The following thirteen stories uncover a different side to the limousine-riding, jet-flying, kiss-stealing, wheelin’ dealin’ son of a gun, Ric Flair!
"Ray Stevens told me in 1972, ‘The day you walk into that ring without butterflies, don’t walk to the ring.’ I never forgot that statement."
– Ric Flair
1. Ric Flair Reflects on the Highs and Lows of His Great Career
"I’ve been hit by lightning twice," Ric Flair reveals.
"In 1982, I was the World Champion back then in NWA, and I was flying into Richmond, VA. I had to wrestle Ricky Steamboat that night. It was sold out. My connection was late getting out of Atlanta because of the weather.
"We landed, and they wouldn’t let us out of the plane because it was raining so hard, and it was before they had jetways.
"Finally, it let up a bit, so we got off, and they gave us umbrellas like they used to in the old days. I was walking about 50 yards from walking into the building, and lightning hit the tip of my umbrella, bounced off it and hit the guy behind me in the eye, and killed him.
"The second time I was on a Seneca II, a small plane, coming back from somewhere on the Fourth of July in 1986. And then lighting hit our plane — bingo! We went upside down…
"In 1975, I crashed in an airplane and broke my back. The doctors told me I’d never wrestle again…
"Honestly, I think it’s phenomenal what has happened to me.
"From the very first day I started wrestling, I loved it.
"I mean, I watched it as a kid when I was living in Minneapolis, but I didn’t know anything about it.
"I was playing football in Minnesota, and I dropped out of school. Of course, my grades were terrible because I had joined a fraternity. I just rolled the dice and had fun. I had been declared ‘academically ineligible’ to play football.
"I headed down to Charlotte. Back then, Charlotte was just rasslin’ and racin’. That’s when I started at the age of 23. I got my first thousand-dollar check after I’d worked for a week. I said to myself: this will work for me!
"Was I a natural? No! I quit three times because it was so hard.
"Verne Gagne wouldn’t let me quit. He even came and got me and threw me out of my duplex one day and said, ‘Get your a** back over there!’ It was in a barn in November. Are you kidding me? Good lord.
"When I was in the business, you had to be tough to be a wrestler. It was a riot — that’s the way it was. It was a very hard, tough, grueling competitive business. When I was younger, you didn’t get paid if you didn’t work, so you went to work, whether you were hurt or not. THAT was tough!
"I’ll tell you: I have been in matches with Bruiser Brody that was tougher than any MMA match! Especially in Tokyo. Same thing with Stan Hansen. Try getting in the ring with him one time in Tokyo, brother. Good lord!
"And nobody in MMA could have beaten Harley Race or Dick Slater. Those guys were just that tough. And remember Haku? Don’t ever think that anybody would mess with Haku. If he was a young guy and got into MMA, my god — he’d have done everything! He was the toughest son of a b**** I’ve ever met in my whole life. No lie, take my word for it…
"It’s a different time now. Guys are more… I don’t know… it’s a much more ‘controlled’ environment now. I mean, when I was running around in the ’80s, man, we were hittin’ it hard, both in the ring and afterward! (laughs).
"In the Four Horsemen, we were like The Beatles, Elvis, and The Rolling Stones, all wrapped into one. Wrestling was on fire back then; it was just unbelievable. The chicks were everywhere…
"One night, I got on television and said, ‘The Four Horsemen are renting a suite on top of the Baltimore Marriott.’ I said any girl between the ages of 18 and 28 is invited, no husbands, no boyfriends.
"You should’ve seen it, man.
"The lobby was unbelievable. You had to fight your way through it. We had at least 300 women in the room. You couldn’t walk. Then I started doing it everywhere. We used to do it in Vegas during the summertime when all the college girls were in town. We had a lot of fun…
"We had our own private jet. We were on the Great American Bash tour in 1985. We worked in Frisco, Seattle, Portland, L.A, Alburquerque, and Vegas. We stayed at the Tropicana for a five-day run. I got drunk and spent $40,000 on two fur coats, still got one at home. Never worn it.
