Hello! It has been over a year since I talked about the Vice TV show Dark Side of the Ring, and today, we’ll be discussing the “WWE Plane Ride From Hell”. This isn’t a review, it’s more of an observation of what they left out, along with opinions about certain comments. If you would like to read some of my previous reviews, you can find them here:
- “The Killing Of Bruiser Brody”
- “The Match Made In Heaven”
- “The Montreal Screwjob”
- “The Mysterious Death of Gorgeous Gino”
- “The Last of the Von Erichs”
- “The Fabulous Moolah” – Part #1″
- “The Fabulous Moolah” – Part #2″
Plane Ride From Hell
The events of this infamous incident have been public knowledge for many years, but there are different accounts depending on who you ask. Having an open bar, along with a selection of drugs, naturally makes it difficult to figure out which stories are true, exaggerated, or fabricated. It’s impossible to know what is, or isn’t concrete, unless you were to gather everybody up, sit them in a room, and iron out all the sordid details.
Also, it doesn’t help that nobody contracted to WWE could discuss it, otherwise they could confirm or deny any allegations. The no-selling response to anything out of line is telling, not just of how the company was, but how it still is today. I have included a documentary below, which is not my own or WWE made, to highlight the differing accounts.
One thing that Dark Side of the Ring mentioned was how Curt Hennig doused shaving cream all over the head of a sleeping Brock Lesnar and slapped down on it. I don’t remember reading about this before, so it’s a new account from Rob Van Dam. What has always been said, is that both Hennig & Hall were doing this together early on in the flight, but the episode did not mention Hall’s participation. Instead, they had Jim Ross deny he was playing along.
The above documentary mentions how, after they fired Scott Hall, his career was over. This is untrue, Scott Hall signed with NWA:TNA and worked for them for six months, with his last match being for the world title against the champion Ron Killings (AKA R-Truth). It was only after that match did he wind things down. He made other returns in 2004, 2007, and then sporadically after that until his last run in 2010 (as a member of The Band stable in TNA). He was unreliable and would often be forced out because of no-shows or legal issues.
One of the most controversial promos in TNA history saw Samoa Joe berate Scott Hall for his actions after he failed to show up at the Turning Point PPV. All a dejected Kevin Nash could do was bite his tongue. This was 2007, so it shows how long Hall continued to work in wrestling long after WWE gave up on him. I feel it’s important to share the Samoa Joe promo, to highlight that it wasn’t just management who could see how far gone he was, but the talent as well. Nash tried his best for years to keep Hall going, but even he couldn’t stop the inevitable.
The problem with Ric Flair? He had things his own way for so long, and the boys knew what he’s like. The fun that Flair has isn’t acceptable to the average person, and even less so to women. Many times, he has admitted how much he wasn’t there for his family as he lived a World Champion’s lifestyle. He lived the gimmick, which meant he had the luxury of women queuing up for a ride on Space Mountain.
By 2002, he was no longer the World Champion and well past his prime, so it’s not the eighties anymore. In his mind, especially while intoxicated, he still had the same irresistible sex appeal. Also, to anybody that knew him, they would enable his behavior because it was funny. The most contrasting comments of the episode happened between Rob Van Dam & Tommy Dreamer. RVD, who we know isn’t shy about being a party animal (he & girlfriend Katie Forbes are often having sex parties), called a bunch of the guys “freaks”.
Considering how much Rob has got up to in his life, some of the boys have to be over the top if that’s how he describes them. Dreamer defended Flair despite not having any account of what happened between him & Heidi Doyle. RVD saw what was happening, and his response was “don’t meet your heroes”. Reading between the lines, he knew what Flair did was wrong, and his perception of a man he once looked up to was shattered. On a podcast episode with Renee Paquette (AKA Renee Young) a day or two before Dark Side of the Ring aired, Ric Flair stated he was innocent and knew what really happened:
“God, I’ve heard about it too. Just when things are going good for me. Listen, you [Renee Paquette] put me on your podcast after. We’ll see how it plays out, because I was there and I don’t care whose name I gotta drop if the heat falls on me. I know who was where and what and who and what took place. I know the whole story.”
