For over 40 years now, Ric Flair has managed to maintain his relevance in both the pro wrestling world and pop culture as a whole. He made his in-ring debut in 1972 to mild fanfare, but his popularity would skyrocket a few years later upon adopting the persona of The Nature Boy. After growing out his bleach blond locks, tweaking his in-ring style as a heel, and “Woooooooooo-ing” audiences with some bombastic charisma, Naitch quickly became one of the biggest draws in his wrestling territory. The limousine ridin’, jet flyin’, kiss stealin’, wheelin’ dealin’, son of a gun would earn the pedigree of being one of professional wrestling’s most entertaining personalities. On top of that, he has also garnered himself a prestigious reputation as a 16-time World Heavyweight Champion. He would semi-retire from in-ring competition in 2008 as one of the greatest wrestlers to ever step into the squared circle.
Flair’s popularity isn’t solely limited to the world of sports entertainment. His “Wooooooo!” has been heard throughout pop culture for years. In recent news, Flair has become the talk of the town due to his claims of a sexual liaison with Halle Berry, as well as for apparently tipping his hat into the political ring as Vice President to Waka Flocka Flame’s would-be Presidential nomination. Those two instances alone managed to shock all of us around the world. Don’t think for a second that these were the only occasions when The Dirtiest Player in the Game was at the center of shocking controversy. These moments only pale in comparison to these next 16 things you probably did not know about the 16-time World Champion, Ric Flair.
16. He Was Almost A Roman Gladiator
It is a real testament to Ric Flair’s talent as a performer that he’s managed to keep his Nature Boy character as consistently popular and relevant for as long as he has for over four decades. However, former Executive Vice President of WCW, Jim Herd, thought that Flair’s time had come and gone by the early ’90s. Herd thought that Flair was too old at the age of 39 to still be the face of WCW. That’s why in an attempt to push Flair out of the main event scene in favor of newbies Sting and Lex Luger, Herd pitched that Flair drop his Nature Boy gimmick, cut his trademark blond locks, wear some Roman gladiator get-up, and call himself “Spartacus.” Herd thought that this would help Flair “change with the times” and of course, nothing screams “hip” to a younger audience like a character based on a BC era figure. Unsurprisingly, Flair hated the idea. The bad blood between him and Herd would lead to Herd firing Flair while Flair was still in possession of the WCW World Heavyweight Championship belt. Shortly after, Flair would show up on WWF TV with the Big Gold Belt.
15. He Has Multiple Birth Names
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that a name as extravagant as Ric Flair isn’t the guy’s real name. What some people do not know is that Richard Morgan Fliehr’s real name isn’t even his birth name. In his book, To Be The Man, The Man himself noted that if one were to trace back his family lineage, things may look a little sketchy. Some of his birth documents state that his birth name is Fred Phillips, son of Olive and Luther Phillips. Young Fliehr was adopted from the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, which has its own sketchy history in itself as an organization involved with the kidnapping of children and illegal black market adoptions. Ric Flair admitted in his book that he was illegally removed from his biological mother as a “Black Market Baby.” On the bright side, his adoptive family settled in Minnesota where he would grow up to meet Greg Gagne (son of Verne) and Ken Patera. These men brought Flair to Verne Gagne’s door one day and from there, Verne trained Flair to be a wrestler. One can call this a silver lining that led him closer to his wrestling destiny.
14. He Became The Nature Boy Because Of His Plane Crash
When he first made his debut to the wrestling world, Ric Flair looked unrecognizable compared to The Man we know him as today. He was nearly 300 lbs with a short brown buzz cut. This version of Flair lacked a certain, for lack of a better word, flair. A 25-year-old Flair took a scary turn on a fateful October 4th day in 1976 when he was involved in a deadly plane crash that killed the pilot and paralyzed fellow wrestler, Johnny Valentine. Flair was lucky that he only broke his back in three places. He was told by doctors that he would never wrestle again, but once again, Lady Luck was on Flair’s side. After rigorous physical therapy training, Flair returned to the ring eight months later. Yet, he had bulked down significantly and had to significantly tone down his usual in-ring style. He went from wrestling in a brawler style to the showman we’re familiar with today. To justify his drastic wrestling style change, he changed his character as well and became The Nature Boy.
