MTV has been connected with wrestling for years, ever since the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection of the mid-80s. Way back then, the WWF wanted to associate itself with music, while MTV wanted to associate itself with music. Flash forward to the 2000s, when WWE was under contract with MTV’s parent company Viacom, and the worlds of wrestling and corporate-manufactured youth culture once again collided. The result? Dumb pranks and a whole lot of crap (and I don’t mean the time in 2001 when some guys defecated on 13-year-old girls for an MTV pilot).
Ashton Kutcher, the famous actor and professional manchild, hosted MTV’s Punk’d, a hidden camera show where a team of terrible actors attempted to inflict emotional damage on unsuspecting celebrities, usually by pretending to do something horrible to a stranger and then blaming it on the person being pranked. Sounds hilarious, right? It’s as if the creator had seen Homer Simpson “prank” Ned Flanders into thinking his family had been killed, but he didn’t get the joke. (In fact, the show’s more aptly named forerunner, “Harassment,” featured the exact same concept as Punk’d, except with regular people instead of celebrities. It was aborted after a $10 million lawsuit over a prank involving a fake murder)
Every once in a while, Kutcher’s crew would prank a wrestler. This served the dual purpose of cross-promotion with other Viacom media, while also allowing Ashton to tap into his fictitious wrestling persona, “The Farmhand,” which was basically a sub-Rob Bartlett-level imitation of Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan. It would have been annoying to sit through just once, but Kutcher did it every damn time.
One of the first wrestlers to be “punk’d” — Uh, sorry for the interruption, but I really don’t understand that title. I mean, is the apostrophe really necessary? If it were called, “Punked,” would people pronounce it with two syllables, like “wicked” or “naked”?
Anyway, one of the first wrestlers to be punked was Dwayne Johnson. Ashton mocked the name and sarcastically wondered why he changed it to “The Rock.” Short answer: because his dad’s ring name was “Rocky.” Are you satisfied, Chris Kutcher?
In this prank, an electrician on the set of “Be Cool” warned The Rock not to use any electricity in his trailer. The Rock complied, unplugging everything. The pranksters then replaced his trailer with an identical one rigged with explosives, which went off later that night.
I don’t know what exactly The Rock was thinking when he saw the explosion: either that he had left some nitroglycerin in the trailer, or that it had been rigged by the same electrician WWE uses whenever small bumps results in elaborate pyrotechnic displays.
Anyway, one of The Rock’s assistants had supposedly been ironing some of his wardrobe in there, setting off an electrical fire. While she wasn’t in the trailer at the time of the explosion, she could have been killed, and everyone blamed The Rock for supposedly allowing her in there. The Rock kept his cool, reminding everyone that no one had been hurt and that all that was lost was property. Clearly, this was making for boring television, so somebody shoved The Rock to get a rise out of him.
Before a full-scale fight could break out, no doubt resulting in the fake electrician getting his ass kicked, the film crew revealed that it was merely a prank to test The Rock’s patience and waste the fire department’s valuable time.
Now, if these clowns had tried to punk, say, Haku, then we could have seen some good TV.
Another time, Triple H got “punk’d” thanks to Stacy Keibler (called “Stacey” on the graphics)…
…and his wife Stephanie McMahon, whose name is spelled, I kid you not, “Stephani.” At least they didn’t dot the i with a heart.
In this prank, WWE’s power couple arrived at a building for a photo shoot. Hunter then bumped open a stuck door, knocking a bride to the ground on the other side and supposedly breaking her nose. Not used to ruining weddings in real life, a remorseful Hunter immediately asked if she was okay and even offered to pay her hospital bills. What a sucker! See, it’s funny because he has empathy.
Everyone else in the bridal party berated him for being so reckless, while the wedding photographer demanded that Hunter pay him for costing him a gig. H then got mad at the money-grubber, telling him to stop taking pictures of the injured bride because he was only making things worse. Then, he found out he’d been punk’d!
And didn’t he feel foolish!
