411′s Wrestling Hall of Fame Class of 2006: “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair
He was born on February 25, 1949 and ended up in a Tennessee Children’s Home Society in Memphis. Taken from his mother, who was probably told he was still born, he was adopted by Dick and Kay Fliehr and named Richard. As Fliehr grew older, he developed a love of sports. In 1967 and 1968 he was the Wisconsin Private School Wrestling Champion. While Fliehr excelled in athletics, his academics always seemed to hold him back as he was always more interested in the party scene. Fliehr attended the University of Minnesota where he played offensive line of the football team. He would drop out his sophomore year, and work several jobs; door-to-door insurance salesman and a bouncer at a nightclub. That is where he met and befriended then Olympic hopeful Ken Patera. Through Patera he was introduced to Verne Gagne and began his wrestling training. Although Flair had a hard time, and quit on multiple occasions Gagne talked him into continuing his training, which would be the best thing ever to happen to Fliehr.
In December of 1972 he made his pro-wrestling debut fighting to a draw with George “Scrap Iron” Gadaski. He idolized Dusty Rhodes and wanted to be just like him. Dusty was one of the top draws during the 70′s, not a bad goal to shoot for. He asked Gagne if he could be known as “Rambling” Ricky Rhodes, Dusty’s brother. Gagne refused, telling Flair that he shouldn’t tie himself to someone else, instead he should make his own name. Altering his name to Flair he worked in the AWA for a few years, and had the opportunity to work with Dusty, Andre the Giant, Larry Hennig and Wahoo McDaniel. He and McDaniel became close, and as 1974 came close, Flair left the AWA for the Mid-Atlantic Territory.
During this time, Flair had taken to changing his look up from a big bruiser type, to a more lean and muscular look. He worked on his cardiovascular training in an effort to become a more complete wrestler. McDaniel was the head booker and he liked Flair, so he started to make an impact right away. He tagged with Rip Hawk and in July of 1974 they won the Mid-Atlantic tag titles. They would hold those titles until February of 1975, when they would lose them. Flair would them win the Mid-Atlantic TV Title and taste his first success on his own. He would feud with Paul Jones, who he had won and lost the tag titles to and they would swap the title in his first major singles feud. After losing the title he would shock the territory and win the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight title in July. It was a short reign as he would lose it to Wahoo. He would win the title back in September from Wahoo, and just as everything seemed to be going right, tragedy hit.
October 4th, 1975, Flair joined Johnny Valentine, Bob Bruggers, Tim Woods (Mr. Wrestling), and David Crockett on a plane flight over North Carolina. When the plane crashed, Flair suffered a broken back in three places and Bruggers and Valentine would never wrestle again. Flair was told that his career was over, and that wrestling would be impossible and he would be lucky to function normally again.
In an example of true human resiliency Flair returned to the ring in May of 1976 with the title. He would lose to Wahoo that evening. The two men would trade the title back and forth for the rest of the year. Flair and Wahoo were enemies in the ring, but were the closest of friends and shared an enormous respect backstage. In late 1976 Flair began to team with Greg Valentine. The duo quickly became a formidable tag team and captured the NWA Tag Team Titles from Ole and Gene Anderson on December of 1976. During this time he would also hold the Mid-Atlantic TV title again, but lose the tag titles back to the Andersons in May on 1977. Flair and Valentine would win more gold together in July as they won the Mid-Atlantic tag titles. At the time they were regarded as one of the best teams in the world.
Flair would move on and challenge for more singles gold, and defeat Bobo Brazil for the NWA US Title. It was around this time that Flair had his first run in with Ricky Steamboat. They would battle over the NWA US, and Mid-Atlantic tag and TV Titles. This was the first installment of what would be one of wrestling’s most heated feuds. In 1979, Flair would come face to face with his namesake “The Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers. The two men would face, and Flair would come out on top as the true nature boy, defeating Rogers with the figure four-leg lock. He would then feud with former tag partner Greg Valentine over the US Title for most of 1980.
