Historic Moments in Wrestling part 7: Ric Flair leaves WCW for the WWF

This week, Richard Hoy-Browne takes a look at the moment a certain ‘jet flying, limousine riding, kiss stealing, wheeling dealing son of a gun’ upped sticks and joined his company’s fiercest rival.

Context

If Hulk Hogan defined the term “Sports Entertainment”, then Ric Flair was wrestling. ‘The Nature Boy’ was seen by many to be the best wrestler in the world during the decade of the eighties (and many to this day label him the greatest of all time) and he was to NWA/WCW (two separate entities, which plays into the later story) what Hogan was to the WWF –the face of the organisation/company and the man who could carry the company. The difference between Hogan and Flair was that while Hogan’s matches would for the most part be underwhelming (which, to Hogan’s credit would still draw the crowds), Flair would lead by example in putting on classic matches, seemingly on a nightly basis.

Vince McMahon had previously made a play for Ric Flair, with the idea being for Flair to come in and challenge then WWF Champion ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage at Summerslam 1988. Despite being at loggerheads with WCW over a new contract, Flair decided that he was a NWA guy, and as such could not move to the WWF. Three years later however, things would change dramatically.

Scroll down for video

Ric Flair moves to the WWF
The man in charge of WCW in 1991 was a man by the name of Jim Herd. Herd was not a very popular man and seemed to almost revel in undermining Flair. Herd had decided that Flair, at 39 years old in 1991, was too old to be the face of WCW, and it was time for younger stars such as Sting and Lex Luger to take his place. While there is much to be said for older stars holding onto their spots when they are past their sell by date, the fact is that when Sting wrestled Flair, it was a success. When Luger wrestled Flair, it was a success. When Sting wrestled Luger? It bombed. You don’t have to be a genius to work out what was missing. Flair was still the most popular wrestler in WCW despite his age, yet Herd wanted to downsize Flair’s role within the group. He wanted Flair to cut his famous long blonde hair – a demand which Flair acquiesced to and would later claim he deeply regretted. He wanted to bring Flair ‘into the nineties’: by making him wear a diamond earring and brandish a shield, under the new moniker – Spartacus. If that was not enough, he also wanted to take Flair’s reported $700,000 a year contract which was up for renewal and cut it in half, despite the fact that he was still the company’s top star. Perhaps most incredibly, all of these demands were being made at a time where Flair was also the NWA World Heavyweight Champion.

With Flair refusing the contract offer and WCW refusing to budge on their offer, negotiations came to an impasse in July of 1991. Taking the strong arm with Flair, Herd demanded that Flair drop the NWA title to Barry Windham, despite the fact that WCW were building towards a PPV main event of Flair vs Lex Luger at The Great American Bash ‘91 and that the event was less than two weeks away when Herd made his demands. Ever the pro, Flair was willing to drop the belt to Windham and had returned from a holiday to do so, but Herd, fearful that Flair would hold WCW up for money to drop the belt, promptly faxed a notice of termination to Flair’s lawyer. The unthinkable had happened – WCW had fired Ric Flair, its most beloved star.

There was a crucial point that WCW had forgotten. Flair was not the WCW World Heavyweight Champion, he was the NWA World Heavyweight Champion, and as far as the NWA were concerned  he would remain their champion (while WCW had bought out Jim Crockett Promotions, formerly the NWA’s biggest territory, the NWA remained a separate entity completely) and issued a press release stating as much.

This was almost too much for Vince McMahon to process – his biggest rival’s main star was a free agent and was still recognised as the NWA World Heavyweight Champion. A deal was soon made and Flair sent his world title ahead of him while he counted down the days left on his contract. Soon, Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan was confronting Hulk Hogan, proclaiming that ‘The Hulkster’ had been ducking the challenge of ‘The Real World’s Champion’ for too long, and that Flair was coming to the WWF. In his hands he held the very same NWA World Heavyweight Championship that Flair had been defending on WCW television. That September saw Flair’s debut in the WWF and he wasted little time in challenging Hogan.

What happened next?
Despite Hogan vs Flair being a dream match which would have been worthy of headlining WrestleMania VIII, the WWF never promoted a Hogan vs Flair match on PPV, instead allowing the once in a lifetime bout to play out on their regular house show circuits. It was a decision that is as baffling today as it was over twenty years ago.

Flair’s first WWF run would see him win the WWF title at Royal Rumble 1992 in an all time classic display. He would drop the title to ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage before winning it back later that year. Seeing that he was not going to be ‘The Man’ in WWF, and with Herd long gone from WCW, Flair dropped the WWF title to Bret Hart before leaving in early 1993, following a ‘Loser Must retire’ bout with his good friend ‘Mr Perfect’ Curt Hennig.

Sport
Premier League Live
footballLIVE Follow all the Premier League action as it happens
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + echSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
News
James Argent from Towie is missing, police say
peopleTV star had been reported missing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, Linux, Shell, Bash)

£50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, L...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone