Note: This is part 2 of a satirical article based on a lucid dream.
In it, I am currently standing in the ring of a fan-less house show. Outside the ring are hundreds of wrestlers (past & present) & WWE employees sitting in chairs, occasionally murmuring about the answers I’m giving to wrestling-related questions asked by Vince McMahon – who is only present over the sound system. I may or may not be given a writing position with WWE based on my answers.
“People grumble that the Attitude-Era of the 90’s is better than today’s programming. Do you believe that?” Vince asked.
TRUTH 26: “Nostalgia is the great love & enemy. We can revel in it for short periods of time but new stars can’t be created by living in the past. But yes, it was better. But not for all the reasons most fans state. It was better simply because it was fun. I don’t remember the last time wrestling was fun to watch.
A silence filled the room until Vince spoke again:
“What do you think of the term sports-entertainment?”
TRUTH 27 (a) It also affords you some leeway in the “sports” world because the media can’t have it both ways – they can’t call you a sport & hold your company to the same wellness standards if you’re partially entertainment-based (though they try).
“What’s your opinion of steroids?”
TRUTH 28: In the 70’s & prior, steroids were legal for use in speeding up rehab from an injury. Since they’ve become (mostly) illegal, there isn’t an overachieving athlete in sports who doesn’t use steroids to be better, drugs or alcohol to ease the pain or some other form of medication to gain an advantage. There’s nothing wrong with taking steroids to gain an advantage because it’s rampant. If it could realistically be policed, I’d feel otherwise, but it can’t.
The world of sports in general is hypocritical. Once you start retro-actively taking away people’s medals or achievements, you should just do away with those accomplishments entirely because everybody is suspect. Who’s to say the 2nd & 3rd place finishers weren’t taking something to enhance their abilities or that the loser didn’t take a “downer” to throw the contest.
Ultimately, you cannot stop someone from doing something that – in their eyes – makes them better versions of themselves. The only people whining are the ones not doing it & getting their asses handed to them or who are – at best – average athletes.
“What do you think of our Wellness Policy?”
TRUTH 29: At its best it’s designed to warn the “A” list stars to watch their intake. At its worst it makes other wrestlers too paranoid in a world that’s already filled with deception & back-stabbing.
It is nice, however, that you offer free rehab to anyone who’s ever worked for the WWE. I’m not up-to-date on other organization’s medical practices, but I doubt many offer that to former workers. Of course, it helps that not many will use the services offered.
“What do you think of my family’s involvement in the ring and on television?”
Everyone leaned forward in their chairs. Even Stephanie stopped texting for a moment.
TRUTH 30: Necessary. People can scream nepotism all they want…and they’d be right, but that’s not the point. Promoters have put the belt on themselves, their kids & family (or made them focal points of feuds) for as long as wrestling has existed because you never know when someone is going to leave a company. And when it’s done right (like with the Mr. McMahon character) it’s great. Other times it’s average or filler (see Shane McMahon) and at its worst (Stephanie) it’s grating. But necessary.
“What do you think of my wife’s foray into politics?” Tension filled the house.
TRUTH 31: A natural progression, like Schwarzenegger entering politics. Entertainment & government office have a long, illustrious association. It also adds a public-perceived legitimacy to the WWE.
Success in business translates to success in politics (eventually). Who better to run a district, city or state, than someone who operates a successful business. People concentrate too much on what that business is, as if that matters. I know drug dealers who’d make excellent CEO’s if they didn’t want to take a pay cut.
A collective sigh of release floated through the room.
“I’m going to mention some specific wrestlers & you offer me your opinion. Understand?” Vince asked.
“Yes,” I answered.
“Andre the Giant?”
TRUTH 32: I’m not sure I could add anything to his legacy with words. Everyone knows who Andre the Giant is. I’ll say that he never should have had to job to the Ultimate Warrior. I don’t know if that was in a build-up for the Warrior facing Hogan & making Warrior seem unstoppable or just a feud to keep Andre busy as his health deteriorated.
“The Ultimate Warrior?” Vince asked.
TRUTH 33: The fans loved him. Wrestling-fans are pissed that the ring wasn’t his life when he was (seemingly) handed the opportunity of a lifetime. Too bad, get over it. Sh*t happens. It was his career to do with as he pleased.
And as I said with Bruno Sammartino, induct him into the WWE Hall of Fame. Who cares if he doesn’t want it or accepts it; have someone accept it on his behalf. It’s something the fans want, regardless of personal vendettas. His contributions are his own; awards bestowed are not.
“The British Bulldogs?”
TRUTH 34: Next to The Hart Foundation & Tully Blanchard/Arn Anderson, probably the greatest tag-team in history.
“Individually,” McMahon stated. “Starting with Dynamite.”
TRUTH 35: Professionally, The Dynamite Kid was an incredible wrestler. 10-15 years ahead of his time. Personally, well…evil people usually get what they deserve because they bring it upon themselves.
TRUTH 35 (a) Davey Boy Smith was a nice person whose dreams were bigger than his muscles & heart would allow. A tragedy, like many others.
“Am I or the WWE responsible for so many tragedies?” Vince asked.
