The second half of the newest season of Dark Side of the Ring debuts Thursday night on Vice TV, with an episode detailing the debacle infamously known as the “Plane Ride From Hell.”
Narrated by Chris Jericho, the episode provides an in-depth look at a WWE-chartered international flight on May 5, 2002. A plethora of wrestling stars were on the jet, as WWE returned from its Insurrextion pay-per-view in London. Inclement weather caused takeoff to be delayed for several hours, which, compounded by the free alcohol on board, made for a disastrous flight, ultimately resulting in multiple dismissals from the company.
Those interviewed for the episode include Rob Van Dam, Tommy Dreamer, Justin Credible, Teri Runnels and Jim Ross. It also includes the firsthand perspective of a flight attendant, who recounted her memories of what she endured. (She is one of two flight attendants sued WWE in 2004, alleging that they were sexually assaulted during the flight.)
“There was just such a lack of respect on the flight,” says Ross, who at the time was WWE’s head of talent relations. “We made significant changes because of it. Guys lost their jobs and it hurt people’s reputations. They acted so wrong. We couldn’t do business with people like that, and we rebuilt our locker room after that.”
Evan Husney and Jason Eisener, the co-creators of Dark Side, believed it was necessary to cover this flight. And they did not hold back, covering a litany of incidents that happened 35,000 feet in the air.
“It’s an undeniable factor that people have wanted to see this episode on Dark Side,” says Husney, who is also the executive producer. “For years, it’s been looked at in this ha-ha way, like a rock-and-roll take on the road almost with a Wolf of Wall Street aura. For us, it was compelling to examine this from a more grounded, human perspective, which is really what we wanted to achieve.”
Eisener, the show’s director, explained the process of making this episode.
“Evan and I are filmmakers, but we’re also really big wrestling fans,” said Eisener. “We juggled that, because we have a responsibility as filmmakers to tell the story. Everyone in our episode was on that airplane, so it was important for us to have people that were on that trip.”
The Dark Side episode focuses on the actions of Ric Flair and Scott Hall. Nearly two decades later, Ross remains thoroughly disappointed that he was tasked with babysitting and scolding members of the roster for their unacceptable behavior during the flight.
“The bottom line is I was very upset in how the talent conducted themselves,” Ross says. “We made mistakes from a management standpoint. We had wanted to make the trip as comfortable as possible, so we chartered a sports plane with first-class seats and upgraded the food. But the open bar was obviously a mistake. It went off the rails, with a small group of guys that just went crazy. It is still a black eye to be affiliated with the Plane Ride from Hell.”
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.