(KMAland) -- Day 27 of blogging with no sports. This is the 25th blog in this 27-day period and the 21st consecutive day with a blog.
I’m not running out of ideas, believe me, but today might not interest some of you. For others, it might be the extra kick you need to become a champion of the day.
The greatest professional wrestling champion in history is “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair. He says he has 21 different reigns as a world champion. However, he is only officially recognized with 16. That ties him for the most (with John Cena), but anybody who is anybody in pro wrestling knows he’s No. 1.
I thought it would be a fun little exercise — for me and maybe for you — to take a look at those 16 title reigns. How he became a champion, how he lost the championship and anything else in between. As it turns out, this has been done before by some others, but that’s not going to deter me. It’s a Sunday. Let’s write.
1. NWA World Heavyweight Championship — September 17, 1981 (Dusty Rhodes)
Flair’s first world championship came at a live event in Kansas City, Kansas. I can only guess where (as in which arena) that title was won, but he did it against one of his chief rivals, Dusty Rhodes. It was during this first recognized reign where Flair picks up a few others.
On February 9, 1982, Flair lost to The Midnight Rider — Dusty Rhodes in a mask. Rhodes wore a mask because the event was in Miami, Florida, and Rhodes was suspended in Florida. NWA President Bob Geigel forced The Midnight Rider to unmask, or he would have to return the title to Flair. Apparently, masked wrestlers were forbade from holding the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Rhodes refused to unmask for obvious reasons, and the title was returned to Flair.
On September 7, 1982, Flair lost the title again in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. This time it was to Jack Veneno — one of the most famous wrestlers in the Dominican Republic. In 2007, a documentary was released in the Dominican Republic with the lost footage from Veneno’s win over Flair. It was later released in April 2015, and you know YouTube is all over it.
Veneno would refuse to defend the championship outside of his native country, so the title was returned to Flair. Again, the NWA does not recognize Veneno’s reign or the title change. Thus, Flair was still officially on his first reign as champion.
Flair has two other situations just like this. He lost to Carlos Colon in San Juan, Puerto Rico on January 6, 1983, and he lost to Victor Jovica in Couva, Trinidad on February 8, 1983. Both times the title was returned to Flair, and the title change was not recognized by the NWA. For the latter, it was because Jovica’s feet were on the ropes. For the former, it was a simple as the NWA did not air the show.
Flair and Colon would later battle in a steel cage to unify the titles. Colon won that, but Flair later said that he was not putting his NWA title on the line in that match. Colon, though, held the WWC World Heavyweight Championship at the time. With the win, they renamed it to the Universal Heavyweight Championship.
After 631 days, Flair finally officially lost the championship on June 10th, 1983, in St. Louis to Harley Race. This was Race’s seventh championship reign.
2. NWA World Heavyweight Championship — November 24, 1983 (Harley Race)
Flair and Race proved to be one of the great rivalries in all of wrestling, and they were back at it for Starrcade 1983 in Greensboro, North Carolina — Flair’s home state. WOOOO!
This was set up perfectly by the NWA, as Flair played the “face” (or good guy) role against Race, the “heel” (or bad guy). Apparently, Flair’s initial reign as champion was not well accepted by promoters across the country or even the fans. In order to give Flair a little rub, they put the title on Race, and then hoped his second official championship win would turn him into a hero. I would say this is the reign that made Flair.
But there’s more behind this terrific professional wrestling story. Race actually put a $25,000 bounty on Flair so he wouldn’t have to wrestle him. Bob Orton Jr. (Randy’s dad) and Dirty Dick Slater attacked Flair in late August of 1983, performed a spiked piledriver and handed Flair a “serious neck injury.”
The bounty was collected, and Flair announced his retirement from wrestling. However, he miraculously returned less than a month later, attacked Orton and Slater with a baseball bat and entered the main event of the first-ever Starrcade.
