1991 was clearly a down period for wrestling. Nothing seemed fresh
anymore, and it was clear that any attempts made to change the
industry, or create new stars, simply weren’t working. As a
wrestling fan, things seemed bleak.
Then it happened.
On September 9, 1991, Ric Flair made his debut on WWF Prime Time
Wrestling carrying the NWA World title and challenging Hulk
Hogan to a WWF World title match. His first feud was a throwback to
the Mid Atlantic territory a decade earlier -- Roddy Piper. Piper
mocked Flair who was claiming to be the "Real World Champion" in
spite of being stripped of NWA and WCW World title recognition, and
weeks later the title itself. The two met numerous times on the
house show circuit and also captained Survivor Series teams
against each other. Flair was the sole survivor of his team, but
that was far from the biggest impact he would make on that night.
Later on in the evening, he interfered in the WWF World title match,
causing Hulk Hogan to lose the championship to the Undertaker. After
some controversy over the title situation, President Jack Tunney
announced that the World title was held up and would be on the line
at the Royal Rumble.
The January 19, 1992 Royal Rumble, would mark Flair’s first
WWF World championship, as well as critical acclaim as the great
Royal Rumble in history. Flair entered the ring as the third of
thirty participants. He wrestled for a record-breaking one hour. He
rode that moment onto WrestleMania VIII where he wrestled
Randy Savage. In the weeks before the match, Flair taunted
Savage telling him that Elizabeth “was mine before she was yours.”
An irate Savage scored the victory, but the war would last for
another 7 years. The next chapter in their feud would see Flair
injure Savage prior to their September 1, 1992 rematch where Flair
captured his second WWF title.
At this point during Flair’s WWF tenure, things began to happen. On
October 9, 1992 in a title match against the Ultimate Warrior, Flair
started having balance problems. The condition would force him out
of action, and the decision was made to have Flair drop the title to
Bret Hart so that the title would continue to appear on each house
show. In the meantime, fans at WCW events began chanting “We Want
Flair!” Flair decided to return to WCW after negotiating his release
from the World Wrestling Federation. The WWF quickly turned Curt
Hennig against Flair so that the two could feud prior to his
departure. On the January 25, 1993 edition of Monday Night Raw,
Flair lost a loser leaves the company match to Hennig. He continued
to wrestle with the company through to February 10, 1993, headlining
shows against Bret Hart, the company’s champion.
would mark Flair’s return to WCW. He would begin hosting his own
talk show, called Flair For The Gold, that was featured
within WCW broadcasts. At the Slamboree edition of the
Flair For The Gold, a new Four Horsemen team consisting of
Flair, Arn Anderson, Ole Anderson, and Paul Roma was named. Finally,
his return to the ring came in a winning effort at the June 16, 1993
Clash of the Champions teaming with Arn Anderson against
Steve Austin and Brian Pillman. At the July 18, 1993 Beach Blast
event, Flair would capture his record-setting tenth World title (of
course, there has always been a discrepancy with regards to how many
titles Flair has actually won, but this is the number presented in
the WCW story).
For Flair fans, all seemed well in the world of wrestling. However,
backstage things were not. At the September 19, 1993 Fall Brawl
event, WCW made the decision to have Flair lose the title to Rick
Rude. This decision marked the end of the NWA and WCW relationship.
Meanwhile, WCW bookers made the decision that Flair would be used
less as a main eventer, and more as a tag team and mid card
Those plans changed when Sid Vicious, originally slated to wrestle
Big Van Vader at Starrcade, was suspended by WCW after his real-life
attack on Arn Anderson in England. Without an opponent for Vader,
WCW turned to Flair to save the show. A little after this decision
was made, Flair became a member of the booking committee. Flair put
his career on the line, and captured Vader’s WCW World title with an
incredible performance. He defended the title in a rematch against
Vader, before rekindling his rivalry with Ricky Steamboat.
Again, all seemed well in the wrestling world, but again it was not.
With Hulk Hogan’s arrival into WCW in the summer of 1994, also came
Hogan’s creative control. Hogan defeated Flair for the WCW World
championship in his first match on July 17, 1994. Hogan’s power
would affect Flair’s career for many years. The feud appeared to
culminate at the October 23, 2994, Halloween Havoc event
where Flair lost a retirement cage match. However, Flair was quickly
brought back to WCW when ratings began to drop.
