WWE Plane Ride From Hell
Updated: Aug 14, 2022
For more on this topic and other wrestling related videos, check out my YouTube.
For more on this topic and other wrestling related videos, check out my YouTube.
“There was just such a lack of respect on the flight. We made significant changes because of it. Guys lost their jobs and it hurt people’s reputations. They acted so wrong. We couldn’t do business with people like that, and we rebuilt our locker room after that.” Jim Ross
WHAT IS IT?
By the turn of the millennium. The World Wrestling Federation has become the single monopoly within the grappling universe. Absorbing their competitors in WCW and a buyout of ECW later and Vince McMahon was at the helm of the single largest entity that the pro wrestling industry had ever witnessed.
Following their success during the Attitude era and victory in the fabled Monday Night War, this wrestling behemoth was still exploding in popularity. With these new heights of success and swaths of growing fan bases around the world, meant that the already gruelling travel schedule within WWF was about to become even more brutal.
Vince McMahon wanted to continue his world conquest, and part of his plan was to send out his roster of talented men and women to perform in other countries and attract even more viewers. This meant more money for the company, more shows would mean more ticket sales, more advertising revenue and more profit for shareholders. However, this more demanding travel schedule would also mean that the performers would be more tired, more worn down and possibly, more reliant on stimulants and depressants to help maintain their energy.
Pair all of these ups and downs, with the idea that wrestlers would now be on the road or in the air, for a huge portion of their lives. And you have a concoction for disaster. A mix of tired, injured and depressed men and women who, by the very nature of their jobs as entertainers have more fragile and larger than life egos. Crammed into a small plane, with nothing but long stretches of nothingness and unlimited supplies of alcohol and drugs ahead of them. What could possibly go wrong?
“I don’t like this topic, I don’t like remembering this bullshit, It was a bad day at the office, it was one of the more darker days during my tenure as head of talent relations” Jim Ross
In May of 2002, a number of WWE wrestlers and management members flew from England to the United States following the end of a European tour, which concluded with a British PPV event, Insurrextion 2002.
On May 5th 2002, following a gruelling tour of Europe. Some of WWE’s biggest talent was exhausted following the final show of the trip. The jubilant atmosphere shared between the wrestlers and production crew was palpable as they left the arena and headed to the airport to catch a chartered private jet. However, this jubilant atmosphere would quickly sour after the plan was heavily delayed with all involved stuck on the runway. During this time, the pro wrestlers on board gained access to and consumed large quantities of strong alcohol and copious amounts of drugs.
As the plane took off, the start of a long journey back to the states, the passengers were already out of control. The following several hours would see a real-life fight between two of the companies’ top grapplers. An impromptu haircut and an old woman being urinated on. An unwanted serenade over the plane’s speaker system. And an even more unwanted viewing of a 70-year-old man’s testicles.
In this video, I want to explore the plane ride from hell and all of the spectacular and disgusting events which took place more than 20 years ago. And see if, through stories told by those who were there at the time, we can uncover the truth about what really happened.
The very nature and fallout of this unforgettable, and for many, regrettable plan journey. Means that much of the information surrounding the sordid events is shrouded in a fog of mystery. Hidden by executives and decision makers from within WWE for 2 decades, the real horrors which took place they fateful day, are hard to verify. We only have the eyewitness testimony and stories told from those who were there over the last 20 years to try and piece it all together.
As we will see, the amount of drugs and alcohol consumed by some of the era’s most iconic performers has left these memories covered in a haze. Many of the first-hand accounts we are about to examine drastically contradict one another, with no one agreed upon account ever being fully agreed upon. Perhaps the plane ride from hell was misremembered by these athletes by complete harmless accident.
After all, these words come from men and women who spend their work shifts getting dropped on their heads. But perhaps this story is much darker. The facts of what happened on that plane purposely changed and obscured, in order to protect some of the wrestling industry’s most beloved legends from dire legal accusations of disorderly conduct, drug abuse and sexual assault.
For more on this topic and other wrestling related videos, check out my YouTube.
With the ever-growing financial gains of the WWE company and its continued success, came many perks and upgrades for the performers and show producers. One of these benefits came in the way of WWE’s own personal plane. A private jet bought to fly company executives and important performers between shows in the United States. The idea was that if the company’s top decision makers and employees could travel in luxury and spend less time on the road, they could land in the next town or city feeling refreshed.
It was also a huge status symbol for the company’s owner Vince McMahon and would be just one way in which he would continue to prove his legitimacy to the business world in light of the companies introduction on the stock market.
However, for long haul flights, such as the one taken between London and America, a larger solution was required. Normally, the wrestlers would have to book and pay for their own journeys across the country, going between weekly raw or smackdown tapings. But as half the entire company was travelling between Europe and North America, it became financially viable to charter their very own plane.
Turning to SportsJet a company which at the time specialised in the logistics of shuttling top athletes between events, the money was transferred, and the flight was scheduled.
