After a 3-month-hiatus, VICE returns with the second half of Dark Side of the Ring Season 3. The first half of this season saw a number of stories covered, ranging from the ultraviolent wrestling career and life of Nick Gage to the unsettling chronicling of Grizzly Smith and his family. This week, Dark Side of the Ring took a deep dive into the infamous Plane Ride from Hell. What was meant to be a simple trip home from a European tour devolved into an unruly journey featuring the World Wrestling Federation‘s talent and office staff. Up until now, most of the stories regarding the Plane Ride from Hell came from these individuals. This episode not only features viewpoints from said company talent and staff but airline employees with firsthand accounts. Here is what viewers learned from this episode.
Fasten your seatbelts, and return your tray tables to their upright and locked position…
— Dark Side of the Ring (@DarkSideOfRing) September 17, 2021
Plane Ride from Hell – What We Learned
In the year 2000, the World Wrestling Federation saw a surge in popularity. During this time, Vince McMahon purchased his competition in Extreme Championship Wrestling and World Championship Wrestling. This resulted in well-known stars from both promotions, Tommy Dreamer and Lance Storm included, being brought into the WWF as full-time wrestlers.
Different legends, including Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair, would also make their way back to the company. With all these names coming in, the WWF’s momentum grew, which translated to their popularity in the United Kingdom. This led to their European tour, capped off by WWF Insurrextion on May 4, 2002. Travel was done via a specialized charter jet.
The Flight Attendant on “The Plane Ride from Hell”
Heidi Doyle, a former flight attendant with SportJet, was spoken to for this episode. SportsJet is a private company known for flying various sports athletes. Doyle recently returned to work after having a child. It was the first time she had been away from her newborn daughter.
During this trip, Doyle’s job involved getting the wrestlers their meals and drinks during the flight. Office staff, including Vince McMahon and Jim Ross, were in first-class seating, away from many of the wrestlers. Ric Flair was very chatty, according to Doyle. She referred to him as “the captain of the team” and “flirty.” She said that the flight to Europe saw no problems. The first stop was Cologne, Germany. Flight attendants were with the wrestlers almost every day, even sharing drinks and partying with them.
The Calm Before the Storm
Prior to the trip back home, it was reported they had a weather delay from Connecticut. This particular delay, originally thought to be a half-hour or so, lasted 7 hours before the plane took off. During this delay, the liquor cart ran out, as wrestlers requested beverages. Another cart was ordered at the request of the talent. From there, the wrestlers went through multiple carts, 3 in total; according to Doyle, this was unheard of.
Doyle was concerned about carts being replenished on the ground. Terri Runnels regarded it as a situation where high school students were partying. According to Justin Credible, “the boys” would have found more liquor regardless.
After a 7-hour long wait, the plane finally took off. By this point, however, many of the wrestlers had already gotten drunk. During this point, many wrestlers had prescription medications, some of which were used on the flight. Halcion, or “h-bombs,” were used to help people sleep. They were also used for ribs to get “marks” to pass out.
When Playful Ribs Become Dangerous
Michael Hayes was one of the people “h-bombed” during the flight. There might have been other drugs involved, too. Bradshaw had been split open during the pay-per-view. As Bradshaw slept, Hayes struck him in the head, reopening the wound. In response, Bradshaw slapped Hayes across the face, knocking him out. Sean “X-Pac” Waltman was called after. Taking issue with Hayes’s burying of him during booking meetings, according to Waltman, he proceeded to cut Hayes’s ponytail while he was unconscious.
Also on the flight was “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig, one of the most notorious ribbers in professional wrestling. During the light, Hennig sprayed shaving cream on top of Brock Lesnar‘s head, splatting the cream with his hand. This resulted in a brawl, Lesnar lifting Hennig. Various items were broken and even a seat had been completely removed. During this, one of the wrestlers took the PA, proclaiming they were all going to die. This prompted a pilot to intervene, though neither Hennig nor Lesnar listened. Jim Ross was called onto the scene.
During their brawl, Lesnar tackled Hennig against the emergency door. This was when the brawl had finally been broken up. While the wrestlers had no idea that the door would break, it would cause depressurizing, prompting the plane to land, which wouldn’t be easy to do over the water.
