Sifting through the timeless classics and treasured legends of the past, it would be a mistake to overlook the one and only, Ric Flair. Arguably the greatest wrestler of all time, Ric Flair has amassed a resume befitting of this legendary performer.
With his signature flamboyant style (adopted from Buddy Rogers), Flair has become synonymous with the words, professional wrestling.
From level of competitiveness, the five star matches, the compelling promos and perhaps most importantly, the incomparable rush of excitement that flows through one’s being when the infamous “WOO!!!” signals Flair’s imminent arrival.
While Flair’s influence on pro wrestling can only be matched by that of Hulk Hogan, most fail to realize that it almost never was.
On October 4, 1975, Flair boarded a plane in Charlotte, North Carolina for a show in Wilmington. In what was supposed to be a routine flight, but the plane ran out of gas as it approached Wilmington’s Airport runway. The plane cut through several tree tops and a pole before abruptly crashing.
Flair’s plane crash documented locally.
Flair broke his back in three places, while the pilot and fellow wrestler, Jimmy Valentine, sustained life threatening injuries.
The pilot passed away three months later, while Valentine was paralyzed due to a broken back.
Initially, Flair was informed by doctors that he would never wrestle again. Flair refused to accept this and began a vigorous physical therapy schedule. In six months, the Nature Boy was back in the squared circle.
The plane crash drastically effected NWA Mid Atlantic and the lives of those involved.
The biggest question is what if Ric Flair died in the plane crash?
What if the 16-time World Champion never graced the WWE, WCW, NWA and TNA with his polarizing presence?
Would professional wrestling be the same? No
Would it be as significant as it is today? Of course not
Let’s examine the things that would’ve been different had Ric Flair died in 1975.
Loss of stables
While Ric Flair has flourished as a singles competitor, modern fans will remember Ric Flair for his time in numerous stables. As the head honcho of the Four Horsemen, Flair innovated and popularized the concept of heel stables.
In this day and age, it’s common to follow by example.
The Four Horsemen eventually led to NWO, Degeneration X, Nation of Domination, Evolution, and the modern day, Fortune. Simply put, if Flair and the Horsemen hadn’t set the bar for Heel Stables, it’s highly possible that most of these stables would’ve never come about.
While the Four Horsemen are famous for being the Original Heel Stable, their importance also upstarted the careers of others.
Coincidentally, this brings me to my next point.
Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen were exceptionally over (as heels) with the crowd that fans would pay to see them get their comeuppance. The Horsemen feuded with the likes of Sting, Dusty Rhodes, the Steiner’s and Lex Luger in the late 80s.
Through the feuds, guys like Sting and Lex Luger achieved super stardom.
Simply put, The Horsemen were willing to put over others for the sake of business. It gave fans the idea that the Horsemen were vulnerable to faces like Sting and Luger and created the anticipation that fueled fans to purchase pay-per-views and tickets.
Other stables, particularly NWO, weren’t willing to do so, thus creating the idea that WCW Superstars were unable to bring the stable down. Coincidentally, this played a huge role in WCW’s demise.
Like I stated above, the Horsemen aided other wrestlers in achieving super stardom.
If Ric Flair had died in 1975, the Four Horsemen wouldn’t have come to be. Without the Four Horsemen, Evolution would’ve never come to be. Without Evolution, Randy Orton and Batista might not have become top tier talent.
As two of the biggest WWE Superstars of the past decade, it would’ve impacted the WWE in a huge way had they not have become as huge as they did.
Alone, Flair has become an influence for multiple WWE Superstars. He has received praise from his piers; Triple H, Shawn Michaels and Dave Batista have publicly acknowledged his impact on their careers.
Maybe we wouldn’t have the likes of a Shawn Michaels or a Triple H had Flair not been around. Naitch has become an idol to wrestlers all over the world. Ric Flair is the reason they wanted to pursue a professional wrestling career.
What if he wasn’t there at all?
It would be foolish to argue against the fact that the acquisitions of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash made World Championship Wrestling a powerhouse. Along with Hulk Hogan, Nash and Hall created the New World Order.
NWO ran rampant over WCW for the remainder of the company’s run.
But, if Ric Flair would’ve died in the 1975 plane crash, WCW would’ve died before the stable came to be. Wrestling promoter Jim Crockett owned multiple promotions that were apart of the National Wrestling Alliance. Ultimately, Crockett decided to roll each into one single entity.
Crockett wanted to expand his promotion nationally and built it around Ric Flair being World Champion.
With Flair as the first World Champion, Ric was the proverbial face of WCW. Flair and rising star, Sting, were the glue that held World Championship Wrestling together in its early stages.
Charisma + mic skills + in ring ability= ENTERTAINMENT
Ric Flair is arguably the greatest wrestler of all time. From the first time the Nature Boy stepped into the ring in 1972, to his final WWE match with Shawn Michaels in 2008, Flair’s flamboyance and dirty tactics will forever cement his status as the MAN.
The arrogance and playboy style that aided Flair in feuds with Ricky Steamboat, Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan, Sting, Bret Hart, and even Shawn Michaels.
Brilliant promos and segments put him on a level higher then anyone else, mic wise.
“The Nature Boy” would have ‘beautiful’ rivalries with Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart and his long time in-ring enemy Sting.
His match at WCW’s “Clash Of The Champions” against Sting and his match against Ricky Steamboat at “Wrestle War 1989” are considering to be one of the very few “5 Star” matches in wrestling history.
With all this success, titles came by the dozens to “Naitch” (literally).
Ric was a winner EVERYWHERE he went.
A seven time NWA World Heavyweight Champion, eight time WCW World Heavyweight Champion and two time WWE Champion.
Ric has the all-time record for most Heavyweight Championships and because of the tremendous respect pro wrestling promotion owners have for Ric, he will most likely keep the all-time record and not allow another performer get even two titles within the record.
In the end, if Ric Flair would’ve passed in 1975, pro wrestling wouldn’t be as significant as it is.
While Hulk Hogan was being Superman, Ric Flair was keeping the dignity of the business in tact. Flair was the man going inside the squared circle, wrestling for thirty and forty minutes, his head gushing blood, because he loves professional wrestling.
Honestly, I can’t imagine professional wrestling with Ric Flair.
Without him, things just wouldn’t be the same.
(This was posted in light of the recent events surrounding Ric Flair)