TRUTH 36: Ultimately…no. People are responsible for their own actions. We live in a world where there’s always someone to blame. There’s a huge difference between contributing to something and being the cause of it. Most individuals don’t want to see that difference. They see the pity in being a victim instead of the honor in taking responsibility.
TRUTH 37: One of the hardest-working & thus, most-reviled people. I’m not saying he’s a great technical wrestler (quite the opposite), just that he didn’t climb to the top of the WWE by being lazy. Not in his professional or his personal life.
If you want to be at or near the top, start living your persona 24/7. That’s called dedication. Visit sick kids without “tweeting” about it. Stay for the matches you’re not involved in to learn. Shut up about your injuries. If this was any other decade in wrestling, you wouldn’t even still have a job after being injured, unless you were working while recovering. Go talk to Terry Funk about injuries & see how much sympathy you get.
TRUTH 38: Thank God for him. People can complain all they want, but they better get used to (and embrace the fact) that he IS the future of wrestling.
I don’t mean in the ring. (Though I’m sure he’ll book himself into top feuds for years; see TRUTH 30 about nepotism above.) I mean he’s learning every aspect of the business directly from you, Vince. And whether a person likes or dislikes him, he’ll be (directly & indirectly) the reason wrestling events fill stadiums and not armories for the next 40 years.
TRUTH 39: Missed greatly & a better wrestler than people remember. His commentary with Bobby “The Brain” Heenan was perfection through a microphone. After his son died (famed referee Joey Morella) he lost his will to live. I’m glad you honored your agreement to keep him employed for life when he sold his shares of your dad’s company to you.
TRUTH 40: I don’t know him personally but I never cared for his commentating style. I’ve always heard that he was a mean, insecure person backstage, who used what limited amount of knowledge & power he had over other people’s heads.
TRUTH 41: For me (and a generation of fans) he is THE voice of the WWE. As soon as I hear him, I look forward to the match. I’ve heard he’s a walking-encyclopedia of wrestling knowledge as well.
(Many nods and murmurs of agreement in the audience.)
“Mean Gene Okerlund?”
TRUTH 42: Fantastic & articulate in his own right but famous because Hulk Hogan started every interview with (imitating the Hulkster): “Well, you know something Mean Gene…” Success by association.
TRUTH 43: Fun. Funny. Makes me loves wrestling even when I hate it.
Vince shifted gears: “Will wrestling always be around?”
TRUTH 44: Yes. Whether it’s the WWE or small territories or Japan, etc. There’s enough love of the business in the world to keep it alive forever. Plus, even if Stephanie & Hunter make horrible decision after horrible decision, it’d take decades for the company to go under.
“What do you think of the WWE Film-Division?”
TRUTH 45: That you need to change the name to something not associated with wrestling in the average movie-goer’s mind and stop putting wrestlers in your movies. I know it’s cheaper, but it’s not smarter.
“The impending WWE network?”
TRUTH 46: Wrestling is profitable & advertising during it is smart, but it doesn’t seem as though an infrastructure is in place, so it seems odd that you’re just jumping in & thinking everything will fall in place. This isn’t 20 years ago & advertisers aren’t clamoring for content-worthy or rating-bonanza advertisement opportunities. Indeed, TV advertising is near-death. With your vast library, you could run programs, movies & PPV’s for years before having to create new content. If I could watch every episode of RAW from its inception on the WWE network, I’d subscribe tomorrow.
“UFC, Strikeforce, etc?” Vince asked.
TRUTH 47: I’m not a fan, so I don’t have much of an opinion. I find two men hugging each other until one is tired of it very boring. There are about 2 minutes of excitement & intensity in MMA fights.
Strike Force was great. I loved Tito Santana & Rick Martel teaming up, then feuding.
(Many laughs from the audience & Vince.)
TRUTH 48: Reminds me of The Ultimate Warrior in a number of ways. And as I said, nostalgia only gets you so far.
“Me,” Vince said.
An uncomfortable silence crept over the room like a slow-rolling fog.
TRUTH 49: As a promoter or person?
“You’ve already given me your opinion of me as a promoter (see Part 1),” Vince said. “How do you see me as a person?”
TRUTH 49 (a) A dichotomy. You & Linda are honorary members of the Make-a-Wish Foundation, support the troops, have given undeserving people a 2nd, 3rd & 4th chances. By many accounts, a wonderful parent & philanthropist.
On the other hand, you’re ruthless, egotistical & built your empire on the very lives of your lifeblood. Your only regard for the health or lives of those you depend on is based on whether they have any blood left to give. Though to be honest, that’s the only way your level of success can be attained.
Vince didn’t respond; most in the audience looked surprised at my candor.
“A Wrestler’s Union?”
TRUTH 50: Will never happen because any group of 3 wrestlers have the same chance as a group of 3 promoters all agreeing on how black a cup of coffee is.
(Many smiles & several grimaces in the audience.)
Shortly, all the wrestlers & employees filed out of the room. In the dream, I stayed standing in the ring. When the arena was empty, Vince spoke again: “We’ll be in touch.”
Suddenly, I was instantly back in my own bed and it was 3am.
The phone rang. I got the writing gig.
Then I woke up.
Shane Jeffries is a writer, wrestling fan & 80’s Pop Culture Junkie.
You can email him at [email protected] to tell him how cool & right he is.
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