As Jim Ross said, the company did nothing about Flair because he’s a “made man”. The above documentary states that they didn’t release him because he was a World Tag Team Champion, but this is false, because Evolution wasn’t a thing until 2003. What actually happened was that while Flair received a reprimand, he challenged Hulk Hogan for the Undisputed WWE Championship a little over a week later. After losing, he moved on to a rivalry with Steve Austin. In the end, the reprimand meant nothing.
The biggest question is, why did Tommy Dreamer defend Ric Flair? The only reason I can think of is that either Flair, his family, or somebody close to them, asked him to go on the episode to defend him. It’s not the first time Dark Side of the Ring has brought somebody on to share a defensive perspective with no evidence to back them up. The callous manner in which he dismissed Heidi, along with the sarcastic comparison between Flair’s antics and people hating his ponytails, was out of character. At least, it doesn’t line up with the character we see on TV. It’s true that there are women who accuse men of sexually assaulting them when nothing happened, but there were at least two other instances of this on the flight.
Why is he only dismissing Flair’s actions and Heidi, but not those and Taralyn Cappellano? The lawsuit stated that Ric had also placed Cappellano’s hand on his crotch, so something doesn’t add up here. Tommy Dreamer’s words are heavier than he likely thought they would be at the time of shooting, and he apparently wasn’t aware of Heidi being in the episode. If that is the case, then it shows how much the DSOTR crew dropped him in hot water, although you can’t blame them, because the controversy got everyone talking. Had Dreamer seen the rest of the episode beforehand, I bet he would have reworded his statements, which makes his words disingenuous. This comes from someone who has always been a fan of Tommy Dreamer. He has since been suspended by Impact Wrestling.
The biggest exclusion from the Plane Ride From Hell episode was an accusation levied towards Dustin Rhodes. Yes, we know he was annoying everybody with his singing and came to Heidi’s aid, but what else did he do? According to the lawsuit, it states:
Defendant Runnels grabbed Plaintiff Cappellano’s arms repeatedly, asked if her breasts were real, said “you and me are gonna ****”, and grabbed her rear end, rubbing his groin into her.
Unlike Hall & Hennig, Rhodes was not released for his conduct, but was rewarded by getting regular airtime through a tag team partnership with Booker T. They won the World Tag Team titles in December, but after losing them, was forced to split up by Eric Bischoff in February. After being shocked by an electronic panel in the production area during a match, his character contracted a stammer and random outbursts, like he had Tourette syndrome. It resulted in segments that were so funny, Triple H couldn’t stop himself from corpsing. How management treated him is like Perry Saturn’s “Moppy” gimmick, who was struggling day-to-day with drug abuse:
“Yeah. The people, for the most part, really enjoyed that Moppy stuff. Unfortunately, I was so high all the time, I have such a clouded memory. I don’t remember most of it… All the ideas were the writers. I had no idea. Like I said, I was so stoned all the time, I’m lucky I made it to the shows, let alone come up with anything creative. WWE has an outstanding creative staff, they come up with stuff. They try to come up with ways to get everybody over and you do or you don’t. I didn’t have anything to do with that creative because at the time, I really hated it too… Now, I get the humor of it. At the time, my main concern was making sure nobody knew I was high.”
After WWE was done with the gimmick, Dustin Rhodes disappeared from TV and left the company in late 2003. From this point on, he went back and forth between the independent scene, TNA Impact, and cameo appearances for WWE. By 2007, he had put on a ton of weight and created a new character called Black Reign. He was almost unrecognizable and his ring work deteriorated. In a lengthy interview, Rhodes admitted he was struggling with drug abuse before and during his TNA run.
