Ric Flair, though widely regarded as one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time, has had quite a few tumultuous relationships throughout his long and illustrious career. Indeed, "The Nature Boy" may have gained much of his fame working with World Championship Wrestling (WCW) but it was also there that he found his biggest opposition outside the ring.
In fact, it was because of Jim Herd -- who came into power after Jim Crockett Promotions was acquired by Turner Broadcasting in 1988 -- that Flair first left the company to work for the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). And it was on this date in history (July 1, 1991) that he was fired ... or quit, depending on which side you believe.
As the story goes, Herd was a former Regional Manager at Pizza Hut who was suddenly thrust into a prominent role with a major pro wrestling company. This led to resentment in the locker room for many reasons, the least of which being Herd's wonky ideas of what pro wrestling should look like.
One of the reasons he clashed with Flair was because Herd wanted to repackage him by having him cut off his trademark blond hair. Obviously, this went over like a lead balloon and led to what Flair called "one of the worst times of my career." In fact, he blamed Herd for his being depressed during that time and thinking of leaving the business altogether.
It all came to a head between the two during contract negotiations. Herd, trying to get Flair out of the main event picture, instructed him to drop the title to Lex Luger at the Great American Bash pay-per-view (PPV) taking place two weeks later. Flair refused, saying they had previously agreed that he would drop the title to Sting and he wanted Herd to keep his word on that. Herd accused Flair of holding him up during the contract negotiation period, so Flair offered to drop the title to Barry Windham instead, thinking he deserved a run with the belt. Herd came back by saying he was stripping Flair of the title and was sending someone to come get it.
The problem, of course, is that the NWA Heavyweight belt that Flair held, which represented both the NWA and WCW, was in his possession with a $25,000 deposit attached to it. The idea being that when a wrestler won the title, they put down that much money so as not to take it anywhere else. Once they lost the belt, they were paid back that amount, plus interest.
Herd, however, refused to do that, so Flair refused to give the belt back. Ultimately, he called Vince McMahon and said not only was he ready to make the jump to the WWF, he also had the Big Gold Belt to bring with him. With Hulk Hogan still running wild, this could have been the biggest angle in history. It didn't end up that way, of course, but at the time, this was a really big deal.
Here's Flair's explanation on the situation from his WWE DVD release "The Definitive Collection:"
"(Jim Herd) lied to me about my contract. Then he called me in Daytona and said 'I want you to lose the title.' They wanted me to lose the title to Lex Luger. I said, 'No. No way. You promised it to Sting.' Jim Herd went, 'I don't care what I promised Sting.' I said, 'I do and I'm keeping my word to him.' We had spent all this time building Sting up and he was ready to be the champion. I just said, 'I'm not doing it with Luger and that's all there is to it.' I said, 'I'll be more than happy to send you my contract.' He said, 'You're not holding me up,' I said, 'I'm not holding you up, I'm holding you to your word.' And I already had an opportunity to come up here again. I called him back and I said, 'I'll tell you what I'll do -- I'm not waiting to Baltimore but I'll fly home from my vacation and I'll come to TV in Columbus next week and I'll lose the title to Barry Windham.' He said, 'Well, why Barry?' I said, 'Because Barry deserves it.' And he said, 'Let me think about that.' So I got in a plane, left my family, flew to Charlotte, packed my bag and he called me on the phone and said, 'Just forget about it, I'm sending Doug Dillinger over to get the belt.' And I said,'You better send a check for $25,000 plus interest because that's how much deposit I've got in the belt, which I've never gotten back.' And he said, 'F*ck you.' And I said, 'It ain't f*ck me, it's f*ck you.' Then I called Vince. Doug knocked on my door, I said, 'Sorry, Doug.' He already knew, Doug and I were friends. He didn't like Jim Herd either; nobody did. So I called Vince and I said, 'I'm ready to come.' And he said, 'Really?' And I said, 'Yeah and I got the belt, too.' So that's the way it went down."