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Ric Flair 30 For 30 Director Weighs In on ‘Plane Ride From Hell,’ How It Was Portrayed In the Special

September 20, 2021 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Ric Flair NWA 73, Gerald Brisco Image Credit: NWA/Twitter

Ric Flair’s behavior on the infamous “Plane Ride From Hell” is receiving new scrutiny, and the director of Flair’s 30 For 30 special has weighed in on how it was portrayed in the film. Rory Karpf, who directed the Nature Boy documentary for ESPN, spoke with Wrestling Inc and discussed the allegations made against Flair in last week’s Dark Side of the Ring special. He also talked about how the incident was framed in his documentary and more.

You can check out some highlights from the discussion below:

On Dark Side of the Ring: “Well, for starters, I think this series, Dark Side of the Ring, is incredible. To me, it’s one of the best documentary series ever, not just wrestling series, and I told Evan [Husney], one of the creators of it. I messaged him through the years from the Chris Benoit episode to Jimmy Snuka to Owen Hart. I just think they do such an incredible job, and it’s not even necessarily the ‘dark side of the ring’. It’s the human side of the ring.

“The show has a lot of heart, and it doesn’t matter what the episode is, they find a way to emotionally pull you in. You think you’re gonna watch something that’s just going to be comical or funny, like Herb Abrams, and you find yourself crying at the end. I thought the episode was excellent and disturbing, to be honest with you. I couldn’t sleep after watching it. I was up for a few hours, just pretty troubled by what I saw.”

On the allegations made against Flair in the “Plane Ride From Hell” episode: “I’d never heard that he had forced someone to touch his genitals. Everything with Ric that was construed as negative I tried to address in the 30 for 30. His drinking, his philandering, his adultery, his money problems, there’s quite a bit, but never, at least in the people that I spoke to, no one ever brought up that he would force himself on somebody. I did hear about him exposing himself, which to me is still troubling, very troubling behavior, and that is addressed in the 30 for 30.”

On criticism of the 30 for 30 presenting the Plane Ride From hell humorously: “I saw there was an article on Deadspin about it, and I read it today and I think it’s a pretty valid criticism of the film. Some of the wrestlers kind of jokingly talk about it, that he would expose himself, and in our story, he was exposing himself to the wrestlers, but there’s another story in the 30 for 30 where Greg Gagne talks about him doing it at a fraternity house to girls that were coming up.

“And that’s kind of told humorously as well, but as the director, I’m kind of responsible for the tone, and the tone is humorous. So it’s something, when I look back on it, I would say I think it’s a mistake that I made, or if we went with that, we should show the antithesis of the results of that kind of behavior, which we did in other areas of Ric’s life in the film.

“He jokes a lot in the film about just being a philanderer, but then you see the results of that from talking to his children and his ex wife, and you see that there’s victims to this kind of lifestyle. His drinking, people call him out on some of this behavior. It was important for me at the time, if somebody looked at that behavior, including Ric — sometimes he would tell a story and smile, but then you see the other side of that, and as a filmmaker, that’s what I tried to do is give kind of both sides or leave things maybe a little ambiguous and let the viewer figure it out.”

On believing the criticisms are valid: “I was really proud of the Ric Flair 30 for 30, Nature Boy, but I do think the criticism of it, I can’t remember that person who wrote the article, but there was an article. Someone wrote about it, and they clipped off the clip from there, and I think it’s a valid criticism. As a filmmaker, as a person, I want to be open to criticism, and looking back, I don’t want to be someone who gives that kind of behavior a pass, especially if it causes someone else pain.

“I think that’s what really struck me is that on the episode, the flight attendant said some of these guys go back to their hotel room, and they pass out and they have a headache, but she’s crying in the shower. It’s something that, it seems, still affects her to this day, and I think if we’re going to live in a society that cares about people and each other, we should listen and take that stuff seriously.”