A little while back, I heard of a competition here that was wanting to do this article but it was too controversial for some. Knowing that I am such with my writings, I would love to dive into this myself. Of course, with all due respect for those who already wrote about it before me.
On Oct. 4, 1975, in what was supposed to be a routine plane ride from Charlotte to the Wilmington, N.C., airport, the lives of a promoter and four wrestlers were changed forever.
David Crockett (promoter), Tim Woods, Bobby Bruggers, then-US Heavyweight Champion Johnny Valentine, and up-start Ric Flair were wanting to go to an evening show at the outdoor Legion Stadium. But things took a turn for the worst.
As they came close to the Wilmington airport runway, the plane somehow ran out of gas. Due to that it lost control and cut across a utility pole and tons of tree tops and then crashed hard to the ground. All five men were beaten and battered, but somehow survived it.
It was one of those scary times for people in the wrestling community because these were the top men in wrestling, really. You had the US Heavyweight Champion, and two legit talents on top of an emerging up start that could be big one day.
People were frantic when they heard the news and the reports were all over the news within hours of the crash. Both local and national news covered the crash and it was the story to talk about for weeks to come.
Somehow, they missed a water tower from the local prison which was a lucky break. As experts feel it would have flipped the plane over and had it land upside down. Many believe it would have killed most if not all on board. It instead took a nose dive, which made things better in a way, as they simply landed hard.
But what if it would have flipped over and killed the people on board, especially emerging talent Ric Flair?
What if it killed promoter David Crockett?
Well, let's dive into that.
David was a part of the big time Crockett promotions which was really the top thing going in wrestling at the time. David was not the major head, that was Jim. He was mainly in the announcing part of it all. He was with talent a lot and well liked backstage.
His brother was Jim Crockett Jr., so he controlled most of what was going on with television and David was a smaller execute in the company. He got a major role a few years later backstage once Jim Ross joined the commentary group. David was seen as a bad announcer, anyway.
At this time, the loss of David would not of impacted the promotion as much. Jim may have been upset and took a leave of absence if anything. This would have hurt business, but even still, his loss would not have massively effected business.
Crockett though, to his credit, was a big part in helping WCW get off the ground but even then, Jim was the main force.
Tim Woods, also known as Mr. Wrestling, was a major star at the time for Crockett. He was a fan favorite and he was over a lot with most of the American audience he wrestled for. Back during these times, kayfabe was huge and Woods was the only face on the plane while the rest were heels. He was actually in high-end rivalries with Flair and Valentine.
When he heard that newspapers and other outlets would be reporting that he was on the plane, he came back on TV just 2 weeks after in extreme pain to show fans that he was ok and with the others out, there could be no way he was on the plane. He didn't want to expose Pro-Wrestling.
Woods was gone for a while but did come back, had he died, one of the top men in wrestling would have been gone; wrestling may have been revealed as well. It was not officially considered "fake" until Vince McMahon came out and claimed it was in the early 1990s.
During the '70s, if someone said it was, they could get killed by marks or wrestlers alike. Had Woods been reported to be on the plane, and fans would of known it as fact, wrestling would have been put into a stranglehold and been exposed almost two decades before McMahon claimed it was scripted.
Johnny Valentine was an amazing talent and retired US Heavyweight Champion. He was one of the best wrestlers and overall talents that NWA ever saw. He was booked so often that when he was forced to retire due to injuries from the crash, it effected NWA's attendance.
He actually ended up producing, via his activities out of the ring, another wrestling legend named Greg Valentine. He was born in '51, so he would have been born death or life for Johnny. But, would Greg have never ended up in wrestling as long as he was if his father died? Possibly not.
Although never hurt in the ring, there has been some who could not go back in the ring after the death of a family member who also wrestled. Chavo Guerrero had issues getting back in after Eddie died, and countless others have had issues as well. So, it would not be a shock to see Greg find another career path.
Bobby Bruggers was never a major name in wrestling at the level of the others in the crash, but he did manage to get over as a heel there. He was also a former Tag Team Champion. If he would have died in the crash, the wrestling world would have missed him, but his loss would not of affected its future. He managed to return for a while and then retired a few years later.
Now to Ric Flair, had he died many things would of been affected. Think about it. The NWA was getting over and making TV deals because they had Ric Flair. When cable got big, territories could rely on Flair to help them out. Without Flair, I'm not sure how well things would go.
When he was champion, crowds came in like they did for a hot meal at a homeless meeting. It was so big when Flair was in town that when he came in, newspapers and other media outlets would report it and he was basically a celebrity. He was one of the first few national wrestling celebrities during his time in NWA.
Flair held the NWA Title 10 times (some technically under WCW banner) and had his other six reigns in WWE and WCW officially. This helped him become the 16-time World Champion. The record that Flair still holds in American World Championships for major promotions.
It's such a big record, that it was one of the few records WWE allowed people to talk about in their company. Flair only held a couple World Titles in WWE, most were in NWA and yet they still allowed him to be called a 16-time World Champion. Most believe it was because of his territory days with them.
In any case, with no Flair, there would be no 16 World Titles, and 10 with NWA. As at this time, he had not won his first World Title with them. His first was in 1981. And he held it for almost 2 years.
Every reign he had seemed to last forever. The short ones he had were times in which he was still in the hunt for the World Title and in the main event scene.
So whenever Flair was not the champion, he was still touring around helping grow money for territories. Without him, it would seem that NWA would probably hang on to guys like Harley Race and Ricky Steamboat, who were classically known for being in the title hunt a ton during the '80s. Dusty Rhodes may have also had longer reigns and may have had a much bigger legacy.
NWA may have had difficulty and WCW would have had trouble getting going with cable companies. Mainly because Flair was such a big star who could transition over to fans across the nation. He was already doing this at live events, but TV was really where Flair shined.
Getting him on TV was a huge deal for WCW and NWA; using him whenever they could helped them out financially due to his stardom.
Once the most popular wrestler in the world, Flair was a big draw. Without him, NWA and especially WCW, would have struggled.
They may have had a new major star in NWA, or possibly not, WCW may have never seen Cable TV, and wrestling as a whole may not of been as popular without Flair.
Obviously, it may still have been a success, but Flair is the one who helped it early on and in its transition to TV. Without him doing all of that, it may have been a different story.
Also, The Four Horseman, a stable many people believe is the best ever, would never have happened most likely. Add that Evolution in WWE would have been nixed, too, and there is a massive issue. Flair was also very instrumental in both Batista and Randy Orton's careers.
In TNA, he helped out the careers of TNA Originals AJ Styles, Kazarian, James Storm and Robert Roode, in Fortune. Matt Morgan also saw a major push due to being involved with it. Not to mention, he helped elevate people such as Ricky Steamboat and Sting with rivalries the guys had together.
All in all, if Flair would have died, WCW and NWA would have had a major issue. He was not at a major star level at the moment of the crash. But without him, wrestling history would have changed a lot.
He would have never made the Four Horsemen, which helped out the careers of all involved and was a major part of NWA/WCW. He would have never held 16 World Titles.
The "wooo" chant would have never been invented. And wrestling's popularity may have never took off due to how Flair was one of the major reasons WCW got on cable to begin with.
When you think about it, Flair dying in that 1975 plane crash would have led to us not having the Pro-Wrestling we see today or even some in the past.
But what do you think? Would you see Pro-Wrestling being changed or the same?