“Eventually, and thanks to my dad, I started working for Total Nonstop Action for $1,000 a show. He was the boss, right under Dixie Carter. TNA wasn’t doing too well at that point, but I had a job making okay money. I could drive home just about every night. All I was doing was what little I had to do in the ring, then hanging out spending my money on coke, pills and booze. I started making excuses for why I couldn’t hang with Dakota. Subconsciously I probably knew I didn’t want her around me or my girlfriend because the environment was so toxic. Despite the chaos, I showed up every night for work.
I have no idea how I was able to stay on point with work at that time. One of my cardinal rules was never to drink before I worked a match. I wouldn’t consider doing coke before a match either. I’d take painkillers, fine. I had been taking painkillers for so long that I had convinced myself I really need them. I was taking medicine because I worked in a tough business. That was the story I had cemented into my mind. But drugs have a way of altering everything, including the stories you tell yourself. Eventually, I started doing a little coke before matches while retaining my vow to never drink alcohol before I go into the ring, as if that was something to be proud of.
Every morning, as soon as I pulled myself out of bed, I’d take three Vicodins or Lortabs just to get moving. I was sore and pretty banged up physically, but over time pain pills exaggerated rather than eliminated whatever pain I was feeling. It was a slow process for me to get into the day. I’d get that first rush from pills and then I’d get moving. I might do something around the house, or jump into my truck and drive to the river to work on this book, and I was probably taking close to 40 pills a day at the end. I was so desperate that I actually bought pain pills from drug dealers because I would run out long before I could find another doctor to write a prescription.
If I dropped a pill and it fell into the carpet, I would spend hours down on my hands and knees trying to find it. At the same time I was drinking so much that I’d wake up dizzy and unable to walk. “Finally, after a three-day binge, I’d had enough. It was raining, I pulled myself up and walked right out the door. The rain was pouring down and I stumbled up a hill near this house where I knew I could get cell-phone reception. Somehow, I managed to call my dad. It was 4:30 in the morning. I was falling down the hill in the mud. Ta-rel (his girlfriend) was trying to hold me up, and was scared half to death. I managed to get into the house, soaking wet. I had found the bottom.”
The case between Rhodes & Cappellano was settled out of court. However, the episode skips this, and it’s a little insincere to leave it out. Rhodes got a free pass from many viewers, because they felt sorry for him being heartbroken, along with applauding him for helping Heidi.
Would they feel the same if the episode pointed this out? I don’t know. Either way, it’s an odd decision to mention Flair & Hall’s actions, but not his. However, the three men in question weren’t the only wrestlers who were treating the flight attendants this way, as the lawsuit mentions: “As Plaintiffs and other flight attendants walked down the aircraft aisles, other wrestlers, whose names are unknown at this time, repeatedly grabbed their rear ends and breasts, and gave them needles to dispose of.”
While Sean Waltman (AKA X-Pac) didn’t talk about the Plane Ride From Hell in person, the incident of cutting off Michael Hayes’ ponytail remains a highlight, which many have confirmed. However, while they talked about the altercation between Hayes & Bradshaw, they didn’t talk about something Waltman shared about him and Linda McMahon:
“Hayes almost pissed on Linda McMahon. He was all ****** up, trying to whip his d*** out, he doesn’t know it’s Linda in front of him! He thinks he’s at a ******* bathroom! Someone had to come and lead him away.”
The account of how Bradshaw responded to Michael Hayes punching him in the face differs. Some say he punched back and knocked out Hayes. The episode goes with a slap, which somehow knocked him out (which isn’t easy to do). Years ago, while talking about the incident with Waltman on a podcast, Justin Credible said:
“He wanted to go after Hayes but JBL’s a wrestler and Hayes is office. He’s like your boss. What are you going to do? Kick your bosses ass?”