"We flew back to the hotel at midnight and partied until 8:00 a.m, worked out, and then laid in the sun all day. We did not go to bed for five days. It was phenomenal.
"It was a tremendous life. I don’t regret any of it.
"I’ve made some really bad business choices, and it’s not because I did things stupid, but because I trusted people. And trust is not stupidity.
"I had it made, and I let it go — through divorce and bad choices with women.
"It’s not cost-effective when you’re not working and paying $20,000 a month in alimony.
"I always lived for the day.
"I couldn’t wait to get to work, and I couldn’t wait to get to the ring. I didn’t even think about being nervous. I’d put my boots on, tape my fingers up, prepare myself, and out I went! It was a rush for me, and I just couldn’t wait to do it. I enjoyed everybody I worked with. I enjoyed them in the ring, and I enjoyed them socially.
"The greatest moment in my life was wrestling Shawn Michaels for my retirement. No lie about that
"The emotional part of it was big. That was legit, man. I didn’t want to retire. Vince made me!
"I love my fans, and I truly appreciate all the respect they pay me each and every day of my life. I hear something nice every day of my life. And I’m really looking forward to getting back and performing for them and making them smile – or making them cry!" (laughs)
2. Dusty Rhodes on Flair Almost Becoming “Ramblin’ Ricky Rhodes”
"He’d just broken in, and we were on the road," Dusty Rhodes once shared about long-time comrade, Ric Flair. "He carried me and [Dick] Murdoch’s bags.
"He said, ‘Mr. Rhodes…I wanna ask you a question.’ He’s driving us through the town. ‘What do you think of the name…Ramblin’ Ricky Rhodes?’ And he was smiling, man. He was going to go with [that name].
"He said later that some of the best advice I ever gave him was that day. I said, ‘Why don’t you be the first Rick Flair instead?’ And he took that."
"In Japan, his first trip there, he went there with Murdoch and me. He had the long hair, like in the early days. And we said, ‘You don’t go to Japan and get the respect of the people [looking like that]. You go over there with a haircut…’ (pauses) ‘Get a buzz cut.’
"We take him to the barbershop, and they shave his head. He’s bald-headed. Me and Murdoch are laughing so hard we can’t even stand it. When they spin him around in the barber chair, and he sees himself, I thought he was going to go into shock.
"So he goes over there, and the very first time he’s there a Japanese guy just busted him open – he’s bleeding like a sieve’; it was running like a water faucet – and he’s looking back at me and Murdoch [because] we’ve got his camera. He wants us to take pictures of the matches. During the whole match, Murdoch just took pictures of the audience up in the balcony (laughs).
"He comes back, and he’s bleeding, and everything, and he says [out of breath] ‘I’ll get a shower, and we’ll get out of here and get some beer…’
"We said, ‘We ain’t gonna shower – you get our bags. The bus is waiting on us – get your a** out there.’
"He picks our bags up – he’s still just got his trunks on, blood is flowing down his whole body. We get one mile from the building, and we have the bus driver stop – ‘cos this was his job too – to go get the beer.
"So now he’s bleeding like he’s been in a car wreck, he’s got his trunks on, and we make him get out and get the beer.
"The Nature Boy Ric Flair paid his dues…"
3. Jack Brisco Gives His Thoughts on Ric Flair as Champion
"He is, without a doubt, probably one of the all-time greatest. Never, never can you get him upset, can’t get him mad, can’t get him tired. He’s a 60-minute man. Never seen a man with energy like he’s got…the knowledge of the business, his ring savvy.
"He was a natural and one of the greatest champions of all time."
4. Lex Luger on Partying with Ric Flair
Lex Luger once recounted, "Ric would stay up so late, riding around the town. Early in my career, when I was riding with him, he always checked into real fancy hotels. He checked into this fancy hotel in Sacramento – so I did too."
"But by the time we got there, we checked in and had to go straight to the arena, then we stayed out all night…and when we got back to the hotel, we had a flight to catch. I got into the room and lay down on the bed for like ten seconds and had to grab my bag and go check out.
