Whether or not you’re a pro-wrestling superfan, you’ve most likely heard of the name Ric Flair. And that’s because he’s a legend and is always featured in lists discussing the best wrestlers of all time. Flair has been in the WWE Hall of Fame for over a decade and has had the nickname of “Nature Boy” for quite a while now.
So, what’s the deal with this guy? Rap fans have probably heard his famous line: “limousine-riding, jet-flying, kiss-stealing, wheeling, dealing,” and on it goes. But there’s so much more to learn about Ric Flair, like his 20-year boozing routine that he has somehow lived through, or his insane spending habits, or his multiple near-death experiences. Buckle up and prepare for take-off: This is the wild and crazy ride that is Ric Flair!
He Might Have Been Abducted as a Baby
It might intrigue you to know that the wrestling legend came from both humble and mysterious beginnings. While it has never been confirmed, given that his parents adopted him from the notorious Tennessee Children’s Home Society, he was likely abducted as a baby.
Why? Because after the children’s home was investigated, it was discovered that children were stolen from impoverished mothers to facilitate black market adoptions. The children’s home had a habit of destroying records, so we might never know the truth about Flair’s origins. But don’t be saying “aww” just yet – the man isn’t hellbent on finding out the truth. He doesn’t even know what his birth name was, either.
How Old Is Ric Flair?
The most anyone knows is that Ric Flair was born in Memphis in 1949. The now 72-year-old was named either Fred Phillips, Fred Stewart, or Fred Demaree. After his adoption/abduction when he was one month old, he was raised by his adoptive parents, who named him Richard Flieher. For the record, his adoptive parents were in the dark about all the shady events that took place at the orphanage.
His father, Richard Reid Fliehr, was training to become a doctor, whereas his mother worked for the biggest newspaper in Minnesota, The Star Tribune. The Fliehrs moved to Edina, Minnesota, and lived there throughout the boy’s childhood. Given his remarkable origins, his success is an inspirational “rags to riches” story.
He Got Into Wrestling by Accident
Growing up, Flair never hid his passion for wrestling. In high school, Flair was a gifted athlete in track and football and won the state championship in amateur wrestling. But his father wanted his son to get into the family business. At first, Flair humored him and studied medicine at the University of Minnesota.
Only when he happened to find a gateway into the wrestling business by accident did he drop his studies. As a student, he started working as a bouncer and met Olympic weightlifter Ken Patera. Patera saw something special in the young bouncer and introduced him to former wrestler Verne Gagne, who was also impressed by him. In 1971, Gagne invited Flair to attend his notoriously brutal wrestling camp. The rest, my friends, is history.
A Ridiculously Intense Training Camp
Flair was a natural from the get-go, but Gagne gave him no special treatment. His training camp for wrestling hopefuls was ridiculously intense. A wrestler in his heyday, Gagne had an old-school wrestling mentality. His wrestling camp wasn’t flashy like today’s performers. In fact, his methods shaped some of the best pro wrestlers to enter a ring.
Another wrestling camp trainee was Ken Patera – the first wrestler Flair met while bouncing. Patera recalls them working out in the ring, which was inside one of Gagne’s old horse barns. “It was below-zero temperatures, with one light bulb in the whole barn, just dangling on a wire. The slats on the barn were about an inch apart, so there were times when we’d show up to four-foot snowdrifts in the place. The ring was all broken down, and the ropes were f***** up.”
Flair Wanted Out After Two Days
Flair gave a first-hand account of his training on To Be the Man: “We’d start off running along this frozen creek, slipping and sliding… You’d have to wear three sweatsuits. The only way to stay warm was to keep moving and not slow down the whole day, for six or eight hours.”
They had to run around the farm on a “customized path that went about two miles.” Flair and his fellow trainees (including The Iron Sheik) were forced to do 500 squats, 200 push-ups, and 200 sit-ups. Flair wanted to quit after two days. Luckily for wrestling fans everywhere, Gagne wouldn’t let him quit so easily.
A Hippie in the Ring
Before Flair came to be known as the “The Dirtiest Player in the Game,” he adopted a pretty embarrassing gimmick for his wrestling shtick. That’s right: The celebrated Ric Flair was a hippie in the ring for a brief period during the early days of his career.
Why a hippie? Well, he was inspired to take on the persona because of Billy Graham, who was said to be representing the hippie movement, but it didn’t always seem that way. During this period in Flair’s wrestling career, he wore a headband and tie-dyed shorts – quite the opposite of the signature flashy appearance he adopted later.
