With so many superstars out there that touched hearts, drew millions, and electrified atmospheres, how could the best be extracted from a slew of greatly assembled men? Andre the Giant, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Bret Hart, HBK, Undertaker, the list goes on. One man clearly sticks out.
He was the stylin', profiling, limo limousine riding, son a gun. Smooth yet dangerous, funny yet clever, gentle but enraged, Ric Flair is the best superstar of all time.
We can sit here and go over his 16 world title reigns, but those reigns aren't the sole reason he's the best. He could talk to talk, then walk to walk...and walk to walk some more with his taunts.
Flair was the complete package. Speaking of package, the Figure-Four leg lock was a nice package...that hurts like hell. Flair's signature submission is considered on of the all time greatest to this day. From his stylish robes to his awesome blond hair, Flair's been around long enough to tell you that he's the man.
He's the dirtiest player in the game, and he'll do anything he can to pick up the victory. Winning isn't all about the honor. What made Flair great that he was a face and heel even though he clearly had face and heel runs in his outstanding career. He did what many great wrestlers failed to do, use the ring.
The ring is a wrestler's enemy, and ally. The very same thing that you're defeated in, is the very same thing that you earn victory in. It's your environment, adapt. Eye rakes, eye pokes, loosening turnbuckles, low blows, pulling tights, using the ropes, roughing up the opponent, Flair did it all.
Under Verne Gagne, Flair's career took off in the American Wrestling Association (AWA) in as early as the 1970's. His tenure there would lead to matches against the American Dream Dusty Rhodes and would mold the foundation for his "Nature Boy" image. In 1974 he would leave AWA for National Wrestling Alliance.
Success would follow he future hall of famer as he captured the NWA United States championship. Flair had five reigns as the United States champion that included feuds against Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, Greg Valentine, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Magmun T.A. and the great Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka. Flair would eventually take on the great Buddy Rodgers, the original Nature Boy, who put Flair over in their great match up.
In 1981, Ric Flair finally made it to the top when he defeated Dusty Rhodes for the NWA Heavyweight Championship. He would move on to WCW in 1986. Before he left, he formed the Four Horsemen, one of wrestling's most notorious groups ever assembled. Flair aligned himself with Ole and Arn Anderson, and Tully Blanchard, to form the group. The faction was so popular that reincarnations of it would appear in the future with wrestlers such as Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, and Flair himself.
Flair fought against the icon Sting in an epic bout at the first Clash of champions in 1988. A year later he faced Terry Funk in a great feud that came to a huge pit stop at WrestleWar in 1989. The match was so good that PWI (Pro Wrestling Illustrated) named it Match Of The Year.
During his first WCW stint, Flair made a splash. The feud would finally conclude when Funk faced Flair in an "I Quit Match" at Clash Of Champions IX: New York Knockout. Funk did everything he could, but found himself inevitably tapping out to Flair's deadly Figure Four leg lock. He was recognized as the first ever WCW World Heavyweight champion in 1991 as the company transitioned from NWA.
In the hot summer of August 1991, the Nature Boy arrived in the World Wrestling Federation. Mr. Perfect was his image consultant and Bobby Heenan was his financial adviser. His presence was felt when he cost Hulk Hogan the WWF championship to The Undertaker at Survivor Series in 1991. The next year, Flair won the Royal Rumble and was awarded the vacant WWF championship.
At this point, Flair, with Buddy Rodgers, was the only man to have held the NWA and WWF world championships. Flair then became the only man to have been the NWA, WCW, and WWF world champion.
When he returned to WCW in 1994, he defeated Sting and unified the International World Heavyweight championship and the WCW World Heavyweight championship.
The rest of his second WCW tenure included matches the likes of Flair vs Hogan at Halloween Havoc and a feud with the infamous NWO (New World Order). The horsemen would fall to the NWO, but Flair reunited them with Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, and Steve McMichael in 1998.
The Nature Boy wasn't only the first WCW World Heavyweight champion in history, but he also wrestled in the last match in WCW Monday night Nitro history as WWF purchased WCW in 2001. Flair would come back for a second, and last tenure in the WWE. The prominent ECW/WCW Invasion arc was a perfect way to bring back "The man".
Flair faced WWE/F Chairman Vince McMahon at the 2002 Royal Rumble in a street fight and came out victorious. A year later Flair encountered The Undertaker at Wrestlemania X8 in a match that Flair gave his all, but lost. Who beats Taker at Mania anyway? Another milestone was under his belt. Flair became one of the few men to have wrestled Sting and Undertaker, let alone on grand stages such as Starrcade and Wrestlemania.
In 2003, Flair and the seasoned vet Triple H aligned themselves to form one of the most dominant stables in WWE history, Evolution. Through Evolution, Flair captured the Tag team titles twice with up and coming star Batista. He also had and an Intercontinental title run.
He and Triple H helped push Orton and Batista to the top and both current top stars say that it was impossible without Flair's help. Orton's family was in wrestling. Bob "Cowboy" Orton and the rest of Orton's ancestors wrestled, but were not always there to help Orton when needed. Flair passed loads of tips and Knowledge over to Orton, and where is Orton now?
Flair had a feud with Rated RKO (Edge and Randy Orton). With the aid of DX, Flair got revenge on the vicious attacks done by Rated RKO. In 2007, Flair went on an unbelievable winning streak under the impression that the next time he losses, he's fired.
Vince McMahon tried everything to make Flair lose, but you can't outsmart the dirtiest player in the game. Flair knew all the ropes, figuratively and literally. The streak spilled over into 2008, where Ric lead WWE'S 2008 Hall of Fame class. Flair has done a lot in his career spanning 40 plus years, but he had never faced the showstopper, HBK at Wrestlemania.
He pushed the envelope and a once hesitant HBK accepted knowing that he would be the one to end the Nature Boy's career. Wrestlemania XXIV came, and the atmosphere was electrified when Flair's theme blasted in the football stadium.
Everyone stood and were at the edge of their seats watching...history. The two went back and forth, as HBK was schooled by the master of chops. HBK didn't pull the trigger when he had the chance to, and found himself in the lethal Figure-Four Leg lock. Mr. Wrestlemania found it in himself to bare the pain and escaped.
This is arguably the most unscripted emotions in a match in Wrestlemania history HBK pulled the trigger and hit the sweet chin music on Flair and won the match. "I'm Sorry, I Love You."
If that isn't emotion, then I don't know what is. Flair went down as the only active wrestler to enter the Hall of Fame.
That beautiful vivid peak cock colored robe, the man. Flair walked out Wrestlemania XXIV, giving his goodbyes to all the fans and tears were well called for. I didn't cry, but if I watched Flair decades back, I would have shed a tear like my father did.
It wasn't about being a cash cow like Cena, and bad ass heel like Edge, and mentally crazed villain like Orton, an over hyped guy like Hogan, a titan of terror like Andre, being cool like Hart, stealing the show like HBK, raising hell like Austin, being a master of the mic like Rock, the game like Triple H, being undefeated at Wrestlemania like Taker, nor having 16 World title reigns.
Flair was so much more.
He was a pioneer in wrestling, he was part of the foundation of WCW and WWF. He was in his prime in not one, but four wrestling promotions. He showed the world what he was made of, and who was really the dirtiest player in the game. The man was a perfect package and is simply irreplaceable in wrestling's time line and history.
Naitch once said: "To be the man, you have to beat the man." No one is greater than Flair, so I guess he's still the man.
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