To keep things tight, Race/Flair was decided in a steel cage and with former NWA World Champion Gene Kiniski as the special guest referee. Race used plenty of maneuvers to work on Flair’s neck, but in the end the Nature Boy was just too much for him to capture his second championship. View the match here.
Flair would lose the championship to Harley Race on March 20, 1984 in Wellington, New Zealand, but he won it back three days later in Kallang, Singapore. This was also not officially recognized as a title change.
3. NWA World Heavyweight Championship — May 24, 1984 (Kerry Von Erich)
Flair lost the championship to Kerry Von Erich on March 6, 1984 at the 1st Von Erich Memorial Parade of Champions in Irving, Texas. The Von Erich family is well known across wrestling, and they were especially popular in the 1970s and 80s.
Their dad Fritz Von Erich was the NWA President in the 1970s and the WCCW when it moved to Dallas. He had several sons — Jack, Kevin, David, Mike, Chris and Kerry. Kerry was the best known Von Erich, and he even had a short run as the popular Texas Tornado in the WWF.
It was Kerry that took the NWA championship from Flair that night, and it was a classy move by Flair to relinquish the title at an event in honor of his brother David, who passed away earlier that year. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the first or the last Von Erich brother to die prematurely.
Jack died in 1952 in a horrible electrocution/drowning accident at just six years of age. David died from either a painkiller overdose or from ruptured intestines in ’84. Mike committed suicide in April 1987. Chris also committed suicide in 1991. And Kerry did the same in 1993. Just horrible stuff.
On that terrifyingly horrible note, Flair picked up his fourth official championship reign 18 days after losing it to Von Erich at a live event in Yokosuka, Japan. It was during this reign that Jim Crockett Promotions really started to take over many of the regional territories and promotions. Their attempt to go national took Flair away from the roaming through the country and defending his championship against anyone and everyone.
Instead, he was limited to those performers that were under Jim Crockett Promotions contract, and with that came the first look at “The Big Gold Belt,” which debuted on February 14th, 1986. Flair kept that championship in his grasps until July 26, 1986 — 793 days after beating Kerry Von Erich in Japan. The challenger that took it from him? Well, it was his good old friend Dusty Rhodes. View of that match from the Great American Bash is here.
4. NWA World Heavyweight Championship — August 9, 1986 (Dusty Rhodes)
The title was back in Flair’s hands less just two weeks later, as he beat Rhodes at a live event in St. Louis. And he would again hold the championship for over a year. The person to take it off of him, though, was not nearly as famous as Race or Rhodes or even Von Erich. It was….Ron Garvin?
Garvin was actually a pretty good and popular wrestler for MId-Atlantic Wrestling, but it was his NWA World Heavyweight championship reign that probably leaves a dark mark on his career. Putting the title on Garvin was, is and always will be seen as a disastrous booking decision. The proof was actually in the pudding.
Garvin, who dressed in drag as Miss Atlanta Lively, teamed with Jimmy Valiant at Starrcade 1985, and his singles success from then on was maybe seen as a bit of a reward. He was placed in multiple title matches with Flair during the early positions of 1986, and they would always end with Flair retaining (by pinfall, by time limit draw or by other nefarious means). And each time the two would wrestle, the house buys (the ticket sales) were dropping.
Garvin, perhaps because of that, was placed in several new feuds with Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Nikita Koloff and other mid-card types. Flair, meanwhile, was feuding with Road Warrior Hawk, Ricky Morton and Dusty Rhodes (again) at the top of the card. The Flair/Garvin feud was then re-heated after Flair beat Ron Garvin’s real-life stepson Jimmy Garvin to earn a date with Precious (Jimmy Garvin’s wife and manager).
That led to Ronnie Garvin returning, dressed as Precious, for the date! Garvin then started chasing Flair, despite no significant singles victories over the two-year period while the Garvin/Flair feud was on hold. Finally, on September 25, 1987, Garvin beat Flair in Detroit, Michigan at the NWA World Wide Wrestling show.