"Now, this was the 80s, and the room cost $500. I almost fell over in the lobby. I was so mad at Ric. ‘I just spent $500 on a room I never got to stay in!’
"And Ric said, ‘All part of the image enhancement Lex… all part of the image enhancement…’"
5. Arn Anderson on “The Roach,” Ric Flair!
"Ric’s a survivor," Arn Anderson explains. "He’s like a roach."
"He’ll be around when the rest of us are dead!"
6. Ricky Steamboat on Working with Flair
"Was [Ric Flair] my greatest opponent? I’d have to say yes."
Ricky Steamboat continued, "Flair went to Jim Crockett and said, ‘I want to work with Rick Steamboat.’
"He had been in the business perhaps a year-and-a-half longer than me, coming out of Verne’s camp. Flair had come in and got really hot as a heel. He just really stood out.
"I came in, and he wanted to take me in under his wing. The two of us together, we were like two peas in a pod. We just gelled.
"Flair has his way about himself. Sometimes he can be embarrassing. (Laughs) But you can’t dispute how hard he works in the ring, whoever he’s with, trying to get the match over. You can’t dispute that."
"Most of the guys these days, everything is scripted out. They have 20 high spots, and one fall is right after the other.
"When Ric and I did that two-out-of-three falls match in New Orleans, we had our three finishes, and that was it, the rest we called in the ring. We would listen to the crowd and just call it as it came. That’s old school."
Recommended read: Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat – The Story Behind The Magic
7. Blackjack Mulligan on Getting Up to No Good with Ric Flair
"Flair was wild…he was out there, man!"
Blackjack Mulligan continued, "Me and that cat did it all," remembers Blackjack Mulligan fondly.
"I stayed with him for as long as I could until I couldn’t take any more. He almost killed me.
"We usually had our own plane. And if we didn’t have our own plane, we would go find a plane. (laughs) It could be Las Vegas one night…and it could be Richmond the next night. I have so many stories about that idiot…that maniac!
"I woke up one night in the Sheraton Hotel – Ric and I are butt-a**ed naked, and he’s in one end, and I’m in the other, and there are bodies lying all over, and I don’t remember what happened that night… (laughs)
"We started off living next door to each other.
"This guy used to be in my backyard all the time.
"He broke my son Barry [Windham] in. One day I can’t find Barry. This was right after Ric bought this old black Cadillac limousine from the Tams – the old singing group.
"They had this old black limo they had when they were on top – Ric goes and buys it!
"He has Barry dressed up in a Chauffeur’s uniform and has Barry drive him in that limo to the airport! My kid is 15 years old, with no driver’s license. Ric’s picking up some girl at the airport, trying to impress her…
"One night, Ric and I were at the Hilton in Raleigh. I talked Ric into dressing up like a girl… (laughs)
"Flair comes into the bar…we’re pulling a rib on a little buddy of ours who we loved, named ‘Dynamite’ Jack Evans. He was a good little worker there…a little Puerto Rican/Jewish boy from New York. One of the funniest people on earth!
"Anyway, he was always with one of us. He was our side guy…he did the driving for us and the dirty work. He kept his mouth shut, and he never told any stories out of school.
"[Anyway] I told Dynamite Jack, I said, ‘I got me a new girlfriend.’ And he said, ‘Really, Jack?’ Now keep in mind, Dynamite Jack couldn’t see too well…he had these big thick glasses. (laughing)
"So, I talk Flair into dressing up like a girl. He puts this wig and this dress on, and he comes on into the bar at the Hilton there. And Flair’s sitting on my lap… (laughing hard) Dynamite Jack reaches over to Angelo Mosca and says, ‘HOLY MOLY, THAT MULLY HAS ONE UGLY BROAD WITH HIM TONIGHT…LOOK AT THE NOSE ON HER!’ (laughs hard)
"Ric’s wife had left him, and he’d gone with Beth [whom he married in 1983], and my wife was a friend of the first wife, and detested Beth…
"[Flair and I] had a van together, and he used to keep a bunch of stuff in his closet in the van.
