Welcome to my new article concept, “Air Up There”. I figured I have “That Being Said” for recaps, and we all know what happens in “Interinactivity” – I wanted something I could do when I just wanted to write an article like the rest of the fine people on this site do.
Last month, there was some debate regarding WWE’s anti-bullying campaign. Some discussion revolved around the fact that WWE’s storylines basically all revolve around bullying of some sort, so that the campaign was irrelevant. Some people stood up for WWE on this matter, and that got me thinking about that whole “Stand Up For WWE” thing that happened a year and a bit back.
I remember WWE actually telling people to make YouTubes about it, and people actually did it. Swayze and I watched some of them. They’re hilarious. Swayze showed me one that this young girl did – at one point, you’re literally watching this 13-or-so-year-old-girl… and SHE’S watching a debate that has Linda McMahon’s opponent in it. Near the end of the video, Linda’s opponent says something to the effect of “Linda McMahon has the funds to run an effective campaign” and the little girl says “YEAH, AND YOU DON’T, FAGGOT.” right out of nowhere. It hits you like a brick in the face. This sweet little girl, who, a few seconds ago, was talking about how fun it is to watch RAW.
I often write about how I feel that hardcore WWE fans will defend ANYTHING that WWE does, even if they think or know that it sucks. Mark Henry and Shaemus are my latest examples of that. In a sense, a lot of people really DO stand up for WWE – and that’s to WWE’s credit. They have amazing marketing. They really do. You have to take your hat off there – the anti-bullying stuff, the Tribute To The Troops, all that stuff.
This is a bit of a deviation from my usual writing style. Usually I like to focus on some light-hearted stuff and poking some fun. Sometimes I take a lot of flack for that – but, I imagine I’m also going to take a lot of flack for writing this article from that “Stand Up For WWE” crowd. They’re going to tell me how any show business has scandals, point out stuff about how nothing was really “proven”, how one person’s actions doesn’t reflect that of an entire company, and about how no charges were laid in some cases, and they’ll probably call me a hypocrite because *I* watch wrestling. I’m more than prepared to hear any of that, and yes, I watch the product.
But, I’m not going to pretend that WWE is some awesome and responsible corporation that is run like a business. I’m not going to pretend that it’s not the biggest company in what is truly one of the scummiest “industries” on the planet.
And yes… any show business has scandals. But WWE has had WAY more than their share. And, the ones that they’ve had have been WAY worse and WAY more graphic than they had any right to be. Anyone who loses any kind of vote to Linda McMahon, given given the enourmous amount of ammo available to use against her at any point, should just not be running for public office.
I think I’m pretty straight-up when it comes to giving WWE their due when I feel as though they’ve done something right. I guess the latest example of that was the WWE Title match at the Royal Rumble between CM Punk and Dolph Ziggler. But, let’s take a look at some of these stories, and you’ll see why I’ve never seen a whole lot of reason to go out of my way to “stand up” for a company like WWE.
THE PLANE RIDE FROM HELL
You probably know this as the plane ride that got Mr. Perfect fired. But WAY more went down than what most people heard about. These events occurred on a flight from London in May 2002. The flight was host to top agents and talent like Arn Anderson, Michael Hayes, Stephanie McMahon, Linda McMahon, Triple H, Jim Ross, the Undertaker and Dave Finlay.
Most of the people mentioned in this story were either drunk or high on a drug named GHB. You might know this as a date-rape drug.
First, Curt Hennig and Scott Hall started a shaving cream fight. Then they started spraying shaving cream on other sleeping people, but this fun only lasted until Scott Hall passed out and wasn’t moving at all. People kept checking his pulse to make sure he was still alive.
Curt Hennig then got bored and decided he wanted to try and take down Brock Lesnar. When he couldn’t do that, he got mad, and a mini-brawl started between the two. One that got very close to the airplane door… while the plane was in the air. Fortunately, Finlay, Triple H and Paul Heyman tore them apart. This part wasn’t considered as big a deal… because Vince McMahon and Kurt Angle allegedly did the same thing on the flight before – although THAT time, Undertaker woke up and choked out Kurt, assuming Kurt was trying to hurt Vince.
