Popularly known by the moniker ‘The Nature Boy’, Ric Flair is a retired professional wrestler most famous for his extravagant lifestyle with an addiction to alcohol and women. He was once the face of National Wrestling Alliance (NWA ) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and is regarded as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.
The first ever WCW champion, Flair has held the World Championship for a record 16 times. His tumultuous life involves strained relationship with his adoptive parents, multiple injuries, four failed marriages, and the heart-breaking loss of a son.
In a career spanning over 40 decades, he has broken several records and created new records by winning numerous championships. Flair has seen the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in a wrestlers’ career but is still unwilling to ‘retire’ from this sport as he considers wrestling to be his first love.
It is his sheer passion for wrestling that prompted him to wrestle for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) even years after officially retiring from wrestling. However, he later admitted that wrestling for TNA was his ‘number one’ regret of his career. Flair is now often seen in WWE in support of his daughter Charlotte.
After he was born, his biological parents abandoned him. He ended up in the Tennessee Children's Home Society which was basically an orphanage. The TCHS was allegedly involved in kidnapping children for adoption at the time, but Flair was eventually adopted by Dr. Richard Reid Fleihr and his wife, Kathleen Fliehr.
His biological parents didn't try to reclaim him, so the allegations may be unfounded. Only history knows. The family moved to Minnesota and a young Flair soon met and trained with Verne Gagne, a pioneer of the territorial promotions in the Great Lakes Region.
During his training with Gagne's wrestling camp, he would spar with future wrestlers Greg Gagne, Jim Brunzell, Ken Patera and the Iron Sheik. He officially made his debut for Gagne's AWA promotion in 1972.
While there for two years, Flair would wrestle Dusty Rhodes, Andre the Giant and Larry 'the Axe' Hennig (father of Mr. Perfect, grandfather of Curtis Axel). He would then transfer to what would be the promotion he would make his name in, Jim Crockett Promotions/NWA/WCW in 1974.
Everything would be great for a year, including picking up his first singles title, the NWA Mid-Atlantic TV Championship. Once the year turned to 1975, Flair would be facing another opponent outside of the ring.
The infamous plane crash
A plane crash nearly ended Flair's life before he even had a chance to make his mark on the industry. In 1975, Flair faced another tragedy when a plane he was on crashed.
He was on his way to a show for NWA when the plane carrying himself and several others crashed in Wilmington, North Carolina. The pilot was killed, Johnny Valentine was paralyzed and Flair broke his back in three places at age 26.
Three others were on the plane including promoter David Crockett. Because of the damage caused by the plane crash, doctors allegedly informed Flair that he would never wrestle again.
Flair would prove them wrong, however, returning to the ring eight months later after the crash.
It can be said that Flair made lemonade out of the lemons from the crash. He was forced him to alter his wrestling style from brawling powerhouse to one who relied more on technical moves and character work.
Because of this change in style, Flair would soon create the 'Nature Boy' persona that he would become world famous for. It even propelled him into a feud with the original 'Nature Boy', Buddy Rogers, in which the latter put the younger Flair over, thus ceding the name in 1978.
He would win the United States title five times before winning the NWA/WCW World Championship for the first time in 1981 when he beat perennial rival Dusty Rhodes. This run made Flair the focal point of the promotion until his departure in 1991.
During his run as the franchise, he would go on to form the Four Horsemen in 1985 alongside Arn and Ole Anderson and later Tully Blanchard. And thus, history, and perhaps the greatest faction of all time, was created. He would also win the World Championship eight times before leaving for WWF in 1991. Did you know Ric was allegedly hit by lightning in the late 1970s? Check our next article for this!!!!
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