13. He Wasn’t The Original Nature Boy
A superstar like Ric Flair only comes around once in a lifetime. The Man truly has a one of a kind persona. Everything about him is truly unique, except his nickname of Nature Boy. While in the process of making a new character transition following his plane crash, Flair was told backstage that his style reminded them of The Nature Boy Buddy Rogers. In the wrestling world, it’s common for a wrestler to adopt a classic gimmick from another wrestler and twist it to make it their own. Much like how Hulk Hogan got his schtick from Superstar Billy Graham. Taking the advice from Mid-Atlantic Wrestling booker, George Scott, Flair would add much of Rogers’ moveset to his own arsenal. This would include Rogers’ signature strut and his finishing Figure-Four Leg Lock. Flair’s transformation was complete after a 1978 feud with the original Nature Boy saw Rogers put over Flair. From then on, Flair was the true and definitive Nature Boy.
12. He’s Been Married 4 Times…5th Coming Soon
There is a reason why one of Ric Flair’s nicknames happens to be The Alimony Pony. He’s almost had half as many marriages and divorces as he’s had World Title reigns. He was first married to Leslie Goodman in 1974 and had two children with her (Megan and David) before divorcing her 9 years later in 1983. The same year he got divorced, he married Elizabeth Harrell with whom he had another two children (Ashley, better known as Charlotte, in WWE and the now late Reid) before divorcing in 2006 after 23 years together. Once again, Ric Flair remarried the same year as his divorce with his union with Tiffany VanDemark. They filed for divorce a couple years later in 2008. In 2009, he married his fourth wife, Jacqueline “Jackie” Beems, and the two divorced in 2012. As of July 2016, he’s been engaged to Wendy Barlow (who played Fifi for a short-lived WCW interview segment, A Flair for the Gold, in 1993), with a marriage ceremony to be announced. We can only hope that Flair’s next marriage is a long one.
11. Ric Flair Day
As with most celebrities who have made a profound impact in pop culture entertainment, Ric Flair has been given his own state-wide day of celebration. However, depending on who you ask and which state that person hails from, you’re likely to get a different answer as far as the actual date. In 1998, October 19th was declared as Ric Flair Day in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Ten years later, Columbia, South Carolina commemorated March 24th as Ric Flair Day and even gave Flair a key to the city. A few months later on November 15th, it was Ric Flair Day in Norfolk, Virginia. Then, in 2009, April 18th was officially declared as Ric Flair Day for the city of Charleston in West Virginia. That same day, Flair was given a key to their city by the mayor. No matter which city or state that Ric Flair Day is celebrated, Flair’s status as a legend is undeniable and well celebrated by the city’s people.
10. The Undertaker Gave Flair His Confidence Back
When WCW officially closed its doors in 2001, Ric Flair would show up on WWF television eight months later for the first time in eight years. The original plan was for Flair to re-enter WWF in a non-wrestling role as the onscreen co-owner of WWF, but he was later pitched to take part in a Street Fight with Vince McMahon at Royal Rumble 2002. By that time, after being away from active competition for so long, Flair doubted his abilities as a wrestler and doubted whether or not he could still go inside the ring. His confidence was shattered. However, following his surprisingly entertaining match with Vince McMahon, The Undertaker requested a match with Flair at WrestleMania 18. Flair was honored that someone with such a well respected reputation in the wrestling industry would personally ask for such a marquee match despite Flair’s age. After the two put on a classic Mania bout, Flair started wrestling regularly again.