"One day, my wife was getting ready to go to church, and she asked me if she could use the van. I went, ‘Oh my God…Ric had the van last night…’
"So I run out there real quick, and I look in the van…and pantyhose are lying all over the place…
"I look in his closet, and oh my God, there’s all kinds of unmentionable stuff! I’m pulling stuff out of there as fast as I can and throwing it in this bag…so the kids and everybody can take the van to church!
"I come inside, and my wife looks at the bag and asks, ‘What’s that.’ And I said, ‘Oh, it’s just some of Ric’s stuff…don’t worry about it.’
"I said to myself, ‘Wait a minute. This is gonna work [for an angle on Mid-Atlantic TV]…two best friends splitting up. He’s gonna take his stuff from the van, and I’m gonna take mine.’ So I bring out the pantyhose and the makeup from his closet on TV…
"You know…I was from West Texas, and Flair was the little hotshot snotty-nosed punk. It was his stage now…he wanted to be the top heel. That’s where we were then.
"He was changing, he was evolving…I mean, REALLY was evolving. Nobody knew what was fixing to happen to this guy. I mean, he became one of the biggest showbiz characters the business would ever have…forever. We didn’t think he could be that big…but he was.
"One night, we’re in this van, both of us naked, drinking and acting like idiots as usual…and we made the mistake of letting Jimmy Crockett drive.
"We get out, and we’re taking a leak on the side of the road, no clothes on, laughing and giggling – we thought this was so funny. As we’re taking a leak right there on the road, Jimmy takes off and just leaves us there – bare-a**ed naked on the highway.
"I did have my boots on, [but] Ric didn’t – so it’s just rocks and sand-burn on the road. He says, ‘Can you carry me? I can’t walk…’
"I said (sighs) ‘Ric, I’ve been carrying you so long, what’s another 10 miles…get on.’
"So I put him on my back, and I’m piggy-backing Ric Flair, naked, down the highway.
"I understand that on the C.B [radio] some truck driver said, ‘Gawd darn, yew ain’t gonna bulieeeve this…there’s this great big ol’ cowboy carryin’ this blonde broad…an’ yew oughta see her, man…that is the ugliest woman I ever seen in mah LIFE!’"
8. Ric Flair on His Robes
"I’ve given some to charity, and I’ve lost some of them. I’ve had them stolen out of dressing rooms, airports, overhead compartments…it’s been brutal. My favorite was a peacock one we trashed in ’78 in a match. I wish I’d never done it; it couldn’t be duplicated…"
9. Hulk Hogan Shares His Thoughts on Ric Flair
"He’s the best wrestler I’ve ever seen or been around," Hulk Hogan once revealed.
"He lives this business; he protects the art form. There’s nobody better. I remember when I was [still just] a fan, he was doing hour-and-a-half matches with Harley Race and Jack Brisco. He doesn’t complain about being hurt; he doesn’t complain about anything. He is the wrestler of all wrestlers. The greatest ever."
10. Shawn Michaels on His Boyhood Idol and Later Friend, Ric Flair
"I was 16 years old when I sat in front of the TV, and I saw ‘The Nature Boy’ Ric Flair for the first time."
"I said, ‘Gosh, I want to be just like him. He embodies everything I want to be. Everything I picture the wrestling life to be…he is it.’
"Years later, Ric was in the WWF for a short time, and that was our first chance to get to meet each other. At that time, I hadn’t become an established anything yet other than a tag-team guy.
"That was when I first began to tell him sort of how I felt about him and his impact on my life.
"I think it was one of those things that he had probably heard before and was flattered by.
"We went out there for a match, and it was business as usual for him…but obviously, for me, I was giddy. It was the fastest eight minutes of my entire life!
"It wasn’t that long of a match, but it was something at that point in my life that I held very precious. It was like, Holy cow, I’m in there with ‘The Naitch!’ I’m in there with this guy that I idolized…
"I’ve got this buddy, Kenny, who was there watching with me when I was 16. After that match, he called me and said, ‘I can’t believe you wrestled RIC FLAIR!’
