Sometimes I go into a tailspin on this site as I am researching the dark recesses of pro wrestling. For instance, I will be hunting down a SQUASH of the Week then the next thing you know it’s 3am and I’ve lost any chance of a good night’s sleep to the folly of finding out why exactly a jobber would dub himself Mike Thor. Such was the case most recently when I did a From the Pages Of…piece where the WWF was in full blown panic mode trying to silence the backlash created by the steroid trials of the early 1990s. I saw this article, wrote and laughed about it (until I quite literally cried) and thought that was the end of it.
Little did I know.
You see, a helpful chap over on the F4WOnline BOARD informed me that the actual show the article referenced was available on YouTube for all the world to see. And thus, there was no other choice but for me to induct it.
Here’s the whole thing if you want to watch it. For those of you who would prefer to save an hour of their lives and prefer me to mock it for them, as always I am here as your humble servant. The obligatory backstory: the WWF was being investigated in the early 1990s for essentially telling their performers they needed to get on the gas and become quite literally larger than life. A quick glance up and down the roster told the story – you had guys that were so gigantic it looked as though they’d stopped by the local Shell station prior to coming to the arena and pumped themselves up at the tire jack.
I mean, seriously look at this guy, the Warlord. Dude was HYOOGE to the point that his action figure looked paltry in comparison! This was obviously the look Vince wanted his performers to have. Is there any wonder the Feds thought there might just be something evil afoot here?
Vince and the WWF would be found not guilty, but the court of public opinion had decided the case somewhat differently. Call it perception becomes reality if you’d like. Regardless, it was up to Vince to try to wipe the slate clean and explain how wholesome his company truly was. And what better way to do it than to appear live on a show called NewSportalk with Chicago sports broadcast legend and WWF superfan Chet Coppock?
The interview begins with Chet putting over the incredible success on PPV of the Federation, noting that 31 of the 56 highest grossing PPV events were done under Vince’s supervision. I’m all for numbers, but 31 of 56? That’s more than a little random to say the least. Guessing that sounds more impressive than calling it 55.36% but whatever.
We quickly transition to Chicago White Sox president Eddie Einhorn who says the thing that Vince has going for him most is that he doesn’t have a player’s association. It is followed by a laugh and this face:
Yep, this show ain’t gonna be biased at all!
Vince continues the baseball talk by noting that he feels the fun that was in the major leagues has now “transgressed” into the playgrounds and little league. “But there’s another place where you can find all that fun – the World Wrestling Federation,” Vince beams. “That’s what we’re all about!” I was just waiting for a “we put smiles on people’s faces” follow up, but apparently that particular bit of WWE speak didn’t exist yet. Ah for the simpler times.
Chet notes that Buddy Rogers had told another sportscaster that the matches were predetermined and asks how Vince would respond to such allegations. Vince dances around the subject by noting that Buddy is unfortunately no longer with us. I was just waiting for a “I didn’t even know he was sick”, but…wait, that’s my line. No wonder he didn’t say it.
From there we dive right into steroids, namely Chet calling out Vince himself and claiming that, and I am quoting here, “you felt the need to utilize steroids to enhance your structure physically.” Vince says whoa there pardner, we need to “go back in time” and tells us when that happened steroids weren’t illegal. Also, he sadly knew very little about steroids at the time, but thankfully he “knows quite a bit now due to our steroid policies.” He notes that he had always trained, always been in athletics. “I was sort of coaxed into taking steroids with a film I was doing with Hulk Hogan in Atlanta, called No Holds Barred…
…a pretty successful film as far as box office is concerned!!!”
Mrs. Deal, get Dave Meltzer on the line!
Per Dave: “I don’t know how successful it was past the fact Vince used to complain that Hogan promised him if he lost money on it that Hogan promised to make up the difference and then Hogan never did.”
Vince says that he was told that steroids would make an incredible difference in his physique, so he tried them. Because again he tells us, they were NOT ILLEGAL AT THE TIME. We need to make that abundantly clear, so Vince mentions it approximately 27 times in this interview. Regardless, the mean old government began investigating him for distributing steroids to his wrestlers for a “long, expensive ordeal.” Chet asks, with a straight face mind you, “do you feel you should sue the government based on harassment?”
Vince mourns the fact that he cannot in fact sue the US government. “There is no regress…for the horrible travesty they put myself and my family through, all the wonderful fans, and everyone in our organization.” And he’s just getting started! “You know, it was like the Larry, Curly, and Moe of the judicial system coming after us!” He continues: “We were investigated longer than the Warren commission investigated the assassination of the president of the United States!”
Vince claims he turned over 10,000 documents (!!!!) to the government and suffered greatly from lost opportunities since no one wanted to do business with them. Chet transitions back to Vince’s own usage of steroids and asks if he ever suffered from “ROIDS RAGE”.
