980s, World Championship Wrestling (WCW) began a working agreement with New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). In 1989, the working agreement led to a feud between Flair and Keiji Mutoh, who was wrestling under The Great Muta gimmick, in the United States for WCW. On March 21, 1991, Flair defended the NWA World Heavyweight Championship and challenged Tatsumi Fujinami for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in a double title match on the WCW/New Japan Supershow at the Tokyo Dome. Fujinami beat Flair for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, but later lost the title at WCW's SuperBrawl I on May 19, 1991 in the United States.
When Flair left WCW for the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in 1991, he continued to tour Japan in the Super World of Sports (SWS) promotion, due to an agreement between WWF and SWS. He defended and retained the WWF World Heavyweight Championship against Genichiro Tenryu on September 15, 1992 in a match that resulted in a draw. In August 1995, under a WCW contract, Flair participated in the G1 Climax tournament in New Japan, where he beat Shiro Koshinaka, drew Masahiro Chono, and lost to Keiji Mutoh. On July 17, 1996, Flair challenged Shinya Hashimoto for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in a losing effort in NJPW.
Once again under the WWE banner, Flair continued to tour Japan periodically between 2002 and 2008. He successfully defended the World Tag Team Championship with Batista against The Dudley Boyz twice in February 2004. On the February 7, 2005 episode of Raw, broadcast from the Saitama Super Arena in Japan, Flair lost to Shawn Michaels in a singles match. In February 2008, Flair wrestled Mr. Kennedy in the Ariake Coliseum and William Regal in the Budokan Hall, both under the stipulation that he would retire if he lost.
On January 2, 2013, All Japan announced that Flair would make his return to AJPW for the first time in five years on January 26, 2013, teaming with Keiji Mutoh to take on Tatsumi Fujinami and Seiya Sanada. This would have been his first professional wrestling match since his September 2011 loss to Sting on Impact Wrestling and his first for All Japan since March 1987. However, on January 26, just moments before the start of the All Japan event, the promotion announced that Flair was forced to pull out of his match because of a "sudden illness", later reported as a badly swollen left leg. Flair was replaced in the match by his son Reid, but also ended up getting involved in the match himself, delivering chops to Seiya Sanada.
Jim Crockett Promotions/World Championship Wrestling (1974–1991)
Becoming the Nature Boy (1974–1981)
In 1974, Flair left the AWA for Jim Crockett's Mid-Atlantic region in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and he soon captured his first singles title, when on February 9, 1975 he beat Paul Jones for the Mid-Atlantic TV Championship. On October 4, 1975, however, Flair's career nearly ended when he was in a serious plane crash in Wilmington, North Carolina that took the life of the pilot and paralyzed Johnny Valentine (also on board were Mr. Wrestling, Bob Bruggers, and promoter David Crockett). Flair broke his back in three places and, at age 26, was told by doctors that he would never wrestle again. Flair conducted a rigorous physical therapy schedule, however, and he returned to the ring just eight months later, where he resumed his feud with Wahoo McDaniel in February 1976. The crash did force Flair to change his wrestling technique away from the power brawling style he had used early on, which led him to adopt the "Nature Boy" style he would use throughout his career. Flair won the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship when he defeated Bobo Brazil on July 29, 1977. During the next three years, he held five reigns as NWA United States Heavyweight Champion while feuding with Ricky Steamboat, Roddy Piper, Mr. Wrestling, Jimmy Snuka and Greg Valentine (with whom he also formed a championship tag team). However, Flair reached elite status when he began referring to himself as "The Nature Boy" in order to incite a 1978 feud with the original "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers, who put Flair over in one encounter.
NWA World Heavyweight Champion (1981–1991)
On September 17, 1981, Flair beat Dusty Rhodes for his first NWA World Heavyweight Championship. In the following years, Flair established himself as the promotion's main franchise in the midst of emerging competition from Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation (WWF). An unsanctioned title loss took place on January 6, 1983 to Carlos Colón Sr. in Puerto Rico. Flair recovered the championship belt in a phantom change seventeen days later not officially recognized by the NWA. Harley Race won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship from Flair in 1983, but Flair regained the title at Starrcade in a steel cage match. Officially, Flair won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship eight more times. Flair lost the title to Race and won it back in the span of three days in New Zealand and Singapore in March 1984. At the first David Von Erich Memorial Parade of Champions at Texas Stadium, Flair was pinned by Kerry Von Erich, but he regained the title eighteen days later in Japan and reigned for two years, two months and two days, losing the title to Dusty Rhodes on July 26, 1986 at The Great American Bash. However, Flair regained the title two weeks later.
In late 1985, the tag team of Arn Anderson and Ole Anderson began aiding Flair (whom they claimed as a "cousin") in attacks against Dusty Rhodes, Magnum T.A. and Sam Houston. A few weeks later, the Andersons interrupted Houston's match against Tully Blanchard and the three villains combined to rough up the youngster. Shortly thereafter, Flair, Blanchard and the Andersons formalized their alliance, calling themselves The Four Horsemen, with Blanchard's manager J.J. Dillon also coming on board. Upon the group's inception, it was clear that The Four Horsemen were unlike any villainous alliance that had ever existed, as the four rule breakers immediately used their strength in numbers to decimate the NWA's top fan favorites while controlling the majority of the championship titles.
By 1986, wrestling promoter Jim Crockett had consolidated the various NWA member promotions he owned into a single entity, running under the banner of the National Wrestling Alliance. Controlling much of the traditional NWA territories in the southeast and Midwestern United States, Crockett looked to expand nationally and built his promotion around Flair as champion. During this time, Flair's bookings as champion were tightly controlled by Crockett, and a custom championship belt was created for Flair. Flair lost the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in Detroit to Ron Garvin on September 25, 1987. Garvin held the title for two months before losing to Flair on November 26, 1987 at WCW's first pay-per-view event, Starrcade, in Chicago.
In early 1988, Sting and Flair fought to a 45-minute time-limit draw at the first ever Clash of the Champions. On February 20, 1989, at Chi-Town Rumble in Chicago, Ricky Steamboat pinned Flair to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. This prompted a series of rematches, where Steamboat was presented as a "family man" (often accompanied by his wife and young son), while Flair opposed him as an immoral, fast-living "ladies man". Following a best-of-three falls match with Steamboat that lasted just short of the 60-minute time limit (and ended with a disputed finish where Steamboat retained the title) at Clash of the Champions VI: Ragin' Cajun on April 2, Flair regained the title from Steamboat on May 7, 1989 at WrestleWar in a match that was voted 1989's "Match of the Year" by Pro Wrestling Illustrated. On July 23, 1989, Flair defeated Terry Funk at The Great American Bash, but the two continued to feud through the summer and eventually Flair reformed The Four Horsemen, with the surprise addition of longtime rival Sting, to combat Funk's J-Tex Corporation. This led to an "I Quit" match at Clash of the Champions IX: New York Knockout which Flair won. Flair then kicked Sting out of The Four Horsemen upon his challenge for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, resulting in a revived feud between the two. On July 7, 1990, Flair dropped the title to Sting at The Great American Bash. After being unmasked as The Black Scorpion at Starrcade in 1990, Flair regained the title from Sting on January 11, 1991.