Dark Side of the Ring has done this before. It will share a set of events which others may contradict, but cannot mention how what they’re saying may not be the whole truth. Tommy Dreamer says that when the plane landed, Hayes woke up and immediately noticed his ponytail was missing and kicked off about it, saying he would fight the entire plane if he could. However, Justin Credible says Hayes didn’t notice until they were off the plane and going through customs. What’s strange about this is they have Justin Credible for the episode, and the only clip we see is him saying “he was real angry”. Had they shared his recollection, it would go something like this:
“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 went [sleepily raises a hand to fluff up hair at the back, only to find nothing]. He popped out, like stone-cold sober – ‘MUTHAFFFF….’ – this is going through customs! Now, Michael Hayes – he’s f***in’ red – wants to fight people in customs. You’re talking US agents! And nobody stooges’ Pac… nobody snitches on him. Because nobody liked [Hayes]…”
Again, this is Dark Side of the Ring failing to mention different versions of events, and instead stick to the version which they feel is more dramatic for TV.
The Plane Ride From Hell episode states that the altercation between Curt Hennig & Brock Lesnar began when he splatted shaving cream on his head. However, Jerry Lawler remembers it this way:
“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.”
This is a drastic change from Brock Lesnar apparently running after Curt Hennig down the aisle at breakneck speed. After all, Hennig was not the type to run away from anybody. He would laugh in his face. When he debuted with NWA:TNA, he began a feud with Jeff Jarrett. As part of a shoot, he had the camera guy zoom up on his face, before saying:
“This is a line that’s been heard around the world. I’m the guy who took down Brock Lesnar at 35,000 feet!”
Curt says this with absolute conviction, as the cameraman gets very close to his eyes. With that said, if he was still alive today, he would 100% deny the claim that he ran away. In an ESPN interview, Lesnar said there was booze and Vicodin. There was nothing to do but get in trouble or pass out and go to sleep, and they did both. He was asked about his drunken wrestling match with Curt Hennig on the flight. Lesnar referred to it as “whiskey wrestling.” Lesnar doesn’t remember details of the incident because he was “drunk and high” and just remembered getting reprimanded after they landed.
Check out the rare Curt Hennig interview, which took place a month after WWE released him (he might be serving a suspension). In this interview, Hennig says it was the internet which blew up the scuffle between him & Lesnar. All they were doing was messing around as friends and it was over-exaggerated. Dark Side of the Ring continues this trend. Hennig said he took down Lesnar on TV to sell himself as a tough guy, and Lesnar wouldn’t mind that because they were friends.
Kurt Angle, Vince McMahon & The Undertaker
Another exclusion from the Plane Ride From Hell story is Kurt Angle, Vince McMahon and The Undertaker. The episode made out that McMahon kept to himself, and it was up to Jim Ross to keep the talent under control. However, Kurt Angle confirmed back in April 2021 (on the Kurt Angle show with Conrad Thompson) that Vince was joining in on the misconduct. It was so bad that they drew the ire of The Deadman, who was doing his best to sleep through an ear injury. Here are Angle’s comments:
“It was the longest night of my life, Vince had a few glasses of wine and he was feeling frisky and he thought. ‘hey why not, if I’m going to wrestle someone why not wrestle the best, might as well wrestle an Olympic gold medalist, I’m going to try him out.’ You have to understand, Vince is the type of guy that would say to Mike Tyson ‘Hey, knock me out. Hit me in the face, I want to feel what it’s like.’ He wants to feel what it’s like to be with the best person at what they do. I totally get it, but Vince is crazy.
He was jumping on me or he would have somebody come up to me and say they wanted to talk to me at the back of the plane and I would get up and he’d jump me from behind. We did it for five hours. Wrestle a few minutes, I hold him down, I say ‘Are you good?’ He’d say ‘Yeah, we’re good,’ I go back and lay down and he would jump on me again or have someone call me up and jump on me again. It went for 5 hours and it became very irritating.