1981 would prove to be the biggest year in Flair’s career. September 17, 1981 Ric Flair would defeat Dusty Rhodes to win the NWA World Heavyweight for the first time. Flair would travel the globe, defending the NWA title against All Japan’s Jumbo Tsuruta, the WWF’s Bob Backlund and even in Puerto Rico, where Flair technically lost the title when the crowd rioted; the change was never acknowledged. It was 1983 and Flair was still the champion, and old and nemesis Dusty Rhodes wanted his title back. On February 9, 1983 The Midnight Rider defeated Flair for the NWA Title. The President of the NWA declared for the Rider to become the official champion, he would have to unmask but he refused as it was actually a suspended Dusty Rhodes and Flair retained.
It wasn’t until June of 1983 when Flair would lose the title to Harely Race. Flair was guarantied a shot at Race at the first Starrcade. In order to stop Flair, Race put a $25,000 bounty on the head of Ric Flair. Bob Orton and Dick Slater attacked and injured Flair. Flair would appear on TV stating that he suffered a severe neck injury and would retire. Once again Flair would return and attack Orton and Slater with an aluminum baseball bat. The match was back on, and on November 24, 1983 at Starrcade, a Flair for the Gold was realized as Ric Flair defeated Harley Race to recapture the NWA Heavyweight Title in a bloody steel cage match.
At one time it was felt that Flair couldn’t carry the NWA banner, but after defeating Race this was put to rest. Flair and Race would face off again in 1984, and trade the title in New Zealand and Singapore, a swap that wasn’t approved by the NWA but recognized. He would then wage war with the Von Erich family, and lose the title to Kerry in May only to regain it weeks later in Japan. The Flair title run would last until 1986, and during this time the most dominant group in wrestling history was formed, the 4 Horsemen. With the Horsemen by his side, Flair seemed unstoppable. Jim Crockett promotions was basically in charge of the NWA now as they had absorbed the Georgia Territory, and on July 25th, 1986 Dusty Rhodes avenged his loss to Ric Flair and regained the NWA Title. The run only lasted 13 days, as Flair would once again win the title for the 5th time. Flair had another long run, until September of 1987 when shockingly Ronnie Garvin defeated Flair in Detroit for the NWA Title. Garvin would hold on to the title for 2 months until Flair defeated him in a steel cage match at Starrcade. For most of 1989 Flair would battle with Lex Luger, with Luger always coming up short. Many say that Flair led Luger to the best matches of his career during this time. Also during this run, WCW began the Clash of the Champions series and at the initial show Flair battled Sting to a 45-minute time limit draw, also setting the stage for the future.
Flair would hold the NWA title through 1989, until Ricky Steamboat once again returned to his NWA roots with a surprise appearance on WCW Saturday Night. Eddie Gilbert was to take on Ric Flair and Barry Windham, and he has promised a mystery partner. Steamboat was the partner and shocked the wrestling world as he gained the pin on NWA World Champion Ric Flair. The old nemesis had returned, and he wanted the NWA Title. This would kick off what many refer to as the “Holy Trinity” of matches. February 20, 1989 at the Chi-Town Rumble Steamboat defeated Ric Flair in 23-minutes to become the NWA World Champion. The two met again at the Clash of the Champions VI where in a 2 of 3 falls match Steamboat retained in an epic 55-minute match. The third and final match came at WrestleWar, where in a 31-minute match, Ric Flair finally regained the NWA Title. Many critics refer to this match as the “best of the decade.”
Minutes after what should have been a crowning achievement, Terry Funk who was one of the 3 judges wanted a shot at Flair and the title. Flair explained that he was away in Hollywood and would have to earn his title shot. This enraged Funk who destroyed a beaten down Flair. He would pile drive him through a ringside table and the feud was on. They would battle through most of 1989 in a variety of matches. Flair retained his title at The Great American Bash, but that didn’t stop Funk. The two men would face at Clash of the Champions IX in an epic “I Quit” match. This encounter had turned Flair face, and he had reformed the 4 Horsemen (they had been put on the shelf when Arn and Tully left for the WWF) with Sting, Arn and Ole Anderson. Sting had earned a title shot, but when he asked for it this went against the Horsemen creed of protecting Flair and they beat Sting down.
