The 90s were huuuge for wrestling. People were hopping on the bandwagon left and right. Wrestling became mainstream cool, and nobody was afraid to admit they were into WCW or WWE (formerly WWF). It was the decade we were introduced to Hulk Hogan. It was also the decade that WCW slipped up and let Ric Flair walk… directly into the arms of the competition, taking his NWA title with him. In 1991, at the age of 39, The Nature Boy went to the enemy.
Flairs WWE Debut as the Real World’s Champion
Without going into any discussion of how WCW could possibly let their most popular star go, we’ll reminisce on how The Nature Boy absolutely dominated the WWE when he arrived in the 90s. In September of ‘91, his onstage financial advisor Bobby “The Brain” Heenan introduced Flair to a stage of booing fans. But that jet flying, limousine riding, kiss stealing, wheeling dealing son of a gun rolled in clad in a sparkly feathered robe like he owned the place.
Flair didn’t seem to have any qualms about switching teams, proclaiming himself the Real World’s Champion while pointing to his giant WCW belt that was “$75,000 worth of pure gold” and challenging Hulk Hogan to “put up or shut up.”
“When Ric Flair came in, he took over. You didn’t have to bring him up to speed.” – Hulk Hogan
Ric Flair Wins the WWE Title at the 1992 Royal Rumble
Flair showed he could run the entire world of wrestling on one night in 1992. In what was possibly the best Royal Rumble ever, he waltzed in to thousands of screaming fans for him, the apparent invader of the WWE. Then he proceeded to outlast all of his opponents – 28 to be exact, including big names like the Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, and Randy Savage. After entering the ring at number three, he finally threw Sid Justice out of the ring (with a little help from Hulk Hogan) to win the WWE Championship. According to the man himself, this was one of the greatest moments of his life.
Followed by One of the Best Promos Ever
Not only did Flair win the title at the Royal Rumble, but he wrapped up his win with one of the most impassioned speeches in wrestling history, his famed and oh so emotional “with a tear in my eye” speech. It didn’t feel fake because it wasn’t fake. Rather than an act, it felt like the tired yet overjoyed athlete giving you his all. Flair even bashes WCW with his remark, “”This is the only title in the wrestling world that makes you number one.”
Wrestlemania with Macho Man Randy Savage
If we thought the late 80s were great, just look at Flair’s first run with the WWE. Despite never fighting Hulk Hogan on a major PPV special – for some unknown, uber disappointing reason – The Nature Boy continued his run of great matches and loud, brash persona just as he had before. Instead of fighting Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania, Flair was set up against the “Macho Man” Randy Savage, which was still plenty entertaining…
And the “Miss Elizabeth” Storyline
After giving Savage the number one contender spot, the WWE built their match around an interesting storyline: The claim that Savage’s woman, Miss Elizabeth (his wife in the real world as well as in the wrestling world), had been with Flair before dating him. The Nature Boy flaunted this fact with dubious photos and taunted Savage incessantly, but the promos that resulted are pretty hilarious. Check out Flair famously claiming “Elizabeth was mine before she was yours” and then sneaking in the phrase “damaged goods.” It played right into Flair’s lying, skeezy, playboy persona.
Oh, what happened in the match? Flair lost the title to Savage, but came off it looking great. Afterwards, as The Macho Man grasped the title belt and began to celebrate, a bloodied Ric Flair planted a hard kiss on Miss Elizabeth who slapped him across the face and then some. Savage attacked Flair to defend her honor and then he and Elizabeth limped off into the sunset together. There were fireworks. It was sheer perfection.
Ric Flair v. Mr. Perfect… Loser Must Leave the WWE
The excitement of 1992 ended up being enough WWE for Ric Flair and he rejoined WCW in 1993 on good terms with Vince McMahon. So how did the WWE swing that and still keep fans interested? Well, as you can see, the storytelling of wrestling knows no bounds… and it ended up being one of the first big matches on the relatively new RAW.
In early 1993, this classic match with a classic stipulation that the loser had to leave town pitted the nature boy against Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig. Though his feud wasn’t nearly as well developed as Flair’s crazy relationship with Savage, this match turned into one of the best that the WWE ever broadcasted for free. Flair lost to Mr. Perfect and bowed out to return to his former company.
Stay tuned for all the ways Ric Flair dominated back at WCW upon his return.