The crazy thing about this is that they kept doubling down on their failure, and Garvin ended up holding the belt for 62 days! To recap, big stars like Rhodes and Race had their reigns end after a combined 17 days. Von Erich had it for 18, and Garvin nearly doubled up on all of them combined!
5. NWA World Heavyweight Championship — November 26, 1987 (Ron Garvin)
The Garvin era came to a merciful end at Starrcade 1987 in Chicago, and it was, of course, Ric Flair that did the honors in capturing his fifth official world championship. Flair would hold the strap for over a year (452 days to be exact). It was during this time that Ted Turner purchased Jim Crockett Promotions and renamed it World Championship Wrestling (WCW).
Anyway, here’s the Flair/Garvin match from Starrcade ’87:
During this reign, Flair got into a feud with a very young Sting, fighting him to a 45-minute time-limit draw at Clash of the Champions I. That turned Sting into a huge star, and it only began what would be a decade-long feud between Sting, Flair and his Four Horseman stable.
That said, it wasn’t Sting that ended Flair’s 452-day reign. Ricky Steamboat spent the late part of the 70s and half of the 80s with Jim Crockett Promotions and was an NWA United States Heavyweight Champion three times and an NWA World Tag Team champion six times. He was also the NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight champion twice and an NWA Mid-Atlantic Tag Team champion four times.
After creative differences with JCP booker Dusty Rhodes, Steamboat took his “Dragon” gimmick to the WWF. He wrestled at each of the first four Wrestlemanias, including III when he and Randy Savage put on one of the single greatest matches in wrestling history. After Wrestlemania IV, though, it was back to the other major promotion in the U.S., and now it was named WCW.
Steamboat’s return was as a surprise tag team partner of “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert and against Flair and Four Horseman member Barry Windham. Steamboat was immediately pushed to the moon by pinning the NWA champion in the match to earn himself a shot at the title at Chi-Town Rumble. That’s when Flair’s fifth title reign came to an end.
6. NWA World Heavyweight Championship — May 7, 1989 (Ricky Steamboat)
Steamboat was the last NWA World Champion to defend the title in All Japan Pro Wrestling, but it was back in the states where Flair was chasing his sixth reign. The two wrestled at the Clash of Champions VI, with Steamboat retaining due to a controversial ending.
The controversy stemmed from the third fall of a two-out-of-three falls match that went nearly an hour. In that third fall, both men pinned one another’s shoulders to the mat. Just before the third count, Steamboat got his left shoulder up. Replays, though, showed Flair’s foot was under the rope. that was enough for one final rematch at WrestleWar 1989.
And that’s where Flair captured his sixth official world championship:
Again, Flair would hold the championship for over a year (426 days). He beat Terry Funk at the Great American Bash and held the title through a feud with Lex Luger before turning back to a feud with Sting. There’s plenty of history here, including Sting joining the Four Horsemen when they were a baby face stable.
However, Sting’s membership was brief, as Flair and the boys turned heel and kicked him out of the group. This stemmed from Sting gaining No. 1 contender-ship for Flair’s title and refusing to relinquish it. Sting probably would have had a shot at the title well before he actually did, but he blew his knee out that very same night. After a five-month absence, he made his return at the 1990 Great American Bash to beat Flair. This was a huge moment in wrestling history.
7. WCW World Heavyweight Championship — January 11, 1991 (Sting)
Sting carried the belt through the rest of 1990, beating Sid Vicious at Halloween Havoc, The Black Scorpion (Ole Anderson in a mask) at Clash of the Champions XII and then fought The Black Scorpion again at Starrcade 1990. Turns out it was Flair under the mask that time.
I don’t know much about how or why Flair’s seventh official reign came about, but I do know it came on January 11th, 1991, at a house show in East Rutherford, New Jersey. My theory — and probably others’ theory — is they gave it back to Flair with the sole purpose of recognizing him as the first WCW champion.