WHO WAS ON THE FLIGHT?
So, before we really dig into the whole dirty affair. I want to make sure we are assigning the blame for what took place upon the right people. So, we are clear, lets run through all of the performers and WWE staff who was really there. The tour was focused on the brand split, with stars from Raw featured abroad, whilst those drafted to Smackdown stayed state side. Looking through the results from the tour, we can confirm the following wrestlers were all in need of transport from London to America:
Crash Holly, Kevin Nash, Billy Kidman, Tazz, D-Von Dudlez, Hurricane Shane Helms, Randy Orton, Rikishi, Christian, Lance Storm, Albert, Mark Henry, Billy Gunn and Chuck Pulumbo all had matches during the tour leading up to the big UK pay-per-view at its finale.
Every single wrestler who appeared at the Insurrexion show was most definitely on the plane from London. The opening match of the event saw Mr. Perfect defeat Goldust. So, they were both there. As was Rob Van Damme who beat Eddie Guerrero via disqualification on the night. Trish Stratus and Jacqueline beat Molly Holly and Jazz. So, all four women are confirmed. As is X-Pac, and the man he defeated at Insurrexion in Bradshaw.
Booker T beat Steven Richards and brought his newly claimed hardcore title with him onto the aircraft. Both Hardy Boyz were there. They surprisingly upset the team of Brock Lesnar and Shawn Staziak. Spide Dudley, fresh off of a successful European championship defence, brought his belt with him, the loser of the match William Regal was also aboard.
The Big Show was defeated in a match against Stone Cold Steve Austin, and both men joint the two last men who were in the main event. Triple H and the man whom he beat in The Undertaker.
So, we can confirm that all of those wrestlers were there for certain.
We must look at direct quotes from these men and women to find out what other wrestlers on the plane. X-Pac and Justin Credible gave an interview where they recounted their experiences. So, we know they were both there. During that interview, and over the course of many other such interviews from other sources, Scott Hall was heavily involved in the festivities and thus he is confirmed to be there. Ric Flair was involved in the most notorious events of the flight, so he was certainly on board. Kurt Angle will later act as our narrator for a fight which took place on the fight, which he witnessed first-hand.
So, he was there. Tommy Dreamer will go on to prove very much the controversial figure within the story, he was certainly on the flight. Deborah was there accompanying Steve Austin, she was on the flight.
So that covers the in-ring performers. There was also around 20 production staff on the flight, including camera operators, sound engineers, editors, and a whole host of other unnamed personnel.
But what about the back-room staff, announcers and commentators? Ex wrestlers who were acting as rode agents for the tour, were Arn Anderson, John Lauranitis, Finlay and Gerald Briscoe all four men have acknowledged their involvement. Jim Ross who was also acting as head of talent relations within the company appeared on the show. As did Jerry Lawler and Jonathan Coachman. Howard Finkel also appeared as did Lillian Garcia, Terri Runnels and the following referees: Jimmy Korderas, Chad Patton, Jack Doan, Nick Patrick and Earl Hebner. So, chuck all of them in the mix.
And what about their bosses? Well Paul Heyman was certainly on board the flight. Michael PS Hayes was there. His involvement is probably the funniest part of the whole story. His boss and the owner of the entire company Vince McMahon was there and so was his wife, Linda. Or were they?
You see this is where that mystery fog starts to fall a little thick. With several reliable sources stating key events which took place involving both McMahons.
“Hayes almost pissed on Linda McMahon, He was all messed up trying to whip his dick out and stooped over, tugging at his trouser zip. He doesn’t know it’s Linda, he thinks he’s at the bathroom. He’s like, ‘Wait a minute,wait a minute,’ He just keeps saying ‘Wait a minute’, over and over again, Finally, somebody led him away.” Justin Credible
A former SportJet employee and air hostess onboard the plane ride from hell, Heidi Doyle has confirmed that she served both McMahons on the flight and said how they were sat separately from the wrestlers and production team in a first-class area at the front of the plane.
But others such as Jonathan Coachman certain that the power couple were not onboard.
“But someone just told me that is said Vince and Linda were on the flight. That is absolutely false if that is what they said. They were not on the flight. Understand I was on the flight. I was there. Brock elbowed me in the head when the fight started with Mr. Perfect. Taker was definitely on the flight because he jumped in to break up the flight. But the reason it got so out of control is because Vince wasn’t there.” Jonathan Coachman
Now, we know the actors in this performance. But any good actor will tell you that in order to deliver a truly memorable performance, you need motivation. For the wrestlers and backroom staff on the plane ride from hell, their motivation was a deadly mixture of time and alcohol.
Tired and weary from the tour which had just taken place, most wrestlers have since spoken of their intentions to simply leave the arena, make their connection to the airport and fall asleep more the duration of their long-haul flight. However, as they arrived at the airstrip, the airline company explained that there would be a short half hour delay before the athletes could find their seats, due to worsening weather over London.
