WHAT WAS THE PLANE RIDE FROM HELL? - A LOOK BACK
Since posting the earlier story about World Wrestling Entertainment being hit with a sexual harassment suit by Sportjet flight attendants stemming from the alleged actions of Ric Flair, Dustin Runnels, and Scott Hall among others, I've received a few emails asking for background information on what has been come to be known within the industry as the "Plane Ride From Hell."
On May 5, 2002 a number of WWE wrestlers and management members flew from Great Britain to the United States following the end of a European tour, which concluded with a British PPV event.
On the now-infamous flight, there were a number of incidents involving WWE management and wrestlers that were later attributed to the heavy drinking on the flight, partially because the flight was delayed for an hour before takeoff.
Among the incidents included the late Curt Hennig goading Brock Lesnar into a mid-flight wrestling match after ribbing him about who was a better amateur wrestler. Hennig and Lesnar scuffled in the aisle of the plane with Lesnar taking down Hennig and Hennig being unable to return the favor. Eventually, several others on the flight, including Dave Finley, Triple H, and Paul Heyman had to separate the pair. WWE announced that Hennig was released from the company shortly thereafter, while there was no heat on Lesnar at the time as the blame was placed on Hennig's end.
The wrestling was tame compared to some of the other antics on the flight. Dustin Runnels was allegedly serenading his ex-wife Terri Runnels until being told to stop by WWE Vice President of Talent Relations Jim Ross. Dustin Runnels was in the doghouse for a long time and was publicly dropped by WWE in late 2003 with a WWE.com statement announcing his contract would not be renewed when it expired in January 2004.
Road Agent Michael Hayes was involved in an physical incident with Bradshaw after heavily drinking, allegedly punching him. Hayes' actions led to someone (later believed to be Sean Waltman) cutting off his mullet while he was sleeping. The consensus at the time was that Hayes "deserved it" for his part in starting the incident with Bradshaw.
Jim Ross, in his now-defunct Ross Report on WWE.com, stated the following about the flight in his first column after the tour: "The 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. The bottom line is this: yours truly is the person in charge of the talent roster and the buck stops with me. We will do all we humanly can to solve the problem."
In the same column, Ross noted that Scott Hall (who said to have been asleep during the flight) was not involved with any incident. Hall was soon gone from WWE as his released was announced several days after the UK tour. There were reports that Hall wasn't in the best of condition during the tour, but he was signed shortly after his release to appear by the then-debuting NWA:TNA promotion.
The lawsuit that was filed yesterday also named Ric Flair, who of course is still with WWE and currently holds the World Tag Team championship with Batista.
Mike Johnson can be reached at Mike Johnson.
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