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5 Wrestler Firsts: Ric Flair

“The Nature Boy” Ric Flair’s list of accolades is extensive. When he is not busy jet-stealing and wheeler-dealing, the 16(+)-time world champion has managed to achieve pretty much everything in his career, establishing a legacy in which he will forever live on as one of the wrestling world’s greatest entertainers. An icon on the ring who needs very little in the way of an introduction, here are some of Ric Flair’s accomplishments which he got to before any other competitor. 

1. First Wrestler Chronologically To Earn A 5* Match

In 1983, Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter awarded his first 5* rated match when he ranked a New Japan Pro Wrestling match in April between Tiger Mask and Dynamite Kid the lauded achievement. 

However, later on, a match that predated this by over a year was ranked 5*s.  

The match took place in Miami Beach, Florida, in which Ric Flair defended his NWA World Heavyweight title in his second reign on April 7th 1982 (officially recognised as his first, with the NWA ignoring The Midnight Rider’s win). The challenger to Flair was a pre-”The Natural”, even pre-”Hacksaw”, Butch Reed.  

Reed in yellow tights stand on the apron, arm raised.
Butch Reed in yellow tights stands on the apron, arm raised.

In 2018, Meltzer tweeted an image of the official match card. He was present at the event and thought little of the under-card, yet commented: Main event was easy *****. Best match I’d ever seen live up to that point.”  

At the time of the match, the Wrestling Observer had not even been created yet. 

Reed has Flair's shoulders down in a backslide, Flair's legs are high up in the air.
Reed performs a backslide in a match with Flair a few years later.

Although it was not the first match to be given the rating, it is the earliest match to be given 5* stars, the first match to have that rating. 

2. First Wrestling “PPV” Main Eventer

Although not technically a Pay-Per-View but a closed-circuit event (the NWA’s first official PPV was in 1987), Starrcade 1983 is still recognised as the first pro wrestling PPV. 

One of the hotly anticipated matches was the main event. Flair had lost his first NWA title and was out to win it back. Then-champion Harley Race hired mercenaries Bob Orton and Dick Slater to break Flair’s neck, forcing “The Nature Boy” into early retirement.  

Harley Race cuts a promo, microphone to mouth as he holds his NWA title over his shoulder.

Obviously, Flair came back and from this, it seems fair to say this match was a big deal. It would go on to be Race’s eighth and final reign after Flair toppled him inside a steel cage. An awkward diving crossbody sealed the win for “Naitch”, after which a bloodied Ric celebrated in the ring and backstage with the babyface roster. 

Harley Race sets up Flair for a piledriver, with Flair hanging upside down in position.

In addition, Flair had become the first wrestler to ever win a PPV main event. 

3. First Heel Royal Rumble Winner

In 1991, Flair landed in the WWF, making a huge splash in the new promotion after having departed WCW after disagreements over a proposed Gladiator gimmick by new president Jim Herd. 

Immediately thrust into the main event scene, Flair became one of the WWF’s most prominent faces, locking up with Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, and Roddy Piper.  

 After Flair himself had helped cause controversy over the WWF title, the belt was held up, making the 1992 Royal Rumble match for the belt and the Rumble match stipulation real prestigious and jeopardous for the first time.  

Flair throws Sid out of the ring as Hogan grabs a load of hair to help throw Justice out.
Flair last eliminated Sid with the help of Hulk Hogan.

Entering at number three, the WCW-defectee would go on to outlast the field, impressing in an hour-long effort to emerge victoriously. Flair had scored five eliminations in the match, finally throwing Sid Justice out of the ring with some aid from sore loser Hogan.  

With Jim Duggan, Big John Studd, and Hulk Hogan twice having won in the past, Flair became the first heel winner. His celebration in-ring was cut short by Hogan, with a feud between Sid and Hogan ‘clearly’ being more important than the result of the WWF championship main event. Flair did, however, get a memorable celebration backstage in an interview with “Mean” Gene in which Flair dropped the memorable line: “With a tear in my eye, this is the greatest moment of my life.”

