BOOK REVIEW: The Last Real World Champion: The Legacy of "Nature Boy" Ric Flair by Tim Hornbaker

Originally published at BOOK REVIEW: The Last Real World Champion: The Legacy of "Nature Boy" Ric Flair

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Real World Champion: The Legacy of “Nature Boy” Ric Flair by Tim Hornbaker

As we wind down 2023, Tim Hornbaker has crafted one hell of a resume when it comes to wrestling books. Not only has he covered the rise of the McMahon family within the wrestling industry (CAPITOL REVOLUTION), but he’s also written about the history of the NWA (NATIONAL WRESTLING ALLIANCE: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE MONOPOLY THAT STRANGLED PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING) as well as the death of the territorial system (DEATH OF THE TERRITORIES) that had fostered a wealth of talent and garnered influence for generations.

Having already written an exhaustive biography of “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers (MASTER OF THE RING), Hornbaker looks to the other “Nature Boy” in Ric Flair, for his new book, THE LAST REAL WORLD CHAMPION. Examining the life and career of Ric Flair, Hornbaker looks to uncover and bring to light as much factual information about an individual who has captured the attention of wrestling fans and journalists for decades.

It should be noted that if you’re looking for a book filled with stories of debauchery, this isn’t the book for you. In fact, in 2004, Flair (along with Keith Elliot Greenberg), published a memoir that certainly has its share of a few tall tales and stories of benders the likes of which you can’t possibly fathom. Hornbaker’s goal is to showcase the rise of Flair and how he likely prolonged the life of the NWA and its world championship as a result of an unrivaled work ethic the likes of which we will likely never see again. Sure, there were countless guys in that era working well over three hundred days a year, but how many were jet-setting all over the world and wrestling hour-long matches on a nightly basis? One such occasion had Flair traveling to Japan and back again before immediately leaping back on the plane and heading back across the world to work in Japan once again. The non-stop travel was extraordinary, to say the least.

The book tells of Flair’s work as NWA Champion and his gradual move over to Jim Crockett Promotions as his home territory in the mid-80s. From there we get the introduction and the success of The Four Horsemen, his work with Terry Funk, Ricky Steamboat, and his part in elevating Sting, the man who would become WCW’s premier star. While a contract dispute and notorious creative differences with Jim Herd (asking Flair to rebrand himself as a gladiator-style wrestler named Spartacus) would lead to him leaving WCW for McMahon’s WWF in the early 90s, Flair would find himself back in WCW in 1993 with a tumultuous decade to follow where Flair would butt heads with Eric Bischoff with legal woes causing the Nature Boy to lose nearly six months of his career as fans were clamoring for his return.

While the book is heavily weighted to his life and career pre-2000, the final ten percent is dedicated to the last twenty-three years, so you can imagine much is glossed over. Hornbaker does call into question much of Flair’s actions outside of the ring by touching on issues such as the “Plane Ride from Hell” – a subject that had Flair briefly ostracised from WWE following an episode from Dark Side of the Ring. He also shines a light on the medical crisis that nearly ended his life in 2017 as well as the tremendous losses he has suffered regarding the deaths of his friends and colleagues Dusty Rhodes and Roddy Piper as well as the heartbreaking passing of his son Reid.

Hornbaker’s book is as full a picture of Flair’s career during his most influential years that could possibly be written. I would put this right up there with Bertrand Hebert and Pat Laprade’s book on Andre the Giant (THE EIGHTH WONDER OF THE WORLD) or Guy Evans’ NITRO in terms of exhaustive detail.

THE LAST REAL WORLD CHAMPION is set for release on September 12, 2023

Just pre-ordered a copy, I’m really excited to read this as you’d think we already know a lot about Flair. What else can be said? But I’m sure we’ll learn a lot more new details.

Does the book touch much upon his rivalry with the Von Erich’s and his time in WCCW?

As a Texan going back and watching those old matches and learning the history around them has been fascinating.