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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

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Top 5 Ric Flair Matches

By @Cool_Calm_Chris 

Ric Flair is arguably one of the greatest if not the greatest wrestler of all time. Through a career that has spanned 35+ years and through some of the most difficult ordeals the Nature Boy has had to face, he still has been able to shine in that ring and on the microphone. Having wrestled all over the world against virtually every name that has come through this industry, there have been a number of important matches in his career that will always be remembered in the history of Ric Flair. In this article, I will list the five most important matches in his career, not necessarily the best, but the ones that fans will refer back to when discussing the legacy of the Nature Boy.

#5: The Nature Boy Challenges the Deadman Ric Flair vs The Undertaker: Wrestlemania X8

With WCW in his rear view, Ric Flair was in a much happier place in his career now in 2002. Having been previously been brought on with the intention of doing a specifically non-wrestling role, Ric Flair was not feeling at his best when he got back in the ring, especially when he was working with Vince McMahon. However, this match lands on this list, because it was the first time in a while Ric Flair felt at his best. Working with The Undertaker at Wrestlemania was an honor for Flair, and rightfully so considering that Undertaker is one of the most established superstars on the roster and just had a classic match with Triple H the previous year at Wrestlemania 17.

Ric worked one of his best matches during his second run in WWE with the Undertaker and gave him one of his best Wrestlemania matches ever. With a rather forgettable storyline going with The Undertaker and Flair leading up to the match it gets overlooked often in Ric’s history, but the ability Ric showed even at his age to still go toe to toe with The Deadman was nothing short of amazing. The Arn Anderson spinebuster spot towards the middle of the match was also pretty cool personally.

#4: The Nature Boy Goes the Distance
Royal Rumble 1992

Ric Flair’s first run in WWE may not have been as great as fans would have liked, but Flair himself was definitely pleased and felt rejuvenated when he returned to WCW in 1993. While we did not get the dream match of Hulk Hogan vs Ric Flair at Wrestlemania 8, Flair still had some spectacular matches during his time. One of his best definitely was what some consider to be one of the best Royal Rumble matches of all time, Royal Rumble 1992. It was one of the most star studded Royal Rumble matches of all time, especially considering that most of the guys in that match would be gone the following year. The added drama of the World Wrestling Federation Championship being on the line was just more storyline to a match that was already filled with it.

Ric Flair entered at number three and lasted through the entire match and eventually (with the help of Hulk Hogan oddly enough) eliminated Sid Justice from the match and won the Royal Rumble and the WWF title, lasting an astounding one hour and two seconds. Flair’s record would last until 2004 when Chris Benoit would enter at number one and last a minute and 28 seconds longer than Flair. This would be the defining moment of Flair’s first run in WWE as the “Real World’s Champion”

#3: The Four Horsemen vs Dusty Rhodes Ric Flair vs Dusty Rhodes: The Great American Bash 1986

Ric Flair was never quite as over in any other time than he was in the eighties, and while Hulk Hogan was the biggest draw of that era, Flair was without question the best wrestler. As the NWA World Heavyweight Champion, when that title was probably the most important title in wrestling, Flair would travel to all the different territories in the National Wrestling Alliance to defend the title. In that time he not only put on excellent matches, but he made everyone he wrestled look even better than they might have been.

During this time he was also a part of one of the most influential wrestling factions of all time, The Four Horsemen. In its original inception, the group consisted of Ole Anderson, “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, and their manager James J. Dillon and were the top wrestlers each in their own right in Jim Crockett’s Mid-Atlantic Region. They were the top heels in the area and naturally Dusty Rhodes was the perfect babyface to rival them. The representative of the working class in Dusty was the complete opposite of the lavish and excessive lifestyle that the Horsemen embodied and whenever they clashed someone was going to get hurt, more often than not it was Dusty.

Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes have wrestled on numerous occasions before, in fact Flair won his first title beating Rhodes, but this match meant so much more. Contested in a steel cage, it was the perfect payoff to their rivalry and the two tore the house down. Dusty would leave with his hand raised as the new NWA World Heavyweight Champion and all the babyface wrestlers from the locker room came out to congratulate him. Flair would end up winning the title back on a house show in August, but this match meant so much and is the cornerstone of the legendary rivalry that some consider to be the greatest of all time.

#2: The Nature Boy Rides Off Into The Sunset Ric Flair vs Shawn Michaels: Wrestlemania 24

In November of 2007 Vince McMahon gave Ric Flair the ultimatum that if he were to lose his next match he would be forced to retire. For the rest of that year and into 2008 Flair would have a string of matches that all tied into the storyline and this all culminated in the retirement match he had with Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 24. With a career spanning over 35 years and millions of matches under his belt, now was as perfect as any time to wrap it up officially.

With his Hall of Fame induction the night before, the match on Sunday, and his farewell night on Raw, that whole weekend felt like a perfect send off for the Nature Boy. The night was perfect for this moment, Ric came out in a rare robe that he had never worn before, his family was in attendance, and the fans in attendance were excited and on the edge of their seat for this match.

Shawn and Flair delivered an amazing match with a number of huge spots like Shawn missing the diving moonsault on Flair and diving directly into the announce table, however the storytelling itself in this match was just as emotional as you would expect from these two Hall of Fame wrestlers. Towards the end of the match Shawn Michaels would  set up for his finisher, the Sweet Chin Music super kick, with a bit of hesitance in his eye and Ric Flair would get up from the canvas begging him to bring it with tears running down his eyes. Shaw Michaels would say to Flair “I’m Sorry, I love you” and deliver the finishing blow to end Ric Flair’s career. In a classy show of respect Shawn would immediately leave the ring and leave Ric to celebrate his last match with the fans and his family.
Though Ric would end up wrestling a few more times after he left WWE, this still ranks as his second most important match because it would serve as Ric’s last match on a major scale like WWE. Shawn Michaels would eventually retire two years later at Wrestlemania 26 in a retirement match against the Undertaker, however he has not stepped in the ring for a match since then.

#1: A Flair For The Gold Ric Flair vs Harley Race: Starrcade 1983

Ric Flair’s first run as NWA World Heavyweight Champion was not as special as it should have been. As stated before, Ric won his first title against Dusty Rhodes, but he did it on a house show in front of a crowd that was heavily in favor of Rhodes and he did not want to beat Dusty because that was one of his idols and Rhodes did not want to lose the title either. However, the second time around, the stage was perfect for Flair to win the title.
Ric would lose the title to Harley Race giving Race his seventh NWA World Heavyweight Championship on June 10, 1983 and begin his build towards reclaiming his title in November at the first annual Starrcade event. This match would serve as the launching pad for what would be an amazing decade for the Nature Boy and much like his match Dusty Rhodes, this was contested in a steel cage.

Much like how Wrestlemania was the launching pad for WWE, Starrcade was the exact same for the NWA in the eighties but on a smaller scale. Ric Flair came dressed in a special robe that he has not worn since and fireworks blasted as he entered the arena. The two brawled back and forth, each getting their share of offense. Ric would end the match with a flying cross body of all moves to get the win and regain the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Much like Bret Hart’s second run with the WWF championship now Ric Flair was established as the top guy in not just the Mid-Atlantic Region, but the entire National Wrestling Alliance.

Ric Flair is an anomaly, even with his back being broken in a plane crash a few year years after his debut and being told by doctors he would never wrestle again the Nature Boy would still wrestle well into old age. Having wrestled 60-minute and 90-minute matches consistently in his prime, Flair is legitimately the true iron man of professional wrestling. While he has had many more amazing matches, like his trilogy of matches with Ricky Steamboat in 1989, these were just some of his most important. While Flair has a rather controversial personal life, his impact on professional wrestling will be felt for generations.



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