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Richard Morgan Fliehr (born February 25, 1949) is an American professional wrestler, better known by his ring name Ric Flair. Also known as "The Nature Boy", Flair is considered to be one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time.
He is currently working for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA), and is noted for his lengthy and highly decorated tenures with the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), World Championship Wrestling (WCW), and the World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment (now known as simply WWE).
Flair is officially recognized by WWE, TNA and PWI as a 16-time World Heavyweight Champion (seven-time NWA Champion, seven-time WCW Champion and two-time WWF Champion) although his actual tally of World Championship reigns varies by source—Flair considers himself a 21-time world champion.
In World Championship Wrestling (WCW), he also had two stints as a booker—in 1989–1990 and 1994. Flair also became the first and only man to have won the WWF Championship in a Royal Rumble match, when he accomplished this in the 1992 edition of the event. In 2012, Flair will be the first ever double inductee in the WWE Hall of Fame, going in in 2008 for his individual career, and in 2012 as a member of the Four Horsemen. He is also a NWA Hall of Famer (class of 2008).
Flair's hair styles and mannerisms are based on those of Buddy Rogers, who previously and famously used the "Nature Boy" gimmick in the 1950s and '60s. Coincidentally, Flair also followed Rogers in becoming the second man to win both the WWF and the NWA World Heavyweight Championships.
Flair was the first ever WCW World Champion, having been awarded the title following WCW's succession from the NWA in 1991. With that, he also became the first WCW Triple Crown Champion upon being awarded the title, having already held the United States and World Tag Team titles. In 2005, he completed WWE's version of the Triple Crown when he won the Intercontinental Championship, after already holding the WWF (now WWE) Championship, as well as the World Tag Team Championship, becoming the third man to win both the WCW and WWE Triple Crown (after Bret Hart and Chris Benoit). Using the officially recognized totals (by WWE, TNA and PWI) of 16 World Championships and a record-tying 5 U.S. Championship reigns, Flair has won a total of 30 different major championships between the NWA, WCW, and WWE, with numerous regional titles also to his credit.
 Early life
Flair was born on February 25, 1949. In the opening chapter of his autobiography To Be the Man, titled "Black Market Baby," he notes that his birth name is given on different documents as Fred. At the time of his adoption (arranged by the notorious Tennessee Children's Home Society, later shut down for adoption fraud), his father was completing a residency in Detroit. Shortly afterward, the family settled in Edina, Minnesota, where the young Richard Fliehr lived throughout his childhood. After grade 9, he attended Wayland Academy, a coeducational boarding school in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, for four years (five years total in high school) during which time he participated in interscholastic wrestling, football and track.
As a teen, Flair took a summer job as a lifeguard at a local pool in Minnesota, where he received his first exposure to the wrestling business when he met the legendary Vachon brothers. In both 1966 and 1968, Flair won the state private school wrestling championship and was recruited to the University of Minnesota on a football scholarship, where he played alongside Greg Gagne, the son of Verne Gagne. Flair dropped out of college before receiving his degree, and he then worked as a bouncer at a nearby club, where he met Olympic weightlifter Ken Patera, who was preparing for a ring career at Verne Gagne's wrestling school. Patera introduced Flair to Verne Gagne, who agreed to take him on as a member of his training class.
 Professional wrestling career
 American Wrestling Association (1972–1974)
Under the tutelage of Josh Klemme and Billy Robinson, Flair attended Gagne's first Wrestling camp with Greg Gagne, Jim Brunzell, Iron Sheik, and Ken Patera at Gagne's barn outside of Minneapolis in the winter of 1971. Flair met Ken Patera when he was working as a bouncer after dropping out of school at the U of M after completing his freshman year there in 1968-69. They lived together for a while in South Minneapolis. Flair made fast progress, and in December 1972, he made his debut in Rice Lake, Wisconsin, battling George "Scrap Iron" Gadaski to a 10-minute draw while adopting the ring name "Ric Flair." Then weighing nearly 300 pounds with short brown hair, Flair scarcely resembled his future "Nature Boy" image. But he drew attention with his charismatic personality and ring endurance. During his time in the American Wrestling Association, Flair had matches with Dusty Rhodes, André the Giant, Larry Hennig, and Wahoo McDaniel.