Subsequent to this title win, Flair was recognized by WCW as the first WCW World Heavyweight Champion, though he was still also recognized as NWA World Heavyweight Champion. On March 21, 1991, Tatsumi Fujinami defeated Flair in a match in Tokyo at the WCW/New Japan Supershow. While the NWA recognized Fujinami as their new champion, WCW did not because Fujinami had backdropped Flair over the top rope in a violation of WCW rules. On May 19, 1991, Flair defeated Fujinami at SuperBrawl I in St. Petersburg, Florida to reclaim the NWA World Heavyweight Championship and retain the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. In the spring of 1991, Flair had a contract dispute with WCW president Jim Herd, who wanted him to take a substantial pay cut. Flair had resigned as head booker in February 1990 and Herd wanted to reduce Flair's role in the promotion even further, despite the fact that Flair was still a top draw. According to Flair, Herd also proposed changes in his appearance and ring name (i.e. by shaving his hair, wearing a diamond earring and going by the name Spartacus) in order to "change with the times". Flair disagreed with the proposals and two weeks before The Great American Bash, Herd fired him and vacated the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. While Flair had left for the WWF, he was still recognized as the NWA World Heavyweight Champion until September 8, when the title was officially vacated.
World Wrestling Federation (1991–1993)
Flair signed with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in September 1991 and began appearing on television with the Big Gold Belt, calling himself "The Real World Champion". Led by his "financial adviser" Bobby Heenan and his "executive consultant" Mr. Perfect, Flair repeatedly issued challenges to WWF wrestlers like "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and Hulk Hogan, wrestling a team led by Piper at Survivor Series in November 1991 and helping The Undertaker defeat Hogan for the WWF Championship that same night. WCW sued Flair in an attempt to reclaim the championship belt, but Flair claimed that he owned the title belt in lieu of the US$25,000 deposit paid by NWA champions upon winning the title, which had not been returned to him when he was fired from WCW.
At the 1992 Royal Rumble, Flair won the Rumble match to claim the vacant WWF Championship. Flair entered as number three in the Rumble match and lasted 60 minutes, last eliminating Sid Justice with help from Hulk Hogan, who had been eliminated by Justice seconds earlier. Randy Savage then challenged Flair for the WWF Championship as part of the double main event at WrestleMania VIII. In the storyline, Flair taunted Savage by claiming that he had a prior relationship with Savage's wife, Miss Elizabeth. Savage defeated Flair for the title at WrestleMania. In July 1992, as Savage prepared to defend the title against The Ultimate Warrior at SummerSlam, Flair and Mr. Perfect sowed distrust between the two by suggesting that they would back one or the other during their match. They actually attacked both Savage and Warrior and injured Savage's knee, an injury that Flair exploited to regain the title in a match with Savage on September 1. His second reign was short-lived, however, as he lost the title to Bret Hart on October 12, 1992.
Flair teamed with Razor Ramon to take on Savage and Perfect at the Survivor Series in November 1992. Flair appeared in the Royal Rumble in January 1993, then lost a Loser Leaves the WWF match to Mr. Perfect on the next night's (January 25) Monday Night Raw in a match taped six days earlier. Flair then fulfilled his remaining house show commitments, making his last appearance on February 10, 1993, before returning to WCW.
Return to WCW (1993–2001)
WCW World Heavyweight Champion (1993–1996)
Flair triumphantly returned to WCW as a hero in February 1993, as a result of a "no-compete" clause he was unable to wrestle, so he hosted a short-lived talk show in WCW called A Flair for the Gold. Arn Anderson usually appeared at the bar on the show's set, and Flair's maid Fifi cleaned or bore gifts. Once he returned to action, Flair briefly held the NWA World Heavyweight Championship for a tenth time after defeating Barry Windham at Beach Blast before WCW finally left the NWA in September 1993. At Fall Brawl, Flair lost the title, now rebranded the WCW International World Heavyweight Championship, to "Ravishing Rick" Rude. At Starrcade in 1993, Flair defeated Vader to win the WCW World Heavyweight title for the second time. In the spring of 1994, Flair began a tweener turn and started another feud with longtime rival Ricky Steamboat and challenged Steamboat to a match at Spring Stampede which ended in a no contest from a double pin, causing the title to be held up. Flair then defeated Steamboat in a rematch to reclaim the held-up title on an episode of WCW Saturday Night. The WWE does not count this victory as a new title win. Flair then challenged Col. Robert Parker to wrestle one of his men at Slamboree, which turned out to be Barry Windham, whom Flair defeated, afterwards he quietly turned heel and took Sherri Martel as his manager. He would also wrestle Lord Steven Regal in a five-match series under Marquess of Queensberry Rules, which aired on WCW Worldwide between April 30 and May 28, in which Flair won the series, with 2 wins, 1 loss, and 2 draws.
In June 1994 at Clash of the Champions XXVII, Flair defeated Sting in a unification match, merging the WCW International World Heavyweight Championship with the WCW World Heavyweight Championship, and solidifying his heel turn. After becoming the unified and undisputed WCW champion, Flair feuded with Hulk Hogan upon Hogan's arrival in WCW in June 1994, losing the WCW World Heavyweight Championship to him in July at Bash at the Beach. Flair continued to feud with Hogan and finally lost to Hogan in a steel cage retirement match at Halloween Havoc. Flair took a few months off afterwards before returning as a wrestler and part-time manager for Vader in 1995 (explained on-air by having Flair nag Hogan for months until Hogan and Savage both petitioned WCW management to let Flair come back).
On April 29, 1995, Flair wrestled Antonio Inoki in front of 190,000 spectators in Pyongyang, North Korea at the May Day Stadium in a losing effort under a joint show between New Japan Pro Wrestling and World Championship Wrestling. The event was broadcast on August 4, 1995 on pay-per-view under the title of Collision in Korea. In the fall of 1995, Flair began a short feud with Arn Anderson, which culminated in a tag match that saw Flair turning on Sting to reform the new Four Horsemen with Flair as the leader, Arn Anderson, Brian Pillman, and Chris Benoit as the members. With the new Four Horsemen, Flair won the WCW World Heavyweight Championship two more times before the nWo invasion storyline began in WCW, with the first one being in December 1995 at Starcade, where Flair defeated Lex Luger and Sting by countout and then defeated Savage after all three Four Horsemen members ran to the ring and Arn Anderson knocked out Savage with brass knuckles, thus allowing Flair to pin Savage to win the match and the title. Afterwards Savage won the title back on Nitro after Starcade, but Flair won the next match at SuperBrawl VI to regain the championship. During the feud, Savage's manager Miss Elizabeth turned against him and became Flair's valet. Together with Woman and Debra McMichael they would escort Flair to his matches until Miss Elizabeth was taken by the nWo in the fall and eventually returned as Savage's valet when he joined the nWo in 1997. Flair lost the WCW World Heavyweight Championship eventually three months later to The Giant. The feud with Savage continued with The New Four Horseman joining the Dungeon of Doom to create an Alliance to end Hulkamania. Together the factions wrestled Hogan and Savage in a triple steel cage, End of Hulkamania match; losing to the reunited Mega Powers. Afterwards, Flair went on to win the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship and there were also changes in the Four Horseman in 1996, as Brian Pillman left WCW and Steve "Mongo" McMichael became the fourth member.