9. How Much DID His Boots Cost?
One of Ric Flair’s most famous and well remembered promo lines from back in the day is when he said on NWA television that “My shoes cost more than your house!” It’s hard to find a more classic line than that from The Nature Boy, even though there are admittedly plenty of amazing lines to choose from that came out of his mouth. Though, the line does have us wondering about how much his wrestling boots cost, we have no problem believing Flair about the price of his shoes. This is most likely due to the hundreds of promos he cut showing off his $600 custom made Lizard shoes, but he never bragged about his wrestling boots. With his robes costing him usually around $30,000, we’re curious if his boots had the same price range. Turns out in his younger days, while making $200 a week, Wahoo McDaniel told Flair to buy some new boots. Flair ordered three pairs, which cost him $800. This is probably the closest we’ll ever get to finding out how much Flair’s boots actually cost.
8. He Made Plenty Of Enemies In The Business
Most wrestlers tend to butt heads backstage with their fellow wrestlers. Sometimes, it’s nothing more than a professional feud between two wrestlers trying to secure their top spots in the company. Other times, some ugly words get exchanged and it turns into bad blood. No one understands that better than Ric Flair who has had venom spewed at him from several parts of the wrestling industry. His feud with Mick Foley has been well documented with both men badmouthing each other in their respective autobiographies before coming to blows backstage. Flair and Hulk Hogan have also had tension on and off for years. Flair and Bruno Sammartino have come for each other’s throats in the past over a backstage handshake snub. Flair and Bret Hart have criticized each other’s drawing power and wrestling abilities in past interviews. Thankfully, no matter how ugly these feuds have been, Flair found a way to make amends and become friends with all four of these men. Yet, the same cannot be said for Flair and Shane Douglas.
7. His Feud With Shane Douglas
Shane Douglas is perhaps the only man in the wrestling business that Ric Flair has not been able to bury the hatchet with, and one of the few to still carry a grudge towards Ric Flair to this day. It’s almost bittersweet to look at it from Douglas’ perspective seeing how Flair was the reason that Douglas joined the business. Yet, Douglas also cites Ric Flair (or as Douglas likes to call him, “Dick Flair”) as the reason he was held back in WCW. He often criticizes Flair for his inappropriate actions in public, such as running around naked in a bar full of kids. Flair fired back at Douglas by calling Douglas a “clerk at KMart” as if he wasn’t even worth talking about. The two wrestled each other at WCW Slamboree 2000, but clearly, the match didn’t smooth over any tensions between them. Even as they continue to throw verbal jabs at each other to this day, at least they’ve been able to keep a safe distance from each other without coming to a physical altercation.
6. Jerry Lee Lewis Inspired Flair’s “Woooooooooooo!”
Ric Flair’s iconic yell and calling card, “Wooooooooooooooo,” is arguably the most famous taunt to come out of the wrestling business. Flair doesn’t even have to be anywhere in sight for people to be inspired to “woo.” All it takes is a knife edge chop or a Figure-Four Leg Lock to occur in the ring for thousands of people in the crowd to “woo” simultaneously. There is not a soul on this planet who hears that yell and doesn’t immediately associate it with Ric Flair. However, once upon a time ago, people used to associate that yell with 1950’s country and rockabilly singer, Jerry Lee Lewis and that is who Flair claims inspired him to “Wooooooooo!” While this wasn’t something that Lewis was normally known for doing, he did do it as part of his most famous song, “Great Balls of Fire.” Apparently, Flair heard it in the song and decided to incorporate it into his act. The act caught on fast and it stayed that way as Flair has been “wooing” people for decades now.
5. He Gave Triple H His Original World Heavyweight Title
When Ric Flair returned to WWE, he built a strong relationship with Triple H both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. The two developed a teacher/student bond that quickly turned into a genuine friendship. The friendship became so personal that at one point, according to Triple H during Flair’s The Definitive Collection documentary, Flair had given Triple H his original World Heavyweight Championship belt as a gift. Not only is the Big Gold Belt one of the most prestigious belts in wrestling history, this belt in particular was the same belt that Ric Flair brought with him to WWF in 1991 after jumping ship from WCW. Upon given Triple H the belt, Flair told him that he wished that The Game was around in the 80s so that Flair could have been able to put Triple H over and give him the belt properly in the ring. A wrestler could not ask for a bigger honor than that. Although, this would not be the last time that Flair was more than willing to give away one of his classic belts.