Problem was that Sting would suffer a knee injury, and the long awaited battle with Flair would be put off. He once again feuded with Lex Luger in another great series of matches until Sting returned. At the 1990 Great American Bash Sting defeated Ric Flair for the title after a long wait. Sting would hold the title for 6 months until Flair regained it in January of 1991. The NWA was now known as WCW officially. Over the next three months Flair would battle Sting, the Steiners and El Gigante, who Flair remarkable carried to a good match. All was going well until March of 1991, when in Japan he lost in controversy to Tatsumi Fujinami. The decision was reversed and Flair was recognized as the WCW champion, but the NWA recognized Fujinami as the champion. Flair and Fujinami would face off again at Superbrawl I, where Flair would reunify the belts.
Flair would feud with numerous opponents, including Bobby Eaton at Clash of the Champion XV, where Flair retained in a 2 of 3 falls match. Unfortunately the power structure of WCW was changing and there were problems with Jim Herd, who thought that Flair had nothing left to offer the company, and felt that Flair should cut his hair, wear an earring and become “Spartacus.” On top of that, they wanted to cut his salary. It was decided that Flair would drop the title to Lex Luger at The Great American Bash, they then changed their minds and wanted Flair to lose to Barry Windham just days before and not appear at the Bash. Flair refused, and was released from his deal, and took HIS title with him.
Flair had paid a deposit on the belt many years back, as was normal practice for the NWA champions of the day. Since they released him and he saw no money in return he took his title with him. August of 1991 saw Bobby Heenan declare that he was bringing in “the REAL World’s Champion. Flair appeared on WWF TV with the NWA/WCW title. WCW would file an injunction and Flair would eventually return the belt after he was paid a reported $75,000. The WWF stared to “blur” the title on TV to keep the illusion that he still had the title, although it was normally one of the WWF tag title he had.
The WWF title was now held up and Flair wanted to become recognized as the only true champion. The 1992 Royal Rumble was where a new champion would be crowned. Flair was very confident going into the match, until he at #3. Flair battled and Heenen sold it on commentary, and in the end he eliminate Sid Vicious to become the new undisputed WWF Champion, as well as set a record for the longest run in a Royal Rumble match. Flair: “Let me say that after you distorting the belt of the REAL world’s champion, I am going to tell you all, with a tear in my eye…this is the greatest moment in my life. When you walk around this world and tell everyone that you are number 1, the only way that you get to stay number 1 is to be number one, and this is the only wrestling title in the wrestling world that makes you number 1…when you are the king, you rule the world. Think about it Mr. Perfect, the Brain, we did it…wooooo.” And so the reign of the real world champion began, officially in the WWF.
Flair would do battle with all of the top faces, but seemed to set his sights on Randy Savage, or more specifically Miss Elizabeth. Flair had claimed to have “intimate” relations with Elizabeth, and even produced doctored photos of him with Elizabeth. This infuriated Savage, and at WrestleMania VIII Savage would face Flair for his WWF Title. Heenan and Perfect interfered, and Flair used an illegal object, but in the end Savage would get the roll up and victory over Flair and win the title. Savage would hold the title for 5 months until Flair, with the help of his associates regained his title.
But Flair’s title reign didn’t last long. In a match with the Ultimate Warrior a bone chip broke loose in Flair’s ear, ruining his equilibrium. Flair would drop the title to Bret Hart at a house show in Saskatchewan. After his recovery, problems arose with Flair and Perfect, and Flair took to treating Perfect like garbage. Perfect would accept Randy Savage’s invitation to be in a tag match vs. Flair and Razor Ramon. This ended his consultant job and he would engage in a feud with Ric Flair, which culminated on Monday Night Raw in a “Loser Leaves Town” match. Hennig would win and Flair’s time was over in the WWF, as he had been promised that he could leave if he felt the WWF held nothing for him. It was time to go back home.
February of 1993 saw Flair’s return to WCW, and a reunion with Arn Anderson. The two hosted a talk show as Flair’s no-compete clause ran out from the WWF. They reformed a new version of the 4 Horsemen with Ole, Arn and Paul Roma. July 18th saw Flair regain his NWA title from former ally Barry Windham. The title was soon renamed the WCW International Title as the NWA and WCW were now separate. Flair held the title until September, where he lost it to Rick Rude. Flair now had his sights set on the WCW title, and Vader. After two failed attempts, Flair put his career on the line at Starrcade 1993. Even with old Flair nemesis Harley Race in Vader’s corner, Flair would sneak out a victory with a roll up and take the WCW Title.