Feud with the New World Order (1996–1999)
Once again as a top fan favorite, Flair played a major role in the New World Order (nWo) invasion storyline in late 1996 and throughout 1997. He and the other Horsemen often took the lead in the war against Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and Hollywood Hulk Hogan, whom Flair immediately challenged for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship at the Clash of the Champions XXXIII, but won only by disqualification. In September 1996, Flair and Anderson teamed with their bitter rivals, Sting and Lex Luger, to lose to the nWo (Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and an impostor Sting) in the WarGames match at Fall Brawl when Luger submitted to the impostor Sting's Scorpion Deathlock.
In October 1996, two developments occurred that affected the Four Horsemen when Jeff Jarrett came over to WCW from the WWF, and expressed his desire to join the Horsemen as he immediately gained a fan in Ric Flair, much to the chagrin of the other Horsemen. Flair finally let Jarrett join the group in February 1997, but the others did not want him, and in July 1997 was ultimately kicked out of the group by Flair himself, who had enough of the instability Jarrett's presence caused the Horsemen. Flair also feuded with Roddy Piper, Syxx, and his old nemesis Curt Hennig in 1997, after Hennig was offered a spot in The Four Horsemen only to turn on Flair and The Four Horsemen at Fall Brawl in September 1997, in which Hennig punctuated the act by slamming the cage door onto Flair's head.
In April 1998, Flair disappeared from WCW television, due to a lawsuit filed by Eric Bischoff for no-showing a live episode of Thunder on April 16, 1998 in Tallahassee, Florida. After the case was settled, Flair made a surprise return on September 14, 1998 to ceremoniously reform the Four Horsemen (along with Steve McMichael, Dean Malenko, and Chris Benoit). Flair feuded with Bischoff for several months afterward. Flair repeatedly raked Eric Bischoff's eyes during this feud. This culminated in a match at Starrcade between Bischoff and Flair in December 1998, which Bischoff won after interference from Curt Hennig, a former member of the Four Horsemen. The following night in Baltimore on Nitro, Flair returned and threatened to leave WCW, demanding a match against Bischoff for the presidency of the company. The match was made, and despite the nWo interfering on Bischoff's behalf Flair won and was granted the position of president of WCW. This resulted in a match at Superbrawl between Flair and Hollywood Hogan for the WCW Championship, which Flair lost after being betrayed by his own son David Flair.
Final world championship reigns (1999–2001)
In spite of his son's betrayal, Flair signed a rematch at Uncensored which was billed as a First Blood barbed wire steel cage Match against Hogan where Flair's presidency and Hogan's WCW World Heavyweight Championship were on the line. Despite being the first to bleed, Flair won the match by pinfall thanks to the bias of the referee Charles Robinson, who counted Hogan out.
As on-air WCW President, Flair began abusing his power much like Bischoff had, favoring villains over fan favorites and even awarding the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship (which was vacated by Scott Steiner due to injury) to his son David and resorting to whatever means necessary to keep him as United States Heavyweight Champion. Flair eventually formed a stable of followers which included Roddy Piper, Arn Anderson and the Jersey Triad to keep things in order. Flair's reign as president came to an end on the July 19 episode of Nitro, when he faced and lost to Sting for the position. During the course of the match, Sting had Flair in his Scorpion Death Lock, but with the referee knocked unconscious, no decision could be reached. A returning Eric Bischoff came to the ring and began ordering the timekeeper to ring the bell, which he eventually did, awarding the match and the presidency to Sting (who promptly gave it up upon receiving it).
Flair won his last world titles in his career by winning the WCW World Heavyweight Championship twice during 2000, the company's last full year of operation. When WCW was purchased by the WWF in March 2001, Flair was the leader of the villainous group called the Magnificent Seven. Flair lost the final match of Nitro to Sting, recreating the second match of Nitro in 1995. Nevertheless, Flair has repeatedly stated in various interviews how happy he was when WCW finally closed down, although at the same time the fact that many people would lose their jobs saddened him.
Return to WWF/WWE (2001–2009)
WWF co-owner (2001–2002)
After an eight-month hiatus from wrestling, Flair made a return to the WWF in November 2001. Flair reappeared on Raw following the end of the "WCW/ECW Invasion" that culminated in a "Winner Take All" match at Survivor Series won by the WWF. Flair's new on-screen role was that of the co-owner of the WWF, with the explanation that Shane and Stephanie McMahon had sold their stock in the company to a consortium (namely Flair) prior to purchasing World Championship Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrestling. Flair's feud with Vince McMahon led them to a match at the Royal Rumble in January 2002 in a Street Fight, where Flair defeated McMahon. Flair also wrestled The Undertaker at WrestleMania X8 in March 2002 where Flair lost. The "co-owner" angle culminated in early 2002, when Flair controlled Raw and McMahon controlled SmackDown!
On the May 13 episode of Raw, Flair challenged Hulk Hogan to a no disqualifications match for the WWE Undisputed Championship. Flair would later lose the contest before moving onto a rivalry with Stone Cold Steve Austin. At Judgment Day, Flair teamed with The Big Show in losing fashion as they faced Steve Austin in a two-on-one handicap tag team match. On the June 3 episode of Raw, the feud between Flair and Austin would escalate after Austin defeated Flair in a singles contest. After Steve Austin abruptly left the renamed WWE in June while in a program with Flair, a match was hotshotted between Flair and McMahon for sole ownership of WWE, which Flair lost after interference from Brock Lesnar on the June 10 edition of Raw.
Flair's rivalry with Lesnar would continue into the month of June with Lesnar picking up wins over Flair in a singles match on the July 1 episode of Raw and in a tag team contest on the July 15 episode of Raw. At King of the Ring, Flair defeated Eddie Guerrero in a singles match after Guerrero and Chris Benoit would interrupt Flair's speech regarding losing his position as WWF co-owner; afterwards, Guerrero would lock Flair in his own signature figure four leg lock with help from Benoit. Flair then became involved in a short lived rivalry with Chris Jericho, leading to Flair defeating Jericho at SummerSlam, resulting in Flair being granted a World Championship match against Triple H on the September 2 episode of Raw, which he lost. Later on that same night, Flair would team with Rob Van Dam as the duo were successful in defeating the team of Triple H and Chris Jericho. At Unforgiven, Flair was unsuccessful in capturing the Intercontinental Championship in a singles contest against Jericho.