Flair stares at the camera, mouth open and title over shoulder as he cuts a promo.

4. First Wrestler To Win Multiple WWE Titles In His 50s

One of the most famous features of Flair is his tremendous longevity. Despite how the fact this is often a criticism of Ric, it has ultimately served his career well, allowing him to expand his legacy over various decades, working with various talents. 

Firstly, Flair captured the World Tag Team titles in 2003 alongside Dave Batista in Evolution, waltzing out last and trouncing The Dudleys after they had been worn out by a tag team turmoil.  

The referee raises the hands of the title-donning duo of Flair and Batista.

In 2006, Flair and partner Roddy Piper were chosen to face the World Tag Team Champions The Spirit Squad. With the aid of other legends Dusty Rhodes and Sgt Slaughter, Flair and Piper won after applying a Figure-Four Leglock. This in itself was an achievement as, rather crazily, The Spirit Squad had the longest tag title reign in nearly a decade, since 1997 when The British Bulldog and Owen Hart lost their tag belts after 246 days. That said, this reign only lasted eight days, being transitional champions as much as they provided some feel-good nostalgia with the belts. 

 At the Unforgiven PPV in 2005, Ric Flair had won his first Intercontinental title at the ripe old age of 56, forcing then-champion Carlito into submission.  

One hand is raised by the referee as Flair has the IC belt in his other hand.

Although other wrestlers in their 50s had won titles, including The Fabulous Moolah, Vince McMahon, Terry Funk (as Chainsaw Charlie), Pat Patterson, Gerald Brisco, and Chavo Classic, Flair was the first to win two distinctly different titles in this age bracket, with the World Tag Team and Intercontinental titles. 

This achievement of being the first holder of multiple title belts in his quinquagenarian years is an illustration of how for Flair age is just a number and that his longevity has served him well in his career.  

5. First Two-Time WWE Hall Of Fame Inductee

In 2008, Flair was first inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame. 

 At the time, Flair was still an active in-ring competitor. His active career was in jeopardy, however, seemingly inevitable to come to a close. Such happened the night after Flair’s induction when facing Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXIV.  

Flair was inducted by Triple H and was infamously cut off from conducting his wanted speech at full length. HHH called cutting off Flair his “worst moment ever.” 

HHH gestures with his index and middle finger, indicating Flair has two minutes.

Only four years later, Flair became the first, and for a while only, two-time inductee. In 2012, the legendary Four Horsemen entered the hall. 

The only Horsemen iteration inducted was the classic early-mid 1988 version, featuring the greatest lineup of workers: Flair, Anderson, Blanchard, Windham, and Dillon. 

This faction line-up would hold all the major titles at once with “The Dirtiest Player In The Game” owning the NWA World Heavyweight title, Blackjack Mulligan’s son as the United States champion, and the WWF’s Brain Busters as the World Tag Team champions. 

Arn Anderson and Barry Windham watch as Flair conducts a speech as The Horsemen are inducted.

On March 31st, the group were officially recognised into the Hall Of Fame by Dusty Rhodes in which Flair, for a few years at least, was the only person to be acknowledged two-fold for his immense contributions to the wrestling industry. 

Epilogue

No matter what is thrown at it, Flair’s career seems to never die. A testament to the hugely significant work “The Nature Boy” has done for the industry, from one of the most profitable world champions in the NWA to one of the most reliable main event workers to helping to train Randy Orton, Stan Lane, and daughter Charlotte Flair—the firsts documented would not do justice in any way to the work done by Ric to professional wrestling. Yet it does represent how Flair was at the forefront of many events throughout his tenure between the ropes, laying the foundations for today—making Flair one of the most influential wrestlers to ever lace up a pair of boots. 

Written by Griffin Kaye

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