WWE icon Ric Flair survived horror plane crash that left him with broken spine

It has been 46 years since WWE icon Ric Flair was told that he would never be able to wrestle again after a horror plane crash left him with a broken spine in the early days of his career.

He suffered from serious injuries as one of the victims involved in a plane crash in 1975 – which took the life of a pilot and paralysed fellow wrestler Johnny Valentine.

Since then he has made wrestling history and now, at the age of 71, he has signed another contract with WWE despite numerous obstacles which nearly halted his career.

It comes after rumoured reports suggested that the two-time Hall of Famer was ready to leave the McMahon’s organisation after his current deal expired this month.

But the "Nature Boy", whose last major TV appearance was on July 2019's Raw Reunion show, has announced that he isn't ready to leave just yet despite him featuring on Ric Flair: The Final Farewell in 2020.

Here we take a look back at his career so far and his life growing up…

Flair, who has one of the most remembered names in professional wrestling history, has previously confessed to not knowing his birth name.

He left Tennessee Children's Home Society in February 1949 after he was adopted by Richard Reid Fliehr and his wife Kathleen Kinsmiller.

But the adoption was reportedly part of notorious American child trafficker Georgia Tann's baby-kidnapping operation, reports The Sun.

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The "Nature Boy" became known as Richard Morgan Fliehr and moved to Minnesota with his new family where he trained under Verne Gagne shortly after.

In 2004, Flair wrote in his book, 'To Be the Man', that he nearly quit the team which fellow WWE star The Iron Sheik was also on.

He said: "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."

But the "Nature Boy" didn't give up after Gagne intervened which sparked a fierce debut under the ring name Ric Flair in a 10-minute draw against George "Scrap Iron" Gadaski on December 10, 1972

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After making his legendary debut his career nearly ended three years later, after he was involved in a disastrous plane crash in North Carolina on October 4, 1975.

Flair skipped near death and broke his back in three places which saw medics issue a stark warning that he would never wrestle again at the mere age of 26.

Luckily, the WWE legend defied all odds and made his return to the ring just eight months later which saw him shift his wrestling technique as a result of the injuries.

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He told the Don't Tell Me The Score podcast at the time: “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 went on to win his first NWA World Heavyweight Championship from Dusty Rhodes in 1981 and started his 16-time title dynasty and also became one of the founding members of The Four Horsemen.

His career continued to flow at great steam when he left to join Vince McMahon's WWF in 1991.

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He took with him the NWA title and labelled himself to be the "Real World Champion" over Hulk Hogan to the WWE Universe.

He then secured the company's top prize twice in two unbelievable years – in the 1992 Royal Rumble match and again on an episode of Superstars.

Flair returned to WCW in 1993 until it shut its doors in 2001, which left wrestling fans over the moon when he went back to WWE for a second run.

During this time he battled The Undertaker at WrestleMania, took on Hogan at Madison Square Garden, and launched Evolution Wrestling Academy with Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista.

His final match for WWE was against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 24 in 2008.

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The notorious contest is best known for HBK breaking kayfabe for saying “I’m sorry, I love you” before conquering with a Sweet Chin Music.

Flair admitted that the famous moment wasn't planned.

Speaking to talkSport earlier this year, 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.

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“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.”

In the years that followed, the superstar wrestler continued the sport for TNA until he stepped down after a match against Sting in 2011.

The popular star then returned to WWE the next year in a non-wrestling role where he has remained ever-since.

He also passed his legacy on to his incredible daughter Charlotte who has headlined in WrestleMania and became an 11-time champ in her own right.

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