Induction: McMahon’s Million Dollar Mania – Skip Raw or win $1,000,000? Decisions, decisions…

34 Submitted by on Thu, 17 September 2015, 20:42

WWE, 2008

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Ever since Vince McMahon bought out WCW in 2001, WWE’s TV ratings trends have been fluctuating between the proverbial “free fall” and the proverbial “graceful descent with a parachute.”

In that sense, 2008 was a year like most any other year in the company’s post-Attitude Era period, with Raw viewership dropping to the low 3s by mid-year after residing in the low 4s earlier in the year. To stop the bleeding, Vince McMahon launched the most shameless, transparent ratings ploy since HLA. This time, though, it would be the audience’s lust for mammon and not mammaries that Vince would exploit.

In lieu of a main event, Vince filled up the final segment of the May 26th Raw with a promo in which he vowed to show his appreciation for the audience.

“What is it I always say to you?” said Vince. “I always say, ‘it’s all about the mun-nay!’”

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Note: Vince had never, ever said that.

Still, fans wouldn’t care about him ret-conning a catchphrase if he delivered on his promise to give away a million dollars from his own personal bank account. Sure enough, the following week on Raw, Vince arrived with a million dollars cash and… cut a promo.

Yes, Vince cut a lengthy promo about the money he was going to give away the next week and admitted, in the nicest possible way, that this was a giant ratings-grab. “Attract new viewers” was the euphemism used. He then blasted the people who wouldn’t watch Raw even for a chance at a million dollars, leading the audience to boo. Whom exactly? Snobs! Snobs who weren’t watching. Vince even said he wanted the arena’s marquee to read “No snobs allowed.” That’ll learn ‘em! munnay02 
munnay04 So Vince cut a promo on a group of people who would never ever hear it, about bribing other people who weren’t listening to watch Raw, for a live audience of people who actually paid their own money to hear him cut the promo.
I guess it didn’t make any less sense than sticking it to his snobby neighbors from Greenwich, CT who hate wrestling by putting a snob character from Greenwich (who evidently loves wrestling) on the wrestling shows they would never watch. munnay03 
munnay05 On June 9th, McMahon’s Million Dollar Mania actually began, requiring viewers to know a password given at the beginning of the show, then stay tuned to see if their phone number was the lucky one selected at random. Or, they could turn off the show after they heard the password and just make sure to answer the phone whenever it rang in case it was Vince.
Those who did the latter proved to be the smart ones, as the Million Dollar Mania stunt designed to get people watching Raw quickly came to resemble not Who Wants to Be A Millionaire or Wheel of Fortune, but the short-lived daytime game show, Confused Old Man Loudly Dials Strangers’ Phone Numbers.  munnay06
munnay07 Case in point: Vince felt the proceedings so important that he put on his famous “cheaters” to make sure he didn’t mis-dial. He did anyway.
On the first night of Million Dollar Mania alone, Vince dialed a wrong number, got Rick-roll’d when a recipient didn’t answer, got disconnected, and got Rick-roll’d a second time. And that was just the first contestant; all of the above happened in a single segment. munnay08
munnay09 You’d think Vince would be embarrassed, but he clearly had no idea what Rick-rolling was. He’s no computer hacker.
Later in the show, Vince had to dial the same number three times, and even then it was busy. munnay10
munnay11  The password for the first night, by the way, was the brand-new buzzword, “WWE Universe,” guaranteeing that it would be the second-most-repeated phrase on the episode (#1 being “beep-boop-boop-beep-boop-beep-beep-boop-boop-beep”).
Vince mis-dialed some more later in the show. Hey, it’s live TV, and anything can happen! Like a viewer saying, “shit” on the air. Kind of ironic that this Raw had the most beeps in history, yet that little doozy managed to sneak by uncensored. munnay12
munnay13  Once, Vince awarded a contestant a mere two bucks as punishment for how much the previous Jillian Hall segment sucked. Vince was turning into a real-life Million Dollar Man, paying unsuspecting fans to perform degrading acts and then stiffing them on the bill. In this case, the degrading act was having to sit through endless segments of an old man trying in vain to dial a phone.
I’m not even exaggerating all that much here; the Million Dollar Mania segments made the whole show virtually un-watchable, popping up in every segment and often lasting longer than the wrestling matches that preceded them. munnay14
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“Hello? Is this Ken Jennings? This is Alex Trebek. You’ve just won 2 and a half million dollars!”