Flair would see another old nemesis in Ricky Steamboat challenge for his WCW title. They battled to a draw, as both men were pinned to the man and the title was held up. A week later they would face again, and Flair would come out the clear-cut winner. The problem now was that WCW was now in a state of disarray with essentially two world titles. Sting was now the WCW International Champion, and he and Flair would face at Clash of the Champions 27. Flair would win the match and unify the titles. Just as WCW seemed to be back to normal, a huge event was about to occur.
June of 1994 saw the WCW debut of Hulk Hogan. It was signed that Hogan’s first match would be against Flair for the WCW title at Bash at the Beach. In possibly WCW’s biggest match to date, Hulk Hogan would defeat Flair for the title. Clash of the Champions 28 saw a rematch. Flair enlisted help, as a masked man to take out Hogan’s leg. It only partially worked, as Hogan was injured but was counted out and retained his title. Flair got one more shot at Halloween Havoc 1994, in a steel cage match with Flair’s career on the line. Flair tried every trick in the book, but was defeated and his career with WCW was supposedly over.
Flair was gone until March 19th 1995, when at Uncensored he returned to attack Randy Savage and then involve himself into the Vader vs. Hogan strap match. The only thing that made the night a waste was the fact that Hogan put the strap on Flair, touched all four corners and won the match, even though he was facing Vader. Flair went on a quest to get reinstated. Hogan and Savage stepped up to get him back as well, although it was for purposes of revenge. The WCW Board of Directors finally reinstated Flair, and he returned to the ring. He would face Savage at the Great American Bash and Bash at the Beach 1995, where they swapped wins.
Flair and Vader had a falling out, and at Clash of the Champions XXXV Flair and Arn Anderson faced Vader in a handicap match. Vader won the match, and afterwards Flair verbally berated Anderson. They came to blows and for the first time ever, former Horsemen members Flair and Anderson would face off at Fall Brawl. After a great match, Brian Pillman came out and kicked Flair in the head, allowing Anderson to win. Pillman and Anderson claimed to be the REAL Horsemen. Flair needed an ally, and requested the help of Sting. Sting didn’t trust Flair, but eventually agreed to help Flair. A tag match was set for Halloween Havoc 1995, but Flair was taken out earlier in the evening and Sting had to go it alone. Finally, late in the match as Sting was beaten down Flair ran to the ring and got the tag…only to turn on Sting and rejoin the Horsemen.
Flair would battle, but lose to Sting at World War III. But they weren’t done, as they faced off again in a triple threat match along with Lex Luger. Flair would win the match and a shot at the WCW title that night. He would face WCW champion Randy Savage and with help from Pillman, Anderson and the newest Horsemen Chris Benoit Flair would win the title. Flair and Savage would trade the title a bit as they fully went into a feud that was huge in the WWF. As Flair finished with Savage, a shocking title change occurred when the Giant challenged and defeated Flair. Now without the title, Flair would continue to battle with Hogan and Savage. He was part of the “Alliance to End Hulkamania” along with Arn Anderson, Lex Luger, Kevin Sullivan, Meng, Barbarian, Z-Gangsta, The Ultimate Solution. They teamed together to battle Hogan and Savage in the Dooms Day Cage match. Not only did Hogan and Savage survive and win, but also Flair of all people took the loss.
Flair would go on to battle Konnan at Bash at the Beach 1996, and win the US Title. He would hold the title through September, and in a match with Kensuke Sasaki tore his rotator cuff in Japan. When he returned to the US they did an angle on Nitro where the n W o beat down Flair to explain the injury; Flair was then stripped of the US Title. Flair would miss almost 5-months of action, and returned to WCW in March of 1997. He and the Horsemen enlisted the help of Roddy Piper to battle the n W o. Flair was distracted from the ring as he and Piper took on the Outsiders, and Piper got the beat down as he was left alone. The next night Piper confronted Flair, and the old war was back on. Flair and Piper faced off at Bash at the Beach, which Piper won. The Horsemen were in a place where they needed to replace a member, as Arn Anderson had to retire. He had Curt Hennig replace him, but this backfired as he turned on the Horsemen at Fall Brawl in the War Games match, slamming the cage door in Flair’s face. Flair and Hennig would feud for the next two months over the US Title, but every time Flair seemed close to winning the title, the n W o would put a stop to it.
