Kayfabe is the term used when pro wrestlers stay in character, speak in character, and every effort is made not to expose the business as scripted. It was a big deal in the early days and when wrestling started another upswing in the 1970’s, and rumors were swirling that it was “fake” special care was taken to protect it. One man, George Burrell Woodin aka Tim Woods aka Mr. Wrestling saved the wrestling business with one selfless act according to Ric Flair.
In 1975 Woodin, Joe Farkas, Johnny Valentine, Bob Bruggers, Ric Flair, and announcer David Crockett were involved in a plane crash in Wilmington, North Carolina. The significance cannot be understated of this moment when you put this in context. Woodin was the only good guy performer on the plane at a time when bad guys and good guys were kept separate. That was rule #1 and anyone breaking this rule was promptly fired, blackballed, and probably got a can of whoop ass opened on them. So, when the plane crashed the biggest concern was the health of the passengers, but second was potentially exposing the business.
Pilot Joe Farkas was the only person who died after spending a year in a coma from his injuries. It has been said he did everything he could to position the out of control plane so the others would survive without thought to his own personal health. Johnny Valentine, Bob Bruggers, and Ric Flair broke their backs while Crockett escaped serious injury. When they were taken to the hospital, Woodin formulated a plan to keep the business behind the scenes workings safe.
The Charlotte Observer picked up on the story and dug for information on the victims. Since the territory was a wrestling hotbed this was bigger news than expected. They requested the names of the people on the plane and quick thinking saw Woodin give them his real name instead of Mr. Wrestling or Tim Woods. A good guy traveling with bad guys would have, at the time, caused a commotion during an era of growing suspicion that something was fishy with the business. Why was this important? Woods was feuding with Flair and Valentine.
With a broken back, whispers growing about Woods possibly being involved in the crash with Flair, and sheer force of will he climbed back in to the ring two weeks later to prove he was not in the crash. He was in tremendous pain, almost unbearable and convinced the wrestling world that he wasn’t on the plane. The respect he got for this act was immeasurable.
Ric Flair’s “To be the Man” book stated that Woods was the man who saved professional wrestling by protecting its secrets that day.