We Need to Talk About Ric Flair
For professional wrestling fans, the name Ric Flair is synonymous with the glory days of the 1980s and 1990s. He was the bad guy people loved to hate but could also be the hero we needed at different points. Flair is one of the most decorated champions in the business and is a multi-time hall of fame inductee. Though he officially retired in 2009 in the WWE, he returned for a couple of years in TNA and still makes sporadic appearances in the ring.
As much as he is known for his work in the ring, he is also known for his lifestyle outside the ring. A 2017 ESPN 30 for 30, The Nature Boy, highlighted not only his career but his reputation as a partier. He drank multiple adult beverages daily, leading a sports doctor to wonder how he was still alive. There are many stories of Flair running bar tabs in the thousands of dollars and being the life of the party. Most nights, he left with at least one woman on his arm.
Flair was known as a ladies’ man, and while a womanizer, there were never any reports of him being inappropriate with any women. However, the most recent installment of the Vice series Dark Side of the Ring reveals, Flair may have gone a little too far on a plane ride from England.
The incident occurred on the infamous “Plane Ride From Hell” from a tour in Europe back to the states in 2002. Stories have circulated for years of wrestlers getting way too drunk and acting out, including cutting people’s hair (Sean Waltman to Micheal Hayes) and two wrestlers (Brock Lesner and the late Curt Hennig) fighting in the aisleway, which could have depressurized the cabin. In the traditional tellings, it seems like more of the “boys will be boys” shenanigans.
Then we heard from one of the flight attendants, Hiedi Doyle, and a run-in with Ric Flair. Wrestlers told stories for years on how Flair would often sneak into a bathroom and emerge wearing only one of his famous ring robes, with everything in full view. Again, this could be chalked up to drunken foolishness and “Ric being Ric.”
However, things reportedly took a darker turn when Flair cornered a Doyle in the plane’s galley as he went to get a Coke. He then gestured with his exposed genitals, and according to Doyle, he grabbed her hand and made her touch him. Others stated they did not see him do the last part. Eventually, Dustin Runnells got Flair to leave her alone.
Once the plane landed, the wrestlers went their separate ways, and the flight crew was left to clean up the mess. Several wrestlers faced the consequences of the incident. Curt Hennig was fired, as his practical joking had led to his fight with Lesner and went too far. Scott Hall, who had struggled with substance issues, had to be wheeled out of the airport (he says someone drugged his drink) and was later let go. Others were fined. However, Flair escaped punishment.
Many speculated, including respected commentator Jim Ross, that Flair escaped punishment due to who he was. He was a made-man in the business, and as a result, got a free pass for behavior that others would not get away with doing.
Doyle was offered a settlement over the incident, which her husband urged her to accept. Almost 20 years later, she broke her silence to tell her side on the Vice documentary.
The backlash on social media has been swift following the airing of the documentary. Advertising including Flair was pulled for the time being. Some speculated his release from his WWE contract last month was the company trying to avoid the controversy that would follow by dissociating themselves from Flair. Some of the talking heads, including Tommy Dreamer, have been taken to task for some of their comments that could be seen as excusing Flair’s behavior.
While Flair has never denied that he walked around the plane in just his robe, he has denied that he assaulted Doyle in several interviews. In an interview with Renee Paquette on her Oral Sessions podcast, he addressed the documentary, saying that he would be happy to come on after the airing and tell his side of what happened.
The truth is probably somewhere in the middle of Doyle and Flair’s recollections. Whether he went so far as to assault Doyle or not, his behavior was inappropriate. He may have been able to get away with those antics in the 1980s and 1990s, but they are serious issues even back in 2002. If this happened now, no doubt Flair would be facing serious charges.
Perhaps we need to wait to hear Flair’s side of the story to get the whole truth. If he did indeed assault Doyle, he deserves some form of punishment. However, if it was “Ric being Ric,” perhaps Flair needs to look at his past behavior and apologize to those he hurt and work to correct it.
Flair has been able to get away with such behavior for decades, and many have turned a blind eye. While he is one of the most respected performers in the history of professional wrestling, maybe we need to recognize that the man outside the ring has some serious issues that need to be addressed.