"Fast-forward 20-some-odd years later…to be a grown man and be able to call Ric my friend. And then for him to handpick me to try to be his ‘last match’…I take it so seriously and so personally because of what he’s meant to me in the past and what he means to me now as a friend, and what he created in this industry.
"I always went into most of my matches where no matter what I was feeling on the inside, I always went in on the outside feeling seven feet tall and bulletproof.
"This time, going in [to WrestleMania XXIV], I was visibly shaken…
"There are so many people that believed he ought to be honored and set apart, and for me to be the guy that needed to get that done, on the one hand, it was wonderful.
"But on the other hand, I went, ‘Gosh, I wish I wouldn’t have been calling myself ‘The Showstopper’ and ‘Mr. WrestleMania’ all these years. I’ve really worked myself into a shoot this time…’
"I thought, ‘Can I honor him? Can I do what I really believe he deserves? Can I make this great moment happen for him?’
"There was a strange, emotional thing going on for me that I tried to detach myself from as best I could, but it was still there.
"Ric Flair had always been a part of this business for as long as I can remember.
Of all the interest that I’ve ever had in this line of work, he’d been involved in some aspect of it.
"And the idea of him not being in there – I felt like the old couple that when one of them goes, the other one loses their will to live a little bit. I really had to wonder, as goofy as it sounds, how much more I’d want to go on when he’s gone.
"So it was about four or five days before the match, I was lying in bed thinking, not able to sleep.
"Then, all of a sudden, the whole thing just came to me.
"I got up out of bed – it was like, two o’clock in the morning – and I just started writing. I could ‘feel’ this match. Everything was just sort of flowing.
"I was just sitting in my kitchen writing all this down, and this overwhelming, emotional urge came over me, and I just thought, ’This is how I feel…’
"About two days before the match, I sort of presented it to Ric and [head writer] Michael Hayes, and I said, ‘I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of days now…I just really feel like I gotta…just gotta ‘complete’ something here.’
"I went through it all and told them the end.
"Ric just looked at me, his eyes watering. He patted me on the leg and said, ‘Thank you.’
"That whole match was one of those ‘real’ moments.
"That emotion was there weeks before. It was there days before and there all day. It was there during the match. It was there after the match. That was a real-life emotional moment for all involved.
"So many people ask me whether his return from retirement bothered me.
I always say, ‘Absolutely not.’
"He did call me about it, though.
"He called me to ask my blessing to do the [Hulk] Hogan match in Australia. He wanted to know if it was okay, and I, of course, told him that it was. Then he called me again when he was going to sign with TNA and asked me the same thing.
"There’s nothing you can say. I certainly don’t have what it takes to look at somebody and say, ‘Don’t go make a living.’ I told him that. For me, nothing can take away that special moment. It will still always be, to me, that I had Ric Flair’s ‘last’ match.
"Our match at WrestleMania XXIV, that moment, was truly 100 percent real to me. And it was real to him. And that’s never going to change.
"I went from a young boy, a 16-year-old who admired him and was inspired by him to a man who is honored to call him my friend."
11. Ric Flair on Whether He Was Actually Serious About Retiring at WrestleMania 24
"I don’t know what I thought at the time. Remember that it was WWE that decided to retire Ric Flair. Obviously, it was very emotional for myself, Shawn, and my fans. It is not easy to do this for as long as I have, and then all of a sudden quit because the company you work for tells you to."
"I’m not bashing WWE as I have great respect for the group. I believe that the whole set up was beautiful, and they did a great job with the hall of fame ceremony and the goodbye on Raw afterward. But I am not ready to sit at home and build a garden. I feel great, I work hard, and I am ready to keep going.
"The only one that truly will know the right time to stop is myself."
12. Terry Taylor Explains Why the Nature Boy Was Not of this Earth
"Well, I was a huge fan of Ric Flair. And we had done an angle in Louisiana where he was going to wrestle me at the Superdome for the NWA world title.
"I get to the building at like two in the afternoon – I didn’t have to be there until six – and I’m doing push-ups and blow-drying my hair nine times. This is my big main event versus Ric Flair! On top, y’know? A good house, super-card.
So, I’m waiting.