 National Wrestling Alliance
 Becoming the Nature Boy (1974–1981)
In 1974, Flair left the AWA for Jim Crockett's Mid-Atlantic region in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA); and he soon captured his first singles title when, on February 8, 1975, he beat Paul Jones for the Mid-Atlantic TV Championship. On October 4, 1975, however, Flair's career nearly ended when he was in a serious plane crash in Wilmington, North Carolina that took the life of the pilot and paralyzed Johnny Valentine (also on board were "Mr. Wrestling I" Tim Woods, Bob Bruggers, and promoter David Crockett). Flair broke his back in three places and, at age 26, was told by doctors that he would never wrestle again. Flair conducted a rigorous physical therapy schedule, however, and he returned to the ring just six months later, where he resumed his feud with Wahoo McDaniel in February 1976. The crash did force Flair to change his wrestling technique away from the power brawling style he had used early on, which led him to adopt the "Nature Boy" style he would use throughout his career.
Groomed by Jim Crockett Jr. as his future top star, Flair won the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship when he defeated Bobo Brazil on July 29, 1977; and during the next three years, he held five reigns as U.S. Champion while feuding with Ricky Steamboat, Roddy Piper, Mr. Wrestling II, Jimmy Snuka, and Greg Valentine (with whom he also formed a championship tag team). Flair, however, reached elite status when he began referring to himself as "The Nature Boy" in order to incite a 1978 feud with the original "Nature Boy", Buddy Rogers, who put Flair over in one encounter.
 NWA World Heavyweight Champion (1981–1986)
On September 17, 1981, Flair reached the top of the mountain when he beat Dusty Rhodes for his first NWA World Heavyweight Championship. In the following years, Flair eventually established himself as the promotion's main franchise in the midst of emerging competition from Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation. With his outlandish wit and entertaining interview style, Flair embodied the role of the World Champion—sporting bleached blond hair, elegant jewelry, designer suits, and elaborate custom robes while dishing out his trademark chops and figure four leglock. All the while, Flair taunted his opponents with his "Wooo!" shout while boasting that "To be 'The Man,' you gotta beat the man!".
In 1982, Jack Veneno and Flair had a series of matches. Veneno defeated Flair for the World Title, but the NWA did not recognize this change. Flair also wrestled matches with Ricky Steamboat throughout the year. Harley Race won the title from Flair in 1983, but Flair regained the title at Starrcade in Greensboro, North Carolina in a steel cage match; afterward, Race and Flair fought in many different matches in early 1984. Flair won the NWA title, officially, eight more times. As the NWA champion, he defended his belt around the world. Flair lost the title to Race and won it back in the span of three days in New Zealand in March 1984. At the first David Von Erich Memorial Parade of Champions at Texas Stadium, Flair was pinned by Kerry Von Erich. Flair regained the title eighteen days later in Japan.
He then reigned for two years, two months, and two days, losing his title to Dusty Rhodes on July 26, 1986 at The Great American Bash; Rhodes had been an ever-present foe in Flair's career after Flair helped break Rhodes's ankle on September 29, 1985. Flair regained the title two weeks later. Flair defended his titles against opponents like Harley Race, Ricky Steamboat, Roddy Piper, Kerry Von Erich, Jay Youngblood, Sting, Ronnie Garvin, Magnum T.A., and Rhodes throughout his career, as well.
 The Four Horsemen
In the spring of 1985, the tag team of Ole Anderson and Arn Anderson began aiding Ric Flair (whom they claimed as a "cousin") in attacks against Dusty Rhodes, Magnum T.A., and Sam Houston. A few weeks later, the Andersons interrupted Houston's match against Tully Blanchard, and the three villains combined to rough up the youngster while sending a message to the rest of the NWA. Shortly thereafter, Flair, Blanchard, and the Andersons formalized their alliance, calling themselves the Four Horsemen, with Blanchard's manager J.J. Dillon also coming on board. Upon the group's inception, it was clear that the Horsemen were unlike any villainous alliance that had ever existed. The four rule breakers immediately used their strength in numbers to decimate the NWA's top fan favorites while controlling the majority of the championship titles. Over the years, there would be various incarnations of the group, with Flair and Arn Anderson as the two permanent members, while a number of different wrestlers, including Lex Luger, Barry Windham, Sting, Sid Vicious, Paul Roma, Brian Pillman, Chris Benoit, Jeff Jarrett, Steve McMichael, Curt Hennig, and Dean Malenko, have held the other two spots in the Horsemen.