Somewhere amongst all this, Michael Hayes was drunk and wanted to go to the bathroom. So he did. He somehow got lost on the way to the bathroom… on a plane… and started trying to take out his dick in front of Linda McMahon and tried to pee on her. Someone finally pointed his ass to the bathroom, and once getting there, Hayes punched JBL in the head. JBL then knocked out Hayes in one punch. X-Pac thought that Hayes being knocked out was hilarious. So much so, that he shaved off Hayes’ mullet while Hayes was out cold, and auctioned it off in the dressing room the following night at RAW.
You knew Ric Flair was going to be involved, right? Natch. Do I need to mention that he was drunk? Of course not. He was walking around the plane in one of his robes… ONLY one of his robes. So Ric walked up and down the aisles, sexually harassing and exposing himself to every WWE Diva and flight attendant he could get his dick on.
Goldust started singing love songs to his ex-wife on the PA system. Fuck knows who let him use it. Eventually, his ex-wife complained to JR, who pulled him off the PA. Lesnar, Hayes, and Flair went unpunished, as did all the senior officials on the flight who let all of this go on.
STEROIDS (VERSION 1994)
Everyone knows about this one – Vince McMahon stood trial as he faced serious allegations of knowingly distributing steroids to performers. The trial resulted in WWE feeling the effects of the high-profile trial financially for much of the mid-to-late-’90s.
THE GENETIC JACK-TANNER
Vince McMahon was accused of sexual harassment in 2006 after allegedly accosting an employee of a tanning salon in Boca Raton, Fla. McMahon allegedly showed an employee of Tanzabar inappropriate photographs while physically preventing her from evading his aggressive sexual advances.
No charges were ever laid against Vince. (SETTLEMENT!)
After her original run that actually made her quite famous, Sable claimed that the WWE sought to intimidate her into performing obscene and dangerous acts after she had originally refused. Sable then filed a $110 million lawsuit in 1999. She also wanted the rights to the Sable name and a full release from her WWE contract. After public gyrations by both sides, including Sable appearing in the audience during a WCW broadcast, the suit was quietly resolved. Sable even returned to the WWE in the 2000’s.
THE BOYS… THE BOYS… THE BOYS ARE WAI-TING
Ring announcer Mel Phillips, former WWE Superstar Terry Garvin, and WWE Hall of Famer Pat Patterson were at the center of a sex scandal of 1992 as former ring attendant Tom Cole came forward alleging sexual misconduct from Phillips and Garvin. When Cole was 15 or 16, he recalls, “Patterson would look at you when he was talking to you. He’d look right at your crotch and he’d lick his lips. He’d put his hand on your ass and squeeze your ass and stuff like that.” Cole got started with the WWE around 1984 at the age of 12, in Yonkers, NY, through Mel Phillips, then a ring announcer and head of the ring crew. Cole says Phillips had a black book with names of kids, mostly from broken homes, from all over the country. In 1990, Cole says, Patterson’s assistant Terry Garvin secured him a steady job at the WWE parts warehouse and promised him a tryout as a ring announcer. Garvin subsequently maneuvered Cole to his house, near the WWE’s Stamford, Connecticut, base, on an evening when Garvin’s wife and two kids were away. Garvin popped a porn tape into the VCR and offered to fellate Cole, who declined and spent the night in a van parked outside. Shortly thereafter, Cole was fired.
In response to an ensuing media backlash, the allegation forced Garvin and Patterson to resign from their posts while Phillips was fired. Cole eventually came to a settlement agreement with Vince McMahon and the WWE, and even went back to work with them for a time before he was again fired. As we all know, Patterson was hired back. This has led to numerous “young boys” horror stories coming out over the years, not to mention some serious allegations regarding what people have to do to get jobs in the “industry”. I’m not putting them here – but if you search, you’ll find them. In 1992, evidence of harassment and abuse of underage ring boys synergized with the federal grand jury investigation of McMahon’s role in steroid trafficking among WWE talent.