4. Allegedly Paid Off Lawsuit With NWA Title Belt
For much of his career, Ric Flair had been associated with the NWA Championship. Having won the title a record eight times, he was positioned as the face of the NWA during the ’80s and his reigns with the title are a major reason why he became so successful. All things considered, one would think that Flair would cherish the belt dearly, but after getting himself in some legal troubles, he had no problem giving it away. In 2010, Highspots, Inc. filed a lawsuit against Ric Flair over him owing them $35,000. Highspots claimed that since Flair didn’t have the money to pay them back in full (Flair filed for bankruptcy a couple years prior), Flair provided the company with his original NWA Championship belt as collateral. Highspots tried to sell the belt to make the money that Flair owed them, only to find out that another company, Combraco, Inc., already held a lien on the property for money Flair owed them. A warrant was issued for Flair’s arrest in May 2011 for violating the terms of their settlement. Flair risked jail time, but a month later, Highspots released a statement stating that someone anonymously paid Flair’s debts.
3. He Regrets Wrestling After His Retirement Match
In one of the most emotional moments in WrestleMania history was when Shawn Michaels defeated Ric Flair in a match where the stipulation was that if Flair lost, he’d be forced to retire. As The Nature Boy’s eyes filled with tears, so did ours. As bittersweet as the moment was, it was a fitting send-off for the wrestling legend. That is until Flair returned to the ring a few months later against Hulk Hogan for his untelevised Hulkamania tour. Afterwards, Flair came to TNA and had several matches against the likes of Sting and Jay Lethal. Anyone who went to WrestleMania 24 and paid specifically to see Flair’s final match must have felt ripped off to see him wrestling as often as he did in TNA. That must be why he admitted in the fourth of episode of his podcast that not only was going to TNA one of his biggest regrets, but he wishes he stayed retired from in-ring competition altogether. He had nothing bad to say about anyone from TNA, but to him, it’s hard to work anywhere else after working in the pinnacle of sports entertainment that is WWE and it’s hard not to compare any other wrestling company to WWE.
2. He Was Inducted Into WWE’s Hall of Fame (Again) While In TNA
Ric Flair has the rare honor of having been inducted twice into the WWE Hall of Fame. The first time was in 2008 when he also became the first and only person to be inducted while still being an active wrestler, though he retired the next night at WrestleMania 24. The second time would come as a member of the Four Horsemen four years later in 2012. While some people may know about Flair being inducted twice, many people don’t know that Flair’s second induction came while he was still in TNA. The deal was that if TNA let WWE bring in Flair for one night as part of The Four Horsemen’s HOF induction, then WWE would let a superstar of their own, Christian, return to TNA for their 10th anniversary show, Slammiversary. This was the first and only time that WWE and TNA would have such a talent exchange.
1. He’s Won More Than 16 World Titles
For the last couple of years, plenty of fans have been worried that John Cena will one day beat (or at least tie) Ric Flair’s record for winning the most wrestling World Heavyweight Championships. After all, with Cena already being a 15-time World Champ, it is inevitable that Cena will at least tie with the Master of the Figure-Four one day. However, anti-Cena fans can rest assured that even if he does win his 16th World Title, Flair will still have a few more notches under his belt. As of now, the only World Title reigns that WWE officially recognize are Flair’s eight NWA Championships, six WCW Championships, and two WWF Championships. According to Flair himself, not only has he won more World Titles, he thinks his record is closer to 21. Given how official record-keepings were never closely calculated until the last couple decades, this isn’t hard to believe. Some sources say that his actual record could be as high as 25. So if John Cena actually was to beat Flair’s legitimate record, he still has a long way to go.