Just enough time for a night-cap and then back on schedule. But, as I’m sure many of you are aware, the delay was about to get a lot longer. Rumours of up to 2 more hours of wait time begun to circle around the now frustrated group, many of whom continued to turn one drink into three or four.
After a verbal back and fourth, the WWE staff were allowed to board their plane and attempt to settle down for the foreseeable future. A rowdy subsection of the group had formed towards the back of the aircraft, comprised mainly by those who had spent the time waiting knocking back cocktails and whisky.
Patience eventually wore thin amongst the half-tired, half-wired rabble as the time waiting on the runway continued to stretch on and on. The poor weather conditions continuing to keep the chartered flight on the tarmac. The noisier members onboard were starting to make the fun they were having look rather enticing as more and more wrestlers begun joining in with the festivities.
Lashings of beer, cocktails of varying colours and long aged spirits flowed as a party atmosphere begun to brew.3 long hours passed before the engine sounded and the screeching rubber left the tarmac. But the light feeling of the plane making it into the air, did not transfer to its passengers. By this time, some were passed out, vomiting and paralytic, still insisting on drinking more, smoking more and eventually looking for something a little harder.
OPEN BAR & ALCHOHOL
"Vince at the time was chartering flights. We weren’t on commercial flights – we’d rent a whole plane. We had a 747 –all ours meaning not only all the wrestlers but also the TV crew So we have a full plane of WWE people, Now with that comes and I bet you Vince has not done it since a full and open bar. So think about it, it’s like the last day of school." Justin Credible
The rowdy wrestlers attempts to make the best out of a bad situation, although a positive one, still never failed to infuriate those who were just trying to get some sleep. This friction begun to cause a sour atmosphere amongst some of the wrestlers, who by this time were 3 complete trolleys of alcohol down. A record which the flight attendant said she never saw repeated in her career.
“The bottom line is I was very upset in how the talent conducted themselves. We made mistakes from a management standpoint. We had wanted to make the trip as comfortable as possible, so we chartered a sports plane with first-class seats and upgraded the food. But the open bar was obviously a mistake. It went off the rails, with a small group of guys that just went crazy. It is still a black eye to be affiliated with the Plane Ride from Hell.”
Have you ever been on a night out with friends, after a long, hard day at work. You aren’t really in the mood and would much rather just go straight home and get into bed. But instead you allow your more energetic friends to tug on your arm and you head out regardless. That bad mood, lack of energy and overall down feeling you already were harbouring, is now magnified by the effects of your chosen liquid poison. You find yourself in the smoking area, crying over a woman you once dated.
Hooking up with a random stranger just to make yourself feel better and consuming way more drugs and alcohol than you would of if you had started the night off feeling refreshed and jubilant. Well imagine that time 100. With 100 different people all feeling varying degrees of tired, depressed and injured. Stuck in a massive metal container flying at 400 miles per hour thousands of feet in the air. It is clearly a recipe for disaster. One that only looked to explode after small pots of pills begun to circulate around the wasted set of wrestlers.
"It was brewing Everybody had their different little deals they were doing, Some people were doing GHB getting pilled-up whatever, you know You could buy GHB in the health food store It was legal, so that was the reason everyone was doing it But it messed you up" Sean Waltman
Coffee is a drug. Painkillers are drugs as are sleep medicines. But when I tell you that the wrestlers on board the plane ride from hell were consuming copious amounts of drugs, I don’t want there to be any confusion. These men and women were also high on caffeine and adrenaline from the show, numb from the painkillers and drowsy from the sleeping pills, but on top of that there was said to be needles filled with varying substances being distributed amongst the plane.
Shane Ryan: "Wrestlers on the flight passed out syringes to the flight attendants with instructions to dispose of them…"
Now, we have no confirmed idea as to what this could have been. But seeing as most of the participants would willing discuss their levels of inebriation at the hands of the beers and the GHB. When they say nothing about the injected substances, it sets my mind running that it must have been something considered either immoral and dirty, or simply bad. Neither are great options, but as we have no facts, the mystery surrounding these substances will have to remain as such.
In Vice’s “Beyond the Ring,” documentary, the man who was formerly known as Razor Ramon said: “That whole trip was just kind of a blur of pills and booze.”
A man who loved both alcohol and hard drugs was Scott Hall. Whom at the time was progressing deeper into a swelling pit of depression and addiction. Hiding his pain and emotional issues from colleagues and family members behind a happy-go-lucky, centre of the party persona.
This metaphorical mask also allowed Hall to hide his ever-increasing use of pain killers, strong alcohol and even stronger narcotics, explaining to those closest to him that the chemicals were all just there to help the party along. In 2002, high above the ground were the now destructively drunk pro wrestlers and staff of the WWE. Higher than all of them still, was Scott Hall.
"You had Scott Hall too…out of his mind. Completely out of his mind, shimmying and shaking. I had to babysit Scott. I had to stay straight because everyone else was so f***ed up!”
