Dark Side of The Ring season three featured, arguably, the show’s most controversial subject matter yet, The Plane Ride From Hell. The infamous flight took place on May 5, 2002, and featured nearly all of the then-WWF’s top talent traveling from Great Britain back to the United States.
So the story goes, the flight was delayed for more than an hour, giving everyone on board plenty of time to drink up before the wheels of the plane took off from the ground. What followed was a nightmarish experience, for many, that featured Curt Hennig and Brock Lesnar grappling near an emergency exit, Dustin Rhodes drunkenly crooning over the in-cabin speaker, and Michael PS Hayes’ mullet being chopped off.
The most notable, horrifying tale to come out of the episode was that of flight attendant Heidi Doyle, who, for the first time, detailed her experience on the wild in-air excursion. She recalled an inebriated Ric Flair walking up and down the aisle of the plane wearing nothing but his signature Nature Boy robe. At one point, she alleges, Flair cornered her in the galley, pushed her up against a door, and forced her to touch his penis.
Flair has denied the allegations but still spent time in the proverbial dog house as he was briefly removed from WWE’s opening video montage. The WWE Hall of Famer has since said Vince McMahon, who has dealt with his own accusations, personally had him put back in.
Tommy Dreamer also caught heat for the episode regarding his comments defending Flair’s behavior, seemingly shrugging off Doyle’s allegations. Dreamer was suspended but later returned to the promotion, where he still works. Some of the legends involved with the show, like Jim Ross, said they would not return to the program due to how this particular episode was presented.
In an exclusive Haus of Wrestling episode, now available on the Haus of Wrestling podcast feed, Dark Side of The Ring co-creator Evan Husney discussed whether the controversy surrounding the episode changed the way they approached season four.
“No, it didn’t really change how we approach making the show,” he began. “I think that the reaction to the episode, I guess the sort of social media reaction to the episode, those are things you can’t really control at all. And I think it was surprising. I think it was surprising not only to those of us who work on the show, I think it was surprising to those who were interviewed for the show. And yeah, it definitely got pretty intense for a while.
“I think also, just because of the controversy of it, I think there were a lot of folks who were sort of backing away from the things that they had said, and I’m sure there were things happening behind the scenes, pointing fingers and things, and that it definitely got very intense. But I think it was really a reminder, for me, I know, of what it is that we do. In that, I think there is this thing with, I don’t know, maybe you can relate to this, in some ways, with the wrestling business, and this perception where everything is very, sort of black or white like you’re either there to put somebody over or you’re there to bury somebody, it’s either one or the other.
“Our show is not part of that ecosystem in that way. Our show, we’re here just to tell the stories, as they happened, the best way we can, with the voices that we get access to, and try to get that firsthand information just to retell these stories and to capture these stories. And I think that we’ve never approached anything, or never wanted to do anything to judge another person, or like, ‘Here’s how you should feel about this or that.’
“I think what we’ve done with most of the episodes of our show, including that one, is always presented as many different points of view as we possibly can, try to capture an oral history of these events, and leave it in the hands of the audience to sort of determine how they feel, one way or the other, about these. Can they relate to it? I think that was the big takeaway for that episode or should have been the big takeaway from that episode is, how can we relate to this?
“Have we treated people in a similar way to this? Have we been treated in a similar way? Can we relate? That was what we sort of were hoping for. We’ve always approached the show with a wider audience in mind, not just a wrestling fan base, and I think that can be confused as to what the role, or service, of our show is. It’s not to put anybody over, it’s not to bury anybody, it’s just to tell the story.”
If you use any quotes from this article please give a h/t to Haus of Wrestling for the transcription and link back