He returned to WCW primarily to give Hogan, and WCW’s newest
acquisition, Randy Savage, a strong heel to work against. His first
match actually took place in North Korea against Antonio Inoki in
the main event in front of a record-setting crowd of roughly 150,000
people. His loss at the event would be a sign of things to come.
Flair and Arn Anderson would lose to Vader at the Clash of The
Champions on August 4, 1995. The loss would be the catalyst to
their storyline dissension. Flair and Anderson would feud through
September and October with Anderson scoring the victory in their
outstanding Fall Brawl match. For Halloween Havoc,
Flair enlisted the help of Sting to battle Anderson and Brian
Pillman. From the time Flair entered the match, it took him only
mere seconds to turn on Sting. At WCW’s first-ever World War 3
event, Flair would lose another classic match to his archrival
Sting. Their feud would continue for months. Along the way, Flair
defeated Sting and Lex Luger in a Starrcade Triangle match to
determine the challenger for Randy Savage’s WCW World title. In the
championship match held later that night, Flair would win the title
with plenty of help from the Four Horsemen.
Even though Flair was the champion entering the year, 1996 would not
be much different than 1995. By January 22, 2996, Flair had already
lost the championship back to Randy Savage. At the time, rumors
indicated that Flair quit the company following the loss.
Nevertheless, the relationship was very quickly patched up, and
Flair did not even missing a single event. He would go on to regain
the title weeks later, holding it until April 22, 1996 when he lost
it to The Giant. By this point, WCW was on the verge of introducing
a 2-hour Nitro and the nWo. The changes in WCW meant that
even less attention was placed on Flair, and more losses by Flair to
establish the new group. On September 21, 1996, though, Flair
suffered a torn rotator cuff in a match against Kensuki Sasaki in
WCW decided that regardless of Flair’s injuries, his presence was
still necessary on their programming. He would appear alongside the
Four Horsemen, and deliver his always- entertaining promos. His
return to the ring would take place on May 18, 1997 in Charlotte,
North Carolina with Piper and Kevin Greene against Scott Hall, Kevin
Nash and X-Pac. The team won, but Flair and Piper would eventually
have a falling out. This led to a July 13, 1997 Bash at the Beach
contest with Flair once again losing in spite of interference
from the Horsemen.
The Horsemen suffered a big loss on August 25, 1997 when Arn
Anderson retired due to neck injuries. His departure was filled when
he gave his spot to Curt Hennig. On September 14, 1997, Hennig
turned on his Horsemen teammates during the War Games main event. As
a result, Flair disbanded the Horsemen in a telephone interview on
Nitro. A fiery Flair battled Hennig throughout October and
November. On Novermber 23, 1997, Flair suffered a broken bone in his
foot after jumping off the top rope to the floor where he delivered
a blow to Hennig. He returned from injury and immediately began a
short-lived feud with WCW’s latest newcomer, Bret Hart. The two had
their finest recorded match against each other at the Souled Out
on January 24, 1998.
In the next few months Flair appeared less and less on WCW
telecasts. In April 1998, WCW finally decided to use Flair again.
The decision was made to reunite the Horsemen on a Thunder
broadcast that was scheduled to take place on a day that they had
already granted Flair permission to miss so that he could attend his
son’s amateur wrestling tournament. WCW sued Flair. The lawsuit
meant that Flair would be off television for months. Finally, an
agreement was reached on September 14, 1998 and Flair appeared to a
thunderous standing ovation. The Four Horsemen were reformed in the
Even though the segment produced WCW top rating in months, the
decision was made to keep Flair out of the ring until December 27,
1998’s Starrcade event where Flair suffered the indignity of
losing to Eric Bischoff. However, the next night on Nitro,
Flair defeated Bischoff, and, in the process, earned the title of
WCW President. As the President of the company, Flair quickly
challenged Hogan to a match for the title. Unsuccessful in his
attempt at SuperBrawl 9, Flair put his career and the
Presidency on the line for a shot at Hogan’s title in a Barbed Wire
First Blood Cage Match at WCW’s Uncensored. Flair won the
title in an extremely entertaining and interesting match that was
highlighted by a double turn.
As a new heel, Flair would allow his storyline power to go to his
head. WCW decided to have Flair drop the title the next month.
