The Plane Crash That Nearly Ended Ric Flair's Career In The 70s

Throughout the history of professional wrestling, there has been no shortage of shocking stories to emerge; unsurprisingly, many involve "The Nature Boy" Ric Flair. The WWE Hall of Famer has been a notorious figure in the wrestling business for six decades, becoming legendary for not only his many World Championships but also his lavish lifestyle and love of partying. However, one Flair-involved tale doesn't go anywhere near his numerous controversies.

In 1975, Flair boarded a private plane in Charlotte, North Carolina — with fellow wrestlers Johnny Valentine, Bob Bruggers, Tim Woods, and David Crockett — bound for the nearby city of Wilmington. With the number of large wrestlers on the plane, pilot Joseph Michael Farkas decided to lighten the weight onboard by releasing some of the aircraft's fuel. Midway on the 45-minute flight, Farkas realized that the plane was running out of gas, and instead of stopping to refuel, he continued toward the destination. Eventually, both engines died though, and Farkas decided to release the rest of the fuel, preparing to go down.

Wrestling's Most Notorious Plane Crash

All six men suffered significant injuries from the plane crash, with the pilot — Joseph Michael Farkas — passing away two months later. Ric Flair suffered three compression fractures in his back, which substantially changed his career. 

Due to his age then — Flair was 26 at the time of the crash — his doctors noticed that he began to heal quicker than expected. He also began to change his body; as a result, he became much leaner in weight and chose to focus on his appearance more than he had prior. During this period, he used his time to iron out his "Nature Boy" persona fully. Additionally, Flair now struggled with taking back bumps due to the injuries sustained in the crash, which led to him bumping on his side from that point on through the end of his career.

The other four wrestlers on the flight also dealt with a number of health issues stemming from the crash. Tim Woods, better known as Mr. Wrestling, suffered broken ribs and had a concussion. David Crockett, the brother of promoter Jim Crockett Jr., suffered a few less-severe injuries — a dislocated shoulder and a few broken teeth. Unfortunately, Bob Bruggers, a former professional football player-turned-wrestler, broke his back and opted to retire from wrestling. Johnny Valentine, who was the NWA United States Champion at the time of the crash, was paralyzed and would never wrestle again. 

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