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How Ric Flair Won His 16 Recognised World Titles

The WWE Hall of Famer has a lot of gold - but how?

Ric Flair is a 21-time or a 25-time or a 16-time World Champion - it depends who you ask. Ric's World Title reigns are a point of contention for many, and I'm sure there are legitimate reasons as to why WWE and other companies choose not to acknowledge a few of them. No matter how many World Titles he's won over the course of his illustrious career, however, one thing you simply cannot deny is how much of a big bloody legend Flair is.

The Nature Boy's legacy is one that simply cannot be matched in professional wrestling. Simply put, when you take everything into account, he is the greatest of all time. Forget about Lex Luger, Flair is the real Total Package of professional wrestling - hitting a move off the top rope aside, there simply wasn't a thing he couldn't do back in the day. What's more is the fact that he's a performer who transcended the wrestling business, and despite retiring - in a WWE sense, that is - 10 years ago now, still finds himself at the height of pop culture. Ric Flair Drip is something really, really cool I'm reliably informed...

I was born in 1992, the year Ric won the WWF title. Because of my age, I grew up knowing The Nature Boy was a holder of many World Titles but didn't really know how he managed to win them. Let's find out now...

16. Vs. Dusty Rhodes -  17 September 1981


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Flair's first recognised World Title win occurred at a house show as he took the NWA World Heavyweight Championship away from "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes.

The Nature Boy would capitalise on Rhodes' knee buckling during an attempted Suplex in order to win the title, which he would go on to hold for 631 days until he was defeated by Jack Veneno. However, Flair would be awarded the title back on the same night due to the fact that Veneno wouldn't defend the championship outside of his native land of the Dominican Republic.

Rhodes actually defeated Flair for the title on 9 February 1982 under a mask as The Midnight Rider (Dusty wrestled under a mask because he was suspended in Florida). However, Flair was given his title back once again as The Midnight Rider wouldn't unmask (NWA forbade masked wrestlers from holding their top title).


15. Vs. Harley Race - 24 November 1983


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Flair recaptured the title from Harley Race inside of a steel cage at Starrcade, in a match where former champion Gene Kiniski was the guest referee.

Race's reign lasted 167 days and started when the took the title from Flair at a house show the previous June. The entire feud was built on that initial title change and the fact that Race offered a bounty to have The Nature Boy put out of professional wrestling for good. Bob Orton Jr. and Dick Slater attacked Flair and appeared to have ended his career. Ric initially announced his retirement from in-ring competition, but he returned to reclaim the gold soon after.

Ric, rather surprisingly, won this match via pinfall after a Body Press from the top rope.

14. Vs. Kerry Von Erich - 24 May 1984


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Back on the house show circuit we go, this time over in Japan - Yokosuka, to be precise.

Kerry Von Erich won the title from Flair at the 1st Von Erich Memorial Parade of Champions 18 days earlier, with this reign lasting a whopping 793 days for The Nature Boy before he eventually lost to Dusty Rhodes at the 1986 Great American Bash.

13. Vs. Dusty Rhodes - 9 August 1986


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The NWA certainly liked getting their business done on the house show loop, didn't they? Such was the climate at the time with the pay-per-view business within the realms of professional wrestling in its infancy. Everything was about the live gate and the number of fans inside an arena.

This victory - achieved via a Figure Four that saw Dusty pass out from the pain - for Flair brought an end to the Rhodes reign that started at the Great American Bash mentioned in the previous point. Flair would hold the title for 412 days this time, before dropping it to Ronnie Garvin. Speaking of whom...


12. Vs. Ronnie Garvin - 26 November 1987


WWE


... Flair would win the title back from Ronnie inside of a steel cage at Starrcade 1987.

It's said that Garvin wasn't the first choice of the booking committee to be the NWA World Heavyweight Champion, and he certainly wasn't well received by fans. But win the title he did in September 1987 at a house show in Detriot, MI.

Starrcade 1987 was the first pay-per-view event put on by the NWA, forcing WWE's hand to create Survivor Series, which took place on the same night (WWE wouldn't allow PPV companies who chose to air Starrcade to air WrestleMania a few months later as some form of punishment).

Flair won this match via pinfall after ramming Garvin's head into the cage and would go on to hold the title for 452 days. During this reign, NWA's flagship promotion, Jim Crockett Promotions, was purchased by Ted Turner and renamed World Championship Wrestling.

11. Vs. Ricky Steamboat - 7 May 1989


WWE


Steamboat won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship from Flair at the Chi-Town Rumble in February, successfully defended it on the March 18 edition of World Championship Wrestling, and then did so again at Clash of the Champions in a 2-Out-Of-3 Falls contest. However, with Flair's foot on the bottom rope in the decider, a rematch was booked for WrestleWar which Flair won via an Inside Cradle.

After the match, Terry Funk, one of the special judges for the match (in case it went the full 60-minute time limit), challenged The Nature Boy to a match for the title which Flair rejected. Funk then delivered a Piledriver to Flair through the announcer's table.

10. Vs. Sting - 11 January 1991


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After winning the title from Flair at the 1990 Great American Bash - bringing an end to a 426-day reign in the process - Sting would lose the title back to The Nature Boy at a house show 188 days later.

