On ESPN’s 30 for 30 about The Nature Boy, Ric Flair says, “The 1980s were the perfect time for wrestling and I was the perfect wrestler for the 1980s.”
During the 80s, Ric Flair was the man “every man wanted to be and every woman wanted to be with.” The cocky, showy wrestler in custom robes who talked about his money, cars, shoes, watches, and houses, yet somehow remained likable… or at least mesmerizing to watch.
It really is like the 80s were made for him and it’s certainly the decade when Flair came into his own. 1989 might’ve been his best year of wrestling ever and Flair was truly living his on-screen gimmick. As reigning Heavyweight Champion, his persona exploded, he became a household name, and he dominated the world of wrestling. Here are some of our fave Ric Flair moments from the 80s.
“Whether you like it or not, learn to love it, because it’s the best thing going. Wooooo!”
Flair Gets Himself a Posse – The Four Horsemen
In 1985, one of the greatest groups of bad guys in wrestling was formed. The Four Horsemen originally included Flair, Tully Blanchard, and Arn and Ole Anderson (Flair’s storyline cousins). They walked the talk they spouted every week, living a life of extravagance all across the nation’s cities. Nice hotel rooms, stretch limos, fancy dinners, jets, and plenty of women, all day and night.
Aside from the partying, wining, and dining, they each held championship titles and fought just as hard inside the ring as out. Known for antics like breaking Dusty Rhodes’s ankle and hand and feuding with pretty much everybody, the Four Horsemen were a force to be reckoned with… but also a group of dudes you kinda wanted to hang out with.
Wrestling caught on in with the mainstream crowd and folks everywhere were holding up the Four Horsemen sign (four fingers, obviously). They were the first cool bad guys and fans loved ’em. They even had groupies and female fans who made T-shirts. When they were all on camera together, it was ridiculous, hilarious, and glorious.
Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat – A Trio of Famous Matches
Between February and May of 1989, The Nature Boy and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat fought each other in three separate matches that have gone down in history. Beginning with the Chi-Town Rumble and continuing on to Clash of the Champions and WrestleWar, these matches make like every “best of” wrestling list on the Internet. To fans, those three epic matches are the stuff of legends, and critics say they set the new standard for wrestling throughout the 90s and beyond.
Widely regarded by audiences as some of the best ever wrestling by Ric Flair, the man himself admits that Steamboat was one of his favorite people to get in the ring with… and it shows. Even if Flair admits he didn’t actually watch the matches until 10 years later, you should! The two had instant chemistry and their matches influenced generations of future wrestlers. Check out a WWE interview with Flair and Steamboat to see what they thought about it.
The First Clash of the Champions – Ric Flair v. Sting
Lots of folks rank this as one of their top favorite Ric Flair moments – probably because it’s the pinnacle of the Flair-Sting feud that continued for over 15 years. In the very first Class of the Champions, the two had their first one-on-one match. And WCW aired the whole thing for free on TV.
The Nature Boy was NWA Heavyweight Champion and Sting was still in the process of evolving his on-screen persona at this time. This match pushed Sting even further along in terms of fame. Not only that, he nearly won! Sting held Flair in the Scorpion Deathlock as time expired, setting the stage for him to become a star and making himself a force to reckoned with by not losing to the baddest man in town… even if the match did end in a draw.
Ric Flair vs. Terry Funk (Clash Of The Champions IX)
1989 was a big year for The Nature Boy and it doesn’t get much more physical than his “I Quit” match with Terry Funk at Clash of the Champions. Funk gets repeatedly plowed, punched, chopped, tackled, and throttled by Flair. You can really feel the hate in this one and for old school NWA, it was pretty hardcore. Terry Funk himself is an amazing wrestler and hall-of-famer and he was especially brilliant in this match. There were piledrivers, smashed wooden tables, and suicide dives from the ring before The Nature Boy finally got him in the Figure Four Leg Lock, making Funk scream “I Quit!” Yep, it’s one for the highlight reel.
Of course, there are endless matches we could add to this post. We’d also throw in Flair’s match against Dusty Rhodes at the Great American Bash of 1986, his chemistry-filled fight with Barry Windham at the Crockett Cup in 1987, or maybe for fun, the team Thunderdome Cage Match at Halloween Havoc 1989.
This was a fabulous decade for Flair. But now, don’t you just want to hear some of his famous one-liners? Yeah, we do too. Check out some of his best promos while you’re here.