 World Championship Wrestling (1986–1991)
By 1986, wrestling promoter Jim Crockett had consolidated the various NWA member promotions he owned into a single entity, running under the banner of the National Wrestling Alliance. Controlling much of the traditional NWA territories in the southeast and Midwestern United States, Crockett looked to expand nationally and built his promotion around Flair as champion. During this time, Flair's bookings as champion were tightly controlled by Crockett, and a custom championship belt was created for Flair. In 1987, Flair and Barry Windham had a series of matches for the NWA World Championship. Flair defeated Windham at the Crockett Cup tournament and they fought to a time limit draw in January. Flair lost the NWA World Championship due to his flamboyant ways in Detroit to Ron Garvin on September 25, 1987. Garvin held the title for two months before losing to Flair on November 26, 1987 at WCW's first pay-per-view event, Starrcade, in Chicago.
In early 1988, rising star Sting had challenged Flair to a match at the first ever Clash of the Champions. Flair accepted and fought Sting to a 45 minute time-limit draw. In late 1988, booker Dusty Rhodes proposed that Flair lose the NWA World Heavyweight Championship to Rick Steiner in a short match at Starrcade when no agreement could be met regarding the finish to the scheduled main event between him and Lex Luger. Rhodes was fired for various issues within the company, and former JCP booker George Scott was given his role as a booker. Scott immediately negotiated to bring in Ricky Steamboat for a series of matches. On February 20, 1989, at Chi-Town Rumble in Chicago, Steamboat pinned Flair to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. This prompted a series of rematches, where Steamboat was presented as a "family man" (often accompanied by his wife and young son), while Flair opposed him as an immoral, fast-living "ladies man".
Following a best-of-three falls match with Steamboat that lasted just short of the 60-minute time limit (and ended with a disputed finish where Steamboat retained the title) at Clash of the Champions VI: Ragin' Cajun on April 2, Flair regained the title from Steamboat on May 7, 1989 at WrestleWar. This match was voted 1989's "Match of the Year" by Pro Wrestling Illustrated, and is widely considered among the greatest matches of all time. Flair was attacked by Terry Funk (serving as a judge for the match, as per its stipulations) after the match when Flair refused to grant Funk a title match, telling Funk that he had spent too much time in Hollywood and out of wrestling, and was not a listed title contender. The attack reached its conclusion when Funk gave Flair a piledriver onto the judges' table.
Months later, a "recovered" Flair returned to competition in an emotional match against Funk at The Great American Bash. The two continued feuding through the summer and eventually Flair reformed the Four Horsemen, with the surprise addition of longtime rival Sting, to combat Funk's J-Tex Corporation. This led to an "I Quit" match at Clash of the Champions IX: New York Knockout. Before the match, Funk stated that he would shake Flair's hand if he lost, a promise he kept when he shouted, "Yes, I quit!" after being in Flair's figure four leglock. Flair then kicked Sting out of the Horsemen upon his challenge for the NWA Championship, resulting in a revived feud between the two which had to be delayed due to Sting injuring his knee, forcing WCW to slot Lex Luger as Flair's main challenger until Sting returned. On July 7, 1990, Flair dropped the title to Sting at The Great American Bash. After being unmasked as the Black Scorpion at Starrcade in 1990, Flair regained the title from Sting on January 11, 1991, in front of a near empty house due to the blizzard conditions in the New York City area. Prior to this reign, WCW split their recognition of a World Heavyweight Champion from the NWA, and Flair was subsequently recognized as the first WCW World Heavyweight Champion, while still being recognized as NWA World Champion.