Flair would go on to battle Bret hart at Souled Out 1998. After a great match, Hart came out on top with the victory. The start of February saw Flair’s contract end, but he continued to appear and work for WCW. Flair requested time off in April to see his son compete in an AAU wrestling tournament. Eric Bishoff refused, but since Flair wasn’t under contract, he went anyway. Eric Bishoff “fired” Flair, even though he wasn’t under contract, and then sued Flair for breech of contract. Flair would counter sue and he and WCW would engage in a 4-month legal battle.
He would return to Nitro in September in a truly memorable moment as Arm Anderson, JJ Dillon, Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit and Steve McMichaels were all there and the Horsemen were reformed as Flair delivered a passionate promo against Eric Bishoff including the closing tirade of “ABUSE OF POWER! ABUSE OF POWER!” Flair would battle Bishoff and the n W o, and eventually win the presidency of WCW for 90-days. This led to Bishoff having his head shaved, and Flair going for the title against Hogan. Just as it looked as if Flair would climb the mountain again, his son David turned on him and joined the n W o, costing his father the match.
Flair would battle Hogan in a first blood match cage match at Uncensored 1999. Even though Flair has been cut, the referee ignored the cut and placed Hogan in the figure four to win the WCW title. Flair became more of a crooked President during this time, and would hold the title though Spring Stampede 1999, where he would lose in a 4-way to DDP. Flair became more unstable as the WCW president and as a result, Roddy Piper was able to have Flair committed to a mental institution, where is ran into Scott Hall of all people. Flair would return to battle for the presidency of WCW against Roddy Piper. He would win the match, but Eric Bishoff returned and said Piper actually won, and the feud was back on.
They would battle, and then without explanation (a WCW trademark) joined forces as Flair made Piper the president. Flair, Hogan and Hart would all join forces in late 1999 to battle DDP, Sting and Lex Luger who all had turned heel. Flair would take a short break from October through January. When he returned he was a heel again, and would join with Lex Luger to form “Team Package.” He would go on to battle then Commissioner Terry Funk and defeat him at Superbrawl 10. Flair and Hogan would again start their war again, and face off in a Yapapa Strap Match at Uncensored 2000, which Hogan won. The feud was quashed quickly, as the landscape of WCW was about to change.
Eric Bishoff and Vince Russo were now in joint power of WCW, and in April of 2000 they stripped all of the champion sin order to give WCW a “fresh” start. It was at this time the “New Blood” vs. “Millionaires Club” feud began. Flair was immediately singled out as the problem by Russo, and a target of the New Blood. He and Lex teamed again to try and win the Tag titles, but were defeated at Spring Stampede 2000 by Buff Bagwell and Shane Douglas. This led to a long awaited (by many) match between Douglas and Flair, which Flair lost due to his son David turning on him yet again. With more drama in the Flair family and David treating Russo as his true father, this was surely a low time for Flair.
But things would improve, as on May 15, 2000 Ric Flair defeated Jeff Jarrett to become the WCW champion. Unfortunately a few days later Flair collapsed, due to another inner ear problem. He was stripped of the title, but Kevin Nash would win the title and hand it back to Flair two weeks later, only for Flair to lose it back to Jarrett. Flair would go back and feud with his son David and Russo, and on June 12th he and Reid would lose to Russo and David, forcing Flair into retirement, and to add insult to injury they shaved Flair’s head.
Flair would return as the CEO of WCW. Shortly after he would form the “Magnificent 7″ with Scott and Rick Steiner, Jeff Jarrett, Lex Luger, Buff Bagwell and Road Warrior Animal. Flair tried to bring in Dustin Rhodes, but he would side with his father Dusty to battle Flair and Jarrett. A tag match was made for WCW’s final PPV and Dusty and Dustin faced JJ and Flair. Flair wasn’t in ring shape, and wrestles in slacks and a shirt. It was to be a kiss my ass match, which Dusty and Dustin won. The next night on Nitro, Flair has to kiss Dusty’s “ass,” a donkey named Silver Dollar.