Flair lost the title 69 days later at Starrcade 1991 in Tokyo, Japan to local hero Tatsumi Fujinami. Fujinami was the first to ever hold both the WCW and IWGP at the same time. As you might expect, there was a rematch. Quick note before that, though: The title change was originally ignored in the United States, and Flair went about his business with the big gold belt.
The rematch, billed as unification of the NWA and WCW championships, was held in St. Petersburg, Florida at SuperBrawl I. And yes, Flair nabbed the win and kept his seventh official reign rolling.
Nobody beat Flair to end his seventh reign. After resigning as head booker in February 1990, Flair came into a contract dispute with WCW president Jim Herd, who wanted him to take a pay cut. Given Flair was still a top draw, he didn’t want to do that. Herd also wanted to reduce Flair’s role in the promotion, change his appearance and ring name and even shave his head. I don’t know if this is true or not, but Flair also claims Herd wanted him to go by the name Spartacus. What?!
Flair disagreed with everything Herd proposed (for good reason), and he was fired, thus vacating the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. And with that, Flair was off to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF).
8. WWF Heavyweight Championship — January 19, 1992 (Royal Rumble Winner)
Flair was actually recognized as the NWA champion through September (he was fired in July), and he kept showing up on WWF television with the Big Gold Belt. He would call himself “The Real World Champion,” which no doubt irked Mr. Hulk Hogan.
Flair found himself involved in an ongoing feud between Hogan and The Undertaker. He helped The Undertaker win the championship at the 1991 Survivor Series, but Hogan won it back several days later at This Tuesday in Texas. There was some controversy involved in both title changes, so President Jack Tunney held up the belt and declared the winner of the 1992 Royal Rumble would be the champion.
This was probably the event that made the Royal Rumble the spectacle that it is. Flair drew No. 3, lasted 60 minutes in the match and won the dang thing to become the WWF champion for the first time in his career.
Flair held the championship for 77 days. Most of those 77 days were spent antagonizing Randy Savage, who had been retired at Wrestlemania VII in a loss to Ultimate Warrior. Savage, though, came out of retirement to face Flair at Wrestlemania VIII to end his 8th reign as champion.
9. WWF Heavyweight Championship — September 1, 1992 (Randy Savage)
The Savage/Flair feud maintained through much of the rest of the year and really began to heat up around SummerSlam time. The Ultimate Warrior and Savage had a Wrestlemania VII rematch at SummerSlam, and Flair (and Mr. Perfect) interfered in their match.
Flair and Savage then met at a TV taping in Hershey, Pennsylvania, with Flair capturing his 9th official world championship thanks to the help of a debuting Razor Ramon
This reign would last 41 days when Bret Hart beat Flair to win his first world championship at a house show in Saskatoon, SK, Canada.
10. NWA World Heavyweight Championship — July 18, 1993 (Barry Windham)
Back to the WCW and back to winning NWA titles. The WCW still recognized an NWA world champion at this time, and Windham won the NWA title at SuperBrawl III from The Great Muta. Flair, who made his return to the WCW on this very night, tried to present the belt to his former Four Horseman mate, but Windham wasn’t having it. That led into a natural feud, which led into a meeting at Beach Blast 1993.
Later that year, the WCW officially left the NWA and renamed the title Flair held the WCW International World Heavyweight Championship. The reign went 63 days before Flair lost to Rick Rude at Fall Brawl 1993.
Rude was another that made their name in the WWF before getting into a dispute with Vinnie Mac and moving to the WCW. Rude debuted at Halloween Havoc 1991 as The WCW Phantom, unmasking himself that night and beginning The Dangerous Alliance, led by Paul E. Dangerously (or Paul Heyman). That alliance, by the way, was pretty good with Madusa, Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton, Larry Zbyszko and some dude named Steve Austin.
Rude left The Dangerous Alliance, suffered a legitimate neck injury that kept him out for over a year and then set his sights on Flair.