In September 2002 at Unforgiven, Triple H defended the World Heavyweight Championship against Rob Van Dam. During the match, Flair came down to the ring and grabbed the sledgehammer from Triple H and teased hitting him before hitting Van Dam, allowing Triple H to get the win, turning him heel in the process and accompanied Triple H to the ring as his manager. Shortly after, Batista moved from SmackDown! to Raw and Flair also began accompanying him to the ring while continuing to second Triple H. In June 2003 at Bad Blood, Flair was able to defeat Shawn Michaels after Orton struck Michaels with a chair.
At the height of Evolution's power, the group controlled all of the male-based championships of Raw after Armageddon. Batista teamed with Flair to win the World Tag Team Championship from the Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray Dudley and D-Von Dudley) in a tag team turmoil match and Triple H regained the World Heavyweight Championship from Goldberg (in a triple threat match that also involved Kane), with the help of the other members. In January 2004 at the Royal Rumble, Flair and Batista successfully defended the World Tag Team Championship against the Dudley Boyz in a tables match, and World Heavyweight Champion Triple H fought Shawn Michaels to no contest in a Last Man Standing match, thus retaining the championship. Flair and Batista lost the World Tag Team Championship on February 16 edition of Raw to Booker T and Rob Van Dam. At WrestleMania XX, Evolution defeated the Rock 'n' Sock Connection (The Rock and Mick Foley) in a 3-on-2 handicap match. The following week on Raw during the 2004 WWE draft lottery, Flair and Batista defeated Booker T and Rob Van Dam to win their second and final World Tag Team Championship. While still world champion, Benoit teamed with Edge to take the World Tag Team Championship from Flair and Batista on April 19 Raw.
At SummerSlam, Orton pinned Benoit to become the new World Heavyweight Champion and the youngest World Champion in WWE history to date. Batista hoisted Orton on to his shoulders in what appeared to be a celebration, but following the thumbs down from Triple H, the group proceeded to attack Orton. At Unforgiven, Triple H beat Orton to regain the World Heavyweight Championship, with help from Flair, Batista, and Jonathan Coachman. Orton's feud with Evolution continued until Survivor Series where Triple H, Batista, Gene Snitsky, and Edge were defeated by Orton, Maven, Chris Jericho, and Chris Benoit in a Survivor Series match for control of Raw over the following month.
In the Elimination Chamber match at New Year's Revolution, Batista, Orton and Triple H were the last three remaining in the match. Orton eliminated Batista with a RKO and Triple H pinned Orton with Batista's help to win the title. Triple H suggested that Batista not enter the Royal Rumble match, wanting the group to focus on Triple H retaining the title. Batista declined, entered the Rumble at number 28 and won. Triple H tried to persuade Batista to challenge the WWE Champion John "Bradshaw" Layfield of SmackDown! rather than for his World Heavyweight Championship. This involved Triple H plotting a feud between JBL and Batista, showing JBL badmouthing Batista in an interview and staging an attack on Batista with a limousine designed to look like Layfield's. The scheme was unsuccessful and at the brand contract signing ceremony, Batista chose to remain on Raw, infuriating Triple H and thus quitting the faction. Batista defeated Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 21.
After Vengeance, Triple H took time off, Flair turned face for the first time since 2002 before going on to win the Intercontinental Championship, and the group was dissolved. Triple H returned at the "Homecoming" episode of Raw on October 3 where he was to team with Flair in a tag team match against Carlito and Chris Masters. After winning that match, Triple H betrayed Flair and attacked him with a sledgehammer. Flair retained the Intercontinental Championship against Triple H at Taboo Tuesday in a steel cage match, which was voted as such by the fans. Flair later lost to Triple H in a Last Man Standing non-title match at Survivor Series which ended their feud.
Final storylines and first retirement (2005–2008)
At the end of 2005, Flair had a feud with Edge that culminated in a WWE Championship Tables, Ladder and Chairs match on Raw in early 2006, which Flair lost. On the February 20 episode of Raw, he lost the Intercontinental Championship to Shelton Benjamin, thus ending his reign at 155 days. Flair took some time off in mid-2006 to rest and marry for the third time and he returned in June to work a program with his real-life rival Mick Foley that played off their legitimate past animosity. Flair defeated Foley at Vengeance in a two out of three falls match, then at SummerSlam in an "I Quit" match.
Subsequently, he was involved in a rivalry with the Spirit Squad on Raw. On November 5, 2006 at Cyber Sunday, he captured the World Tag Team Championship from the Squad with Roddy Piper. On the November 13 episode of Raw, Flair and Piper lost the Tag Titles to Rated-RKO, due to a disc problem with Piper and had to be flown immediately back to the USA as soon as Raw was off the air. On November 26, 2006 at Survivor Series, Flair was the sole survivor of a match that featured himself, Ron Simmons (replacing an injured Piper), Dusty Rhodes and Sgt. Slaughter versus the Spirit Squad. Flair then left television due to his divorce hearings.
Flair then began teaming with Carlito after Flair said that Carlito had no heart. Flair defeated Carlito in a match after which Carlito realized that Flair was right. Flair and Carlito faced off against Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch in a number one contender's match for the World Tag Team Championship but were defeated. The two teamed up on the WrestleMania 23 pre-show, and defeated the team of Chavo Guerrero and Gregory Helms. After weeks of conflict between Flair and Carlito, the team split up when Carlito attacked Flair during a match. At Judgment Day, Flair defeated Carlito with the figure four leglock.
On the June 11 episode of Raw, Flair was drafted from Raw to SmackDown! as part of the 2007 WWE draft. He briefly feuded against Montel Vontavious Porter and rejoined forces with Batista to feud with The Great Khali; the alliance was short-lived, however, as Flair was "injured" during a match with Khali.
After a three-month hiatus, Flair returned to WWE programming on the November 26 episode of Raw to announce "I will never retire". Vince McMahon retaliated by announcing that the next match Flair lost would result in a forced retirement. Later in the night, Flair defeated Orton after a distraction by Chris Jericho. It was revealed on the 15th anniversary of Raw that the win or retire ultimatum only applied in singles matches. Flair won several "career threatening" matches against the opponents such as Triple H, Umaga, William Regal, Mr. Kennedy, and Vince McMahon himself among others. On March 29, 2008, Flair was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as a part of the class of 2008 by Triple H. The day after, Flair wrestled at WrestleMania XXIV in Orlando, Florida, losing to Shawn Michaels. The match was lauded by fans and critics and was voted the 2008 Pro Wrestling Illustrated (PWI) Match of the Year. Flair's fight to keep his career going garnered him the 2008 PWI "Most Inspirational Wrestler of the Year" award.
Part-time appearances (2008–2009)
On the March 31, 2008 episode of Raw, Flair delivered his farewell address. Afterward, Triple H brought out many current and retired superstars to thank Flair for all he has done, including Shawn Michaels, some of the Four Horsemen, Harley Race, and Chris Jericho, followed by The Undertaker and then Vince McMahon. Along with the wrestlers, the fans gave Flair a standing ovation. This event represented a rare moment in WWE as both the heels and the faces broke character and came out to the ring together. Flair made his first post retirement appearance on the June 16, 2008 episode of Raw to confront Chris Jericho about his actions during a rivalry with Shawn Michaels. He challenged Jericho to a fight in the parking lot, rather than an official match, but Jericho was stopped by Triple H.
