In just a few days, Ric Flair will finally end his long and storied career at “Ric Flair’s Last Match”, teaming up with his son-in-law Andrade El Idolo to take on Jay Lethal and Jeff Jarrett. It’s an event that promises to be a momentous occasion no matter how it turns out. But it’s also an occasion with a cloud hanging over it – a cloud that formed just under a year ago and for a while made an event like this impossible.
It’s been 316 days since “Dark Side of The Ring” aired an episode titled “The Plane Ride from Hell” to kick off the second half of their third season. The title refers to a longtime moniker for a flight featuring WWE wrestlers and management returning to the United States after the UK PPV Insurrextion exclusive in 2002. The Plane Ride from Hell had long been discussed by fans. wrestling fans due to the supposed actions of several wrestlers. on the flight, including Flair, as well as shooting several stars afterwards. But while many thought they knew the whole story, wrestling fans were still shocked to hear the full accusations against Flair that were leveled on “Dark Side of The Ring,” the most damaging of which came from Heidi. Doyle, who was one of the flight attendants for the notorious theft.
“I was in the kitchen,” Doyle said in the episode. “The kitchen is our little kitchen area on the plane. Ric Flair was naked in just a cape, and then he decided to come back to the kitchen for a Coke, and then he wouldn’t leave the kitchen. He pinned me against the back door and I couldn’t move. I couldn’t get away from him…I couldn’t move.
“He was circling his penis and he wanted me to touch him. He took my hand and put it on him. And he kept me there for I don’t know how long. It was really long. It wasn’t short, it was a few minutes. And I said, ‘Please stop.’ And he wouldn’t.
Doyle’s recollections were first corroborated by former WWE star Rob Van Dam, who saw the incident as it happened.
“I remember him cramming the stewardess into the aisle over there by the bathroom, where it’s really skinny and you can fit two people in there,” Van Dam said. “I remember him hugging her and trying to get her to touch and everything.”
It should be noted that Van Dam then attempted to clarify some of his remarks about his “Dark Side of the Ring” statements after watching the episode. Flair would later retweet Van Dam’s clarification in an attempt to support his own innocence.
Doyle, along with fellow flight attendant Taralyn Cappellano (who did not appear in the episode “Dark Side of the Ring”) would file a lawsuit against Flair in 2004, which was eventually settled out of court. Flair faced no discipline for his actions and would continue to work for WWE until 2009. He would return to WWE in 2012 after a years-long stint with TNA, and remained with the company until his release last year.
In the same episode “Dark Side of the Ring”, AEW commentator Jim Ross, who was on the flight and later served as WWE Talent Relations Manager, was asked why Flair n was not punished for his actions.
“Good question,” Ross said. “I guess, for lack of a better term, he was a made man. And since he was such a high level main man, he got a pass. Was it the right thing to do? I do not know. You listen to it, friends, you decide. He got a pass.
Flair had denied any wrongdoing about the theft before the episode and did so again after it aired. Nonetheless, his alleged behavior received strong attention, criticism, and the hiatus of some endorsement deals in its wake. It was also reported that the episode chilled any potential talk about Flair joining AEW, who was believed to be interested in signing him after his WWE exit.
While “Dark Side of the Ring” had the biggest impact on Flair, he wasn’t the only one whose reputation took a hit after the episode. Impact Wrestling’s Tommy Dreamer, who was on the flight with Flair, was suspended by Impact and Busted Open Radio for comments he made in the episode that appeared to dismiss Doyle’s story. He returned to Impact and the Busted Open later in 2021.
With the Starrcast V fanfest this weekend largely built around Flair, including “Ric Flair’s Last Match”, the Starrcast promoter – and, it should be noted, Flair’s son-in-law, Conrad Thompson – has come under fire for being so focused on Flair in the sequel to “Dark Side of the Ring”. Thompson addressed the situation in May, during an interview with Wrestling Inc. editor Nick Hausman.
“I completely understand,” Thompson said. “I’m a big fan of ‘Dark Side Of The Ring’ and everything they do, and I think a lot of people who put it together, we’ve worked a lot together and on their new projects. J ‘ve been helpful behind the scenes on this, kind of helping to connect the dots, I think they’re creating great content, but I also know the story they talked about is 20 years old, they’ve had one side of the story, they didn’t have two. I don’t know if that was necessarily new information for people following the news at the time.
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