11. WCW World Heavyweight Championship — December 27, 1993 (Vader)
Flair took another shot at Rude’s title, but he was unable to recapture it. Meanwhile, Vader won the WCW World Heavyweight Championship in late December 1992, beating Ron Simmons at Starrcade. He lost to Sting in March 1993, regained it and then feuded with Davey Boy Smith (formerly British Bulldog of the WWE) and Sid Vicious.
Vader also feuded with Cactus Jack, and then re-entered a battle with Sid Vicious. They were supposed to square off at Starrcade that year, but Vicious and Arn Anderson got into a real-life fight at a hotel. It led to a double stabbing, and Sid’s firing from WCW. And that led to Flair/Vader at Starrcade in a match billed as title (Vader) vs. career (Flair). Flair wasn’t ready to go just yet…
Yes, that was the great Harley Race in Vader’s corner. Flair beat Vader again at SuperBrawl IV, and on that very same night the returning (again) Ricky Steamboat was named the No. 1 contender. There was some contention with that distinction, though, as Colonel Robert Parker fought for his guy, Steve Austin, to be the No. 1 contender.
Steamboat and Austin battled on a WCW Saturday Night episode, with Steamboat winning to set up Flair/Steamboat at Spring Stampede. Harkening back to their controversial finish years earlier, the Flair/Steamboat main event resulted in a double pin. That also resulted in a vacation of the championship.
That set up a winner-take-all rematch between the two on WCW Saturday Night on April 21, 1994, which Flair won. I believe this is the video:
WCW recognized this as a new title reign, but the WWE does not. Since the WCW was later bought by the WWE, I guess they get the call. Flair went on to beat Windham again at Slamboree 1994, battled with Lord Steven Regal in a five-match series to retain his belt and then beat Sting at Clash of the Champions XXVII to unify the WCW World Heavyweight belt and Sting’s WCW International World Heavyweight belt.
During this time, Flair was slowly and surely turning back to a heel, and that was made completely apparent in his win over Sting. After beating Sting to unify the two world titles, Flair finally got the showdown all wrestling fans hoped they would see at Wrestlemania VIII: Hulk Hogan.
Hogan left the WWF high and dry in the summer of 1994, and it only made sense to match up the two biggest names in all of wrestling at Bash at the Beach. Hogan beat Flair in their first-ever television showdown to win the title. It’s linked here.
12. WCW World Heavyweight Championship — December 27, 1995 (Randy Savage)
It would be well over a year before Flair got his 12th recognized reign. Hogan beat Flair again in a steel cage retirement match at Halloween Havoc ’94, and he took several months off before returning to television as Vader’s manager. Hogan beat Vader a couple times, and then WCW management allowed for Flair to hit the ring again.
He wrestled with Vader against Hogan and Randy Savage at Slamboree 1995, and then he beat Savage in a singles match at The Great American Bash. Savage returned the favor at Bash at the Beach, and then Flair feuded with long-time friend Arn Anderson.
All of this was a prelude to his 14th reign as champion. The title went from Hogan to The Giant (The Big Show) at Halloween Havoc, but it was held up and vacated due to a controversial finish (can you believe Hogan had a controversial finish to one of the matches where he lost a title? Crazy). Savage then won the championship at World War 3 in a 60-man battle royal for the vacant title. And who was waiting for the first shot at that title? His old pal, Ric Flair.
At Starrcade 1995, Flair beat Savage in a quick match to claim his 14th official world title. Click the link to watch the match.
Flair only held the title for 26 days before Savage beat him for the title in Las Vegas on a Monday Night Nitro episode. If you watch this match, listen to the person ringing the bell prematurely. WCW wasn’t always great with the details.
13. WCW World Heavyweight Championship — February 11, 1996 (Randy Savage)
Twenty days later, Savage and Flair met again in the main event of Super Brawl VI, with Flair nabbing his 13th official world championship. This one was in a steel cage, and the finish was one of the more shocking turns in wrestling history. Savage’s long-time lover/wife/ex-wife turned on him, joined up with Flair and No. 13 was a reality. Find the match linked here.
