Saturday, April 13

The Plane Crash That Almost Killed Ric Flair

“Nature Boy” Ric Flair is well known for taking spectacular bumps in the ring, but his historic professional wrestling career was almost lost when he took the most death-defying bump of his life and survived a plane crash in 1975.



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Ric Flair might be one of the biggest stars in wrestling history, but there are still some things to know about The Nature Boy.

On the afternoon of October 4th, 1975, a 26-year-old Ric Flair boarded a small, twin-engine Cessna 310 in Charlotte, North Carolina, bound for a wrestling show in Wilmington. The plane was filled over capacity with Flair, Johnny Valentine, Bob Bruggers, Tim Woods, David Crockett, and pilot Joseph Michael Farkas.

UPDATE: 2024/03/06 11:33 EST BY BENJAMIN VIEIRA


Injuries are a common place in professional wrestling. When taking so many risks in the ring, it is almost inevitable that something is going to take place. However, Ric Flair’s most significant injuries did not take place in a ring. On October 4, 1975, Flair almost died in a major plane crash in Charlotte, North Carolina. The crash ended up changing his career. It also ended up bringing about Flair’s “Nature Boy” persona. Tragically, however, the crash did lead to death and serious injury for others on board the flight.


Ric Flair’s Plane Carried Too Much Weight

It Was 1400lbs Over The Limit

  • The plane had too much weight on it.
  • Flair does not remember many specifics about the crash.
  • The plane began going down quickly.


According to Flair, the aircraft was grossly over the weight limit by roughly 1400 lbs. The wrestlers on board averaged an estimated 240 pounds each. The struggling aircraft also had a headwind to deal with, flying near the coast.

The pilot had trouble getting the plane off the ground due to the wrestlers onboard, and ended up dumping the fuel from the backup tank to account for the extra weight. After all, it was only meant to be a 45-minute flight. Once the plane was at 6,000 feet, the second engine of the plane stopped working.

Ric Flair’s Injuries Almost Ended His Wrestling Career

He Sustained Injuries In Three Different Places

Ric Flair Starrcade 1983 Robe

  • The pilot of the plane died two months after the crash.
  • Doctors told Flair that he would never wrestle again.
  • Flair returned to the ring after six months.


Because of the heavy load, the plane consumed all the fuel before arriving at its destination. According to Tim Woods, “we just dropped like a rock.” As the doomed flight approached the runway at New Hanover Airport in Wilmington, the fuel tanks ran dry one after another, and the plane tore through treetops and a telephone pole while narrowly missing a water tower. It then took a nosedive and crash-landed about 100 yards from the runway.

All six men were taken to the hospital after the crash. Ric Flair broke his back in three different places, Johnny Valentine also broke his back, and the pilot sustained life-threatening injuries. Two months after the crash, the pilot tragically died from his injuries, and Valentine was left paralyzed from his broken back. Everyone except the pilot miraculously lived to tell the tale.


Following the crash, with a long road to recovery in front of him, doctors informed Ric Flair that he would never wrestle again. However, he did not take those words lightly and set out to disprove his doctors, training vigorously for only six months before returning to the ring.

Ric Flair Switched Seats With Johnny Valentine

Valentine’s Career Ended Due To The Plane Crash

Johnny Valentine

  • During the crash, the luggage slammed into Valentine.
  • He broke his back in three places.
  • David Crockett was only on the flight due to taking Jim Crockett’s place.

While Ric Flair’s recovery is certainly a blessing to wrestling fans, there’s an odd bit of circumstances that suggest that things could have been very different for Flair, as well as his fellow passenger Johnny Valentine — the father of Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, and a big star himself. Reportedly, Flair had been seated in the front of the plane, but was vocal about this position. Eventually, Valentine agreed to switch seats with the future multi-time champion.


As a result, it was Johnny Valentine who suffered the worst of the wrestlers on the plane, as the other passengers — and their luggage — slammed into him from behind, breaking his back in three places and putting his in-ring career to an untimely end.

By another twist of fate, David Crockett wasn’t originally supposed to be on the plane. His brother, Jim Crockett Promotions owner Jim Crockett Jr., was going to travel with the group, but had the flu and asked his brother to take his place.

The “Nature Boy” Was Born Following The Plane Accident

The Name Came From Buddy Rogers

  • Buddy Rogers was the original “Nature Boy.”
  • The adoption of this persona was a restart for Flair’s career.
  • Rogers and Flair did have an in-ring feud.


It wasn’t easy to jump back into the ring and start taking bumps for Flair. He had also lost his confidence in the ring. Naich credited promoter George Scott for helping him start over with his new character and getting back in the ring. It took five nights in a row wrestling for an hour in front of fans before he finally took his first bump after the crash (a backdrop from Tim Woods in Farmville, Virginia.)

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These devastating injuries suffered by WWE wrestlers certainly shortened their careers.

Upon his return to the ring, Flair also adopted the persona of “Nature Boy” from fellow wrestler and legend Buddy Rogers, which would help restart his career and set the tone for the Ric Flair people know and love to this day. Without the plane crashing, the world may not have the same Ric Flair that it does now. Who knows if he had reached the heights that he did if he hadn’t made the changes to his character and presentation that he did after the crash? Even the Figure-four leglock was a carryover from Buddy Rogers.


These changes would lead to a feud between Rogers and Flair, further elevating Ric’s status in professional wrestling and legitimizing his adoption of the “Nature Boy” moniker.

The Wrestling World Would Have Changed Forever If Ric Flair Had Died

Ric Flair Became A Multi-Time World Champion

Professional Wrestling Debut

12/10/1972 AWA Ric Flair vs George Gadaski

Retirement Match

7/31/2022 JCP Ric Flair’s Last Match Andrade El Idolo and Ric Flair vs Jay Lethal and Jeff Jarrett

Notable Accomplishments

WWE World Heavyweight Champion, NWA World Heavyweight Champion, WCW World Heavyweight Champion, WWE Hall of Fame Inductee (2008, 2012)

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Sting vs Ric Flair is a legendary rivalry that spanned decades, starting with NWA in the 1980s, WCW in the 1990s and 2000s, and finally TNA in 2011!

Ultimately, the story of the ill-fated plane ride has only enriched Ric Flair’s mystique and legend. His quick recovery in the face of adversity proves how much he loves this business. He has generated countless moments in wrestling. It all could have been lost on that fateful day in 1975. He went on to win countless championships in professional wrestling before he retired in 2022.


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