The crazy thing is, we were on the plane and there was wine stains all over the floor, it was white carpet and there was just wine stains everywhere. Vince and I were wrestling near the door, the latch, you open the latch and push it open, the doors open and you fly out the plane. We kept hitting the latch while we were wrestling, so the flight attendant came and said ‘Hey, the pilot said if you don’t sit down and stop he’s going to land this plane right now.’ And Vince says ‘Go tell the pilot to f*** himself, I’ll buy the f***ing plane.’ I was like, ‘oh my God.’
Here we are wrestling on the plane and we’re getting ready to land, they finally get Vince to calm down and we’re getting ready to hit the ground and [Chris] Jericho is sitting in front of me and he looks back at me and says ‘Look who’s coming up the aisle.’ While we’re hitting the ground landing, Vince has is army crawling up the aisle to jump on me again, I’m like, ‘holy s***, this is the night that will never end.’ It was a freaking nightmare.”
The Undertaker remembers this happening and tells us what happened from his perspective:
“They were right in front of me, they were at my feet. So I come to, I hear all of this and I see Kurt on Vince and I just went ‘Oh Hell No!’ – Undertaker said he came to his bosses defense by jumping on Kurt Angle and locking in a chokehold. – “He could barely get it out. He’s like ‘Take, you’re gonna choke me’. So I let it go and by that time they’re like ‘No, they’re just playing.’ So I’m like ‘Oh S**t!’ and I let go. I went back down in my seat and went out cold.”
Why the story wasn’t included is debatable. It could be because they didn’t have McMahon, Angle, or Undertaker to confirm it. Perhaps it’s because they didn’t consider it controversial enough? Sean Waltman has said it didn’t happen on the same flight, but the previous one. Whether it was on the Plane Ride From Hell or not, it highlights how Vince McMahon’s actions would encourage others to misbehave. If you are leading something, no matter what it is, you are the one setting the example. It’s up to the boss to lead the way and show others how to be responsible. If Vince McMahon is wrestling Kurt Angle all over the plane, it gives a green light to Curt Hennig & Brock Lesnar to do the same.
We all like to have fun, but there’s a limit, and it feels like McMahon can go over this limit because he has the money & power to do so. He’s untouchable, while others aren’t. Someone had to take the fall, and it wouldn’t be Vince McMahon, it would be Jim Ross taking the blame on his behalf. To this day, he still feels guilty over it, when in reality, it was Vince who encouraged the situation. Not just by getting all the staff on the same jet, but by allowing a culture where you can torment others and get away with it because they are told to “no-sell” it. With enough money, you can pay people off so they keep their silence.
There’s so much more that could be said about the WWE Plane Ride From Hell. There are many recollections and stories contradicting each other, and I bet there are some that are still being kept secret. I wouldn’t be surprised if Terri and Rob Van Dam have a few. WWE talent couldn’t be interviewed, so who knows, we might find out more in the coming years from other perspectives. Ric Flair has no choice but to respond to this in the coming weeks if he wants to appear on AEW, because the fans aren’t magically going to forget.
As for Tommy Dreamer, man, he has dug himself in to a really deep hole. How does a guy comment on things unrelated to him, but somehow turn it so terribly on to himself? With Scott Hall, at least he had the balls to respond to the episode. It was only one line, but if what he said was true, it’s not at all surprising that he wouldn’t remember anything. This isn’t a review of Dark Side of the Ring, but a piecing together of details that have been said about the Plane Ride From Hell over the years, and holding them up against what the episode told us.
From here, all we can do is draw our own conclusions. For me, I’m not surprised by any of it, and am also never expecting us to find out everything that happened. They were all intoxicated, so most will never remember what really transpired on the crazy plane ride at 35,000 feet. Nothing in the episode made me think we should not trust Heidi Doyle or Taralyn Cappellano’s course of events, because they were two of the most sober people on the flight. Thanks for reading!
Also Read: Rob Van Dam, Dutch Mantel & Others React to Dark Side of the Ring
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