Ric Flair has really lived larger than life. He didn't put on a costume and play a role, he actually lived what he was saying in those promos. He bought all the suits, paid for limos in every town and kissed the girls around the world. When you think of the legendary partying done by wrestlers in the good ol' days, Flair was the life of that party. It came at a cost of course, but it doesn't seem like Flair any regrets, only great stories. Living the high life for decades and getting divorced several times has landed him in some financial trouble over the years. Some reports had his debt at over one million including everything he owed to ex-wives and the government. Perhaps that's why he kept wrestling at such an advanced age, for a few more paydays.
Whatever the case, the man is a legend. Steve Austin himself always proclaims Flair as his favorite and the G.O.A.T. Flair's catalog of stories and penchant for wild embellishment make him one of the best shoot interviews and article subjects. He's been at the top of both major promotions and is even in the Hall of Fame twice! It was heartwarming to many old-school fans that Vince and the WWE properly honored Ric the way they did. The retirement match with Shawn Michaels and HoF induction was arguably the greatest send-off the promotion has ever given. It was cheapened a little later by him coming out of retirement for some more money, albeit in TNA. But as they say, “that’s just Flair being Flair”.
The tales of Flair have been discussed and exaggerated to death, but I did my best to bring the top 15 facts you may not know about The Nature Boy.
Oh and to John Cena. You may surpass him for most World Titles, but we all know who the “Real World’s Champion” is pal.
15 The Match that didn't happen....Did
One of the greatest PPV matches that didn’t happen was Flair against Hogan at WrestleMania VIII. Flair had just joined the company as ‘the real World's Champion’, and won the 1992 Royal Rumble to capture the WWE title and prove his ability. It seemed like a no brainer for the two biggest icons of opposing promotions to finally meet at WrestleMania VIII. Instead we got Flair vs. Savage and Sid vs. Hogan as a weaker double main event.
The reason why?
Many like to blame Hogan for ducking Flair and/or not agreeing on who should win. But another theory is that Vince didn’t think it would draw.
Vince had the two wrestling at several untelevised house shows with zero promotion to test the match out. Unsuspecting fans were treated to the biggest dream match of the time. For some reason, Vince thought the match didn't work and went with Hogan against yet another heel monster instead.
The two would eventually have their feud in WCW and even wrestled on RAW in 2002, but it was nowhere near as epic as it could have been on the grand stage of WrestleMania.
14 He wasn't the original Nature Boy
Scott Steiner pissed everybody off at WCW when he cut a vicious and personal promo against Flair. They weren’t involved in a feud at the time and his comments had nothing to do with the storyline.
Steiner ripped on Flair about everything from his ‘crooked yellow teeth’ to stealing the original ‘Nature Boy’ Buddy Rogers’ gimmick.
Here’s a classic Steiner quote from that infamous promo.
“Cuz when you used your little brain, and stoled [sic] his name, there’s one thing you couldn’t steal, and that was his class!”.
13 He used to look a lot different
Flair plays the chicken heel better than anyone. How many times have we seen his slender frame on his knees, begging off an attack from a much larger opponent, only to cheapshot them when they show mercy? His performance in the 1992 Royal Rumble was a masterpiece of this style, as he used every trick in the book to survive. It was brains over brawn.
But before he hit it big in the business he was literally big. He was a thicker, muscular, brown-haired brawler. The younger Flair was involved in a horrific plane crash that broke his back. Flair lost a lot of the bulk and changed his style to what we know today. That back injury is the reason he always took the top rope bump on his side.
Funny how a plane crash might have been the best thing for his career.
12 Vince tried to poach him in 1988
Flair took the Big Gold Belt with him to the WWE in late 1991 for a quick run before ending up back in WCW. That quick stint had a few highlights like his magnificent Rumble performance in 1992 and his great match with Savage at WrestleMania.
But Vince had actually gone after him way back in 1988. Apparently Flair was miffed at how WCW was treating his Horsemen colleagues. It was public enough that Vince reached out to see if he would like to switch sides. McMahon initially planned to have Flair face Savage at the very first SummerSlam!
That would have been a heck of a lot better than the Mega Powers vs. The Mega Bucks.
11 Those Robes are Expensive and Heavy
Flair truly lived his gimmick. All the talk about lear jets and big spending was absolutely true. His suits and robes cost big bucks, but that’s how the Nature Boy had to roll. He had the robes custom made and they cost thousands. They also weighed about 40 pounds, made out of the same heavy cloth as an antique curtain.
Flair sells these robes and much more on his website. A “custom made original professional wrestling robe” goes for a whopping $30,000! Too much for you? Well for only $500 you canl buy a five minute phone call from the man himself.
Paying someone to talk to you. Strange indeed.
10 He’s Won more than 16 Championships
Flair has given into the accepted notion that he’s a 16-time World Heavyweight Champion, but he actually believes himself to have won 21.
Wrestling records aren’t an exact science and with the shifting promotions, dark matches, and lack of any official record-keeping, it’s easy to believe that he’s won more 16. Can we start a petition to get this rectified so Cena doesn’t overtake him?
9 His 2nd Title Run was non-televised
Flair's first WWE Championship run was a glamorous one. He won the title after his marathon Rumble performance, and lost it to Savage in a classic at WrestleMania VIII, easily upstaging the Hogan/Sid main event.