The following year on February 9, Flair once again confronted Jericho on Raw. Jericho was attacking Hall of Fame members and Flair demanded he respect them, before punching Jericho. Flair appeared a month later to distract him during a Money in the Bank Qualifying Match. Jericho then challenged Flair to come out of retirement for WrestleMania XXV; instead Flair managed Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka and Ricky Steamboat in a three-on-one handicap match at WrestleMania in a losing effort. On May 17, Flair returned during the Judgment Day pay-per-view, coming to the aid of Batista, who was being attacked by The Legacy (Randy Orton, Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase). On the June 1 episode of Raw, Flair challenged Orton in a parking lot brawl match, after an interference from the rest of The Legacy, the fight ended with Flair was trapped inside a steel cage and was punted by Orton. After Raw, Flair left WWE when his contract expired on June 2, 2009.
Independent circuit (2009–2010)
Flair signed with Ring of Honor (ROH) and appeared at the Stylin' And Profilin' event in March 2009, clearing the ring after an ROH World Championship match ended with a run-in. He soon served as the company's ambassador, in an on-screen authority role, and appeared on the television show Ring of Honor Wrestling in May to cement his role. After a number one contender's match ended in a time-limit draw, and the following week a double count out, Flair announced Ring of Honor Wrestling's first ROH World Title match as a four-way contest.
On November 21, 2009, Flair returned to the ring as a villain on the "Hulkamania: Let The Battle Begin" tour of Australia, losing to Hulk Hogan in the main event of the first show by brass knuckles. Hogan defeated Flair again on November 24 in Perth, Australia after both men bled heavily. Flair also lost to Hogan on the two remaining matches on the tour.
Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (2010–2012)
On the January 4, 2010 episode Total Nonstop Action Wrestling's (TNA) Impact!, Flair made his debut appearance for the company arriving via limo and later observing the main event between A.J. Styles and longtime rival Kurt Angle. It was later reported that Flair had signed a one-year deal with the company. In the past, Flair has openly stated that he was loyal to the McMahons and wanted to end his career in WWE, however he had not had contact from WWE since June 2009 and decided to sign with TNA Wrestling after waiting for the call from WWE for six months. On January 17 at Genesis, Flair helped Styles cheat to pin Angle and retain the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.
In addition to Styles, Flair began informally managing Beer Money, Inc. (Robert Roode and James Storm) and Desmond Wolfe as a loose alliance. On the March 8 episode of Impact!, Hulk Hogan and Abyss defeated Flair and Styles when Abyss pinned Styles. Afterwards, the returning Jeff Hardy saved Abyss and Hogan from a beatdown at the hands of Flair, Styles and Beer Money, Inc. At Lockdown, Team Flair (Ric Flair, Sting, Desmond Wolfe, Robert Roode and James Storm) was defeated by Team Hogan (Hulk Hogan, Abyss, Jeff Jarrett, Jeff Hardy and Rob Van Dam) in a Lethal Lockdown match. On the April 26 episode of Impact!, Flair was defeated by Abyss in a match where Flair's and Hogan's WWE Hall of Fame rings were at stake, and as a result Flair lost possession of his ring to Hogan. The following week, Hogan gave the ring to Jay Lethal, who returned it to Flair out of respect. This, however, was not enough for Flair, who attacked Lethal along with the members of Team Flair. After Styles dropped the TNA World Heavyweight Championship to Rob Van Dam, then failed to regain it in a rematch and later was pinned by Jay Lethal, Flair adopted Kazarian as his newest protégé, seemingly replacing Styles as his number one wrestler.
On the June 17 episode of Impact!, Flair announced that he would reform the Four Horsemen under the new name Fourtune, a group consisting of A.J. Styles, Kazarian, Robert Roode, James Storm, and Desmond Wolfe. Flair made a return to the ring on July 11 at Victory Road, losing to Jay Lethal. On the August 5 episode of Impact!, Flair faced Lethal in a rematch, this time contested under Street Fight rules, with the members of Fourtune banned from ringside; Flair managed to win the match after an interference from Douglas Williams. The following week, Williams and Matt Morgan were added to Fourtune. In the weeks leading to Bound for Glory, Flair's stable's name was tweaked to Fortune to represent the expansion in the number of members in the group. On the October 7 episode of Impact!, Flair was defeated by Mick Foley in a Last Man Standing match.
On the following episode of Impact!, Fortune formed an alliance with Hulk Hogan's and Eric Bischoff's new stable, Immortal. On the November 18 episode of Impact!, Flair returned to the ring, competing in a match where he faced Matt Morgan, who had been kicked out of Fortune the previous month; Morgan won the match after Douglas Williams turned on the rest of Fortune, when they interfered in the match. On January 25, 2011, it was reported that Flair had pulled out of TNA's Maximum Wooo! tour of Europe mid–tour after monetary disputes. After missing a show in Berlin, Germany, Flair returned to the tour on January 27 in Glasgow, Scotland, reportedly apologizing to the locker room prior to the show. On January 29, Flair wrestled his only match of the tour, defeating Douglas Williams in London, tearing his rotator cuff in the process. During Flair's time away from TNA, Fortune turned on Immortal. Flair returned at the February 14 tapings of the February 17 episode of Impact!, turning on Fortune during a match between A.J. Styles and Matt Hardy and jumping to Immortal. On the March 10 episode of Impact!, Flair defeated Styles and Hardy in a three–way street fight, contested as more of a two–on–one handicap match. On April 17 at Lockdown, Immortal, represented by Flair, Abyss, Bully Ray and Matt Hardy, was defeated by Fortune members James Storm, Kazarian and Robert Roode and Christopher Daniels, who replaced an injured A.J. Styles, in a Lethal Lockdown match, when Flair tapped out to Roode. The match was used to write Flair off television, as the following week he was scheduled to undergo surgery for his torn rotator cuff; however, Flair ultimately chose not to have the surgery as it would have required six months of rehab.
Flair returned to television in a non–wrestling role on the May 12, 2011 episode of Impact! Flair did not appear again for three months, until making his return on August 9 at the tapings of the August 18 episode of Impact Wrestling, confronting old rival Sting and challenging him to one more match. In exchange for Sting agreeing to put his career on the line, Flair promised to deliver him his match with Hogan if he was victorious. The match, which Flair lost, took place on the September 15 episode of Impact Wrestling. During the match, Flair tore his left triceps on a superplex spot, sidelining him indefinitely from in-ring action. at Bound for Glory (2011), Flair appeared in Hogan's corner in his match against Sting. Flair continued to make appearances for TNA until April 2012. In April 2012, Flair tried to have his TNA contract terminated, which led to TNA filing a lawsuit against WWE for contract tampering and eventually firing Flair on May 11. Having been inactive since his September 2011 injury, Flair announced in a December 3, 2012 interview that he would never wrestle again, owing chiefly to an on-air heart attack suffered by age peer Jerry Lawler following a Raw match three months earlier.