His Longtime Beef With Dusty Rhodes
One of Flair’s iconic rivals was Dusty Rhodes, and their intense feud kept wrestling fans captivated for decades. The storyline was more or less: “what’s that shameful Flair going to do to our beloved Dusty Rhodes next?” Behind the scenes, however, the setup was reversed. According to Flair, Rhodes was pretty relentless in his teasing.
When Flair was still a novice during his first tour in Japan, his primary role was as the bag carrier for the wrestling veterans. It was then that he first met Dusty Rhodes and Dick Murdoch. During that tour, Flair recalled the two wrestlers breaking down his door at the hotel before they “sprayed the room with a fire extinguisher and threw my clothes out a tenth-story window.”
He Survived a Plane Crash
If you can survive Verne Gagne’s boot camp, you can beat anything. Flair is living proof. In October 1975, amateur pilot Mike Farkas offered to fly Flair and a bunch of his fellow wrestlers to their next show for a low price. Flair, Johnny Valentine, David Crockett, Bob Bruggers, and “Mr. Wrestling” Tim Woods all boarded Farkas’ Cessna 310.
This is no joke. The small plane wasn’t built to carry six people, let alone a group of husky wrestlers. So, Farkas emptied a load of fuel to reduce the weight, which meant they ran out of gas before reaching their destination.
He Recovered After Only Three Months
The plane crashed into the Wilmington airport runway. Farkas died, Valentine was paralyzed, and Flair was seriously injured. The plane crash resulted in Flair’s spine being broken in three places, with his neck broken, too. The resilient soul didn’t take long to get back on track and re-enter the wrestling game – only three months!
His speedy recovery was a true testament to his character. Furthermore, he was lucky to be alive! And he knew it. The crash taught him a harsh but important life lesson and prompted a huge change in both his look and wrestling style.
His Doctors Told Him to Quit
Before Flair ever got into the business (and before the life-altering plane crash), he had his renowned charisma, but he was a lot bigger in size. He also didn’t have bleached blond hair. After the crash, doctors advised him to find a new career. But that wasn’t in Flair’s vision.
Rather than quit, he ditched his monster strength approach because it was just too physically demanding. He lost a lot of weight on his way to recovery. He came out the other end with his new motto: “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” His new submission-based, cerebral style is what he became known for.
Conquering the Nature Boy Persona
Like all the wrestling greats before him, Flair borrowed from those who came before him. Although Flair was an original, he wasn’t the OG. After the plane crash, he started a process of creating a less demanding gimmick, but then someone told him he reminded them of the original Nature Boy, Buddy Rogers.
After this fateful encounter, Flair decided to become his own version of Nature Boy. He borrowed Rogers’ flamboyant character, emulating his strut, blond hair, and Figure-Four Leg Lock. In 1978, Flair and Rogers hit the ring to decide who was the definitive Nature Boy. Flair left victorious, and so veteran Rogers gave up his moniker.
He Embodied Jerry Lee Lewis in the Ring
Flair borrowed from other wrestlers besides Buddy Rogers. His infamous robes and flamboyance were also inspired by Gorgeous George, and he adapted his promo style from Superstar Billy Graham and Dusty Rhodes. Flair was also influenced by pop culture figures who had nothing to do with wrestling at all.
One major influence was rock and roll rebel Jerry Lee Lewis. Like Lewis, Flair would strut across the ring sometimes mid-match to highlight his arrogance. Aside from his general swagger, people say that Lewis inspired Flair’s signature “WOO” catchphrase.
Who Said You Can’t Be Struck by Lighting Twice?
According to the WWE, Ric Flair has been hit by lightning twice. The eternal survivor has again lived to tell his tale. Like his first near-death experience, a plane was involved. The first time he was hit, a storm delayed his flight, and the passengers on the plane were permitted to leave the aircraft with umbrellas.
Lightning hit Flair’s umbrella, but he survived. A fellow passenger wasn’t so lucky. Flair described: “My umbrella shot 50 feet in the air. I thought, ‘What the hell?’ Lightning hit the top of my umbrella, bounced off, and hit a guy in the eye five feet behind me and killed him. Right there. I just stood there looking at the guy and froze. It scared me to death.”
The second time? It was en route to a Fourth of July celebration when the plane he was on was hit by lightning.