As March 26th came and the last Nitro began and Ric Flair came out to deliver a very passionate speech. “Did I, did I…Woooooooooooo…did I happen to hear Vince McMahon say he was going to hold WCW in the palm of his hands? Is that what he said, does that mean that you are going to hold Jack Briscoe, Dory Funk, Harley Race, The Road Warriors, Sting, Luger, The Steiner’s, Bagwell, Ric Flair, Steamboat does that mean you are going to hold us all in the palm of your hands? To coin a phrase, I don’t think so! You know, at 12 noon today, someone special to me said, “do not go there tonight, knowing that it will be the last time you are on TNT or TBS. Knowing it is the last time, don’t go out there and cry or say you’re sorry, because you aren’t!” I have been World Champion 14 times, the world champion for the greatest wrestling organization in the world…WCW. WE, I am talking about the Stings, the Lugers, The Road Warriors, my friend Arn Anderson and the 4 Horsemen, we have been on par, neck and neck and equal with any wrestling organization in the world. We ran neck and neck with you for years Vince, for years. Just a little trivia for you Vince, do you know that in 1981, when you were trying to become an announcer, your dad was on the Board of Directors and voted for ME to be World Champion! Wooooo! How about that? Ever since that day, (takes off sports jacket) I have been a Limousine Ridin, Jet flyin, Kiss stealin, wheelin dealin son of a gun! That along with the whole WCW that has kissed the girls worldwide and made them cry. We were every bit the force, we were WCW, we bleed, we sweat and we paid the price to be the best. To you it was never about the boys, it was about WWF vs. WCW. The boys went out there night in and night out and those boys are here tonight. You can’t hold us in your hands, we are WCW, we bled and we sweat. When was the last time you went for an hour, cut yourself 5-times and bled for 45 minutes, when were you there? YOU WEREN’T! You were never in the dressing room, on the road for 40 days and 40 nights, bleeding sweating and going to the next town. You cannot hold people’s lives in you hands. We’re the greatest wrestling company of all time; you can’t control us or our future. In closing, in all of my years my greatest opponent in this company has been Sting, so tonight if we are going out and on a high note, Stinger, the Nature Boy wants you right here! Sting, my greatest opponent, Sting, it is your last chance. To be…(STING CHANTS!) To be the man, you gotta beat the man! And Sting, I AM THE MAN! WOOOOOOOO!” Ric Flair would face Sting that night in what would perfectly be the real WCW’s final match. It was only about 7-minutes, but he and Sting gave the fans all of their spots and Sting went out with the win. The two men embraced, and many though the career of Ric Flair was over.
Eight months later, 24 hours after the ECW/WCW Invasion was ended Ric Flair returned to wrestling. Not to wrestle, he was revealed as the person that Stephanie and Shane sold their WWE stock to so they could bankroll the Invasion; and now he was the new co-owner of the WWE. Flair was the face owner, and aligned with Steve Austin to try and keep Vince McMahon in his place. Flair and McMahon butted heads at every turn, and new Undisputed Champion Chris Jericho would come to hate Flair due to Flair booking him in numerous title defenses. With all of the animosity, Flair discovered that McMahon’s contract was that of a “wrestler/owner.” So Flair had the power to put him in a match, and did so at the 2002 Royal Rumble, vs. Flair himself!
Flair and McMahon had a bloody war, and in the end Flair came out on top. McMahon tries to get rid of Flair by threatening bringing in the “cancer” known as the n W o. Flair was given a choice to give up ownership, and McMahon wouldn’t bring them in, but at the advice of Steve Austin, Flair stayed and vowed to save the WWF from the n W o. Flair would have more problems though, as he would trigger the wrath of the Undertaker at No Way Out 2002. Taker would challenge Flair, but was refused because Flair just wanted to be an owner. Taker decided the best way to Flair was through his friends and family. He attacked training David Flair and bloodied long time 4-Horsemen running mate Arn Anderson. The Undertaker and Flair would meet at WrestleMania X-8 and The Undertaker would be victorious.
When the WWF “Brand Extension” was announced, Flair and McMahon were still at war and McMahon thought he was the inferior owner. The tide started to turn after Flair had made some “innocent” mistakes while refereeing some matches. He would eventually turn on Steve Austin and at Judgment Day 2002, the Big Show and Ric Flair would face Steve Austin. Austin would overcome the odds and pin Flair in that match. It escalated to a match on Raw, where the two men faced and the loser would have to be the winner’s servant. Austin would win the match, but leave the company due to personal issues. Vince McMahon would challenge Flair for full ownership of the company the next week on Raw, and McMahon would win that match with Help from Brock Lesnar.