However his second run happened very quietly. He beat Savage for the title in a match that Vince deemed so bad he came out and made them restart it. This is most likely why we didn't see it on a large PPV. Flair would lose the title pretty quickly to Bret Hart at another untelevised event. This was the start of the New Generation as Vince told Flair he was going with the younger guys and there was nothing left for him in the promotion.
8 He was Religious about the Gym
Save for his bulky beginnings, Flair spent the latter majority of his career as one of the smaller guys on the roster. He’s practically a cruiserweight. His lack of size and reputation for hard partying would make you assume he spent very little time in the gym. But you would be wrong.
In fact, Flair was the first guy in the gym every morning! Many wrestling biographies have shared the story that no matter how damn late Flair was up with booze and women, he was always the first guy in the gym bright and early, sweating out all that booze from his system. It’s actually incredible how relatively unscathed he has emerged after four decades in a tough business.
Turns out the fountain of youth is a treadmill at 6 AM. No thanks. In a way it does make sense. After all, how else would he wrestle all those 60-minute matches with Ricky Steamboat? Bret Hart was one of Flair's toughest critics, but even he admitted Flair was the best conditioned wrestler he ever faced.
7 He was Obsessed with getting Cena Smashed
Certain older wrestlers have criticized the current generation of superstars for being boring. Instead of hitting strip clubs and getting wasted, they go to their hotel and play video games like a bunch of nerds. Social media and the PG image have a lot to do with that. The last thing the WWE shareholders want to see is their champion in compromising photos on the internet (whoops Seth Rollins). Furthermore, the style has changed to become much more athletic, demanding peak physical performance every night of the year.
Cena is the posterboy for the safer generation, and Flair told the story of how badly he wanted to see Cena old-timey wasted. The problem was that Cena is a zen tank of sobriety. And no matter how many beers he downed, he was always cool as a cucumber. This frustrated the Nature Boy as he wanted to see the face of the company carry on the (not so proud) traditions of yesteryear.
Even in a drinking contest, Cena never loses.
6 Dusty Rhodes and Dick Murdoch hazed him badly
When Flair was first breaking in he was delegated to carry bags and the pros pulled all kinds of ‘pranks’ on young rookie. Dusty Rhodes and Dick Murdoch would break into his hotel room, spraying a fire extinguisher everywhere and throw his clothes out the window. But their favorite gag was to leave him stranded.
Flair was nervous about his first ever cage match and having to blade. Rhodes had the wonderful idea to have the referee do it. The ref was a little loose and cut poor Flair open across his head, gushing blood everywhere in a tremendous display. Flair went back to the dressing room proud and ready to take a photo of his first crimson mask. To his dismay, he was greeted by an empty dressing room as those jokesters ditched him yet again.
5 Vince gave Ric his groove back
WCW mistreated Flair so poorly leading up to his first departure that his confidence was shattered. That’s a terrible thing to happen to any professional athlete, but especially so for Flair, whose entire gimmick is built on being an arrogant showboat.
When Flair hit the WWE Vince showed yet again why he was the best promoter on the planet. As a kid I had no idea who this Flair character was before the WWE yet it was conveyed he was a big deal. His gigantic gold belt, excellent promos, and partnership with Bobby Heenan put him over big time. By the time he won the Rumble and his first WWE Championship, it felt well deserved and Flair was back in the swing of things. He even described that stint as "the greatest year and a half of my career, outside of the time I spent with Arn Anderson and The Four Horsemen".
Ric went back to WCW - to be mistreated once again when Hogan came back - yet would shock the industry with another decade or so of great wrestling.
4 He would order 100 Drinks and give them to Strangers
Being at the same bar as your favorite wrestling heroes would be awesome enough, but imagine Flair buying you, your friends, and everyone in the bar drinks? I’m sure paying to get everyone loaded helped everyone see his wild and crazy antics as ‘charming’. Flair is notorious for his extreme partying and womanizing ways. And that all goes down a lot easier if everyone around him is completely smashed.
3 I’m the Champ, you know I’m good for it
There’s lot of perks that come from being the Champ. You’re the top dog of the company, get the best flights and hotel rooms, and you can... use your belt as collateral for loans?
Well that’s what Flair did anyway.
The man knew who to spend money. So when it came time to get a loan or some other financially important moment, often times his championship belt was the most valuable thing he had. Flair would simply offer the belt as collateral and be on his merry way.
Simpler times back then.
2 He's in the HoF...Twice
Flair was a no-brainer instant Hall of Famer the second he retired. His mind-blowing longevity and incredible success made sure of that.
However he was already a member of the WWE HOF. He first got in back in 2008 on his own, but again when the Four Horsemen were inducted in 2012. The legendary stable is right up there with the NWO and DX as icons to a generation.
That made him the first ever double-inductee. Well done.
1 Alleged adoption controversy
Flair may be synonymous with Charlotte, Carolina - heck, his daughter took the name of the city as her ring name - yet he’s actually from Memphis. Born with the name Fred, Flair was adopted from an extremely controversial orphanage: The Tennessee Children’s Home Society. The organization was found guilty of actually kidnapping children and selling them off in illegal adoptions. Flair has remained very silent about the issue and admits to letting the past stay in the past.