STEROIDS (VERSION 2007)
In 2007, a number of very noteworthy wrestlers were exposed as being linked to a Florida pharmacy that was a storefront for steroid distribution. On the Signature Pharmacy distribution list were Kurt Angle, John Morrison, Batista, Edge and Booker T.
This was a much milder version of the WWE’s more serious steroid scandals of 1994 that almost resulted in Vince’s imprisonment.
Again, we all know what happened here. Chris Benoit killed his wife and young son before committing suicide. It was revealed during an autopsy that Benoit’s brain resembled that of a 65-year old Alzheimer’s patient at the time. WWE and all it’s employees were like “damn, he looked okay to us!”
RANDY ORTON SHITS IN DIVAS’ LUGGAGE
I’m not sure why I would need to explain this one.
X-PAC SHITS IN SABLE’S LUGGAGE
VINCE RAPES A REFEREE?!
Rita Chatterton was the first female referee in the history of the WWE. She quit involving an “incident” with McMahon. Chatterton infamously appeared on Geraldo Rivera’s television show “Now It Can Be Told”, where she claimed she was forced to perform oral sex on McMahon in a limousine, and also made more serious allegations of rape. No formal charges would be made regarding McMahon’s alleged sexual advances.
Again no charges were ever laid against Vince. (SETTLEMENT!)
THE WALKING DEAD
Here is a list of WWE wrestlers, formerly or otherwise, who have died since 1999, along with cause of death.
Brian Pillman – 1997 – Heart Attack
Ravishing Rick Rude – 1999 – Heart Attack
Owen Hart – 1999 – Ring Accident
Yokozuna – 2000 – Heart Attack
Davey Boy Smith – 2002 – Heart Attack / Sex With Diana Hart
Mr.Perfect – 2003 – Drug Overdose
Miss Elizabeth – 2003 – Drug Overdose
Hawk – 2003 – Heart Attack
Crash Holly – 2003 – Asphyxiation
Hercules – 2004 – Heart Attack
Big Boss Man – 2004 – Heart Attack
Chris Candito – 2005 – Blood Clot
Eddie Guerrero – 2005 – Heart Failure
Earthquake – 2006 – Bladder Cancer
Bam Bam Bigelow – 2007 – Drug Overdose
Mike Awesome – 2007 – Suicide
Bad News Brown – 2007 – Heart Attack
Sensational Sherri – 2007 – Unknown
Chris Benoit – 2007 – Murder / Suicide
Crush – 2007 – “Natural” Causes
Andrew “Test” Martin – 2009 – Drug Overdose
Umaga – 2009 – Heart Attack
Al Wilson – 2003 – Sex With Dawn Marie
Randy Savage – 2011 – Heart Attack
So… maybe 3 or 4 of those are things that could have happened either way, if these guys had chosen to get into other professions than wrestling.
What I enjoy is hearing stuff from the “WWE isn’t forcing anyone to use drugs!” crowd. It’s a little bit ridiculous to defend WWE as having NOTHING to do with any of the above deaths. While WWE MAY not have handed the wrestlers the drugs, they are the ones that provide these guys with the life they live. Yes, I realize that these guys are making the choice to accept that life. And, many of these guys were not in WWE when the death happened, but if WWE wants to be the biggest company in the industry, then they have to take SOME responsability for how these guys live, and more importantly, how they age. Bret Hart once said that WWE treats wrestlers like circus animals, and that guys end up with nothing when it`s over.
I’m not saying that WWE is 100% responsible, or anything ridiculous like that. They`re not. But they could make life a LOT easier on these guys. Having a WWE-rehab program that will accept anyone (even Matt Hardy, after all he said about them) is a great start. But there`s lots of other stuff you can do.
They`ve got a big enough roster that they could easily give these guys more time off from the road. Give them some more time to heal up from injuries. Time away from the ring can help these guys come back fresh. And get them some help with retirement planning, for God`s sake. If the years have taught us anything, it’s that at LEAST 75% of wrestlers have no idea how to save their money, and when they get old, it is SAD to watch what happens.