"I'm not gonna sugarcoat this 'cause I don't care. I was literally babysitting Scott Hall the whole trip. I made sure we sat at the front of the plane. I put him on the window side. From the beginning, it was not that he was incapacitated. I was just like, 'Nah, you stay here,' 'cause I wanted to get a good night's rest." Justin Credible
Responding to the stories of the flight, Hall owned up to his digressions: "I just blame myself. If I want to know who the culprit is I simply look in the mirror.”
“Later, when we got off the flight, I had to get a wheelchair and roll him through customs at JFK. He was non-responsive, I remember Jim Ross sitting in baggage claim with his briefcase, That look of disgust.” Justin Credible
JR said: “It was a bunch of guys making a lot of money, and a few millionaires on the flight. They were acting like they were on a ninth-grade field trip to the zoo… I remember doing ‘Raw’ after this ‘plane ride from hell’ and I had to call [Hall] at home and let him go.”
Even more seriously, Scott Hall was mentioned in the sexual assault allegations which were filled against WWE by the two stewardesses on the flight. It was alleged that Scott on more than one occasion told the women to “suck my d***”, he also repeatedly told one hostess that he was going to “lick her p****”
No matter what state of mind Hall was in, these actions are disgusting and inexcusable. Yes, he was clearly struggling with substance abuse, fatigue, and mental sickness. But these poor women were just trying to do their job. And nothing gives any of these wrestlers the right to interfere with that job. Or even, as in this case was alleged, make these women feel sexually violated and unsafe.
Before quickly being released by WWE and signing a contract with TNA Impact in the months that followed. Continuing on a path of self-destruction, complications of which would eventually lead to his tragic passing.
Dustin Runnels comes from an influential and much beloved pro wrestling family. His father Dusty Rhodes was a trailblazer through much of his career in the 70s, 80s and 90s, whilst going on to become a lead creative in WCW and have a major role in the early years of developmental brand NXT inside of the World Wrestling ENtertaiment company.
Dustin’s younger brother Cody Rhodes once followed in his siblings footsteps and wore face paint and sparkly clothing to the ring as Stardust. So the industry runs through their family tree. An accomplished in ring veteran, Dustin himself has revitalised his career in the later part of his own personal story. A tale which was riddled with depression, drug abuse and self-doubt has now turned into one with a happy ending. However, back in 2002, for the man underneath the Goldust make-up, was caught in the middle of it the worst of it all.
Following a messy divorce which had dragged out over the course of three years with his then co-worker and fellow wrestler Terri Runnels, Dustin was losing a grip mentally and physically. Spurred on by the strong alcohol flowing his way, Dustin decided that he would take this moment, high in the air, in front of all of his colleagues and employers, to attempt to win his ex-wife back.
He grabbed the microphone, the use of which was reserved for emergencies and announcement from cabin staff. And begun drunkenly and incoherently singing into it. Declaring his love for Terri and serenading her with his rendition of what he referred to as “our song”. At first the cabin was filled with cheers and laughter as Terri, constricted by mortal second hand embarrassment recoiled into her chair at the front of the plane
“The thing with Dustin and me was just embarrassing. That’s just an ex-wife being embarrassed that her ex-husband was in the back of the plane and woke everybody up singing to me, serenading me, that’s all. That was all I ever saw, I never went in the back of the plane. And another thing too, I appreciate Paul E Heyman saying to me that night on the airplane, because he sat right across from me, I appreciate him saying, ‘don’t sell it’ where Dustin was concerned because had I gone back there and tried to play ‘Mama’ to get him to calm down and sit down, that probably wasn’t going to lead to a good place considering the inebriation at the time. So, I appreciated Paul E saying, ‘don’t sell it’. That was an appropriate time to do that and say that.” Terri Runnels
When her lack of the required response reached the back of the plane, Dustin took his singing into overdrive. Burping and crying, screaming and yelling. All to be heard perfectly by all those unfortunate enough to have ears. When Terri remained still, Dustin made his way towards the first class area and begun to sing directly into her face, leaning over others and knocking drinks and food onto the floor.
Good ole JR Jim Ross had seen enough, interjecting between the two former lovers and rallying the staggering Dustin back towards his seat. When the plane landed, Dustin’s actions were the focus of the displeasure from his bosses, specifically JR who was acting as head of talent relations. This one incident on it’s own may be vulgar, awkward and incredibly embarrassing, but it wasn’t aggressive, violent or malicious in any way.
But, when you pair it with the uncountable issues Dustin had suffered in the past. It looked as if his time with WWE was coming to an end. By 2004, he had his request for a contract renewal denied and left the company. Suffering through the darkest days of his life, through his battle with drugs, alcohol and eventually religion on his way to making his redemption.
“I had two options: fine him, that’ll get his attention. Or fire him, which I thought was extreme and did not need to happen. That was my call. He learned from his mistakes, he was immature. He had substance abuse issues. And sometimes he controlled them and sometimes he didn’t. But the bottom line is, is that we have to stop in our society letting others’ transgressions go without punishment.” Jim Ross.