Second return to WWE (2012–present)
On March 31, 2012, while still contracted to TNA, Flair became the first person to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame twice, the second time as part of the class of 2012 with The Four Horsemen. On December 17, 2012, Flair returned to WWE as a non-wrestling personality on the annual Slammy Awards show to present the Superstar of the Year award to John Cena, who in turn gave the award to Flair. Flair's return was interrupted by CM Punk and Paul Heyman, escalating into a confrontation that ended with him locking Heyman in the figure-four leglock. After clearing the ring, Flair was assaulted by The Shield, until Ryback and Team Hell No (Kane and Daniel Bryan) helped Flair fend off the group.
Flair appeared on the main roster sporadically throughout 2013, as The Miz's mentor. He also occasionally appeared on NXT in 2013 and 2014, accompanying his daughter Charlotte to the ring.
Flair appeared on the April 28, 2014, episode of Raw, alongside the reunited Evolution (minus Flair) and The Shield; Flair showed his endorsement for The Shield, Evolution's opponents at Extreme Rules, effectively turning his back on his old teammates. On July 14, John Cena symbolically handed over his World Heavyweight Championship belt to Flair, telling him to "take it" while promoting his match at Battleground. On the post-SummerSlam Raw in August 2015, Flair interrupted Jon Stewart, who had saved Flair's 16 world title record by preventing Cena's victory the previous night, telling him that the record would be broken eventually and he would rather it would be by someone who he respects.
Flair began making more frequent appearances with Charlotte after she won the Divas Championship. In January 2016, Flair and Charlotte began displaying villainous traits, with Flair often getting involved in Charlotte's Divas Championship and later WWE Women's Championship defenses. This lasted until the May 23, 2016 episode of Raw, when Charlotte turned on him. On the November 28, 2016 episode of Raw, Flair returned to congratulate the new Raw Women's Champion Sasha Banks, who had defeated Charlotte to win the title. On the November 14, 2017 edition of SmackDown, Flair returned to congratulate his daughter, after she won the SmackDown Women's title from Natalya, incidentally in Charlotte's hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, this being his first appearance for WWE since nearly dying earlier in the year.
Flair was often popular with the crowd due to his in-ring antics, including rulebreaking (earning him the distinction of being "the dirtiest player in the game"), strutting and his shouting of "Wooooooo!" (Flair got the inspiration from Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire"). The "Wooo!" yell[b] has since become a tribute to Flair, and is often shouted by the crowd whenever a wrestler performs a knife-edge chop, one of Flair's signature moves. It is also often shouted by the crowd whenever a wrestler utilizes Flair's figure-four leglock finisher. From the late 1970s, Flair wore ornate fur-lined robes of many colors with sequins during in-ring appearances, and since the early 1980s, his approach to the ring was usually heralded by the playing of the "Dawn" section of Richard Strauss' "Also sprach Zarathustra" (famous for being used in the 1968 motion picture 2001: A Space Odyssey and for the introduction to Elvis Presley's concerts of the 1970s). Flair also described himself as a "limousine-ridin', jet-flyin', kiss stealin', wheelin' dealin', son-of-a-gun (who kissed all the girls worldwide and made em cry)".
On October 19, 1998, it was declared "Ric Flair Day" in Minneapolis, Minnesota by Mayor Sharon Belton and on November 15, 2008, it was declared "Ric Flair Day" in Norfolk, Virginia. On March 24, 2008, Mayor Bob Coble, of Columbia, South Carolina, declared March 24 to be Ric Flair Day in Columbia. Flair also received the key to the city. He received the key to the city of Greensboro, North Carolina on December 5, 2008, to commemorate Flair's victory in a steel cage match against Harley Race at the inaugural Starrcade event. April 18, 2009 was declared "Ric Flair Day" in Charleston, West Virginia and he was presented with the key to the city by the mayor. Also, on June 12, 2009, Flair was presented with the key to the city of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and, in September, he received the key to the city in Marion County, South Carolina. On July 17, 2010, Flair made a special appearance at Scotland Motors in Laurinburg, North Carolina and received the key to that city, as well.
On the February 18, 2008 episode of Raw, Shawn Michaels announced Flair as the first inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame class of 2008. The induction ceremony took place on March 29, 2008, with Triple H inducting him. This made him the first person to be inducted while still an active competitor. Flair was later inducted into the NWA Hall of Fame in Atlanta, Georgia, but he did not participate in the event. On January 9, 2012 it was announced that the Four Horsemen would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, thus making Flair the first person to have been inducted into the Hall of Fame twice.
On April 15, 2008, Flair was honored in Congress by a representative from North Carolina, Republican Sue Myrick, who praised his career and what he means to the state. On September 29, 2008, it was announced that Flair's signature sequin covered robe that he wore at WrestleMania XXIV, in what was to be his last WWE match, would be placed in the pop culture section of the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.
In 1999, a large group of professional wrestling experts, analysts and historians named Flair the greatest NWA World Heavyweight Champion of all time. In 2002, Flair was named the greatest professional wrestler of all time in the book The Top 100 Wrestlers of All Time by John Molinaro, edited by Dave Meltzer and Jeff Marek. in July 2016, Luke Winkie of Sports Illustrated also named Flair the greatest professional wrestler of all time.
Flair's "Wooo" chant has been used throughout pop culture, in hip-hop music in particular. Rapper Pusha T has paid homage to Flair in numerous songs. For example, on the track "Sweet Serenade", he says, "Triple doubles, two hoes and check please (Wooo!), They love me on my Ric Flair shit (Wooo!), In that Phantom like I'm Blair Witch (Wooo!), Who are you to be compared with? (Wooo!)". Rapper Killer Mike also has a track named "Ric Flair". Rapper Offset paid tribute to Flair in his hit song "Ric Flair Drip".
Reaction to later career
Some have looked unfavorably upon Flair's career from the 1990s onward. In 1998, wrestler and former WCW colleague Stone Cold Steve Austin said that Flair had reached the "time to hang it up", having not been great for a "long time". John Molinaro of Slam! Sports penned a 1999 article titled, "Ric Flair is tarnishing his legacy"; Molinaro saw Flair as a wrestler whose prestige was "in jeopardy". In 2006, Pro Wrestling Illustrated writer Frank Ingiosi said that Flair had a "personal vendetta against his legend". He nevertheless continued to wrestle until retiring in 2008, at age 59. Following an elaborate farewell ceremony staged for Flair by WWE, wrestling personality Paul Heyman lamented his cutting promos at "low rent wrestling shows", calling it "painful to watch".
Flair would ultimately return to the ring in 2009 and signed to wrestle for TNA the following year, breaking a vow to never again lace up his boots. Wrestler Axl Rotten, NFL writer Adam Rank, and many fans felt that he sullied his legend by continuing to wrestle in TNA. Asked in 2011 if Flair was tainting his prestige, former opponent Shane Douglas was harsher, stating that he had "been tarnishing his legacy since 1990". Also that year, Kevin Eck of The Baltimore Sun criticized the aging Flair for being unable to separate himself from his ostentatious gimmick when not wrestling, and said: "I don't know what's sadder, Ric Flair tarnishing his legacy in the ring or embarrassing himself away from the ring". Asked about Flair in 2015, wrestler The Honky Tonk Man felt that viewers would "remember only the last years of his career", which consist of "bad memories".