"Seven o’clock, he’s not there. Seven-thirty he’s not there.
"Eight o’clock, this thing starts – he’s STILL not there.
"About 8:15, he rolls in.
"He reeks of alcohol. It looks like he’s been wearing the same clothes for three days, his hair is matted…and he’s actually being helped in by one of the security guys who’s carrying his bag and his robe for him.
"Ric lays down on the couch and goes, ‘Come get me in an hour.’
"I can’t believe it. I’m thinking, ‘This is your opportunity to make me look good…how are you going to make Terry Taylor into a bigger star when you’re so hung-over you can’t even open your eyes?’
"I was hot. Oh, I was mad at him.
"The best part was, he says to me: ‘Bring me a cup of coffee in an hour.’
So now I’m the coffee guy, too, right?
"So anyway, I do as I’m told. I get him the coffee just as the match is getting ready to go. And he’s still in his clothes. He’s a mess, and we’ve got about 20 minutes…
"A guy comes and says to me, ‘You gotta go to the other side.’
"The Super Dome’s so big you gotta drive all the way around in a golf cart. And I’ve got my little jacket on, and I’m mad. I’m thinking, ‘Ric Flair didn’t come here ready to make me look good.’
"So, I go to the ring, and there’s twenty-five, twenty-six thousand people out there, all cheering. I’m still seething y’know, ‘cos I’m thinking I’m going to have to carry Ric Flair to a 12-minute match, which at the time I didn’t know if I could do or not.
"His music plays. He walks through the curtain…and his hair is immaculate. He’s got the robe on; he comes walking out in full Ric Flair mode.
"Forty minutes later, I’m begging him to pin me because I can’t breathe. And he’s going, ‘Let’s go, let’s go!’ [But] I can’t breathe.
"Finally, he pins me – I have never been happier to lose a match in my life. 48 minutes we went when he couldn’t even open his eyes an hour before that. I said, ‘This guy’s not from planet Earth.’
"That night, later on, Bourbon Street having a great time. Not me – him. I was in the iron lung, still trying to get my breath back! (Laughs)
"Ric Flair was amazing. He’s the man."
13. Ric Flair Looks Back on His Career and Gives His Thoughts on Today’s Wrestlers
"The perception of the young guys that bothers me is that it’s, ‘So hard now.’
"It’s not hard at all."
"You’ve got guaranteed money. You’re flying. In the European tours, you’re staying in the best hotels money can buy, you’re riding in the kind of buses that Mick Jagger rides around in, right? You’re working hard; you’re eating the best food money can buy. How hard is that? You’re gone for ten days. Wow. (shakes head) Get over it. There’s nothing hard about it.
"I’m the only guy that’s wrestled everybody – from Bruiser Brody to The Rock. Harley Race, Dory Funk, Jack, and Jerry Brisco…I’ve been around. I wrestled everybody in the business for an hour each night.
"I know who’s been successful; I know why they’ve been successful, and I know who’s good and who’s not good at what they do for a living.
"My opinion can be held second to none."
These stories may also interest you:
- The Four Horsemen of Wrestling – Their True Uncensored Story
- Ric Flair and Terry Funk – Their Unforgettable Feud from 1989
- Ric Flair and Jack Veneno | The Title Change The NWA Won’t Accept
Sources used in this article: ‘The WWE Championship – A Look Back At The Rich History of The WWE Championship‘ by Kevin Sullivan, Interviewed by C.Hunter/ wrestlenewz.com, A. Vontz/WWE Magazine, Highspots, WWE Wrestling Roundtable, wrestlingperspective, canoe, Inside The Ropes Radio, comcast, neoseeker, Australiansportsentertainment, wrestlingperspective, midatlanticgateway, Mulligan shoot, rfgolds.com, ‘Legends of Mid South Wrestling,’ Hogan vs. The Voice, postandcourier, wrestlingnewslive, J. Bellamy/Duluth News Tribune
Some of the quotes used in this article were compiled by Matt Pender and shared here with thanks to our friends over at ‘Wrestling’s Glory Days’ Facebook page.
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