See, that’s what was wrong with the basic concept of the show: anyone who would get emotional about strangers’ (staged) misfortunes probably doesn’t deserve to be pranked, while anyone truly deserving of being duped wouldn’t care that they supposedly hurt someone.
Ashton Kutcher’s unbelievably irritating intros didn’t make things any better. Really, it’s a wonder that WWE ever invited him to film some skits and pretend to be in the arena during the “guest host” era of Raw. Even so, the least he could have done was have an in-ring wedding to Vickie Guerrero (who is six years younger than Kutcher’s ex-wife Demi Moore, by the way).
As the years dragged on, the pranks got even lamer and less focused. Take, for instance, the pranking of Stone Cold Steve Austin. Stone Cold’s manager (not Ted DiBiase, but some jerk named George) was in on the prank, supposedly losing his cell phone at a restaurant with valet parking.
The fake boss immediately accused the valet of stealing the phone and fired him on the spot, while Stone Cold told the boss that he should search the restaurant for the missing phone before jumping to conclusions. Sure enough, a waitress found the missing phone, but the boss still refused to rehire the falsely-accused employee. Austin calmly called the boss all the sorts of things you’d expect Stone Cold to say, giving him a well-deserved dressing-down before the Punk’d crew emerged to reveal the prank.
Yes, the “prank” was that Austin’s manager lost his phone, a valet was verbally abused and fired, and the boss got cussed out and put in his place by Stone Cold. Notice that none of those bad things happened to Austin himself, who remained cool throughout, but he still apparently got “Punk’d” by a guy on the verge of crapping his pants in fear.
He must have been used to this sort of thing, though, having been elaborately and nonsensically “punk’d” over several months by Vince McMahon, who at great personal expense fooled Austin into thinking there was really such a thing as the Corporate Ministry. Really, the only thing that could have saved this prank was if Ashton had walked out in a dark robe and maniacally revealed his true identity.
Stacy Keibler (whose name was spelled correctly this time) ended up on the receiving end of a prank late in the show’s run.
In this prank, Stacy was leaving a restaurant with her boyfriend (who was in on the stunt) when their SUV was blocked in by a tour bus, all of whose passengers mobbed the Dancing With The Stars alum for autographs, to which she acquiesced. Needing to get a move on, though, her boyfriend asked the valet (yes, another valet) to make the bus and the fans leave, so naturally, the guy turned a hose on the crowd like a Civil Rights Era cop.
One of the “victims” sprained her ankle, and the rest of the tourists blamed Stacy. Keibler, for her part, was sorry about what happened, but didn’t feel personally responsible, since it was the valet’s stupid idea to use a fire hose. Even so, I’m sure the whole mess was wasting Stacy’s time, causing her some minor annoyance, so…
In another segment, John Cena was being driven through a side street when his driver ran a stop sign at a funeral procession, bumping into the hearse and knocking the casket out. And no, before you ask, the Bossman wasn’t the mole in this prank.
John, being a stand-up guy, helped the grieving and belligerent family (who all blamed him personally for some reason) lift the casket back into the hearse…
…while telling the driver in private that he was indeed at fault (because he was).
Man, Cena got so punk’d!
The only redeeming Punk’d segment, it turns out, was the very first one to involve a wrestler, in this case Bill Goldberg. Goldberg was to have a custom motorcycle made for him by Jesse James. That’s the “Monster Garage” Jesse James, obviously. The Road Dogg never cheated on Sandra Bullock.
The prank was supposed to involve a semi-truck running over a duplicate of Goldberg’s new bike, causing the former champion to flip out. Instead, the eighteen-wheeler clearly missed the cycle…
…which burst into flames anyway.
Goldberg simply refused to job to Ashton Kutcher, which, had WCW never gone out of business, would surely have gotten him fired.
As asinine as MTV, Punk’d, and the wrestling-related pranks were, viewers could at least take solace in the fact that the superstars they watched on TV were actually pretty decent people in real life.
As for me, I’m just itching for CBS to reveal that they staged Charlie Sheen’s 2011 meltdown to punk Ashton Kutcher, then fire him from Two and a Half Men as the punch line.