Conversely, professional wrestling announcer Jim Ross in 2012 felt that Flair had not tarnished his legacy, observing only "passion and need to earn a living". In 2016, Flair said continuing to wrestle in TNA was the "number one" regret of his career.
Flair has made numerous appearances in television shows. In 1996, Flair, along with other WCW wrestlers, appeared in an episode of Baywatch as themselves. In 2013, Flair made an appearance in, Stuff You Should Know, in the episode, "Bacteriopolis", as Dr. Roland Grayson. In 2014, Flair voiced himself in the animated series, Uncle Grandpa, in the episode, "History of Wrestling".
In 2009, Flair voiced Commander Douglas Hill in the video game Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 - Uprising.
It was announced on July 8, 2012, that Flair was to appear at Insane Clown Posse's 13th Annual Gathering of the Juggalos weekend as a main stage host who was in charge of announcing the performers. However, his appearance at the event was cut short after he was struck with a water bottle thrown from the crowd before announcing Tech N9ne to enter the main stage, at which point he left and did not announce Tech N9ne or go back out on the main stage to announce the remaining performers.
In 2015, Flair made his feature film debut, appearing in Magic Mike XXL. From May 2015-April 2016, Flair was host of a podcast titled "WOOOOO! Nation". The podcast was placed on hiatus after episode 46 which was uploaded on April 1, 2016. Flair returned to podcasting on MLW Radio with a new show called The Ric Flair Show in July 2016. The final episode of The Ric Flair Show was uploaded on December 16, 2016.
Flair married his first wife, Leslie Goodman, on August 28, 1971. They had two children, daughter Megan and son David, before divorcing in 1983 after twelve years of marriage. On August 27, 1983, he married his second wife, Elizabeth Harrell. Promoter Jim Crockett Jr. served as the best man for the wedding. They had two children, daughter Ashley and son Reid. Beth also made periodic appearances in WCW between 1998 and 2000. Flair and Beth divorced in 2006 after nearly 23 years of marriage. On May 27, 2006, Flair married his third wife Tiffany VanDemark, a fitness competitor. In 2008, Tiffany filed for divorce from Flair, which was finalized in 2009. On November 11, 2009, Flair married his fourth wife, Jacqueline "Jackie" Beems, in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 2012, Flair filed for divorce from Beems, which was finalized in 2014. Flair married his fifth wife, Wendy Barlow (known as "Fifi the Maid" in WCW), on September 12, 2018, at a resort in Florida.
Flair's son David is a semi-retired professional wrestler. Flair's younger son Reid, who signed a developmental contract with WWE near the end of 2007, was an accomplished high school wrestler and made several appearances on WCW television along with his sister Ashley and half-sister Megan. In 2004, Flair became a grandfather at the age of 55, when his older daughter, Megan Fliehr Ketzner, gave birth to her first child, a daughter named Morgan Lee Ketzner on May 9. On May 17, 2012, it was reported that Flair's daughter Ashley had signed with WWE adopting the ring name, Charlotte (which was later changed to include the Flair surname). On March 29, 2013, Reid died from an accidental overdose of heroin, Xanax and a muscle relaxer.
In December 2005, a judge issued arrest warrants for Flair after a road rage incident that took place in Charlotte, North Carolina in which Flair allegedly got out of his car, grabbed a motorist by the neck, and kicked the door off the motorist's sport utility vehicle. Flair was charged with two misdemeanors, injury to personal property and simple assault and battery. This incident was ridiculed on WWE programming, most notably by the wrestler Edge.
In September 2007, Flair opened a financial business called Ric Flair Finance. In July 2008, Flair Finance filed for bankruptcy. Following Flair's debut in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling his former employer, Ring of Honor, filed a lawsuit in 2010, alleging that Flair owed them over $40,000 and that he had not appeared at several events that he was contractually obligated to appear at. The lawsuit was never resolved.
Highspots Inc. claimed that Flair had given them the NWA World Heavyweight Championship belt as collateral for the loan. A warrant for Flair's arrest was issued in May 2011 for being held in contempt of court for violating the terms of his settlement with Highspots. If Flair had failed to comply he could have potentially faced 90 days in jail. On June 25, Highspots released a statement over their official Facebook page stating that someone had paid Flair's debts.
Allegations of racism
According to Teddy Long, during his tenure in NWA, Flair had approached him backstage and asked, “Nigger, do you like working here?” Long stated that wrestlers Kevin Sullivan and Eddie Gilbert mentioned how Flair disliked the idea of him becoming manager. Retired professional wrestling executive, Jim Herd, had also spoke to Long about Flair’s dislike for him. Long would say in a separate interview how he never understood why Flair had hated him, saying he was “only doing his job.”
Flair has long supported Republican political candidates in North Carolina politics. In 2000, Flair explored the possibility of running for governor of North Carolina, but he never filed the papers.
In the 2008 presidential election, Flair declared his support for the Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. He said of Huckabee, "[Huckabee] is a quality person, self-made, a great family man and he has a great vision for our country. And I'm here to excite the crowd".
On August 14, 2017, Flair had surgery in Georgia to remove an obstructive piece of his bowel, which led to various complications, most seriously kidney failure, necessitating dialysis treatment and ongoing hospitalization. He was discharged from rehabilitation and allowed to return home on September 21.
Real life feuds and backstage problems
Flair engaged in an off-screen rivalry with Bret Hart. In October 1993, Hart gave a radio interview in which he said Flair "sucks" and described his workplace, WCW, as "minor league". In Flair's autobiography, he accused Hart of over-exploiting the death of his brother Owen and the controversy surrounding the Montreal Screwjob. Flair also claimed in his autobiography that—despite Hart's popularity in Canada—he was not a formidable money-making draw in the United States, a claim which Hart dismissed as "plain ridiculous" in a column written for the Calgary Sun. Hart cited his headlining performances on consistently sold out tours throughout his WWF career, while alleging that Flair wrestled to near-empty arenas. He also criticized Flair on what he perceived as insults to fellow wrestlers Mick Foley and Randy Savage, both personal friends of Hart. Hart went on to criticize Flair in his own autobiography, mainly his in-ring talent and what Hart perceived as Flair's unsubtle blading. However, they have reconciled and are now friends.
Flair also had a long running feud with Shane Douglas, who would refer to him as "Dick Flair" and accuse him of sabotaging his push in the NWA/WCW after getting a solid push and a rub from his tag team partner Ricky Steamboat. In turn, Flair responded that Douglas was always the guy that would blame his shortcomings on others. He called Douglas out as well as accused him of steroid abuse during a broadcast of the Internet radio show WCW Live! in which he said that he would meet him anytime and anywhere if he would "take the needle out of his ass".
