If the world of professional wrestling were to encounter some strange apocalyptic experience, who would be remembered as the greatest to ever grace its land? The answer is definitely not Hulk Hogan; let's put that to an immediate rest. The answer could be "Stone Cold" Steve Austin as the "Texas Rattlesnake" is considered to be the greatest WWE attraction and draw of all time.
However, if you asked the wrestlers themselves, one name may resonate as a constant contender to the distinction. That name of course being, Ric Flair. "The Nature Boy" has influenced an entire generation of professional wrestlers as many of his peers consider Flair to be the absolute best in the business. The reasons are justified as nobody has entertained and lived in the same manner as Flair.
Ric Flair has been everywhere, seen everything, and wrestled everybody. Along the way carving out a career that is both legendary and controversial. Nobody has ever done the wrestling industry quite like Flair and while he is technically not the original "Nature Boy" (Buddy Rogers), Flair is the one true "Natch." While Hulk Hogan was helping turn professional wrestling into a cartoon-like industry, Flair was providing the "cool" factor.
Fans young and old know the number; the number of all-time World Championship victories. This number currently sits at sixteen. However, as the old saying goes "records are made to be broken" and Flair's title accumulation is no exception. Like it or not, this number will be surpassed someday as most fans already know who to expect as the man to pass "The Man." (This will be covered much later.)
Now then, let's take some time to think about these sixteen World Championship and those who would prove worthy of breaking the record. This list will examine Superstars who trail Ric Flair by a few title victories, some who remain far behind, and even a few who have never won a World Championship as we will take into account a hypothetical future.
These are the top 15 acceptable candidates to pass Ric Flair in championship wins:
15 Kevin Owens
Let's begin with the Dreamers Entry:
Kevin Owen is never going to win anything close to sixteen World Championships in WWE. Fans of Owens have settled for the Intercontinental Championship and would be grateful to see Owens hold the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at least once.
While not the conventional looking Superstar, Kevin Owens is the best wrestler in WWE and a much better wrestler than Ric Flair in his prime. However, looks matter and while Owens is an acceptable candidate, this is merely a dream.
14 CM Punk
Now for the IWC Entry:
CM Punk held the WWE Championship for 434 days during a run that many have said was overshadowed by John Cena. Of Ric Flair's sixteen World Championship, two came as WWE Champion and neither reign could match the run of Punk.
If CM Punk hadn't abandoned the WWE Universe and had the company provided him with his just due years ago, there no reason to believe that Punk is not an acceptable candidate to surpass Ric Flair.
13 Seth Rollins
The Man Entry:
Fans have heard Ric Flair say it a million times: "to be the man, you have to beat the man." When looking to the next generation of WWE Superstars, Seth Rollins is The Man, which was proven during his first reign as WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
The future for Seth Rollins is brighter than any other current WWE Superstar. Rollins is the guy who is going to lead the company through the next decade. While it may take many years, Rollins is certainly an acceptable successor to Ric Flair.
12 Randy Orton
Time for the Entitled Entry:
There are those who feel that Randy Orton was handed his WWE success. Orton - a third generation Superstar - was brought in at a young age, paired with some of the best (including Ric Flair), and was handed twelve World Championships.
Regardless of how Randy Orton arrived, "The Viper's" association with Ric Flair makes for an interesting twist as Orton - preferably reverting back to a heel persona - would make a great and agitating candidate to pass Flair.
The Rated-R Entry:
Aside from "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, there may be no greater wrestling heel than Ric Flair. In the NWA, Flair redefined the heel. In the past twenty-five years, one of the best heels to emerge from WWE has been The Rated-R Superstar, Edge.
Edge was force in premature retirement and finished his career with eleven World Championship victories. If Edge was given a few more years to perform, he would have made a run at sixteen World Champions as an acceptable contender.
The following is the Legacy Entry:
Who said this candidate had to be a man? The current Divas Champion is not only a fantastic female wrestler but also the daughter of Ric Flair. Wrestling greatness runs deep within the blood.