A Quiet, Lonely Night After Getting the Belt
More backstage shenanigans with Dusty Rhodes occurred after Flair won his first NWA World Heavyweight Championship in 1981. Of course, Rhodes didn’t like losing the coveted title in a city where he already had a large following. Losing in front of a small Kansas City audience who had no feelings toward either opponent wasn’t Rhodes’ cup of tea.
You can say that Rhodes was a sore loser and resented handing the belt over to Flair, who would soon gain a bigger following. Rhodes took it a step further by barely making an effort in the match. Since Rhodes had more backstage clout, they didn’t celebrate with Flair after his victory. Instead, he returned to his hotel and had a quiet night.
Gaining a Reputation as a Party Animal
Flair’s low-key celebrations didn’t last for long as he soon developed a reputation for being a party animal. It was hard to find a wrestler who could keep up with Flair’s affinity for partying and taste for extravagance. Whenever Flair was in a new town, he checked into fancy hotels and partied all night.
On a trip to Sacramento, Lex Luger and Flair each went to their own rooms and proceeded to go wild during the night. When they finally stumbled back to the hotel, it was time for their next flight. Luger later stated that the whole wild-child persona was “part of the image enhancement.”
Every Day for 20 Years
In his 30 for 30 ESPN documentary, Flair described his daily routine at the peak of his career. He explained how he would drink 10 beers, 20 vodkas, and five cocktails every day! Without fail! For 20 years! He said he told this to his therapist, who was utterly shocked because the average human wouldn’t survive such a long-term routine.
His fast-paced life obviously caught up with him. He was later induced into a medical coma due to organ failure. He appeared on The Dan LeBatard Show in 2016 and described what it was like to ingest “Between 3,700 and 4,000 calories worth of booze… in my body every day.”
Both Heart and Flair
Bret Hart and Ric Flair had their own wrestling beef during the ‘90s. The pair of respected and talented wrestlers always put on an engaging match for the fans. In the ring, they had some disagreements, but they always shared an amicable relationship backstage. Hart had respect for Flair and what he did for the business.
But Hart couldn’t keep up with Flair’s partying. One time, Hart called it a night as the sun started to rise. When he got up just a few hours later to work out, Flair was already in the gym. He may have been a party boy, but Nature Boy was a hard worker and took his job seriously.
He Had His Routine Down to a Tee
Terry Taylor revealed a fun story to prove just how hard Flair partied and how, after a night of partying, he could still go into the ring. When Taylor first wrestled Flair, the party boy came back from another long night out. He looked a mess, stunk of alcohol, and was still very intoxicated.
Security had to help him get into the venue, which didn’t look good for the wrestlers’ upcoming match. But, after an hour-long nap, a reinvigorated Flair walked into the ring. His conditioning was so down to a tee that Taylor was begging to end the match. Meanwhile, Flair was yelling, “let’s go, let’s go!”
Nature Boy Was Bad With Money
Flair is one of the most legendary wrestlers to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. But the man is notoriously terrible with his money. Following one lawsuit, he owed $35,000 to Highspots, Inc., and he just gave them his Championship belt to clear the debt. Then, when Highspots tried to sell the belt, Combraco Inc. didn’t let them.
As it turned out, Flair had already offered Combraco his belt to square off a previous debt. As a result, he was held in contempt of court since he failed to repay his Highspots loan and had to face up to 90 days in prison. He was also required to autograph 300 pictures for the company.
Baring It All
Ric Flair was so comfortable in his skin that he wasn’t shy when it came to showing it off. For some reason, most of his incredible stories took place on planes. In one instance, the wrestler was caught flashing unsuspecting passengers and staff.
On a flight to Portland, Oregon, he allegedly went into the plane’s bathroom and came out in a pair of alligator shoes, dress socks, and his wrestling robe. During 2002’s infamous Plane Ride from Hell, Flair drank too much and exposed himself to the flight attendants.
The “Naitching” King
Flair’s flair for spending cash inspired Triple H and a few others to create a new word, the “wheelin’ and dealin’ son of a gun.” Triple H coined the term “Naitching” to describe someone who spends stupid amounts of cash for no reason.
And it wasn’t all spent on limousines, hotel rooms, and booze. Flair also fancied the finest clothes and ring attire. In 1985, during the Great American Bash tour, he was at the height of his career and living his most lavish lifestyle. He and his peers traveled in a private jet. During one stay at the Tropicana, he got so drunk that he spent $40,000 on two fur coats. He never wore either of them.
He Had Expensive Taste
Flair spent excessive amounts of money on his flashy robes. At least he wore those regularly. He tended to have a specific taste when it came to his ring attire. Many of his wrestling robes from the ’70s and ’80s were made by Olivia Walker.
