Arguably the greatest professional wrestler in history, the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair was hospitalized Thursday, though the urgency of his stay and reason for his upcoming procedure remain unknown at this time. Flair, 70, is a 16-time world heavyweight champion whose career has spanned parts of five decades.
TMZ initially reported Thursday that Flair was “rushed to a hospital … after suffering a medical emergency,” though that assertion was quickly refuted by a family member.
Conrad Thompson, Flair’s son-in-law and a well-known wrestling podcast host, shared an update on Flair’s situation shortly after the seemingly erroneous TMZ report.
“This is not a last-minute surprise surgery to family [members]. I knew that he was going to be having a procedure done today. I don’t think it’s nearly as grave or serious as TMZ would have us believe because Ric is in good spirits about it, knew it was happening,” Thompson explained. “[He could have chosen] to have it done now or after [attending Starrcast, a wrestling convention in Las] Vegas and decided to go ahead and get it done now because he thought he would be feeling good and wanted to get this done beforehand.”
Thursday evening, Flair’s wife Wendy Barlow explained that her husband has not already underdone a procedure but would be shortly and is not anticipating any complications.
“Due to ongoing health complications, Ric was taken to the hospital and is expected to undergo a procedure tomorrow morning, after which he expects to fully recover,” she said in a statement.
Flair made a miraculous recovery two years ago after being placed on life support and in a medically-induced coma for 10 days following a medical emergency. He was diagnosed with early stages of kidney failure and congestive heart failure. Doctors removed part of Flair’s bowel and inserted a pacemaker, telling family members he only had a 20 percent chance of survival.
While in recovery, Flair thrilled fans with a surprise Twitter post showing him donning a black-and-white T-shirt that read, “I ain’t dead yet motherf—ers.” He later told People it was the most harrowing experience of his life. “I crashed in an airplane and broke my back, I’ve been hit by lightning, but this is totally different,” he said.
It took Flair months to regain the weight he lost in the hospital, and he looked frail for quite some time, though he has since been much more spry and active. He recently celebrated his 70th birthday at a party in Atlanta with a tremendous gathering featuring friends, family, fellow wrestlers and a wide variety of celebrities.
Born Richard Fliehr, he is most famous for wrestling for the NWA, WCW and WWE. Though he is listed as a 16-time champion, he won the heavyweight title a total of 19 times in those organizations and is believed to have an actual total of world championships in the mid-20s. His flamboyant robes, tremendous promo ability and signature catchphrase, “Woooooo!,” have transcended wrestling itself.