This victory saw Flair recognised as the first-ever WCW World Heavyweight Champion. However, rather interestingly, in WWE's list of 16 Ric Flair World Title reigns, this one still goes down as an NWA-flavoured one. I thought it would have been WCW, but ultimately, who gives a toss what I think?

Flair would lose the title to Tatsumi Fujinami before winning it back in a reign that isn't recognised by WWE for whatever reason.


9. WWE Royal Rumble Winner - 19 January 1992


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Bobby Heenan and the greatest WWE match call ever, the greatest Royal Rumble roster ever, the greatest Royal Rumble ever (sorry Saudi Arabia), and Ric Flair with one of the greatest Royal Rumble performances of all time - you know what went down here.

But just in case you're not, Hulk Hogan was stripped of the WWF Championship by FUNNY JACK TUNNEY following controversies relating to in-ring shenanigans caused by interferences from The Nature Boy. The now vacant WWF title was up for grabs in the Rumble match and was won by Flair who entered no. 2 and lasted just over an hour.

8. Vs. "Macho Man" Randy Savage - 1 September 1992


WWE


After winning the WWE Championship at WrestleMania VIII, "Macho Man" Randy Savage lost his title the following September in a match that was aired as part of Prime Time Wrestling. Just like he did to Dusty Rhodes six years earlier, Flair was able to have Savage pass out from the pain endured in a Figure Four.

Flair would then lose the title just over a month later against Bret Hart during that house show match in Saskatoon, SK. The Nature Boy's two WWE Championship reigns would last a combined total of 118 days.

7. Vs. Barry Windham - 18 July 1993


WWE


Billed as his last chance to win the World Title, Flair would do so by pinning Barry Windham with a... Figure Four. Yes, this one looked like a massive error on The Lone Wolf's part.

After reaching for the bottom rope as you can see in the image above, the referee started to count Windham's shoulders to the mat. Instead of kicking out, Barry simply put his hands to his head and forced the ref's hand. Ric couldn't believe his luck, winning what was announced as his 10th World Title.


6. Vs. Vader - 27 December 1993


WWE


To the 10th anniversary of Starrcade we go and a match that Flair only found himself in thanks to the double stabbing that occurred between Arn Anderson and Sic Vicious (real life, not Kayfabe). The Nature Boy replaced Vicious in a match where if plans hadn't changed due to the most extraordinary of circumstances, Sid was scheduled to win the big one.

It was Slick Ric, however, who came home with the gold, and it's a good job he did since his career would have been over if he lost. Naturally, Ric defeated The Mastedon via a roll-up.

5. Vs. "Macho Man" Randy Savage - 27 December 1995


WWE


At Starrcade 1995, Ric Flair defeated both Lex Luger and Sting in a Triple Threat Match in earn an immediate shot at Randy Savage's World Heavyweight Championship. In the match, new Horsemen Chris Benoit and Brian Pillman would get involved, before Arn Anderson, while the referee's back was turned, clocked Savage upside the head with something on his knuckles to allow Flair to steal yet another World Title.

Flair would only hold the title for 26 days this time before dropping it to Savage on Nitro once more.

4. Vs. "Macho Man" Randy Savage - 11 February 1996


WWE


To SuperBrawl VI we go now and a match that took place inside a steel cage for the World Heavyweight Championship that wasn't even the main event. A non-title singles Cage Match between Hulk Hogan and The Giant took that honour.

This was the match where Miss Elizabeth turned on "Macho Man", throwing one of her shoes into the cage so Flair could hit the champ with it. This reign would come to a close 71 days later at the hands of The Giant on Nitro.


3. Vs. "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan - 14 March 1999


WWE


Once again Flair's career was on the line and once again, Flair was competing inside a steel cage for the World Title - only this one was covered in barbed wire and it was a First Blood Match. What's more, per the stipulation of this match, if The Nature Boy won the match, he would be named WCW President forforforfor life.

And he did so, despite nWo member David Flair coming down to interfere, and Ric's face clearly seen covered in blood in a FIRST BLOOD MATCH. He won with a Figure Four that once again had an opponent pinned to the mat for three. Credit must also go to Arn Anderson here, who came out and assisted Flair by handing him a tire iron.

2. Vs. Jeff Jarrett - 15 May 2000


WWE


Jeff Jarrett and Ric Flair were supposed to face-off for the World Heavyweight Championship at the upcoming Great American Bash PPV. Instead, after some shenanigans involving David Flair, Daffney, Ric's children, Ric's house and Vince Russo, the match was brought forward to this episode of Nitro.

Ric, dressed in slacks and a t-shirt, won the match via a roll-up only to be stripped of the title by Mr. Russo, God of wrestling, bro - who was sat at ringside during the match wearing The Nature Boy's robe - seven days later.

1. Awarded The Title By Kevin Nash - 29 May 2000


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Seven days after being stripped of the title by Russo, Kevin Nash awarded the title back to Ric because he didn't feel he should hold a title The Nature Boy didn't lose in a match. Oh, Nash won the vacant title on Thunder the previous Thursday, and this is all just one massive mess.

Flair's last World Title reign wouldn't last too long, however, as Jarrett would take it back in a match later that night with Russo counting the decisive fall after he took the shirt off a knocked out Charles Robinson's back.

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Ross Tweddell

Written by Ross Tweddell

Presenter over on the Cultaholic Wrestling YouTube channel. Email: [email protected]