 

The whole debacle was like a game show with neither a game nor a show, just Vince telling faceless strangers over the phone that they’d won money. The result was a process that was fun for everyone involved except the viewers, the production crew, and basically anyone who wasn’t on the other end of the phone. Imagine if real game shows worked like that.
None of this prevented Vince from announcing that Million Dollar Mania had been such a success, he’d do it again the next week. The next day, he found out that Million Dollar Mania had earned Raw its lowest ratings in seven weeks, information that would have been useful before he promised to give away a million more dollars of his own money. munnay16
munnay17  Still, Vince was bound by his word to carry on the tedious, expensive ritual. No need to explain the whole deal all over again, Vince. You know the rules, and so do I.
Vince had an entire week to figure out how to use the phone, but all to no avail; he messed up yet again in the very first segment. munnay15
munnay18 The fun continued when a fan named Ron didn’t answer the phone, giving Vince a chance to pounce on him via voicemail for blowing his $50,000 chance by not watching Raw. Ron was reportedly “okay” with his decision.
Becky Carmon of Advance, North Carolina had the misfortune of being born in Flair Country and thus earned herself 16 dollars, one for each of Nature Boy’s world title reigns. Rip-off! She should have won 21 dollars. munnay19
munnay20  Another woman who answered the phone nearly broke down in tears over how much she loved Vince McMahon. Fortunately, Vince didn’t ask her to prove how much she loved him by making her bark like a dog. That indignity was reserved for Denzel of Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Vince had somewhat less patience with contestants who had things to say other than how much they worshiped the ground The Chairman walked on. Kyle Mathisen of Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota seized the opportunity to tell McMahon that Night of Champions was on his birthday. Vince, in response, did not give a solitary crap. munnay21
munnay22  Despite the insufferable nature of the contest and the many technical difficulties plaguing it, the train wreck that was Million Dollar Mania rolled on like some kind of wheeled, rail-bound vehicle.
One lucky contestant told Vince he had the wrong number and hung up. munnay23
munnay24 I’m not saying Vince was going senile, but in one segment he took ages personally dialing the ten digits written down for him, then repeatedly chastised Khali for entering the wrong number, having already forgotten that he himself was the one who’d dialed.
In another segment on the same night, a contestant giddily recited the password, “Night of Champions.” Vince didn’t hear her the first time, so she repeated it. “Night of Champions.” Vince, ever the humanitarian, gleefully declared, “You are a loser!” Kelly Kelly then informed him that she had indeed said the correct password, so he gave Crystal Vega of The Bronx the 100 grand after all, like the game show equivalent of, “One, two, he got ‘em! He got ‘em! No he didn’t.” munnay25 
munnay26bmunnay26 After two straight weeks of million-dollar giveaways and a third one in progress, Raw’s rating had barely budged. Vince clearly needed an exit strategy, an excuse to stop giving away huge sums of cash every week without having to admit that he couldn’t get people to watch his show even with a million-dollar bribe. McMahon fell back on his favorite stunt, which was to pretend he had been gravely injured, just as he had done with his limo explosion the summer before and the Nexus beat-down two summers in the future.
Following a 500-grand giveaway and a suspiciously wide camera angle, Vince fell prey to WWE’s notoriously explosive set… munnay27
burlap03 …which collapsed around, under, and on top of him in an ever-so-slightly contrived manner.
The locker room rushed to the scene to aid their supposedly fallen boss, who had clearly not been hit by anything. The only thing that would have made the scene funnier was if a member of TNA’s tech crew hadn’t just died taking apart the set of their latest pay-per-view. munnay29
munnay30  To add that extra little bit of realism, Vince cried out to Triple H, “Paul, I can’t feel my legs!” It was very important to break kayfabe here; if just a handful of people could be convinced that the chairman and owner of WWE was incapacitated, it would all be worth it. As long as those people weren’t, say, Wall Street investors, in which case it could cause WWE’s stock value to plummet. But they were probably one of those snobs who refused to watch WWE, so it was all good.
 

For the next few weeks, Raw was in a state of chaos, with lights falling over, fans sneaking backstage and posing for the camera, and gullible fans posting all of it years later on Youtube as if it were all a shoot.

This disorder and need for management would culminate in the appointment of Mike Adamle as GM later that summer.

If that’s not the wisest use of 3 million dollars you’ve ever heard, then you probably remember the time that Vince bought out his only competition for less than that amount.

Think about that. Vince spent more on Million Dollar Mania than on the purchase of WCW, all while producing tedious television, alienating viewers, and producing no new stars or hot angles. Million Dollar Mania didn’t do so hot, either.