Flair has also had problems with Mick Foley. In his 1999 autobiography Have a Nice Day!, Foley said that "Flair was every bit as bad on the booking side of things as he was great on the wrestling side of it". This was in reference to how poorly Foley thought he was booked during his WCW career when Flair was on the booking committee. Flair responded in his autobiography by writing: "I do not care how many thumbtacks Mick Foley has fallen on, how many ladders he's fallen off, how many continents he's supposedly bled on, he will always be known as a glorified stuntman". However, they have reconciled and are now friends.
In his book, Flair also touched on some real-life tension between himself and Hulk Hogan which largely stemmed from an incident that followed the conclusion of a tag team match between Flair and his son David and the team of Curt Hennig and Barry Windham at WCW's Souled Out pay-per-view on January 17, 1999, in Charleston, West Virginia. However, Flair has stated that he and Hogan remained friends despite their differences.
Flair and wrestler Bruno Sammartino had a real-life disagreement over what reports call "the infamous backstage snub" where Flair claims that Sammartino refused to shake his hand at a live event. While Flair claims Sammartino ignored him due to comments made in his book, stating Sammartino was "a Northeast star who couldn’t draw fans outside New York", Sammartino referred to Flair as a "liar" and stating: "No, I don't respect Ric Flair. I don't respect him at all". They reconciled and were friends until Sammartino's passing in 2018.
Championships and accomplishments
- George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame
- Class of 2013
- Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling/Jim Crockett Promotions/World Championship Wrestling
- WCW World Heavyweight Championship (8 times)[c]
- WCW International World Heavyweight Championship (2 times)
- NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship (3 times)
- NWA (Mid Atlantic)/NWA Television Championship (2 times)
- NWA (Mid Atlantic)/WCW United States Heavyweight Championship (6 times)[d]
- NWA Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Championship (3 times) – with Rip Hawk (1), Greg Valentine (1), and Big John Studd (1)
- NWA World Tag Team Championship (Mid-Atlantic version) (3 times) – with Greg Valentine (2) and Blackjack Mulligan (1)
- First WCW Triple Crown Champion
- National Wrestling Alliance
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- Feud of the Year (1987) The Four Horsemen vs. The Super Powers and The Road Warriors
- Feud of the Year (1988, 1990) vs. Lex Luger
- Feud of the Year (1989) vs. Terry Funk
- Inspirational Wrestler of the Year (2008)
- Match of the Year (1983) vs. Harley Race (June 10)
- Match of the Year (1984) vs. Kerry Von Erich at Parade of Champions 1
- Match of the Year (1986) vs. Dusty Rhodes at The Great American Bash in a steel cage match
- Match of the Year (1989) vs. Ricky Steamboat at WrestleWar
- Match of the Year (2008) vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXIV
- Match of the Decade (2000–2009) vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXIV
- Most Hated Wrestler of the Year (1978, 1987)
- Rookie of the Year (1975)
- Stanley Weston Award (2008)
- Wrestler of the Year (1981, 1984–1986, 1989, 1992)
- Ranked No. 3 of the top 500 wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 1991, 1992, and 1994
- Ranked No. 2 of the top 500 singles wrestlers of the PWI Years in 2003
- Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum
- St. Louis Wrestling Club
- St. Louis Wrestling Hall of Fame
- World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment
- World Tag Team Championship (3 times) – with Batista (2) and Roddy Piper (1)
- WWE Intercontinental Championship (1 time)
- WWF World Heavyweight Championship (2 times)
- Royal Rumble (1992)
- Thirteenth Triple Crown Champion
- Slammy Award for Match of the Year (2008) vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXIV
- WWE Hall of Fame (2 times)
- WWE Bronze Statue
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter
- Best Heel (1990)
- Best Interviews (1991, 1992, 1994)
- Feud of the Year (1989) vs. Terry Funk
- Match of the Year (1983) vs. Harley Race in a steel cage match at Starrcade
- Match of the Year (1986) vs. Barry Windham at Battle of the Belts II on February 14
- Match of the Year (1988) vs. Sting at Clash of the Champions I
- Match of the Year (1989) vs. Ricky Steamboat at Clash of the Champions VI: Rajin' Cajun
- Most Charismatic (1980, 1982–1984, 1993)
- Most Outstanding (1986, 1987, 1989)
- Readers' Favorite Wrestler (1984–1993, 1996)
- Worst Feud of the Year (1990) vs. The Junkyard Dog
- Worst Worked Match of the Year (1996) with Arn Anderson, Meng, The Barbarian, Lex Luger, Kevin Sullivan, Z-Gangsta, and The Ultimate Solution vs. Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage in a Towers of Doom match at Uncensored
- Wrestler of the Year (1982–1986, 1989, 1990, 1992)
- Most Disgusting Promotional Tactic (1994) Retirement angle
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (class of 1996)
- According to Flair's autobiography To Be the Man, his birth name was listed on different documents as Fred Phillips, Fred Demaree, and Fred Stewart. Given that his biological father's surname was Phillips, it is suspected that Fred Phillips is his actual birth name, but Flair has never followed up on the fact. On March 18, 1949, he was legally adopted by the Fliehr family and was renamed Richard Morgan Fliehr.
- "Wooo!" is officially spelled with four o's according to his autobiography, but can extend to any number of o's.
- His last four reigns with the championship were after Jim Crockett Jr. sold his promotion to Ted Turner in November 1988, which became WCW. The NWA World Heavyweight Championship was defended exclusively in WCW until WCW's withdrawal from the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) in 1993.
- Flair did win the Mid-Atlantic version of the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship six times and the six reigns were recognized even after World Championship Wrestling (WCW) took control over the championship and renamed it the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship in 1991. After WCW's purchase by WWE, the lineage of the championships were kept in the WWE United States Championship. WWE.com has published contradictory information on Flair's reigns – recognizing five reigns in one article, but describing him as a six-time champion in another article.
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Flair, who is regarded as the greatest performer in wrestling history by most industry observers...
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The Nature Boy [Flair] is widely regarded as the greatest wrestler of all-time.
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Flair is widely considered to be the greatest performer in the history of professional wrestling.
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Widely regarded as the greatest professional wrestler of all time, Flair...
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Flair's career legacy in the wrestling world extends over 40 years with him being widely regarded as the greatest professional wrestler of all time.
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Flair is widely regarded as the greatest pro wrestler of all-time.
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Fact be known, it's 21 times. 16, I'll take credit for.
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Depending on which documents you read, my birth name was Fred Phillips, Fred Demaree, or Fred Stewart, and I was born in Memphis on February 25, 1949. My biological mother's name was Olive Phillips, Demaree, or Stewart. My biological father is listed as Luther Phillips.
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My father's salary was a bit of an issue. He was only making $3,000 a year, but my mother explained he was only doing his residency in Detroit, and that any child they adopted would live a relatively privileged life, and most likely go to college.
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After the ninth grade, I left Minnesota to go to Wayland Academy in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin... [...] I lettered in three sports. I played middle linebacker and fullback on the football team, threw the shot put, and wrestled...
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I had a nice friendly breakfast with Rick Flair heading home soon
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The Dirtiest Player in the Game also had six stints with the United States Title, which is enough to build a legacy on in and of itself
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