One of the most famous single incidents of the maintenance of kayfabe above and beyond the call of duty came following The Plane Crash That Changed Wrestling in 1975.
The late Tim Woods, nicknamed Mr. Wrestling as a masked babyface star at the time, was travelling with heels Ric Flair, Johnny Valentine, Bob Bruggers and announcer and promoter David Crockett to an arena show when the plane ran out of fuel short of the airport and crashed into a barrier. Only Crockett would escape relatively unscathed - Valentine and Bruggers broke their backs and ended their careers, while Flair also broke his back, but recovered and returned to wrestling. The pilot would end up in a coma, and die the following year.
Woods was badly hurt in the accident, but for him this wouldn't be the worst that had happened. He was a masked babyface, travelling unmasked by plane with his (storyline) hated enemies. In 1975 this was an exposure of the business that he could not allow to come out. At the hospital, Woods resolved the problem the only way he knew how by maintaining kayfabe, and lying through painfully gritted teeth. He provided his real name - George Burrell Woodin - to the authorities, and claimed to be a wrestling promoter, like Crockett.
In the following weeks, newspaper articles would list his involvement under those details. In the days before the internet, there was very little way for people to know that the journalists information was inaccurate. Even so, rumours began to get around that Woods had, in fact, been a passenger on the plane as well. Woods would refute those scurrilous but entirely accurate whispers when, a fortnight after the crash, he reappeared in the ring, despite still being badly injured.
Adamant that he would not risk the business being exposed, Woods was clearly in a lot of pain from all reports, but started and finished the match as booked to do so: pretending he hadn't been onboard the horrific crash that claimed one life and ended the careers of two of the boys, in order to maintain the illusion of his fan favourite gimmick.
Flair himself would refer to him from then on as the man who saved wrestling.
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