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Ric Flair: To Be The Man, You Have To Celebrate The Man

Not many men beat Ric Flair. The 66-year old man celebrates his 66th birthday today in what can only be described as one of the greatest careers in wrestling history. A 16-time World Champion, a man who has wrestled in five decades, traveled the world over and made the phrase, “Woooo!” part of the lexicon of almost every male wrestling fan on the planet.

Women wanted to party with him, men wished they could be like him. Flair not only changed how we looked at professional wrestling for its entertainment value of mat wrestling (long before Hulk Hogan changed the face of sports entertainment) and the art of crowd involvement as part of the importance of Kayfabe.

In the WWF/WWE Hulk Hogan was the wrestler by which all other superstars in the promotion were measured. As Jim Cornette once said, Ric Flair was the measuring stick. The man who could make a broom look like a million bucks has been in more matches than we can count and has made the careers of Barry Windham, Sting, Kerry Von Erich, Lex Luger and hundreds of others.

Also known as “The Nature Boy”, Flair is considered to be one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time with a professional career that spans over 40 years. He is noted for his lengthy and highly decorated tenures with the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), World Championship Wrestling (WCW), the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, later WWE), and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA).

Flair is officially recognized by WWE, TNA and Pro Wrestling Illustrated as a 16-time world heavyweight champion (eight-time NWA Champion, six-time WCW Champion, and two-time WWF Champion). Although the actual number of his world championship reigns varies by source; Flair considers himself as a 21-time World Champion.

In WCW, he also had two stints as a booker—in 1989–1990 and 1994.In 2012, Flair became the first ever double inductee in the WWE Hall of Fame, first inducted in 2008 for his individual career and for a second time in 2012 as a member of the Four Horsemen. He is also an NWA Hall of Famer (class of 2008). Flair’s hairstyles and mannerisms were blatantly stolen from Buddy Rogers, who previously used the “Nature Boy” gimmick in the 1950s and 1960s.

It is a career that I can honestly say given the state of the business, the sensibilities and respect of the fans for his work and the fact you may not find another performer with that length of tenure in the business again because of the age of entertainment, social media and art imitating life, Flair’s accomplishments will never be duplicated again.

NEVER!

My greatest images of Flair are in the early and mid-1980s when wrestling was taking over the invention of cable television and promotions that had longstanding tradition were being blown out of the water by Vince McMahon and his wrestling machine. Flair and the NWA, soon to become WCW, stood its ground. Flair was as popular (as was Hogan) as some of the best entertainment in the world, and his 60-minutes matches and his “cool to be heel” image affected me as a fan.

I was fan as a youngster of Dusty Rhodes, Jack Brisco, Bob Backlund and Barry Windham. Flair was one who taught me it was OK to root for the bad guy – The Four Horseman, the Great Kabuki and The Funks. What Flair also taught the wrestling world, which stands true today, is that a solid in ring performer and a solid mic man can make any promotion millions of dollars.

So, as we celebrate the man whom I still consider the greatest to ever get in the ring, the wrestlers of today owe “The Nature Boy” a debt of thanks. If not for what he started (and Hogan and Verne Gagne and Bruno Sammartino), there would not have been the ascension of today. And for this writer, who never gets enough of Flair, even at this age and every time he gets in the ring, that makes celebrating his birthday that much more enjoyable.

Happy Birthday, Ric! Woooo!

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