Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Ric Flair Becomes the "Nature Boy"

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

"Nature Boy" Ric Flair
Mid-Atlantic TV Champion (1975)
One of the big misconceptions out there is that Ric Flair first took on the "Nature Boy" moniker when he returned to action in early 1976 after the October 1975 plane crash in Wilmington, NC.

Not true.

You'd have to forgive anyone for thinking that. It's been written that way for awhile. Until years ago, I thought that as well and even Ric himself has said so on occasion.

The commonly held misconception is that during his four month lay-off in late 1975 and early 1976 recuperating from injuries suffered in the plane crash, George Scott came up with the idea of giving Ric the "Nature Boy" gimmick, an homage to "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers, the famous NWA and WWF World Champion in the 1960s.

However, it's been verified that Ric Flair had been calling himself the "Nature Boy" for nearly a year earlier.

By all accounts, it was indeed booker George Scott who came up with the idea, that part is apparently true. But Ric was referring to himself as the Nature Boy in local promos and on TV interviews as early as April of 1975 (perhaps even earlier), a full six months before the infamous plane crash.

May 2, 1975    Richmond, Virginia

That time frame was confirmed when David Chappell came across an audio recording (embedded below) of a local promo Ric did for a May 1975 match in Richmond, VA. Ric actually did the promo in late April for a match to take place on May 2. He was defending his Mid-Atlantic TV title in the Richmond Arena against the man he beat for that belt, "Number One" Paul Jones.

After Jones had called Flair a "drugstore wrestler" (an offhanded reference to an earlier promo where Flair had called Jones a "drugstore cowboy"), Ric responded in a promo of his own, referring to himself as the "Nature Boy" right at the end of his promo:

"Jones, I'm gonna take you like any wild animal would. I'm gonna break one of your arms and then maybe you'll be walkin' around the drugstore looking for someone else to beat up on, because it won't be the Nature Boy. Wooo!"    - Ric Flair, April 1975

All of the signature elements of the "Nature Boy" persona were taking shape before the plane crash. His trademark "Wooo!" was more of a quick high-pitched shout at that point. And his cocky strut was more subdued and less pronounced than in later years. (I actually liked the 70s and early 80s Flair strut much better than the exaggerated Fargoesque style of strut that he later morphed into.) He had a robe or two, but nothing like the number  of extravagantly styled robes he would acquire beginning in 1976. Within a year or so Flair had nearly a dozen of the Olivia Walker creations.

This is the earliest reference we've found. We'll keep digging to see how far back things go. Our main goal was to document that Flair's "Nature Boy" persona existed well before the plane crash and his subsequent recovery and return to the sport. The audio recording from April 1975 should put that to rest.

And now you know -- as the great Paul Harvey was famous for saying - - the rest of the story.