How Ric Flair walked away from deadly plane crash and wrestled entire life with broken back to become one of WWE’s best

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RIC FLAIR has finally put pen to paper on a new WWE contract.

The 71-year-old two-time Hall of Famer had been rumoured to leave Vince McMahon’s organisation after his current deal expired this month.

Ric Flair has become one of wrestling’s all-time greats but his success in the ring didn’t always come easy
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The Nature Boy had to change his style after breaking his back in a horror plane crash
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However, The Nature Boy, whose last significant TV appearance came on July 2019’s Raw Reunion show, announced that he signed a new contract with the company.

The 16-time world champion, a joint-record with John Cena, last featured in a storyline with former Evolution stablemates Batista and Triple H ahead of last year’s WrestleMania 35.

Flair is set to be the subject of a new WWE 24 special titled “Ric Flair: The Final Farewell” nearly 50 years after he first stepped into a ring.

Here SunSport has delved through the archives to detail the life and career of one of the greatest of all time…

I must have been at camp for two days when I quit. I was dead. Mentally, I couldn’t take it

Ric Flair on starting wrestling training

Ironically, despite having one of the most recognisable names in professional wrestling history, Ric Flair has admitted being unsure what his birth name is.

He was adopted by Dr. Richard Reid Fliehr and his wife Kathleen Kinsmiller from the Tennessee Children’s Home Society shortly after he was born in February 1949.

The adoption was allegedly part of notorious American child trafficker Georgia Tann’s baby-kidnapping operation.

As a result, Flair’s real name is widely believed to have been Fred Phillips, but it may also have been Fred Demaree or Fred Stewart.

Legendary Ric Flair with SunSport’s Joe Brophy at BT Sport’s WWE launch earlier this year

But he became Richard Morgan Fliehr and settled with his new family in Minnesota where he soon began his wrestling training under Verne Gagne.

The group, which also included fellow WWE star The Iron Sheik, worked inside of a barn near Minneapolis, and Flair admitted he almost walked away following the gruelling regime.

He wrote in his 2004 book, To Be the Man: “I must have been at camp for two days when I quit.

“I called up [Gagne’s son] Greg and said, ‘I’m done.’ I was dead. Mentally, I couldn’t take it.”

Gagne intervened and The Nature Boy made his debut under the ring name Ric Flair on December 10, 1972 in a 10-minute draw against George “Scrap Iron” Gadaski.

Flair was almost involved in a fatal plane crash early in his career
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He broke his back in three places and was told he would never wrestle again
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Yet just three years later, Flair’s iconic career, and life, was nearly ended on October 4, 1975 when he was in a serious plane crash in North Carolina.

The devasting accident took the life of the pilot and paralysed fellow wrestler Johnny Valentine.

While Flair broke his back in three places and, aged 26, was told he would never wrestle again.

Thankfully, he defied the odds to return to the ring just eight months later but he did have to switch up his wrestling technique as a result of the crash.

Speaking to Don’t Tell Me The Score podcast, he said: “The pilot realised he’d hit the point of no return where he should have refuelled, and the engines stalled and we went down and through some trees.

“We tore an orchard apart and landed like an arrow.

“The speedometer was stuck on 230 miles an hour! I broke my back in three places.”

Flair won his first NWA World Heavyweight Championship from Dusty Rhodes in 1981 to start his 16-time title dynasty (although the man himself has claimed the real number to be much higher).

In addition to becoming a multi-time world champion in NWA and later WCW, he was also one of the founding members of The Four Horsemen.

But the ‘jet flying, limousine riding, kiss stealing, wheeling-dealing Nature Boy’ stunned the wrestling world when he jumped ship to join Vince McMahon’s WWF in 1991.

He brought with him the NWA title and proclaimed himself to be the “Real World Champion” over Hulk Hogan to the WWE Universe.

Flair followed up with that promise by capturing the company’s top prize twice in two years; the 1992 Royal Rumble match. and again on an episode of Superstars.

After returning to WCW in 1993 until it closed its doors in 2001, Flair returned to WWE for a glittering second run.

Shawn Michaels retired Ric Flair with a superkick at WrestleMania 24 in 2008

He battled The Undertaker at WrestleMania, challenged Hogan at Madison Square Garden, and founded Evolution with Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista.

Flair’s final match for WWE came against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 24 back in 2008.

The historic contest, which carried the stipulation that the Nature Boy would retire if he lost, is best remembered for HBK breaking kayfabe for saying “I’m sorry, I love you” before winning with a Sweet Chin Music.

Speaking to talkSPORT earlier this year, Flair admitted the iconic moment wasn’t planned.

He said: “Yes [it’s my favourite WrestleMania moment], by far. And that wasn’t rehearsed, that wasn’t even discussed.

“That was just raw, pure emotion. He knew that I didn’t want to leave. I think Vince knew that too, but it was time. I wish that I had never wrestled again and that was my last match.

“But, I think I’ve outlived [that work] thanks to the things I did after that and hopefully it will be remembered as the last thing I did in wrestling. Besides working with my daughter which has been a tremendous treat for me.”

I wish that I had never wrestled again and that was my last match

Ric Flair on his final WWE match

Flair ultimately continued wrestling for TNA in the following years, before finally hanging up his illustrious boots after a match against Sting in 2011.

He then made his third return to WWE the next year in a non-wrestling role where he has been ever-present since.

Flair’s legacy in the company remains intact through his daughter Charlotte, who has done something her father has never done in headling WrestleMania in addition to becoming an 11-time champ in her own right.

Naitch recently hailed former Evolution stablemate Orton as the company’s top guy and shared his belief his daughter is the “female Orton.”

And speaking to SunSport, Charlotte laughed as she replied to Ric’s comments: “Ahhh my dad.

“Randy is someone I very much look up to and I study his work.

“But everyone knows my dad is my biggest fan. So, of course he would compare me to Randy, but that’s just an honour and sometimes my dad brags too much.”

Ric Flair has claimed his daughter Charlotte has surpassed him in talent
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The Queen joked that her Hall of Famer dad brags about her too much