“So little is known about steroids,” Vince growls, “and the media has done such a HORRIBLE JOB in knowing what steroids are all about! They have HOODWINKED the public so many times in terms of what steroids are all about!” Somehow this leads into a discussion of the COLD WAR and how the RUSSIANS are kicking our butts and the FDA and how the government has been lying to us for years about how steroids are bad and I think he is saying they are good or something. Not sure but the man appears to be legit losing his mind before our very eyes. Guessing we just witnessed some ROIDS RAGE right there.
We get a quote from Jimmy Snuka next who says that Vince’s best quality is that he can become “almost childlike”. Vince says that’s part of the appeal of the WWF, that seven year olds can enjoy what they do.
“Are you ever uncomfortable with the notion a seven-year old little boy might idolize The Undertaker?” Chet wants to know. “I would imagine we could find a sizable number of people who would find that to be completely inappropriate for someone to wish to emulate.”
Vince is naturally gobsmacked that someone could be appalled at such a notion, telling us that seven-year old children SHOULD emulate the GOOD of what the Undertaker does! Sadly he does not explain if closing casket lids on or shoving opponents into body bags is something said seven-year olds should emulate. “He’s a positive role model!!!!” Vince clarifies to anyone dumb enough not to understand his point.
Randy Savage pops on from a previous episode, telling us the thing Vince loves most in the whole world in wrestling. Chet notes that Vince signs Randy’s checks, to which Macho quips “and he better put some more zeroes behind it too!” Let’s see, that chyron says August 21, 1994. Per my extensive investigation (5 seconds on Google), Randy Savage debuted for WCW on December 3, 1994. So I am going out on a limb and saying Vince didn’t follow through on Randy’s request.
Talk turns to Hulk Hogan next, as Chet asks Vince if the Hulkster would have been as popular as he was without using steroids to enhance his “magnificently sculpted body.” Vince is of course appalled at such a suggestion. Not appalled at Hulk using steroids mind you (“which he admitted to…FINALLY!” Vince notes), but rather that Hulk Hogan did NOT have anything resembling a fantastic physique. Vince tells us he was great “in his heyday”, this despite the fact he had “no abs.” NO ABS!!!!
Chet follows up asking if Vince considers the company Hogan went to, WCW, a legitimate threat or merely a minor annoyance. Vince notes he was surprised that Hulk Hogan would have joined a “minor league operation” and that he was hurt personally because Terry Bollea always told him he’d never leave him. Still, according to Vince, Hulk was no longer the Hulk of old. “We all get older, we all slow up.” Sadly, Hulk didn’t want to go into a Babe Ruth role in the WWF and thus he departed.
Discussion turns to, with the Good Lord above as my witness and I am NOT making this up…DOINK THE CLOWN! Vince explains they did not do market research to come up with the idea of an evil wrestling clown, they just came up with it all on their own. What a shame, I’d have loved to have been surveyed about that – in fact, I bet I would have fallen right into the target demographic about the time they sent such a questionnaire out. I can just imagine younger, virile me writing in the comments section “if you keep him a heel, I would be in favor of a pro wrestling clown. Just never ever turn him face because that would be the dumbest thing you could ever do.”
Chet drills Vince next with the question of “With your wrestlers, if they don’t do it the Vince McMahon way, do you hand them a bus ticket?” Vince notes that he is working with eccentric athletes, “all of whom are wonderful human beings!” Awesome, I can’t wait to hear about all these nice guys like Jimmy Snuka and Nailz!
Unfortunately before we can get there, we get BOB FROM FLORIDA on the line! He notes Vince should sue the government…but more likely, Vince will sue HIM! Vince says he has zero idea who Bobby even is, so the caller explains that he is the man in possession of the WWF Light Heavyweight championship belt! Vince says they don’t have such a belt, to which Bob quips “Well I’m LOOKING AT IT RIGHT NOW!” before getting cut off.
Can’t wait until WWE starts doing stuff like this again and I can call and ask Vince about the Katie Vick outfit just so I can say “Well I’m LOOKING AT IT RIGHT NOW!” and then hang up like a thief in the night.
Ivan from New York is on next, kissing Vince’s hindquarters for a good two minutes about the WWF’s haha-larious mocking of the MLB. He also wants to know about WrestleMania and Vince explains they are hoping to have it in Hartford this year. “We’d like to do one in our home state!” Yep, I’m sure the dwindling attendance throughout the loop has nothing to do with it!
Vince goes into another spiel about how they are sports entertainment, not wrestling. Chet asks Vince if he is suggesting legitimate press don’t take them so seriously. Vince scoffs noting that they are just good old fashioned entertainment, even though their athletes take death defying chances every single night. Dude, I was there for house shows in 1994, the only threat there was trying to not doze off during yet another IRS vs. Tatanka match.
Chet bounces back to Hulk Hogan, as he tells us he was talking to some other wrestlers recently and they all felt that if Hulk was going to keep going, he needed to become a heel. Whoa, that’s out of nowhere on this interview. Serious question: is it possible Eric Bischoff, who was obsessed with Vince, may have possibly been watching this and thought, “that there is a heck of an idea!!”? Anyway, Vince says that Hulk has grown tired in the eyes of the public because he’s been around too long. “He hasn’t changed anything, save grow older…you know, everyone remembers Johnny Unitas playing for the Colts. No one remembers Johnny Unitas playing for the Chargers!” YIKES.
Jay from Florida rings in next, asking Vince why the WWF ignores its history, name dropping Bruno Sammartino and Superstar Billy Graham, both of whom were on the no call list in Stamford at the time. Vince pays the guy lip service and says how important history is to him, and talks about George “The Animal” Steele being in a new movie, “Ed Would.” That’s not a typo, that’s legitimately how Vince pronounced it. I thought for sure Vince was going to say he saw it, but instead notes he just saw a clip. Good thing, because had he said he sat through an entire movie it may have been the biggest lie in this whole interview.
Chet gets stern next, asking Vince “are you a tough son of a bitch to work for?” Have to admit, that was anything but a softball question so bravo I guess to the guy for that. Upon hearing such an accusation, Vince replies, and I quote, “I’m as soft as a marshmallow.”
The interview continues to weave all over the place, with talk now returning to The Undertaker. Chet plays his cool smark card by noting, “He’s managed by Paul Bearer, who at one time operated under the name of Percival Pringle.”
Vince responds in a way only Vince would: “He did?”
Chet continues with the following statement which I will simply quote verbatim: “How does a Vince McMahon come up with the name of ‘Paul Bearer’? I mean, that requires an imagination that Spielberg would envy!!”
Chet then goes on to theorize that the WWF IS Vince McMahon and that everyone dances to the music Vince is playing. Vince begs off and says “this is not a Vince McMahon show.” Uh huh.
Chet asks if one of the wrestlers gets hurt if they still pay them. “Absolutely,” Vince says, “because that’s the only way it should be.” Not only that, but the WWF has ALWAYS paid people when they were hurt. I’ve already played my “Mrs. Deal, get Dave Meltzer on the line” card once, so I will let one of you guys send that into the mailbag for Observer Radio and fact check that one as it sounds like BS to me. I mean, nowhere near the level of baloney that’s in the rest of this train wreck of a show but still.
Jim from Illinois hops on the line next, talking about all the wonderful charity work the WWF does. Yep, because if you are one of four people calling in to talk to Vince the company’s charitable ventures would be the top thing on your mind. Chet also notes, “Correct me if I am wrong, but don’t you also have 250-300 licensing agreements? That’s incredible to me!” as this gets more scripted than any given Monday Night Raw.
And it somehow gets even worse as Chet asks Vince if he weren’t such a visual presence, “would the government not have been as aggressive towards Vince McMahon in their losing effort?” Holy crap, that legitimately sounds like something Vince would have written himself. (And probably did.) Vince theorizes that the feds likely wanted him to make a deal, but since he wasn’t guilty, he was never going to cut a deal. Except when young Stephanie started crying. Probably while being held by her good friend Andre the Giant. Who was of course dead by this point, but never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
Vince further tells us he lives by the words of DAVY CROCKETT, who told him on the television set as a kid that if he’s in the right, keep going forward. There’s a David Crockett joke in there somewhere involving “LOOK AT HIM TONY!” and baldheaded geeks, but this whole thing has my brain just about gone.
Seeing the old clock on the wall nearly hitting the hour mark, Vince gets in one more shot at the judge in the trial, calling him senile and claiming he was falling asleep during the trial. Even Chet has seen enough, calling a penalty on Vince for overacting.
Wrapping up, we get Vince explaining that he’d “like to be perceived as someone who’s a member of the corporate community, an upstanding member of the corporate community, someone who has a tireless effort to want to give of themselves in terms of what I can do to entertain people. That would be a legacy I want to leave to my son Shane and my daughter Stephanie.”
Chet: “How soon will Shane take the reigns from the old man? You’re obviously grooming him to be the third generation of McMahons to promote wrestling.”
Vince: “As far as Shane is concerned, probably tomorrow would be soon enough…but I’ve got a few miles left!”
The final question: “Are you following OJ Simpson?” which somehow has Vince explaining – again – that the legal system is a sham and that OJ is probably innocent anyway.
One final handshake (and best wishes to Linda!) later, and we are out of here.
WOW. Just…wow. That is a LOT to unpack and I am completely exhausted.
Say what you will, but there will never be another Vince McMahon.