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RIC FLAIR: THE 16-TIME... 18-TIME ... 21-TIME... EXACTLY HOW MANY TIMES HAS HE BEEN WORLD CHAMPION?

By Buck Woodward on 2008-04-02 17:33:44

16-Time World Champion.  16-Time World Champion.  16-Time World Champion.  WWE (and before them, WCW) has billed Ric Flair as a 16-Time World Champion for so long, I've almost started to believe it.  I mean, a WWE licensed T-Shirt is now being produced, so it has to be true, right?  Even Flair has referred to himself as a 16-Time World Champion in interviews.  I should probably just let it go....

Nope, can't do it.  I've often argued that Flair is a 21-Time World Champion.  Some have said 18 is the number to go by.  Then, there are those who have figured out 25 times.  16, in some ways, seems the least number of times you can say the Nature Boy has been World Champion!

So, with that in mine, let's take a look at the record books, starting with the NWA World Heavyweight Title, then the WWF World Heavyweight Title, then the controversial WCW International World Heavyweight Title, and finally the WCW World Heavyweight Title.  

Will we figure out an answer by looking at all the title wins, losses, vacancies, awards, etc.?   Probably not.  But it certainly makes the argument a lot more fun! 

PART ONE: THE NWA WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE

September 17, 1981 - Ric Flair defeats Dusty Rhodes in Kansas City, Missouri to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

February 9, 1982 - The Midnight Rider (a suspended Dusty Rhodes under a mask) defeats Ric Flair in Tampa, Florida to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

February 9, 1982 - NWA President Bob Geigel awards the NWA World Heavyweight Championship back to Ric Flair when The Midnight Rider refuses to unmask and reveal his identity. 

Dispute: The NWA does not officially recognize that Flair lost the title that night in Florida.  However, Flair did lose the match and the title in front of the crowd in Tampa, and the Midnight Rider was announced as the new World Champion before he returned to the locker room where the angle took place that resulted in Flair being given back the title.

January 6, 1983 - Carlos Colon defeats Ric Flair in San Juan, Puerto Rico for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

January 21 or January 24, 1983 - Ric Flair defeats Carlos Colon in Puerto Rico or Florida for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship (may be a "phantom change").

Dispute: The NWA does not recognize this title change.  Colon did beat Ric Flair on January 6th in San Juan in a match that was advertised as unifying the NWA and WWC World Titles, but there appears to be no solid evidence (or exact date or location) for when Flair won back the belt. 

January 15, 1983 - Jack Venano defeats Ric Flair in the Dominican Republic  for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. 

January 16, 1983 - Ric Flair defeats Jack Venano in the Dominican Republic for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship (not actual result).

Dispute: The NWA does not recognize this title change.  The planned finish on January 15th was that Flair would be trapped in a sleeper, and his arm would be going down for a third time just as the time limit expired, so the match would be called a draw.  However, due to fear of a riot from the boisterous crowd, it was treated as if Venano won the belt. The January 16th match was supposed to end with Flair pinning Venano, but due to the atmosphere during the match (and once again, fear of a riot), Flair had Venano pin him instead.  Flair took the title belt back with him when he left the country. 

February 8, 1983 - Victor Jovica defeats Ric Flair in Couva, Trinidad for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

February 9, 1983 - Ric Flair defeats Victor Jovica in Manati, Puerto Rico for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship (may be a "phantom change").

Dispute: The NWA does not recognize this title change.  

February 10, 1983 - Harley Race defeats Ric Flair in St. Louis, Missouri for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

November 24, 1983 - Ric Flair defeats Harley Race in Greensboro, North Carolina for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

March 21, 1984 - Harley Race defeats Ric Flair in Wellington, New Zealand for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

March 23, 1984 - Ric Flair defeats Harley Race in Kallang, Singapore for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

Dispute: For many years, the NWA did not officially recognize the New Zealand and Singapore title changes.  However, the NWA would later "recognize" the changes as being official.

May 6, 1984 - Kerry Von Erich defeats Ric Flair in Irving, Texas for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

May, 24, 1984 -Ric Flair defeats Kerry Von Erich in Yokosuka, Japan for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

July 25, 1986 - Dusty Rhodes defeats Ric Flair in Greensboro, North Carolina for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

August 7, 1986 - Ric Flair defeats Dusty Rhodes in St. Louis, Missouri for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

September 25, 1987 - Ronnie Garvin defeats Ric Flair in Detroit, Michigan for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

November 26, 1987 - Ric Flair defeats Ronnie Garvin in Chicago, Illinois for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

February 20, 1989 - Ricky Steamboat defeats Ric Flair in Chicago, Illinois for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

May 7, 1989 - Ric Flair defeats Ricky Steamboat in Nashville, Tennessee for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

July 7, 1990 - Sting defeats Ric Flair in Baltimore, Maryland for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

January 11, 1991 - Ric Flair defeats Sting in East Rutherford, New Jersey for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

Dispute: During this title reign, WCW begins to refer to Ric Flair as the "WCW World Heavyweight Champion".  While Flair only had one title belt, it can be argued that Flair is the NWA World Champion and WCW World Champion at this point and they could be considered two separate titles.

March 21, 1991 - Tatsumi Fujinami defeats Ric Flair in Tokyo, Japan for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

May 19, 1991 - Ric Flair defeats Tatsumi Fujinami in St. Petersburg, Florida for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

Dispute: The NWA recognizes the Fujinami and Flair title changes, but WCW does not, claiming there should have been a DQ prior to the pinfall during the March 21st match.  So, you can argue that Flair lost and won the "NWA Title", while never losing the "WCW Title".  Even though, again, there was only one championship belt.

July 1991 - WCW strips Ric Flair of the "WCW World Heavyweight Championship" when he leaves the company.

September 8, 1991 - The NWA strips Ric Flair of the NWA World Heavyweight Championship after Flair signs with the World Wrestling Federation.  The NWA declares the title vacant, and does not recognize a new champion until August 12, 1992 when Masahiro Chono defeats Rick Rude in a tournament final in Tokyo Japan.

Note: When Ric Flair left WCW, he took the Championship Belt with him, as WCW Vice President Jim Herd opted not to pay back Flair his deposit on the belt. WCW created a new belt for their champion.  This move also solidified the split with the NWA, who continued to recognize Flair as their champion up until Flair's WWF debut.

July 18, 1993 - Ric Flair defeats Barry Windham in Biloxi, Mississippi for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

September 1993 - WCW pulls out of the NWA, and the NWA no longer recognizes Ric Flair as the NWA World Heavyweight Champion.  Flair continues to defend the title belt, which is renamed the "WCW International World Heavyweight Title".

Dispute: Many do not count the win over Windham as a "World Title" change, since WCW already had their own World Championship before bringing in the NWA World Title as well (which had mostly been defended in Japan after being revived in 1992).

Continued on the next page


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