Ric Flair's Top 10 Pay-Per-View Events Ever

Travis Taylor@@WriterTaylorFeatured ColumnistJanuary 4, 2013

Ric Flair's Top 10 Pay-Per-View Events Ever

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    Ric Flair is considered one of the all-time greats in the world of professional wrestling.

    From his humble beginnings in Minnesota (Ric Flair: To Be The Man (Hardcover, 352pp ed.)), to training with Ken Patera, to winning 16 world titles in the NWA, WCW and WWE, Flair has done it all.

    In the course of his nearly 41-year career, Flair has participated in many classic matches. Whether facing Sting, Lex Luger, Wahoo McDaniel, Dusty Rhodes or Triple H, he has always brought the same class and style to each bout.

    The matches on this list, in no particular order, make up Flair’s greatest pay-per-view matches over the course of his career.

    Those matches not held on pay-per-view, while equally important, are not included here.

    Additionally, for the sake of clarity, WWE is used throughout when necessary.

Vs. Ricky Steamboat, WrestleWar, 1989

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    Voted 1989’s Match of the Year by Pro Wrestling Illustrated, the NWA title bout between champion Ricky Steamboat and Ric Flair is a technical masterpiece.

    Steamboat had defeated Flair for the title in February at the Chi-Town Rumble event. Following the match, the two engaged in a series of bouts. Flair was built up as the womanizing ladies man.

    The match at WrestleWar was billed as Flair’s last chance, meaning this was his last shot at Steamboat. To keep it a clean fight, Terry Funk, Pat O'Connor and Lou Thesz, all former NWA champions, were to be judges at ringside.

    The match was a classic in storytelling, one that kept the fans engaged and extremely vocal.

    A series of chops at the beginning had the crowd roaring. The two even took a massive tumble over the ropes to the barely padded floor.

    After nearly 30 minutes of action, Flair used an inside cradle off Steamboat’s slam to get the win and take the title. It was Flair’s sixth world title.

    After the bout, Flair would be attacked and given a piledriver through a table by Funk, for refusing to give Funk a title shot.

Vs. Terry Funk, Great American Bash, 1989

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    Months after his neck injury at the hands of Terry Funk, Flair and the hardcore legend met at The Great American Bash.

    Flair’s NWA title was on the line in this emotional match.

    Wrestling in one of the two rings set up for the event, the match was a brutal encounter. No part of the ring was safe, as everything within striking distance was used to batter their bodies.

    When Flair locked Funk in the figure-four leglock, Funk hit him with a branding iron given to him by manager Gary Hart. Flair was busted open and Funk pummeled the open wound.

    Not long after, Funk would be busted open as well. Flair would then give the figure-four once again. Funk reversed it into a small package, which Flair reversed into his own small package for the win.

    After the bout, Funk, Hart and The Great Muta attacked the Nature Boy. Flair’s long-time rival Sting came to his rescue.

    The brawl that ensued in the crowd was so violent it rivals the Attitude Era. 

    It would be the beginning of the reformation of the Four Horseman.

Vs. Harley Race, Starcade, 1983

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    The very first wrestling pay-per-view (originally shown on closed-circuit television) featured two of wrestling's biggest stars, Ric Flair the former NWA world champion, and Harley Race, the current champion. Race had defeated Flair earlier in the year.

    Several elements make this match special.

    First, as the very first wrestling pay-per-view, the event broke new ground for the business.

    Second, the main event featured a rising star and an aging star. Race was from a time that put wrestling over spectacle. Flair was part of the new age, where entertainment took center stage.

    Third, it was held inside a steel cage.

    The match was slow by today’s standards, but is a perfect example of how things used to be done. Flair’s growing celebrity was clear as he walked down to ringside, with fans trying to reach out and touch him.

    Flair would go on to win the bout and the title.

WWE Royal Rumble, 1992

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    Ric Flair signed with the WWE in August of 1991. In September he began to appear on WWE television, carrying the WCW world title along with him.

    It was a major step forward for the WWE, who had no choice but to recognize the existence of another wrestling federation.

    For the ’92 Rumble, the prize for winning was the WWE championship. In December of 1991, The Undertaker and Hulk Hogan had each won the title in controversial fashion in the span of a week.

    WWE President Jack Tunney declared the title vacant and put it up at the Rumble.

    Flair was the third man to enter the ring, right after The British Bulldog and Ted DiBiase.

    In what was then a record, Flair lasted for an hour and eliminated five men on his way to winning his first WWE title.

    It was a remarkable feat for a wrestler and a bold move for the WWE. They had awarded their biggest prize to a man created in another organization, still under the same name and recognized for his accomplishments.

    Less than three months later he defended the belt against Randy Savage at WrestleMania VIII, where he lost.

Vs. Shawn Michaels, WrestleMania 24, 2008

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    Ric Flair’s retirement match against Shawn Michaels allowed the Nature Boy to retire from wrestling with dignity.

    The past several years had seen a decline in the quality of Flair’s matches, as his in-ring career neared 36 years. Instead of simply walking away from the sport he had made his name in, he went out fighting.

