In 2002, unbelievable chaos ensued on a fateful flight that has since passed into wrestling folklore as The Plane Ride From Hell! It was an orgy of excess, violence, and sexual misconduct that would ultimately spell the end of at least two notable careers in WWE.
"Liquid Courage" – a fitting song to go along with this article!
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Open Bar: Just the Beginning of the WWE Plane Ride From Hell!
On May 5th, 2002, WWE finished its tour of Britain with the taping of the ‘Insurrextion’ pay-per-view in London.
Today we sift through the details as well as hear detailed first-hand accounts from those who were there in the thick of it.
So put your seat upright, fasten your seatbelt – there may be some turbulence along the way!
Warning: inevitably, some of the language you are about to read is of a ‘colorful’ nature. Discretion, etc., is advised.
"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 every cameraman, all the girls that make the costumes, tour managers, everybody – 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. And what I mean by that is a plane filled with alcoholic wrestlers at the end of a grueling tour. So think about it, it’s like the last day of school…"
"It was brewing. Everybody had their different little deals they were doing. Some people were doing GHB [Gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid], 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…f***ed…you…up…"
Events started more or less innocently when Curt Hennig and Scott Hall got hold of shaving cream canisters and proceeded to run around ‘tagging’ multiple individuals with the contents. Goofy stuff.
But more serious was to come.
Shane Ryan of Grantland.com described a scene in his piece: ‘The Wrestler In Real Life: Ric Flair’s Long, Steady Decline.’
"Wrestlers on the flight passed out syringes to the flight attendants with instructions to dispose of them…"
Mr. Perfect vs. Brock Lesnar Tussle on the Plane Ride From Hell
Curt Hennig and Brock Lesnar were close friends who traveled together, both hailing from Minnesota. But during the long flight, they got restless, leading to what started as a friendly amateur wrestling-style ‘take-down’ tussle after Curt insisted he was a better grappler than the younger Brock.
"Curt Hennig was always really competitive, you know? Him and Brock- we all hung out because we all lived in Minnesota…"
"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…people [among them: Dave Finley, Triple H, and Paul Heyman] had to separate them."
"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…"
Ric Flair Faces Charges After the Plane Ride From Hell
"Then f***in’ Flair comes out in his robe…"
"…nothing on underneath…"
"…f***in’ balls naked, struttin’ down the aisleway…"
"Sixty-year-old man, junk flying everywhere. Going up to the stewardesses, ‘C’mon sweetheart! [flashes open robe] ‘WOOOOO!!!’"
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.’
He separately grabbed each woman’s hand and placed it on his crotch, and then ‘forcibly detained and restrained’ Doyle ‘from leaving the back of the galley of the airplane while he sexually assaulted her."
Flair would later insist there was no truth to these incidents, though the WWE eventually settled out of court with both women.
Goldust and the PA System Serenade
Also implicated in the lawsuit was Dustin Rhodes (a.k.a, Goldust), who, according to attendant Taralyn Cappellano, told her, ‘You and I are gonna F***!’
But it wasn’t until Rhodes managed to get control of the plane’s PA system to start singing an awkward, slurred serenade to his ex-wife Terri Runnels – who was also on the flight – that the then-President of talent relations Jim Ross enforced his authority to shut him down.
Scott Hall Loses Consciousness on the Plane Ride From Hell
"You had Scott Hall too…out of his mind. Completely out of his mind, shimmying and shaking…"
Hall didn’t last long on the flight before slipping unconscious. Although there were conflicting reports about his involvement in the shenanigans (JR himself insisted Hall was not involved with any of the major incidents) when he was awake, he seemed to have done enough to put last rites to his ailing WWE career.
Aside from the earlier ‘shaving cream’ antics, it seems some of Hall’s contributions to the flight were of a much more sinister nature.
In the harassment allegations, attendant Doyle claims Hall slobbered on her face before telling her he wanted to ‘lick her pussy.’ He told Cappellano to ‘Suck his dick.’ Then he passed out – so deeply, in fact, that people had to check his pulse to see if he was still alive.
"I had to babysit Scott. I had to stay straight because everyone else was so f***ed up!
[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 just going like this [disdainful shake of the head]. That look of disgust. And I’m like… [shrugs]."
Michael PS Hayes Loses His Mullet!
"Michael Hayes was getting real bad. And he’s got a lot of heat [anyway]. Nobody likes him. He was drunk. Rowdy as f***. Like, being a dick. Loud and obnoxious…"
"Hayes almost pissed on Linda McMahon. He was all f***ed up – trying to whip his dick out [stooped over, tugging at his trouser zip] He doesn’t know it’s Linda – he thinks he’s at the f***in’ bathroom. He’s like, [Hayes’ voice] ‘Wait a minute…wait a minute…’ He just keeps saying ‘Wait a minute,’ over and over again. Finally, somebody [led him away]…"
"JBL had just had a killer match [earlier at the PPV] and was cut open bad…"
"I had a match with Bradshaw [JBL] for the pay-per-view in England, and he got some color [bled], so he had this big ol’ f***in’ gash on his head."
"So he’s sitting there sleeping, bandaged up, getting some z’s… and Michael Hayes comes up [shouting] ‘HEY YEW F***IN’ RED-NEHH’CK..!’ And pops him right in the forehead…"
"You know the Freebirds’ thing where they always go [protruded knuckle tap] – he was like – BOOM!…"
"…and opens his gash. So now, Bradshaw’s in a suit, nice clothes – busted wide open – bleeding like a pig over his suit.
"And the story goes that Bradshaw f***in’ clocked him and knocked him out…"
"He wanted to go after Hayes…but JBL’s a wrestler, Michael Hayes is ‘office’ – he’s like, your boss. What are you gonna do, kick your boss’s ass?
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!!!!’"
Hayes would not realize until he was later going through customs.
"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]…"
JIM ROSS (statement in the ‘Ross Report’ on WWE.com):
"The [plane ride from hell] 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."
"Vince could’ve gotten in a lot of trouble. [He was] technically in charge of a plane. Someone could have died on that flight…"
The Plane Ride From Hell – The Aftermath
The fallout from the flight was, in some cases, swift.
After a period of being on the outs with the company, Dustin Rhodes was eventually dropped by WWE in late 2003. He eventually returned to the company in later years.
Not to return, however, was an all-time great and posthumous Hall of Famer, Curt Hennig. He was seemingly held solely accountable for the ‘aircraft door’ incident with Brock Lesnar and shortly after Hennig was released from his WWE contract. He died the next year.
As Hennig and Rhodes’ contracts were headed for the shredder, so too was Scott Hall’s. His release was announced too just days later (though his poor physical shape during the tour was also cited as a cause for his severance.)
He would sign shortly after with the then-debuting NWA:TNA promotion.
And what became of Hayes’ severed ponytail on the plane ride from hell?
"I posted it on the wall at TV the next day…" (laughs)
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SOURCES: insignificantknowledge.co.nz, bleacherreport: ‘Ric Flair, Sex and Steroids In Flight: Ten Years After WWE’s Plane Ride From Hell,’ ‘The Wrestler In Real Life: Ric Flair’s Long, Steady Decline’ by S.Ryan/Grantland.com, Sean Waltman shoot interview, Justin Credible shoot interview
Quotes used in this article were originally compiled by Matt Pender and shared here with thanks to our friends over at ‘Wrestling’s Glory Days’ Facebook page.