“And just this be known, because of me speaking out in any way, I can promise you like dimes to donuts, I’ll never get into the WWE Hall of Fame and it makes me sad because I’m literally – they’re my family and I love that company and I love so much of my life with them.” Terri Runnels
MR PERFECT AND BROCK LESNAR
Mr. Perfect, whose real name was Curt Hennig was a part of the rambunctious atmosphere on the plane and had consumed his fair share of beers before the flight had even departed. He wasn’t drunk at this stage, simply a little giddy and feeling that mischievous swell as the bubble hit his belly. Grabbing a can of shaving foam from his hand luggage, Hennig begun sneaking between the seats to the muffled sniggers of onlookers and secretly squirting a small pile of the foam atop unsuspecting wrestlers’ heads. One victim happened to be a young and veracious Brock Lesnar. Whom didn’t play into the joke half as well as his friend Hennig had hoped. Lesnar snatched at the foam can and knocked Hennig’s hand, spilling alcohol over both men. This is when things erupted.
“For the most part, from what I heard, yeah, it was accurate. Let me put it to you this way, we were seated at this table. There was a table there, and we were playing cards and we were right beside the incident with Curt Hennig and Brock Lesnar when they slammed into the emergency exit door right opposite us. And that’s when I cranked up that seatbelt. I didn’t know, I just didn’t want to get sucked out at 30,000 feet, but we didn’t know that you can’t unlock that door unless it’s unlocked from the from the flight deck, the cockpit.” Jimmy Korderas
Brock Lesnar is a terrifying physical specimen. Mr. Perfect was physically, well, perfect. Both men from Minnesota had an elite body, but also an elite mindset which through sheer determination and competitiveness allowed them to progress to the top of their chosen field of endeavour. They had always had a friendly rivalry, the two both seeming to understand how similar they were. When the two had imbued a little two much of grandma’s old cough medicine, that friendship momentarily buckled under the weight of the two grappling gods competitive natures. As supposedly did the device which keeps the emergency doors locked when the plane is in the air.
"Curt Hennig was always really competitive, you know? Him and Brock we all hung out because we all lived in Minnesota. Obviously WWE management made a big deal out of it. The f***in’ door. It’s impossible for it to open at that altitude. So, it was really stupid. The flight before Vince and Kurt Angle had a take-down tournament in the aisle but as soon as it happened with Hennig and Lesnar, they made a big deal out of it." Sean Waltman
"They weren’t fighting at first. But they’re very competitive, so they’re just scraping along, like messing around – then something happened where it got serious. It didn’t come to blows – but you know the opening they have on planes – those openings are the emergency exit rows. Now Brock’s a wrestling shooter and Curt’s a shooter kind’ a too so they took it seriously. They didn’t want to give in to each other. They went at it so hard Lesnar shot in and drove Hennig so hard into the side that they almost popped open the emergency exit twenty-five, thirty thousand feet in the air. Dave Finley, Triple H, and Paul Heyman had to separate them." Justin Credible
“I was on the plane when he was ribbing Brock Lesnar. Brock was trying to go sleep, and Curt Hennig just kept throwing alcohol on him, and throwing stuff at him, throwing it at his face! And Brock got so mad. Brock was going to kill him! I mean, five people had to hold Brock back. It was horrible; Curt Hennig kept doing it, though. He was crazy. He was a habitual ribber; that’s all he does, especially if he is not in the ring.” Kurt Angle
“One of the scariest moments on the flight was Brock Lesnar and Curt Hennig. It all started with Curt making fun of Brock and the amateur wrestling. You could look at Brock and see him turn bright red. All of a sudden these guys jump in and they’re right in each other’s face.” Jerry Lawler
So we are left with clearly conflicting accounts. All of which, once the plane had landed made their way back to Vince McMahon and Jim Ross, who reacted angrily to the whole affair. Curt Hennig, industry veteran was marched quickly into the head office and told that the WWE found his physical behaviour on the flight unacceptable and believed that Hennig, through his drunken negligence could have possibly endangered the lives of those onboard with him. He was then informed that his contract would be terminated and told to pack his bags and leave.
Now I personally don’t believe that there was ever a chance that the emergency latch could have been activated and the plane door fly open. That isn’t how any of that works. The fight on board, depending on how vigorous and violent it truly played out, doesn’t even seem that big of a deal, especially compared to some of the other antics which were taking place on the same trip.
Perhaps Hennig simply drew the short straw, and WWE needed to be seen to take action on the roster which had reeked so much havoc. Brock remained un-punished and only a small selection of other wrestlers’ contracts were terminated around the same time.