Written by

A wrestling fan ever since the days of Wrestlemania IX, Art graduated from college in the same building where Art Donovan called King of the Ring 1994. He also runs the "How Much Does This Guy Weigh?" blog, where he reviews New Generation-Era Monday Night Raws. Follow him on Twitter @Art0Donnell. Email at: art@wrestlecrap.com
34 Responses to "Induction: McMahon’s Million Dollar Mania – Skip Raw or win $1,000,000? Decisions, decisions…"
  1. Sean Bateman says:

    Vince giving out a Million bucks is a whole lot better than WCW losing money in 2000

  2. "The Big Cheese" Paul Kraft says:

    Art, you did a fine job of reminding me why these segments gave me such a headache. Nice job! 🙂

  3. John C says:

    The first episode of this fiasco was the first I’d watched live instead of on tape for years. Boy it sucked and sucked bad. Flashbacks of the awful Summer Slam ’97 live phone contest popped into my head. Even with the lure of cash giveaways it was too painful to watch and it was back to the videotape and fast forward button for Munnay Night Raw. Although Khali yelling into a phone at me would have been awesome.

  4. Jimbolian says:

    Finally! I’ve been waiting forever for this induction, the crap really hit the fan on this sweepstakes.

  5. Alexandru says:

    Yeah because there’s nothing more entertaining than watching a company trying to bribe people to watch a crappy show.Ugh. Yeah 2006-early 2011 was a terrible period for WWE

  6. Down With OPC says:

    I’m surprised they didn’t bring in Rick Astley to guest host RAW the following year.

  7. WrestleTrekker says:

    Fun fact: WWE actually named this as their worst mistake in the (Sadly missed IMO) show WWE Countdown.
    Really.
    As in, worse than the fucking Shockmaster.

  8. Hulk6785 says:

    Looking back, this probably should have won the Gooker over Mike Adamle. Oh well.

  9. Time Lord Soundwave says:

    I thought Vince paid $4,000,000 for WCW.

  10. Rob Brown says:

    I suspect Vince needs more practice operating his telephone machine.

  11. Anonymous says:

    How did this not win the Gooker?

    • Hulk6785 says:

      People just thought Mike Adamle sucked more.

      • CP says:

        And really, Adamle’s body of work made him the runaway choice.

        Naming him the GM of Raw was the shark jumping moment in my book. I haven’t watched Raw much since and have abstained completely from WWE outside of Youtube clips for almost six years.

  12. Drippage says:

    There’s a game show in the UK called Million Pound Drop, this is the Million Dollar Ratings Drop. The only thing sadder than this is that TNA, the so-called ‘competition’, has repeatedly been unable to take advantage of WWE’s ineptitude and has often been much, much worse. Other promotions that may have actually stood a chance of being genuine competition haven’t been able to make any headway due to not having the finances to mount a challenge. Thus, we have a totally unopposed monopoly that, thankfully, at least is now back to usually making decent television especially on NXT. But the complacency can easily return so enjoy the quality while it lasts.

    • Philip says:

      NXT is pretty much the only WWE product I watch regularly – I tend to read summaries of Raw the following morning (as it’s on in the middle of the night in the UK), and then decide whether to watch or delete the recording. New Day have been slowly winning me back, though (fast-forwarding through Authority/Cena/Bella promos also makes the show go a lot faster. I wonder why?).

  13. Rich R says:

    I swear to God, I was in bed last night and thought, man, I want to see a Wrestlecrap induction on this.

    !!!

  14. Doc 902714 says:

    Mike Adamle would borrow same “cheaters” from Vince just a few months later.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Adamle

  15. Dave says:

    “Paul, what exactly is this “Rick rolling?” Is it like a Google?”

  16. CP says:

    I once Rickrolled somebody by pretending that it was a link to some sort of sports website. This guy isn’t exactly the brightest bulb in the shed, so he thought I (and I wish I was making this up) “serenaded him with a gay love song”. Nevermind the fact that in order to serenade him I would have to be the one singing, or the fact that Rick Astley is married with children.

  17. Mike says:

    Art, your inductions have just been a boon to this site. I was dying laughing as you roasted McMahon’s senility and inability to dial a correct phone number.

  18. Cameron A. says:

    At least one useful thing came out of this fiasco. Unfortunately, it’s what became the Money in the Bank theme, and I doubt Jim Johnston was given $1,000,000 just to get a singer to repeat “money” a bunch of times.

  19. Quentin Kaasa says:

    If you think Vince McMahon getting Rick Roll’d wasn’t known about by him before the show, then you are one of those gullible fans you alluded to.

  20. NightmareNear says:

    Wasn’t the night that the set “fell” on the same date as the Beniot tragedy that happened the year before?

  21. Redsox4life says:

    The first week of Million Dollar Mania did give us one of the best Bryan & Vinny shows of all time so at least something good came out of the whole debacle.

  22. EWA Beach Boy says:

    I’ve always wondered if those calls were real. This induction did nothing to clear that up! And before any one says of course they were a shoot, look real hard at where this ended up. It isn’t hard to think it was all just a work to give us Mike Adamle as GM.

    And before anyone replies to my post, I never said it was a good plan, not dumb as hell, well executed, or got anything over in any manner whatsoever!!!!!!!!!!!

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