What Were Ric Flair's Greatest WWE Matches of All Time?
Ric Flair is revered for being one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. Wrestling longer than just about anyone in history, The Nature Boy has had excellent matches from his first to his last.
These bouts have varied from technical showcases to character pieces to blood baths, but the focus was Flair's resilience every time. He always refused to give in, which is why he is one of the greatest of all time.
His best opponents were the ones who pushed him to his limit. In an unforgettable trilogy, Ricky Steamboat forced Naitch to go the distance again and again. Vader and Terry Funk brutalized Flair, but he kept getting back up to fight more.
He needed to show he could last consistently with legends. Harley Race and Dusty Rhodes questioned if he could keep up, and Flair was ready constantly to steal the show with both of them.
He had to change his mindset over time and battled long and hard with the likes of Randy Savage, Mr. Perfect and Sting to help establish them in the industry.
Flair might have spent much of his career outside of WWE, but with NWA and WCW also now under the company's umbrella, matches in those promotions have also been included here.
Royal Rumble Match, Royal Rumble 1992
It is rare that a Royal Rumble is a defining match for a single wrestler, but Ric Flair's run is one of the most legendary performances in the event's history.
Entering at No. 3 in 1992, The Nature Boy was ready to go the distance. In this unique Rumble, the WWE Championship was on the line, and Flair needed to battle for an hour in order to win a title he had never held in his illustrious career.
While he was far more tenured and successful in NWA and WCW, WWE was ready to let Flair go the distance, and this match helped define his legacy with his work ethic.
He took out The British Bulldog early while allowing bigger wrestlers such as Big Boss Man and Repo Man to thin the herd. Surviving by the skin of his teeth, Naitch was not going down easy.
In the closest to a match in WWE the two ever got, Hulk Hogan entered late to face off with Flair, and both survived to the final four along with Sid Justice and Randy Savage.
Flair helped Sid eliminate Savage, and Sid eliminated Hogan. But The Hulkster returned to help take out Sid, which allowed Flair to win the Rumble. It was a showcase of his endurance that will last forever.
Ric Flair vs. Dusty Rhodes, Great American Bash 1986
Flair has had many great matches, but his greatest rivalry was certainly with Dusty Rhodes.
The American Dream was the perfect foil to The Nature Boy. Rhodes was a working man, who fought for what he believed in; Flair was the rich, entitled performer with every opportunity.
Their matches varied in quality through the years, but the best came in 1986 at the Great American Bash. This fight for the NWA Heavyweight Championship was built on the simple conflict that defined these two: Who deserved to represent the company?
This was a big-move match as each collision between the two inched closer to the finish. Rhodes used his size to his advantage while Flair tried to grapple his opponent to the mat and make him tap out to the figure-four leg lock.
The American Dream refused to lose no matter what and managed to roll through a scoop slam into an inside cradle for the shocking victory. Rhodes had overcome the most dominant NWA heavyweight champion in history.
The two legends fought with everything they had, and every move felt like it could be the end. Flair did the job for Rhodes that night and helped to solidify his legacy among the best wrestlers in history.
Ric Flair vs. Mr. Perfect, Monday Night Raw January 25, 1993
Bobby Heenan watched on commentary as his client, Flair, gave everything to his last match in WWE for nearly a decade. He fought tooth and nail in a Loser Leaves Town match against one of the best technical performers of all time, Mr. Perfect.
Broken open early by a head shot to the steel post, Perfect fought valiantly for a long time in this contest. The Nature Boy was not afraid to injure and brutalize a bleeding man, making sure he was blinded by his own blood before targeting his legs for the figure-four leg lock.
However, the submission was not enough to keep Perfect down. He fired back with chops and a clothesline before connecting on the Perfect Plex for the victory. Flair was gone, and Heenan was left angry and without his biggest client.
With The Brain on commentary and a perfect dynamic between Flair and Perfect, this match was everything it needed to be. Perfect was an incredible babyface throughout, battling through injury. The sequences where he fired up were some of the most memorable of his career.
The Nature Boy led the action throughout and ultimately made Perfect look like a star. It is a shame so little came of it for the technical master, but great matches stand the test of time more than the stories that often follow.
Ric Flair vs. Randy Savage, WrestleMania VIII
Going into WrestleMania VIII, Randy Savage was still trying to escape the shadow of Hulk Hogan. Flair gave him everything he needed to steal the show from The Hulkster in a fun, wild battle.
This match was emotional from start to finish. The Nature Boy dominated off the bat after a back body drop from the ring to the floor. However, Macho Man was too fired up to stay down. He busted Flair open as he battled back.
Miss Elizabeth was not at ringside for a long stretch of the contest as part of the story. It was not clear whose side she was on. When she did come out, Flair had once more taken over, injuring Savage's knee. She distracted Flair, allowing Savage to roll him up with a handful of tights for three.
This was the best match at 'Mania, despite being in the middle of the show. However, it remains the defining contest that night, cementing Savage as a star even more than he already was.
Flair was fantastic at elevating talent and did just that here. Macho Man became WWE champion once more in a performance that remains one of the best and most important matches in the careers of both men.
Ric Flair vs. Harley Race, Starrcade 1983
Old-school wrestling may not be to everyone's taste in 2020, but few were as incredible with the style as Flair.
Working off another old-school legend in Harley Race in 1983, the two fought in a steel cage match in which they beat each other down over 25 minutes.
Race had stolen The Nature Boy's NWA Heavyweight Championship after putting a bounty of his head, and Flair needed this opportunity alone inside the steel cage to get it back.