Walker’s robes weren’t cheap; she charged thousands of dollars to make his wrestling robes – up to $10,000 (worth over $20,000 these days). In his book Second Nature: The Legacy of Ric Flair and the Rise of Charlotte, Flair revealed that his sequin, rhinestone, and feather robes weighed up to 50 pounds.
Vince McMahon Lent Him $800,000
Flair acknowledged that he spent money that he didn’t necessarily have. We know now that a big part of it was his need to scratch his “Naitching” itch. Most of his spending was to make him look wealthier than he actually was in order to keep up his gimmick.
But his spending caught up with him, and he had to borrow $800,000 from Vince McMahon. “I wouldn’t let my kids borrow this amount of money from me,” McMahon said. But he took the calculated risk because he was sure he would get the money back, which he did. Flair eventually paid him with one single WrestleMania check.
One of His Wives Thought He Was a Pimp
A first impression is important in relationships. In Flair’s case, he didn’t exactly give off the best impression when he met his second wife, Beth. She thought he was a pimp! And it’s hard to blame her since he was donning his signature robe by seven women.
Still, Beth realized he was just a flamboyant wrestler. The two married and have two kids. Did you know that one of Ric Flair’s nicknames is The Alimony Pony? It might have to do with the fact that he’s been married five times and divorced four.
A Serial Groom
He married his first wife, Leslie Goodman, in 1974, and the pair had two kids, Megan and David, before their 1983 divorce. He then married Elizabeth (Beth) Harrell the same year he divorced Goodman. He and Harrel had two children, one of them is Charlotte Flair.
After 23 years, he and Beth divorced in 2006. Flair remarried again, the same year as his divorce. The man just can’t be alone! Tiffany VanDemark became his third wife, and their marriage lasted a few years before their 2008 divorce. A year later, he married Jacqueline “Jackie” Beems before divorcing her in 2012. By 2018, he was married again to Wendy Barlow. So far, so good.
10,000 Women? Could It Be?
Flair didn’t just marry a lot; he dated a whole lot. In the 30 for 30 ESPN documentary, he said he thinks he’s slept with around 10,000 women over the decades. Sure, it’s very likely an over-exaggeration, but still! It’s probably in the Gene Simmons zone.
Although he was candid in the documentary, he later expressed regret about talking so openly about the matter (and his hectic love life). His family watched it, after all. “What I said was the truth, but I feel bad now that I said some of it… Ten thousand women. I wish I hadn’t said that because of my grandkids.”
Has He Been With Halle Berry?
But it was too late. He already let the cat out of the bag. Not just that – he also spilled the beans about sleeping with a certain A-list celebrity on a podcast. Yup. He said he slept with Halle Berry. During a 2016 episode of The Ric Flair Show podcast, he exposed his love life further while speaking of the celebrities he had had relations with.
Halle Berry was one of them. The story? “She was in Atlanta, and she had just gotten divorced from David Justice.” Berry, however, denied ever visiting “Space Mountain.” Her representative stated: “There is no truth to this. Halle has literally never even heard of him, let alone met him!”
16, 21, or 25 Titles?
Ric Flair has enjoyed a long and impressive career. Just consider his cross-promotion in the WWE, NWA, WCW, and WCW. John Cena, for example, won two WWE Heavyweight equivalents 16 times, tying Flair’s record.
While Flair is acknowledged for having won 16 World Titles, he has actually won a lot more. The record books haven’t managed to attribute them all. According to Flair, he’s won more like 21 in total. Meanwhile, record-enthusiasts concluded that Flair won a maximum of 25. Either way, it’s all very impressive!
Naitch Did It First
In 1975, Inside Wrestling hailed Flair as Rookie of the Year. In 2008, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame while he was still an active wrestler. WWE then inducted him as a Four Horsemen member in 2012, when he retired four years later.
At the time, Flair was the only WWE wrestler to ever be inducted into their Hall of Fame twice. Since then, Shawn Michaels, Booker T, Bret Hart, Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and Sean Waltman have been inducted twice. But our Naitch did it first.
He Was in Magic Mike XXL
While many of Flair’s wrestling brothers made it their mission to make it on TV, like Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Roddy Piper, etc., Nature Boy knew to stick to his lane. Still, he wasn’t all that against taking on a few acting gigs here or there.
He was offered a role in Magic Mike XXL and also voiced himself on an episode of Uncle Grandpa. He once took part in the popular TV game show Family Feud and obviously left as the champion. That’s right, Ric Flair won the round of Family Feud.