“To clarify, the ‘helicopter’ as it was called, is accurate.” Ric Flair
A grown man. Spinning his penis around with a big grin on his face. Like a little terrier dog who has just found a particularly large stick and wants to show it off to his friends. Is it inappropriate considering this was technically a work environment, and his employers were just down the aisle witnessing the whole ordeal? Yes. Is it quite funny? Also yes. A drunken mate taking his penis out and swinging it around like the propeller from a helicopter would most likely make me laugh. However, the issue is the fun was about to end.
‘He could move his hips, twirl it and so his well-endowed penis spins around like a helicopter. So, hey, he’s the Nature Boy for a reason, he’s got a hammer on him,’ Tommy Dreamer
Doyle claimed: “I couldn’t move. I couldn’t get away from him, He was spinning around his penis and he wanted me to touch it. He took my hand and put it on him.”
Now this next section is about to turn from jovial drunken antics, to something much more serious. As such, I will not be making any of my own judgements or comments, rather referring to legal experts, sports journalists, and eyewitnesses. Relaying their direct words on the situation.
Grantland.com reported on the plane ride from hell: ‘Two flight attendants, Taralyn Cappellano and Heidi Doyle, would compile their allegations into a 2004 lawsuit. Chief among the chronicled misdeeds was [Flair’s] sexual aggression. He wore nothing but a jeweled cape, the flight attendants said, and ‘flashed his nakedness, spinning his [male part] around.’
Ric trapped both women at the end of the plane, he then ‘forcibly detained and restrained’ Doyle ‘from leaving the back of the galley of the airplane while he sexually assaulted her."
The flight attendant in question spoke out about what she had experienced: “I was in the galley. Ric Flair was naked and he decided to come back to the galley to get a Coke. Then he wouldn’t leave the galley.” Doyle who had recently returned to work after having a child.
Ric Flair has consistently denied these allegations and has written about them in his books. In 2004, when talk of a lawsuit begun to circulate, “A lawsuit filed by the two women stated that Flair asked them to touch his penis.”
The two women of course being Cappallano and Doyle the flight attendants that day. In response a financial deal was settled with both women outside of the courts.
“Every person that I’ve worked with, from my lawyer to my publicist to my wife has said not to post a response; but I’ve never run from past behaviours before and I’m not going to start now.” I want to clarify a few things: About four years ago, I gave ESPN full access to my life for a “30 for 30” special. They covered taxes, financial issues, adultery, divorces, the passing of my child and drinking/partying at length. Rory Kampf, desperate to matter for another 15 minutes, did an interview about it this morning.
When Rory’s lips are moving, he’s typically lying, but one part of what he said was the God’s honest truth/ I’d never heard that he had forced someone to touch his genitals,” Karpf admitted. “Everything with Ric that was construed as negative I tried to address in the 30 for 30. His drinking, his philandering, his adultery, his money problems, there’s quite a bit, but never, at least in the people that I spoke to, no one ever brought up that he would force himself on somebody.
I did hear about him exposing himself, which to me is still troubling, very troubling behavior, and that is addressed in the 30 for 30. I allowed my personal life and the lives of my wife and children to be turned upside down for one reason: Whether it’s good or bad, even the really bad, the truth has to matter. Even in wrestling. My issues have been well documented over my 40 plus year career. The impact of drinking too much (which nearly killed me five years ago) has been told time and time and time again. The reason Rory (or anyone else for that matter) never heard stories of me forcing myself on ANYONE is simple: it never happened.
“Ric Flair’s not going to try to impose by force any sexual stuff onto anybody. He’s just flaunting, styling and profiling, doing the Ric Flair stuff where everybody’s going to laugh about it. But obviously, someone took offence to it.” Tommy Dreamer
Another former WWE and ECW performer Rob Van Dam was on the flight and claims to have witnessed the whole event: “I remember him crowding her and trying to make her touch him and stuff.” Flair released a statement on said allegations:
“I wish I could blame it on youth, but it was a case of drinking too much and being inappropriate and I apologize for that (and have countless times over the years. I made some bad decisions during dark periods in my life, and it is something I’ve spent a significant part of years I was given by the doctors in 2017 trying to make right. I condemn sexual assault in any way, shape or form. I could (and have) written books (as have others) that have covered my transgressions. I’ve made some terrible decisions, but I’ve never forced myself on anyone in any way. Period.”
With the release of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series and Vice’s Dark Side of the Ring. The plane ride from hell and Ric Flair’s involvement has been under harsh scrutiny for the first time since the events took place. What was once a classic tale of drunken debauchery from a man who had made a career bragging of his lavish lifestyle. Turned into a harrowing nightmare of alleged sexual assault and begged the question. If former wrestlers and legends of the business bring up Ric Flair’s ‘helicopter’ trip during so many interviews, and often comment that Flair was renowned for this type of behaviour. Is this the only case when the line between harmless and crass joke, is crossed into illegal activity and immoral activity? Dutch Mantel explained:
“I have no sympathy toward Ric Flair. I have no sympathy at all. Because this is behavior that he did over and over again to varying degrees. Now I have never really been around him, but I’ve heard the rumors – they’ve been around ever since I’ve known Ric Flair.” Dutch Mantel
MICHAEL PS HAYES MULLET
I don’t know if it is his outwardly racist comments, terrible hair or ridiculous outfits. But something about Michael PS Hayes has always irked me. A man who had a stellar career and made a name for himself and his buddies as part of the Fabulous Freebirds, outside of the ring has always come across, to me at least as a bit of a slime ball.