The Plane Hide from Hell Intensifies
During Insurrextion, Runnels was conducting backstage interviews. Off-camera, Runnels was called into a room with Lesnar and her ex-wife, Dustin Rhodes, known onscreen as Goldust. Lesnar proceeded to expose himself to her. Rhodes told her to “no-sell” it, which she was able to. Ross received many complaints about Lesnar’s behavior during this time, though he couldn’t confirm this particular instance.
Following the brawl between Lesnar and Hennig, the passengers attempted to settle back in. All of a sudden, Runnels heard a familiar voice: Rhodes drunkenly singing “Pledging My Love.” Runnels was about to stop it until she ultimately decided to “no-sell” it. Rhodes was going through personal issues at the time, including his divorce from Runnels. Ross approached Rhodes and firmly told him to return to his seat, which he did.
The Nature Boy’s Chaos
Hours later into the flight, Ric Flair appeared, donning his signature robe and nothing else, strutting down the aisle. While this humored the other wrestlers, this made Doyle uncomfortable, as Flair was fixated on her. Doyle recalled being in the galley at the time when Flair blocked her way out, making unwanted advances toward her. This went on for minutes. In the past, Flair stated there was no truth to these allegations.
Scott Hall was also on the flight. By this point, he suffered from well-known substance issues. Nonetheless, he was on the road with the rest of the talent. Doyle approached Hall, who just woke up, and offered him breakfast. Hall pulled her down, ripping her shirt buttons in the process, and said what he “would do” to her. Ultimately, he passed out again, allowing her to remove herself from the situation. In a previous interview, Hall alleged that he was “h-bombed.” After this occurrence, Doyle refused to leave the galley for the rest of the flight.
After The Flight Touched Down
With Hall still passed out, Credible carried him out and brought him through customs, wheeling him around. Credible also told airline employees Hall some kind of condition. Ross watched this from a distance with disgust.
When Hayes woke up, he realized his ponytail was missing. Furious, he was determined to figure out who did it.
Doyle and the rest of the flight crew began cleaning the plane. Everything from empty beer cans to syringes was strewn about. Doyle proceeded to leave the plane, not cleaning any further. She stated that, at the time, there should have been more repercussions. Ross called the Plane Ride from Hell a “black eye,” but like with any black eye, “you heal.”
The Fallout from The Plane Ride from Hell
Following the flight, Vince McMahon and Jim Ross spoke on what to do. According to Dreamer, McMahon makes the decisions, but Ross is the one to execute them. Per McMahon’s directive, Ross cut Hennig, which Ross believed was especially upsetting. Hennig would pass away not long after on February 10, 2003. Hall was let go shortly after he returned to the United States, the belief being that he wasn’t ready to be back on the road. Rhodes was almost let go, though it was ultimately settled that he’d pay a fine.
Ric Flair seemed to come out of this unscathed by comparison. According to Ross, this was done because Flair was a “high-level made man,” which allowed him to get a pass. Dreamer regarded Flair’s alleged behavior, specifically toward Doyle as a “gag.” Meanwhile, Doyle didn’t believe that Flair wanted to harm her, though she believed his behavior to be wrong.
Following the flight, Doyle considered her next steps. She returned to her hotel room and cried while in the shower. The airline preferred that they keep the occurrence to themselves, in a way to respect the privacy of their clients. She struggled to tell her husband about the situation. Doyle recalled that another woman on the flight, who filed a lawsuit. Doyle did the same. Ultimately, a settlement was reached with the World Wrestling Federation.
The Federation Gets the “F” Out
Twenty-four hours later after the tour, the World Wrestling Federation held Monday Night Raw from Hartford, Connecticut. Ross was told by talent that someone took Hayes’s ponytail was put it into a sandwich bag and taped it to a locker room door. Ross proceeded to throw the bag away.
Not long after the Plane Ride from Hell, the World Wrestling Federation was legally forced to change its identity. The company became World Wrestling Entertainment, which it’s known as to this day.
The episode closes with Doyle recalling the Plane Ride from Hell. She said that if her story has been able to help someone, she would have the same conversation several more times. “The truth can be scary, and the truth can be ugly and messy,” says Doyle at the end of the episode. “But at the end of the day, the truth, it’s the thing that makes us better.”
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. Catch Dark Side of the Ring on VICE, with new episodes airing each Thursday at 9 PM EST.