It appears as though Charlotte has a lengthy WWE career ahead of her and clearly more than one reign with the Divas Championship. Therefore, whose to say Charlotte will not amass more Championships than her legendary father?
9 Kurt Angle
Here we have the Disappointment Entry:
The fact that Kurt Angle - one of the best wrestlers to ever grace a WWE ring - has spent so many years working for a low-grade version of Sports Entertainment such as TNA is rather disappointing.
When Kurt Angle left WWE, the former Olympian was a six-time World Champion and a man who proved to be a more-than-worthy candidate to Ric Flair's sixteen World Championship victories (Injuries aside in this scenario).
8 The Rock
The Non-Dwayne Johnson Entry:
There is no denying the Hollywood success of Dwayne Johnson. However, Johnson would have never caught the eye of Tinseltown had he never been a WWE Superstar known as The Rock.
The Rock - a former ten-time World Champion - was perhaps the most charismatic wrestler of all time; rivaled only by the "Nature Boy" himself. Which is why The Rock would have made an acceptable candidate to move past Flair.
7 Bret Hart
Time for the Excellence Entry:
Sad news has surfaced in regards to Bret Hart as the Northern Hero announced to the world that he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Fans worldwide now find within themselves Hope for The Hitman.
As a wrestler, Bret Hart was as good as anybody; a seven-time World Champion who was a master of the mat. Despite personal problems between the two, Hart, without a doubt would have posed as an acceptable candidate to pass Ric Flair.
Let's move on to the Rival Entry:
Throughout his career, Ric Flair has rivaled some of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time (Ricky Steamboat, Dusty Rhodes). However, Flair's greatest rival comes in face-paint: Sting.
Who better to surpass Ric Flair than the man with whom he had some of his greatest professional wrestling moments? Perhaps if Sting had arrived in WWE a decade earlier, this may have come to fruition.
5 The Undertaker
Next we have the Respect Entry:
Respect goes a long way in life and professional wrestling. There is no performer past or present more respected by his peers than The Undertaker. The seven-time World Champion is the one WWE Constant.
The Undertaker now works a very limited schedule but remains an acceptable candidate to topple Ric Flair. While The Undertaker will never again win a World Champion, he is a man who Flair would have respected in breaking his record.
4 Triple H
The Evolved Entry:
For years, many believed that Triple H would be the guy who surpassed Ric Flair's mark of sixteen World Championship; especially considering their connection and association in Evolution. It seemed right.
Triple H then moved away from full-time competition and the championship scene. That was until the recent Royal Rumble where Triple H capture his fourteenth World Championship. While this should have happened years ago, it could still happen now.
3 Shawn Michaels
Let's look at the Student-Teacher Entry:
While many wrestlers attribute Ric Flair as their inspiration, one in particular was perhaps inspired more than most by the "Nature Boy." This would be the man with whom Flair had his final WWE match: Shawn Michaels.
Shawn Michaels has four World Championships to his name but think about what could have been if not for the four years HBK spent in retirement? Michaels would have been a prime candidate to pass his hero.
2 "Stone Cold" Steve Austin
Time for the Suitable Entry:
Ric Flair has gone on record - more than once - and stated that "Stone Cold" Steve Austin is the greatest of all time. The "Nature Boy" has nothing but praise and admiration for the "Texas Rattlesnake.''
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin was a six-time World Champion and a revolutionary. While injuries would force Austin to retire from the ring much sooner than he would have liked, there is no doubting the validity of Austin as candidate to pass Ric Flair.
1 John Cena
The Realistic Entry:
It's time to be real as up until now, most of this discussion has been strictly hypothetical. However, we all know what's coming and it's coming sooner rather than later: John Cena will surpass Ric Flair for all-time World Championship victories.
John Cena currently sits with fifteen World Championships and has already received the blessing of Ric Flair to pass his mark but does this alone make Cena an acceptable candidate? John Cena is the New Face of All-Time ... Learn to accept that fact.