    The crowd was fully attached to the match, responding to Flair’s “Woo!” in near unison.

    To Michaels credit, he sold the aging 16-time world champion. The Showstopper took many bumps, including springboarding off the ropes and landing mid-section first on the edge of the announcer’s table.

    This match showcased the incredible storytelling skills of both men. It was an emotional journey that was clearly and cleanly conveyed to the audience.

    Though he lost, Flair left the ring with a smile on his face. There was no better way for him to leave the WWE.

Vs. Lex Luger, WrestleWar, 1990

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    Prior to this event, Ric Flair and Sting had been partners in a newly reformed Four Horsemen but following Flair’s bout with Terry Funk, Sting decided to challenge Flair for the NWA title.

    Flair kicked Sting out of the group and their match was scheduled for WrestleWar. Shortly before the event, Sting hurt his knee and was unable to compete.

    Lex Luger got tapped to replace the injured Sting.

    Flair and Luger met in the main event, with the injured Sting at ringside to cheer on his friend.

    The match was yet another marvel in storytelling for the Nature Boy.

    The crowd went nuts as the two traded moves back and forth. Every two-count seemed to agonize the crowd, as chance after chance to dethrone Flair slipped past Luger.

    The two men wrestled for an impressive 38 minutes.

    The electricity of the match was so intense Luger lost his senses and went to Sting’s defense as he was about to be pummeled by Ole Anderson. Jim Ross’s frantic “The count! The count! Get back in the ring!” lent urgency to the event.

Vs. Vader, Starcade 1993

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    In 1993, Ric Flair had just returned to WCW after his brief run in the WWE. In his absence, Big Van Vader had become WCW world champion.

    Vader had been a dominant champion. He had just finished a feud with Sting and was eager for new opponents.

    As the returning legend, Flair was quick to step up and challenge Vader.

    The two met in a bout at the 1993 edition of Starcade. Vader, who was managed by Harley Race, overpowered Flair from the start. The Nature Boy tried to keep Vader moving to wear out the big man.

    But nothing Flair did seemed to faze Vader, not even his famous chops to the chest.

    Flair would eventually gain the upper hand once the action spilled outside the ring. Several times he bounced Vader’s head off the ring posts.

    But just as soon as he was on top, Vader found a way to gain control. This was one of the few times that Flair was utterly overmatched.

    Toward the end of the match, the crowd in unison began to chant, “Flair! Flair! Flair!”

    The match ended abruptly, when Flair rolled up Vader from behind to get the pin.

    At this point in time wrestling was transitioning to shorter, quicker matches. Flair’s bout with Vader was a step back to when mind games and strategy were more important than flashy moves.

Vs. Triple H, Survivor Series, 2005

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    This brutal Last Man Standing bout between the former Evolution teammates showed that despite his age, Ric Flair could still dish it out.

    After winning the tag team championship with Batista twice and the Intercontinental championship, Flair was attacked by a returning Triple H.

    They wrestled in a steel cage match at Taboo Tuesday, before agreeing to the Last Man Standing bout at Survivor Series.

    The match was a brutal one that showcased Flair’s continuing ability to take and dish out punishment. Three years out from his Street Fight with Vince McMahon and Flair made the bout painful to behold.

    Painful in how much punishment he took.

    Ultimately Flair lost the bout but showed why he is legend.

Vs. Sting, Great American Bash, 1990

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    Ric Flair and Sting clashed many times over the years, but none as special as when they fought at The Great American Bash.

    Sting had been a made a horseman after coming to the aid of Flair during his bout with Terry Funk, but was unceremoniously dumped after signing to face the Nature Boy for the title.

    A knee injury sidelined him for a bit, but once he returned the match was set.

    The two men wrestled their hearts out, with the action trading back and forth multiple times. Flair did a great job of selling Sting to the crowd, appearing rather defenseless at times.

    The match ended when Sting reversed Flair’s figure-four leglock into a small package.

    This match was a significant passing of the torch, which also showcased how well Flair could hold the crowd.

Vs. Vince McMahon, Royal Rumble, 2002

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    After a brief hiatus from the ring, Ric Flair returned to the WWE in 2001. His on-screen role was co-owner of the WWE.

    A feud with Vince McMahon soon erupted. It led to a bloody Street Fight at the 2002 Royal Rumble. This was the first time these two legends of wrestling had ever met inside the ring.

    After trading a few blows in the ring, the action spilled outside the ropes. McMahon quickly opened Flair’s head, bringing forth a river of blood.

    McMahon looked like a world-class wrestler as Flair was bounced off the ring posts and steel steps. 

    It’s a testament to Flair that McMahon dominated the majority of the match. One of things that made Flair one of the best was his ability to sell anybody and make any wrestler look good. This bout with McMahon was no exception.

    The two men struck each other badly enough that both men soon bled profusely.  Flair was able to put McMahon away after applying his figure-four leg lock.

    Despite his age and weakening skills, Flair showed he could still tell a story that kept every fan glued to the ring.