Ratings began to drop. WCW responded by placing Flair in insane
asylum skits to further attempt to tarnish his legend. On July 19,
1999, Flair lost the Presidency in a match against Sting. Back
injuries would force him to the sidelines. In the meantime, WCW
executives finally decided to dismiss Eric Bischoff. An invigorated
Flair immediately returned to WCW. Weeks later, on October 18, 1999
Vince Russo and Ed Ferrera took over WCW’s creative direction. With
their arrival, Flair was soon sent home, but not before losing to
Diamond Dallas Page, and being beaten up and left in the dessert by
the Filthy Animals team.
Russo and Ferrera lasted until January 2000. Flair returned days
later to begin a feud with Terry Funk. The feud was short-lived,
with Flair winning a Death match at SuperBrawl X. Flair would
begin teaming with Lex Luger and they dubbed themselves, Team
Package, taking on Hulk Hogan. The pairing would last until the
return of Vince Russo and Eric Bischoff. Russo decided to turn Flair
face along with WCW’s other established stars in a group called the
Millionaire’s Club. Flair would briefly feud with Shane Douglas and
go on to win a Battle Royal for a title shot. Wrestling in street
clothes, Flair would defeat Jeff Jarrett for the WCW World title on
May 15, 2000’s Nitro program. The next night at the Thunder
tapings, Flair would collapse, suffering from a recurrence of the
inner ear in-balance that forced him to the sidelines towards the
end of his WWF run. On May 22, Flair was stripped of the title. By
May 29, 2000, Flair returned to WCW and was handed the title by new
champion Kevin Nash. Flair would lose his last World Championship on
the same night.
Ric Flair defeated his son in a career-threatening match at the
Great American Bash on June 11, 2000. The next night, however,
Flair teamed with his youngest son, Reid, in a losing effort against
David and Russo. The stipulations not only forced Flair into
retirement, but also have his head shaved. He would leave the scene
and have surgery done on his once again injured shoulder.
He returned full-time as WCW’s on-screen figurehead before the end
of 2000. On January 15, 2001, he would form a new stable of heels
called the Magnificent Seven. The Four Horsemen they were not. The
group would be forgotten by the time WCW had their last telecast on
March 26, 2001 where Flair wrestled Sting in the last main event.
Flair kept busy during the ensuing months doing commercials, while
continuing to be under contract to the defunct WCW. Finally, on
November 19, 2001 in Charlotte, North Carolina, he returned to the
wrestling world as a co-owner of the WWF. He would feud with Vince
McMahon and the two would have an entertaining no holds barred match
at the 2002 Royal Rumble. His next match occurred at
WrestleMania X8 against the Undertaker. The match was widely
praised as one of the top two matches of the evening, yet there did
not seem to be a plan to have Flair become a full-time performer.
The reasons for this remain unclear, but Flair’s lack of confidence
may have played a role. McMahon and Flair then split the talent with
Flair becoming the sole owner of the flagship Monday Night Raw
property. Flair turned heel, and immediately feuded with Steve
Austin. The two would wrestle in a memorable match on June 3, 2002,
one week before Austin left the company. With Austin’s departure,
the decision was made that Flair would lose his ownership back to
McMahon on June 10, 2002.
The following months would become very difficult for Flair who was
switched back to being a babyface. He would battle top stars such as
Eddie Guerrero, Brock Lesnar, The Rock, and Chris Jericho, yet he
seemed a shell of his former self. He would become a heel again on
October 20, 2002 when he aligned with Triple H. This new pairing
would give Flair the opportunity to take a break from wrestling,
while planting the seeds for the Four Horsemen-inspired team,
Evolution’s formation stalled when Batista and Randy Orton went down
with injuries. In the meantime, Flair returned to the ring in the
spring of 2003. On May 19, 2003, Flair’s comeback as a top-flight
performer was solidified with an outstanding title match against
Triple H. The following week, Flair attacked Shawn Michaels, and the
two met in an excellent match on June 15, 2003.
Flair would finish out the year as a champion once again, as he, and
Evolution teammate Batista, captured their first WWE World Tag team
titles on December 14, 2003. All four members of Evolution were
champions, and they dominated Raw. At WrestleMania 20, Flair
joined Batista and Orton in a marquee match against The Rock and
Mick Foley – a match where Flair truly shined taking bumps and
entertaining as only he could do. On April 19, 2004, Flair and
Batista lost the tag titles to Chris Benoit and Edge. Evolution
began to crumble.