Race broke Flair open and used the opportunity to wear down the former champion. Alongside constant drama with the referee Gene Kiniski, it was hard to believe The Nature Boy could win, but he overcame adversity and hit a top rope body press for the victory.
This was a classic Flair babyface match. He battled from underneath through the contest but was always just one step away from firing up and taking the victory.
He and Race are legends in the business, and both showed it. Steel cage matches may now have more athletic spots, but few have ever been this physical.
Ric Flair vs. Shawn Michaels, WrestleMania XXIV
Wrestling allows athletes to perform longer than most other sports, but eventually time will always win.
Flair fought off time better than anyone else, but his match quality was waning down the stretch.
In the build to WrestleMania XXIV, he put his career on the line again and again. He promised that the next time he lost would be his last match. At 59 years old, it was time for him to hang up his boots.
Shawn Michaels reluctantly accepted Flair's challenge for a match at 'Mania, knowing he would win. Everyone knew this contest would only end one way. The Nature Boy was inducted the previous night into the WWE Hall of Fame. His time was up.
However, knowing the result changed nothing about the performances. This was fought tooth and nail from start to finish. Flair found every opportunity to keep competing and refused to go down to the first Sweet Chin Music.
He demanded HBK stop holding back, and Michaels didn't. He connected on a pair of superkicks that finally ended Flair's incredible career.
It does not get more emotional than this. The fans were all behind Flair as he thanked them for supporting him through the decades. It was one of the greatest retirements of all time and the best match Flair had had in more than a decade.
While The Nature Boy would go on to wrestle outside WWE a few more times, this remains the definitive end his career deserved.
Ric Flair vs. Vader, Starrcade 1993
By 1993, Flair seemed to be on his way out of the business. No one had any idea that he would go another 15 years. His match with Vader in WCW was meant to be one of his last great performances, but he ended up solidifying his ability to still work.
The Nature Boy was out of his depth early against a monster. Vader took him down, throwing him around with ease. Flair sold every blow like his life was on the line, and Harley Race at ringside added insult to injury with trash talk.
However, Flair would not give up. He fired back, isolating the legs of Vader. He smacked him with a steel chair and used the figure-four leg lock to turn the tide. After clipping the injured leg, The Nature Boy rolled up Vader for three.
Few made the monster-heel role look as good as Vader, who dominated this match. It was an impressive story to tell as Flair seemed completely out of his depth.
This was a match that Flair's endurance. Even though he was nearing the end of his best years, he always gave his all and made his opponents look incredible.
Ric Flair vs. Sting, Clash of the Champions I
The first Clash of the Champions needed to end with Flair, but no one quite knew who was ready for the spotlight as his opponent. A young Sting stepped up and became a sensation overnight in an incredible 45-minute draw.
This contest went back and forth, and each man survived the other's signature submission. Flair dominated until Sting used his strength advantage against the NWA heavyweight champion to counter.
The two refused to lose as a panel of judges watched in case the wrestlers reached the time limit. They did just that as Flair held on until the clock hit 45 while trapped in the Scorpion Deathlock. The judges ended up failing to come to a decision, causing a tie.
While Sting was young and inexperienced at this time, he pushed beyond his limits. He and Flair went all-out in one of the signature matches of Sting's career. He was made a star this night, and WCW was glad to take advantage.
This was Flair at his most giving as he put over a rising talent. After this contest, Sting was viewed as a future legend.
Ric Flair vs. Terry Funk, Clash of Champions IX
Few can match the longevity of Flair, but Terry Funk was a rare exception. The legendary brawler and hardcore performer went all-in with this brutal I Quit match. The loser had to retire from NWA after this bout.
While it started with chops and slaps, it quickly turned violent as The Nature Boy attempted to choke the life out of The Living Legend. Funk turned it around and threatened to piledrive Flair on his neck before doing just that.
The two men brawled around the ring as referee Tommy Young continued to ask if either wanted to quit with no answers forthcoming. But Flair then managed to lock Funk in the figure-four leg lock; The Living Legend tried to hold on but ultimately had to quit.
From start to finish, this match was physical and brutal. While neither was truly ready to retire, they showed they were ready to make this their final match.
Funk and Flair remain legends. The WWE Hall of Famers wanted this match to live forever, and it did just that. It remains a classic that both can look back on with pride.
Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat, WrestleWar 1989
Ricky Steamboat is the greatest in-ring rival of Ric Flair's career. In a series of incredible matches, these two went all out. While it is arguable that WrestleWar 1989 was the best in their trilogy, it was certainly the defining final match in a legendary rivalry.
Coming off two unforgettable matches that ended in controversy, this contest finally gave Flair his clean victory over the man that had managed to defeat Flair twice under questionable circumstances.
Lou Thesz, Pat O'Connor and Terry Funk watched as the judges for the night as the two men went all out in an intense and physical contest that cannot be easily boiled down into a few sentences. It was physical but also a technical masterpiece, the finest work of either man's career.
Back and forth, both men hit their best offense, but neither man was ready to end this. Pushing past the 30-minute mark, The Nature Boy hooked the leg of Steamboat that he wore down throughout the clash in order to catch him with a small package for three.
As with the best Flair matches, this was all about the story. These two wanted to prove that they could do it all three times. They did just that. Both came out of this looking like the greatest wrestlers in the world.
The Nature Boy has forever changed the business with matches just like this. No matter what his age, he kept fighting through and raising the bar. Even at this time, many expected he might retire. Instead, he began a career renaissance that no one could forget.