That’s bad enough right? Almost urinating on a key executive in the company you work for and the life of the owner of the business? Being so drunk and full of drugs that you can’t tell the difference between a toilet cubicle and an elderly woman? On a flight paid for and attended by said company owners? When you, yourself are a decision maker within the company? All of that should have been bad enough to have Hayes reprimanded and sanctioned once he arrived back inside WWE headquarters. After all, some of his colleagues were about to suffer a similar fate once the plane landed back in America. But no, for this large chunk of chicken wings and aftershave, flapping his fabulous freebird in an old ladies face was just the beginning.
CREDIBLE:"Michael Hayes was getting real bad. And he’s got a lot of heat anyway. Nobody likes him. He was drunk. Rowdy as heck. Like, being a dick. Loud and obnoxious." Justin Credible
WALTMAN: "I had a match with Bradshaw JBL for the pay-per-view in England, and he got some colour bled, so he had this big ol’ gash on his head. So he’s sitting there sleeping, bandaged up, getting some sleep and Michael Hayes comes up shouting hey you red neck, And pops him right in the forehead And opens his gash, So now, Bradshaw’s in a suit nice clothes busted wide open. And the story goes that Bradshaw f***in’ clocked him and knocked him out. But obviously, Hayes is way out of line. He continues his BS, but then he falls asleep." So [Hayes is] out cold…and he’s got that f***in’ thing in a f***in’ ponytail…that mullet – you know, he was still rockin’ the mullet – and I said, ‘Somebody get me a pair of scissors!’ I remember Lawler over there just giggling. Everybody is like, ‘No, no, no – you’re not gonna do it…’ I grabbed those scissors like I was pulling a pair of taped brass knucks out of my tights, I over-exaggeratedly reach down the front of his jeans, and everybody’s looking, and they don’t think I’m gonna do it. I grab that f***in’ tail, and I lift it up, and I just went WHACK [chops it off] and the whole plane just erupted, like ‘YEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAHHHH!!!!’"
CREDIBLE: "I’ve never seen anyone who is so drunk and pilled-up, look at himself as we’re going through security and saw the mirror’s reflection it was like something out of a movie, He sleepily raises a hand to fluff up hair at the back, only to find nothing, He popped out, like stone-cold sober this is going through customs! Now, Michael Hayes – he’s red – wants to fight people in customs. You’re talking US agents! And nobody stooges’ Pac, nobody snitches on him. Because nobody liked Hayes
Waltman said: “I knew he’d been burying me in booking meetings I’d had it out with him several times in front of people, I resented the fact that he was volunteering Edge and Christian and Matt and Jeff Hardy to these ridiculous stunts in TLC matches on Raw He was still rocking the mullet, so I said ‘Somebody get me a pair of scissors.”
“Michael Hayes was so drunk he passed out in the back, He was so drunk that he didn’t even feel his haircut being cut, The funniest part was all of us standing in line and waiting for Hayes to come out of his drunken stupor to realize his hair was gone Hilarious In line at customs in Hartford he threatened to fight whoever did it. Brisco said “it was me Michael”, That was the end of it quick” Jonathan Coachman
As the plane landed, most onboard were asleep. Crashed out after one of the most exciting, disgusting and reprehensible plane rides of all time. As the athletes and WWE staff made their way off the plane and through the airport back in America, a lot of things had changed since they left London all those hours ago. Some relationships on board would have soured due to the violence and aggressions which took place. Michael Hayes no longer had a mullet. And everyone probably was carrying with them an all-time hangover. But more seriously than all of that, some careers were about to change.
The WWE issued a statement as the stories from the plane ride started to make their way to journalists.
"The flight was about seven hours in length and at times was low-lighted by a handful of people who consumed too much alcohol and consequently acted like children whose parents were away and left the liquor cabinet unlocked. The conduct of this inebriated minority was unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Procedures have been put in place to ensure such conduct does not occur in the future. The bottom line is this: yours truly is the person in charge of the talent roster and the buck stops with me. We will do all we humanly can to solve the problem." Jim Ross
Scott Hall, Curt Hennig and Dustin Rhodes were all told that their actions on board that fateful flight were the reasoning behind their termination from WWE. Scott and Dustin both spiralled out of control almost immediately and both men took almost a decade of suffering from the fallout. Now I’m not saying that the Plane Ride From Hell directly caused these issues, but the aftermath and the implications for both men’s wrestling careers is apparent in the history books.