At the Clash of the Champions XIV: Dixie Dynamite on January 30, he wrestled Scott Steiner to a draw. On March 21, 1991, Tatsumi Fujinami defeated Flair in a controversial match in Tokyo at the WCW/New Japan Supershow. While the NWA recognized Fujinami as their new champion, WCW did not because Fujinami had backdropped Flair over the top rope in a violation of WCW rules. On May 19, 1991, Flair defeated Fujinami at SuperBrawl I in St. Petersburg, Florida to reclaim the NWA title and retain the WCW Title. In doing so, he became a nine time NWA World Heavyweight Champion, breaking Harley Race's record of eight reigns. On June 12, at the Clash of the Champions XV: Knocksville USA, he defeated Bobby Eaton in a two out of three falls match.
In the spring of 1991, Flair had a contract dispute with WCW president Jim Herd, who wanted him to take a substantial pay cut. Herd had removed Flair as head booker in February 1990 and wanted to reduce Flair's role in the promotion even further, despite the fact that Flair was still a top draw. According to Flair, Herd also proposed changes in his appearance (i.e. by shaving his hair, wearing a diamond earring and going by the name "Spartacus") as well as his in-ring name in order to "change with the times". Flair disagreed with the proposals, and two weeks before The Great American Bash, Herd fired him and vacated the WCW Championship. While Flair had left for the WWF he was still recognized as the NWA World Champion until September 8, when the title was officially vacated.
 World Wrestling Federation
 The Real World Heavyweight Champion (1991)
Flair signed with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in August 1991 and began appearing on television as one of the most hated heels the next month. Initially, he appeared on WWF shows with the "Big Gold Belt," calling himself "The Real World Heavyweight Champion." Led by his "financial advisor" Bobby Heenan and his "executive consultant" Mr. Perfect, Flair repeatedly issued challenges to WWF wrestlers like Roddy Piper and Hulk Hogan, wrestling a team led by Piper at Survivor Series in 1991 and helping The Undertaker defeat Hogan for the WWF Championship that same night. WCW sued Flair in an attempt to reclaim the belt, but Flair claimed that he owned the belt in lieu of the $25,000 deposit paid by NWA champions upon winning the title, which had not been returned to him when he was fired from WCW. In the 2008 DVD Nature Boy Ric Flair: The Definitive Collection, Flair claimed that to this day he has never been paid $25,000 deposit, plus interest. Later in the DVD Triple H said that Flair gave him the actual WCW title belt as a gift.
 WWF Champion and feud with Randy Savage (1992–1993)
At the Royal Rumble in 1992, he won the Rumble match to claim the vacant WWF Championship. Flair drew number three in the Rumble match and lasted a then-record nearly 60 minutes, last eliminating Sid Justice with help from Hulk Hogan, who had been eliminated by Justice seconds earlier. In so doing, Flair joined Buddy Rogers as the only men to win the WWF and NWA World Championships in their careers.
After a planned program with Hogan was scrapped due to Hogan's hiatus following the WWF's steroid scandal, Randy Savage challenged Flair for the WWF title at WrestleMania VIII. In the storyline, Flair taunted Savage by claiming that he had a prior relationship with Savage's wife, Elizabeth, and that he had the pictures to prove it (which were later revealed to be doctored photos). Savage defeated Flair for the title at WrestleMania. In July 1992, as Savage prepared to defend the title against The Ultimate Warrior at SummerSlam, Flair and Mr. Perfect sowed distrust between the two by suggesting that they would back one or the other during their match. They actually attacked both Savage and Warrior and injured Savage's knee, an injury that Flair exploited to regain the title in a match with Savage on September 1. His second reign was short-lived, however, as he lost the title to Bret Hart on October 12, 1992.
Flair teamed with Razor Ramon to take on Savage and Perfect at the Survivor Series 1992. After losing a Loser Leaves the WWF match to Mr. Perfect on an episode of Monday Night Raw, Flair appeared in the Royal Rumble in 1993 (although the match with Perfect had been taped six days prior, it did not air until the following night) and then fulfilled his remaining house show commitments, making his last appearance on February 10, 1993, before returning to WCW. On The Ultimate Ric Flair Collection DVD, Flair described his first stint with the WWF as "the greatest year and a half of my career, outside the time I spent with Arn Anderson and The Four Horsemen."
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