Flair would now become a regular member of the roster. He got a win over Eddie Guerrero at the King of the Ring, and even challenge the King of the Ring Brock Lesnar, where he came up short. Ric Flair took to mentoring some wrestlers it seemed, such as Jeff Hardy and RVD. Flair would struggle in the ring, and even suffer an embarrassing loss to Rico on Raw. HHH was there and disgusted at his idol for what he had turned into. At Unforgiven, he would lose to Chris Jericho but help HHH defeat RVD and the new relationship began. Flair wanted to help HHH become the greatest off all time. He started to mentor Batista as well, and at the 2003 Royal Rumble Evolution (HHH, Flair, Orton and Batista) was born.
The group dominated and Flair saw it as a relationship among friends, but after several months people began to think that he was nothing more than HHH’s lap dog. On May 19th 2003 it was deemed that HHH had to defend his title against “any former world champion.” HHH tried to outsmart Austin, who had made the stipulation, and picked Flair. HHH thought Flair would lay down for him, and that the night would be easy. Flair seemed unsure of the situation, until HBK came and lit a fire under Flair’s ass. Flair stormed into HHH’s locker room and told him that the MATCH was on…WOOO! They two had a great match, Flair’s best in years. In the end it was all a trick as he rejoined HHH and Evolution the next week.
Flair wrestled a lot with HHH and the group, but also played the manager/elder statesmen role to perfection. He would have a 1 on 1 match with HBK and defeat him at Bad Blood 2003. Evolution was a dominant group, and at Armageddon 2003 they became a clone of Horsemen’s past as Flair and Batista captured the WWE Tag Titles, Orton won the IC Title and HHH won back his World title. Flair and Batista would hold the titles for two months before losing them. Now WM XX was the next obstacle as Evolution (Flair, Batista and Orton) battled Mick Foley and The Rock. In a match that saw Flair entertain and work with passion Evolution stood tall. Ric Flair would move onto Backlash to face the up and coming Shelton Benjamin, who had defeated HHH in a huge shock on Raw. Benjamin was the better man that night beating the multi-time World Champion.
Evolution was running along, until one of their own bucked the system. Randy Orton has won the World Title, and was removed from the group with extreme prejudice. Orton tried to get Flair to side with him and told him that he was more than HHH’s lackey. Flair opted to stay with Evolution and he and Orton would face at Taboo Tuesday. Flair cut great promos leading up to the event, including one that nearly got him fired as he uttered the line “making virgins bleed” in relation to what he would do to Orton. They met in a steel cage match, the main event of the show and once again Ric Flair proved why he has been called “the man” as he and Orton tore the house down with a match that made you feel like you were watching the Flair of old. Flair bled a ton, and in the end lost to Orton and shook his hand like a man.
Flair had remained with Evolution, until his former protégé Batista broke away and won the world Title from HHH. Flair did everything in his power to aid HHH, but it always came up short. He had some fun exchanges over the last months with Christian before he was traded to Smackdown and just recently in a match with Kurt Angle showed that he is still “the man” as he an Angle out on a great match.
Flair would go on to win the WWE Intercontinental Title at Unforgiven 2005 from Carlito. With Flair seemingly on a roll, he was excited for his “best friend” HHH to return. HHH did return, but he took out Flair at Raw’s Homecoming. HHH thought Flair was weak and needed to be “put down.” They battled at Taboo Tuesday in a brutal cage match, which Flair won. But the battle was far from over. They would lock up again at Survivor Series in a “Last Man Standing Match,” where HHH came out victorious while Flair remained the IC champion heading into 2006.
Why Ric Flair was selected…
Without question Ric Flair has had one of the most full careers of all time. Call him 16, 19 or 20 something time world champion if you will, but the stats don’t lie. For 33 years, Ric Flair has done nothing but work to be “the man” in this business. Flair was the poster boy for the NWA, kept Crockett promotions and WCW alive in trying times as well as made a mark “up north.”. To me there was no doubt he would make it in, and I am glad to be the one to induct him.