Flair got a good 71 days with this world championship reign before losing to The Giant on an April 22, 1996 edition of Nitro.
14. WCW World Heavyweight Championship — March 14, 1999 (Hollywood Hogan)
Another championship, and it took over three years to get it. The title went from The Giant to the heel-turned Hollywood Hogan to Lex Luger and back to Hogan. Then to Sting and to Savage and again to Hogan. Goldberg emerged and beat Hogan for the title, but Kevin Nash ended Goldberg’s undefeated streak.
Eight days after Nash beat Goldberg, we were gifted The Fingerpoke of Doom match.
Ugh. The good news, though, for Flair is that it was time for Hogan to give him a little payback from the two jobs he did earlier. Errrr…more than that. Hogan also beat Flair at SuperBrawl IX before a fourth PPV meeting between the two icons. In a Barbed Wire Steel Cage First Blood match, Flair “beat” Hogan. Again, there were some nefarious means involved, and it was just a huge joke, really. It’s linked here.
This reign would last just 28 days, and it came to an end at Spring Stampede in April 1999 when Diamond Dallas Page won a four corners match that also involved Flair, Sting and Hollywood Hulk Hogan, with Savage as the special guest referee.
15 & 16: WCW World Heavyweight Championship (Jeff Jarrett & Kevin Nash kind of)
The less said about this time in WCW, the better. Flair beat Jeff Jarrett on a May 15, 2000 version of Nitro. Vince Russo (the former head writer of the WWE) then stripped him of the title. I don’t really know why or care to know why, I guess.
Vince Russo then awarded the vacant championship to Jarrett, but Kevin Nash stole the belt before losing to Jarrett in a No Holds Barred matched on a May 22, 2000 edition of Nitro. Later that week, Nash beat Jarrett and Scott Steiner in a triangle match to win the belt. He then gave it to Flair at the next Nitro, but Flair lost it immediately to Jarrett.
Kind of a big mess, really. I can’t imagine why they didn’t last much longer. I can’t believe the 16th title reign is recognized while many others are not.
17. There was no 17
There was no 17, but I thought there really should have been. In early 2008, Vince McMahon — in a storyline — announced Ric Flair’s next loss would be his last match. He was “putting Old Yeller down” so to speak, and it really reinvigorated Flair and his character.
He was 59 years old at the time, so he was not the Ric Flair that put on 4 and 5 star matches, but I feel like this storyline should have culminated with him winning one final world championship. You could do Shawn Michaels/Flair at Wrestlemania XXIV, as they did, but you could have the title involved.
Heck, maybe Flair challenges Randy Orton at No Way Out and beats him for the strap, and then he loses it to Michaels at Wrestlemania. Or Michaels beats Orton, and then Flair beats Michaels before retiring the next night on Raw. That would have been a fun way for Flair to go out.
Of course, he wouldn’t have gone out that way. Even after what was supposed to be his final match, Flair returned to the ring and wrestled Hogan on the independent scene. Then he wrestled several matches for TNA. You can take the title off the wrestlers, but you can never take the wrestler out of the wrestler. The dude just kept going, and he did it for over 40 years.
There are a lot of things you can say about Flair. He was a highly-skilled storyteller, a terrific athlete and one of the best to ever cut a promo. But the thing I liked most about Flair is that he was mostly willing to do a job when the situation called for it. He put over Bret Hart and Ricky Steamboat and Rick Rude and DDP and even Ronnie Garvin. He loved the part of the business that he was involved in, sure, but he also loved/loves the business as a whole. He wanted to do his part to advance it, and that’s Ric Flair’s real legacy.
Send any questions, comments and/or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks to Wikipedia & Online World of Wrestling for many tidbits used in this writing.