Despite ending up on top of the wrestling world, the “Nature Boy‘s” career didn’t get off to the hottest start. In fact, at the start of his career, he wasn’t even the “Nature Boy” yet. When he debuted in the American Wrestling Association (AWA) in 1972, Flair didn’t resemble his future self very much. The long bleach blonde hair was short and brown, and at nearly 300 pounds, his physique was closer to “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes than that of the classic Ric Flair. In 1974. after two years in the AWA, Flair took his talents to Jim Crockett‘s Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, a member of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). The move would change his professional career forever. By 1975, he was becoming a star for Jim Crockett and was crowned the Mid-Atlantic Television Champion, his first singles title ever, but things soon took a bad turn for Flair. On October 4th 1975, he was in a horrific plane crash that took the life of the pilot, and left fellow wrestler Johnny Valentine paralyzed. He suffered a broken back in three places and was told by doctors that he would never wrestle again. At only 26 years old, the greatest wrestling career ever could have been over before it really ever got started, but that’s the key word “could.” Miraculously, not only would Flair wrestle again, but he would do so in only 8 months. The accident did have long term effects on Flair and his career though, but they weren’t exactly all bad. Due to the accident, Flair had to adopt a new style of wrestling, he could no longer be a power brawler. Instead he adopted the more classic mat style that used until the end of his career. The change of style also coincided with a physical change for Flair. Early in his career he relied on his power and strength to get by, but his new style required more agility and endurance, things that would be hard for him to master at nearly 300 pounds. Flair made the necessary physical changes, and they lead to even more career success. He won the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship in 1977, and was being groomed for the top spot in the promotion by Jim Crockett Jr. He wasn’t all the way there yet, but his future iconic character was slowly beginning to take form, and in 1978, Flair would get the final piece of the puzzle.