Michael Hayes, Arn Anderson, Jim Ross and Gerald Briscoe all came under heavy scrutiny when they arrived back at WWE HQ. These four men were held responsible for not maintaining control over the rowdy wrestlers. But none were fired. All kept their high-paying jobs and even Michael PS Hayes remained as a loyal and close ally to the McMahon family to this day.
WWE quickly brought in new rules in order to stop this from ever happening again, the main one of which explained that "alcohol would not be provided on future chartered flights." Jim Ross. And through the years in which WWE has used these types of private planes, it appears to have been effective. With nothing like this ever happening again. Or at least, not anything which has managed to leak out to us the audience.
When Vice made a documentary on the events as part of their Dark Side Of The Ring series, the topic came back into the fray once again. With it came new allegations, new stories and a different framing of the atmosphere 25,000 feet off the ground.
One key talking point which arose after the episode aired, surrounded Ric Flair’s assault allegations and more presisely a wrestler who chose to defend the action of one of his wrestling heroes.
In the episode Tommy said: “He’s just flaunting...stylin’ and profilin’...like the Ric Flair stuff where everybody’s going to laugh about it. Obviously, somebody took offense to it...
When you have an open bar and you’re sitting there for seven hours, of course these things are going to happen. I feel this is trying to portray someone as a sexual predator, and it’s not. It’s a joke, it’s a gag. And today? One thousand percent inappropriate. My hairstyle is inappropriate right now. I am somehow offending someone right now with my double ponytail. How dare I have two ponytails? And my answer is I’m 50 years old I’m happy I have hair. But if you’re asking me, I’ve hung out with Ric Flair, I’ve never seen him try to force his will against anybody. If that’s how she [Doyle] felt, maybe she shouldn’t have taken a payout and went to the fullest extent of the law to then put this heinous person in jail. My opinion.”
SUSPENDED FROM IMPACT TNA
Dreamer’s part in the episode and comments caused such a backlash on social media that Tommy’s reactions to Ric Flair’s actions, ended up being discussed and vilified more than even the actions which were the focus of said comments. This led to pressure on Dreamer’s current employers to rethink his position within the company and Impact Wrestling quickly released this statement.
“We are aware of Mr. Laughlin’s / Tommy Dreamer comments on Dark Side of the Ring. The views expressed by him in the interview are completely unacceptable. We can confirm Mr. Laughlin was suspended this morning with immediate effect, pending further action”. Impact Head Office
Tommy Dreamer has since apologised for his remarks and the way in which he was represented in the documentary.
“Regarding my comments on Dark Side of the ring. It was never my intention to offend, hurt, or victim shame anyone. I understand my comments were insensitive & could trigger emotions in someone’s own personal past. I do not condone sexual misconduct of any kind. I apologize to anyone I offended. From the bottom of my heart I am so sorry.” Tommy Dreamer
As you watch the episode, it is really hard to see where Tommy is coming from. However, part of that is from the dramatic way in which this part of the scene was edited. Cutting back between discussion from Tommy on the event, and his opinions on the women involved and their allegations, and then shots of the women in question who come across as deeply effected by the events, but on top of that they seemed so friendly, so warm and willing to discuss the horrible event. It just made Tommy’s comments seem more cold-hearted and negative than they would of when viewed on their own.
“Tommy Dreamer, I don’t know what he was doing. But he was basically trying to cover for Flair and trying to make his activities seem like it wasn’t a big thing. But if you put your wife, or daughter, or your sister or cousin or anybody or a good friend in place of the flight attendant, if you put it in a personal context, then you really really mad.” Dutch Mantel
“If I never talked about the f****** plane ride from hell again in my life, I would be very happy.” Jim Ross
The Plane Ride From Hell has gone on to be one of the most talked about and relived moments in all of pro wrestling’s long history. And part of that surrounds the mystery, the conflicting turn of events and the legal cases which have exposed all of the gritty details of the journey.
The events which took place originally started to make their way out to wrestling journalists immediately following the journey. However, as podcasts and youtube interviews grew in popularity so did the rise of the taped shoot interview. A chance for a wrestler to appear out of character and talk openly about important events from wrestlings past. Back when the plane ride took place, these stories emerged as tales from a lads night out would also tend to do. War stories told through rose tinted spectacles, the chaos remembered through countless stories told, the specific details of which are moulded and forgotten over time. So that the allegations of indecency, debauchery and drunken mayhem ended up sounding more like an epic party than what it truly was.
As the world and the people’s sensibilities have changes, so have out views on the actions which took place on that flight. We see the drunkenness less as fun banter and more a reminder that so many of these athletes suffered through substance abuse issues, directly caused by their attempts to entertain us the fans. The drugs remind us not of a free-spirit lifestyle, but of the performers lives cut short by their intoxicating and addicting effects. What was once an ultra masculine display of sexual dominance from Ric Flair, and an immature joke, becomes a story of sexual aggression, assault and the scars which it left on those who Ric’s actions effected.
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