Flair wrestled a superb cage main event match of the Taboo Tuesday
2004 event against former Evolution teammate Randy Orton. Again,
just as it appeared that he was still a very viable championship
contender, he was placed in the background of the ongoing story of
Evolution’s demise. Evolution eventually became only Flair and
Triple H, who lost his championship and left the scene in the summer
of 2005. On June 27, 2005, Flair wrestled Kurt Angle in an
outstanding and very physical contest. Following the match, he also
left television for most of the rest of summer.
He returned to battle Carlito, son of former nemesis Carlos Colon,
in a series of Inter-continental championship matches. He won his
only I-C title on September 18, 2005, and the following night scored
an even more impressive victory in Carlito’s rematch. When Triple H
returned in October, he immediately turned on Flair leaving him in a
pool of his own blood. The two would feud for months. They traded
brilliantly wrestled and extremely violent victories at the November
2005 pay-per-view events. Flair seemed to be in his finest form
since returning to the company. On January 16, 2006, he wrestled in
his only Tables, Ladders and Chairs match. The match will be
remembered for being the closest Flair would come to capturing the
WWE title in his last run. It also prepared him for the
WrestleMania 22 Money in The Bank match. Sadly, just as it
seemed he was poised to remain at the top of the WWE, he left the
scene for most of the spring.
In June 2006, Flair returned to start a feud based off of real-life
tensions with Mick Foley. Flair proved to Foley that he could be a
“hardcore” wrestler when he challenged The Big Show for the ECW
title on July 11, 2006. The incredibly violent match featuring
thumbtacks and garbage cans, and was arguably the closest match in
the WWE version of ECW, to recapture the old ECW style. This led to
an impressive win in an I Quit match against Mick Foley at
the SummerSlam victory, WWE appeared to lose interest in promoting
Flair as a serious performer. They paired Flair with Piper at the
Cyber Sunday event. The two won the tag titles, and briefly held
the championships until Piper was forced to leave after suffering
pain, which was later revealed to be cancer. Flair remained on TV,
but was relegated to mid card status. In January 2007, Flair was put
into a program with Carlito, who was firmly entrenched in WWE’s
doghouse. As a result, both Flair and Carlito were left off of the
main PPV broadcast of WrestleMania 23. In the weeks following
the event, Carlito turned on Flair. The two briefly feuded before
Flair was drafted to WWE’s Smackdown program.
An invigorated Flair performed admirably against Edge and Finlay
before being forced on the sidelines once again with balance issues.
This, coupled with a lack of ideas by WWE’s creative department,
would keep Flair on the sidelines until November 26, 2007.
With his return, came Vince McMahon’s ultimatum that with Flair’s
next loss, he would be forced to retire. Initially, many believed
that Flair would be in line for a WrestleMania World title shot and
possibly even title reign. Instead, WWE changed their minds
immediately following that night’s match against Randy Orton.
Undeterred, Flair wrestled Triple H on the company’s New Year’s Eve
Raw broadcast. The match proved to skeptics that he still had
the ability to perform at the highest level. Unfortunately, he was
placed into programs featuring short bouts against MVP and Mr.
Kennedy. In February 2008, it was announced that Flair would be
WWE’s first-ever active competitor inducted into their Hall of Fame.
The following week, Flair challenged Shawn Michaels to a match at
The two wrestled an incredibly dramatic 20-plus minute match.
Surprisingly, the outstanding show-stealing WrestleMania loss
was not the climax of the three days in Orlando. In all three of
WWE’s Orlando events, fans and peers thanked Flair for his
incredible career and the memories it produced. On March 31, 2008,
Flair gave his Farewell address. The event was highlighted by a
reunion of the Four Horsemen (Arn Anderson/Blanchard/Windham/Dillon)
as well as sincere heartfelt thanks from fans, as well as current
and former performers such as Steamboat, Race, and Valentine. The
incredibly emotional tear-filled three days culminated the greatest
career in the history of the industry.
James De Medeiros
April 3, 2008
Photo: © WWE.com
Ric Flair Reaches The End of the Road?
A Look Back at Ric's Career in the
by David Chappell - Mid-Atlantic Gateway
Previous James De
Medeiros Updates on Ric Flair:
Flair's Last Run Derailed?
Promises to "Go Out in a Blaze of Glory"
Ric Flair: The Final Countdown
He's Still Wrestling's MVP
Hobbling to Heartbreak at Wrestlemania?
Flair to Battle The World
Champion in a Cage Match Showdown on Smackdown
Links to Jim De Medeiros Flair updates
can always be found in the Smoke
Filled Rooms section of the website.
© 2008 Mid-Atlantic Gateway