Trouble With the WCW
When you’ve had a long career like Ric Flair, it’s expected that you’ll have problems along the way. Flair was once the hottest thing in the WCW, but when he got a little older, the promoter asked him to step down.
Jim Herd, WCW’s Executive Vice President at the time, spoke to then 39-year-old Flair and asked him to take a step back from the main show and take on a new Roman Gladiator gimmick. Naturally, he detested the idea and, as a result, was constantly butting heads with Herd, who eventually fired him.
Then With WWE
Flair’s relationship with WWE has been mostly good-natured, but only recently has he come to taint the long-lasting amicable relationship. In 2019, he tried to trademark “The Man.” The problem was that Becky Lynch was already calling herself “The Man” as part of her gimmick.
Flair said that as long as WWE pays him for using “The Man,” he doesn’t mind letting Lynch use it. This caused some friction between him and the WWE. Last year, in May 2020, Flair gave “The Man” rights to WWE.
When Is Ric Flair Day?
Certain states have a special place in their hearts for the Nature Boy, mainly because of the old-school wrestling territory system. For example, Minneapolis, Minnesota, was the first to declare Ric Flair Day on October 19th, 1998.
10 years later, Columbia, South Carolina, announced March 24th as the day and went one step further by giving him a key to the city. Then, Norfolk, Virginia, marked November 15th as Ric Flair Day. In 2009, Charleston, West Virginia, declared April 18th to be the day of Flair, and they also gave him a key to their city.
He Faced Some Nasty Allegations
On a more negative note, Flair has faced sexual assault allegations, one about his actions on the “Plane Ride From Hell” in 2002, which ended in a 2004 lawsuit. Flair allegedly coerced flight staff into touching him inappropriately; he allegedly “forcibly detained and restrained” a flight attendant.
Flair denied the claims, and WWE ultimately settled out of court. In 2005, Flair was charged with damaging personal property as well as simple assault and battery. A police report states that Flair grabbed a driver in his late 20s by the neck and kicked the man’s SUV.
An Altercation With His Daughter’s Boyfriend
WWE made light of the incident by working it into Flair’s feud with Edge. The case was later dismissed because no witnesses showed up to court. Back in 2008, Flair was involved in an altercation with his daughter Charlotte’s boyfriend.
Charlotte Flair was the one arrested and fined and given probation for kicking a police officer. Ric Flair was visibly injured, but he refused to press charges against his daughter or her boyfriend. The intensity doesn’t stop there. He also had altercations with his fans in 2014.
Death Threats From Fans
In 2014, Flair announced that he wouldn’t be able to attend the Carolina Panthers vs. the San Francisco 49ers playoff game, thanks to all the death threats from Panthers fans. Flair, who has lived in Charlotte for years, was asked to give a motivational speech to the 49ers, and he did.
But Panthers fans didn’t take too kindly to his expression of support for his hometown team’s opponent. In 2016, Flair might have been a no show at the playoffs due to a warrant being issued for his arrest. He was allegedly detained by the police at Boston’s Logan Airport, but PWInsider reported that he actually had slipped on his luggage and hit his head, needing medical attention.
Despite all his past debt problems, he seems to be doing well for himself. His net worth is estimated at $3 million.
Showing Up in North Korea
In 1995, North Korea hosted the International Sports and Culture Festival for Peace, which opened their country to the West and its professional wrestlers. The new Japan Pro Wrestling founder and wrestling legend Antonio Inoki asked WCW if Hulk Hogan would face him in the main event.
When the Hulk said no, Inoki asked Ric Flair. Muhammad Ali, who faced Inoki back in the ‘70s, was also added to the list. Once all the wrestlers arrived, they were split into pairs, and their passports were removed. For the two days leading up to the show, the wrestlers made appearances for state media, honoring the late North Korean Supreme Leader, Kim Il-sung.
He Couldn’t Wait to Leave the Country
Whatever they did, it worked. On the first night, 170,000 audience members showed up, which increased to 180,000 by the second night. The event broke previous wrestling attendance records, including WrestleMania III.
According to a North Korean limo driver, “Nobody really wants to come. It’s forced attendance. If they don’t show up, they get a bullet in the head.” The spectators had no idea what professional wrestling even was and didn’t interact during the show. According to Flair, he had never been so happy to leave a place: “As soon as our plane landed in Japan, I bent down and literally kissed the ground. I was so glad to be back on friendly soil.”