Doing some of these things would certainly make life easier on WWE itself. Think of how much time and energy they`d save on the public-relations nightmares that ensue when stuff like this happens.
THE BOTTOM LINE
A lot of what you’ve read here today, WWE has complete deniability from, plausable or otherwise. That’s why lawyers and the government have never been able to nail anyone’s ass to the wall, and believe me, many have tried. And I’m not one of these naive idiots that consider WWE an “evil” corporation. There’s no such thing as an evil corporation. A corporation can’t be evil because it’s not an entity. A corporation can’t walk around doing shit – it’s the people that matter.
But even the MOST pro-WWE supporters out there MUST admit… that this is an awful lot of smoke for there to not be any kind of fires at all. The stuff that offends me the most is the sexual stuff with Vince. That’s why I’ll never join in the “Vince is a visionary and a genius” conversation.
You ever see that movie “Water For Elephants”? Vince is the circus ringleader. Actually, Vince is worse. That guy, at least in the movie, never attempted raping anyone. He just beat up an elephant.
The thing is, this isn’t even 20% of the stuff that’s out there – you REALLY start searching, or watching the shoots, all kinds of stuff like that, and the article you could write about WWE scandals never ends. They’ve been a lot better about scandals, whether that be avoiding them or keeping them quiet, since the IPO in 2000 or so, I can give them that.
But wrestling is a sesspool of an industry.
And WWE is, by far, the biggest company within that industry, and has been basically since it’s inception. So they, and Vince, have to take some responsibility for those industry standards. Because, I’m sorry, but if WWE’s history or Vince McMahon’s life were a book, it would read like crime fiction.
I’ve enjoyed wrestling since I was 7 or 8 years old. A lot of this stuff, I didn’t know until I got older. If you’re the least bit interested, I’d advise looking some of this stuff up. It’s fascinating what’s come out about WWE over the past few decades. If you are planning on looking for more, go check out the Superstar Billy Graham stuff and what he had to say in the 90’s about Vince.
I still enjoy wrestling. A lot less than I used to, not entirely because of this, also because it’s become a lot more lame to watch – but I still do – I personally think that WWE just had one of the best years they’ve had in a decade or so.
And, if I’m being honest, reading about this stuff didn’t impact my enjoyment of watching WWE anywhere NEAR as much as it probably should have.
But… if you’re ever looking for a reason why I don’t neccesarily jump to WWE’s defense on a lot of things… stuff like this is it. I just don’t have a lot of respect for that circus culture, how wrestlers are treated, or how wrestlers treat other people.
As I said, this is a bit of a deviation from my usual writing style. If you didn’t enjoy it, maybe you at least learned something that you didn’t know before. I’m really not sure what anyone is going to think about this. I don’t plan on writing a lot of stuff along these lines. But, for people who are more recent fans of the product, I wondered what they really know about WWE as a company, especially if they chose to “stand up” for them.
If you DIDN’T like my article, or haven’t done so already, go check out my man Jack Newbury’s piece “Why Blair Douglas Is Wrong About Mark Henry” and he will make you feel better by attempting to debunk many things I’ve said in the past.
Also, I have re-activated the Twitter! It’s @BlairADouglas for anyone who would like to follow me. I’m going to stick with it this time.
I will be happy to respond to any comments as always, so feel free to leave one here, on the Twitter, or in my e-mail. This has been “Air Up There”. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend.
I’ll be in my trailer.
Tags: alberto del rio, Bret Hart, Bryan Danielson, chris jericho, christian, cm punk, Daniel Bryan, ECW, edge, Hulk Hogan, impact, Jeff Hardy, Jim Ross, john cena, John Morrison, kane, Kurt Angle, Linda McMahon, monday night raw, NXT, Other, Previews, randy orton, Raw, rey mysterio, Ric Flair, Ring of Honor, ROH, shawn michaels, sheamus, Smackdown, stand up for wwe, Sting, The Miz, The Rock, TNA, today in wrestling, triple h, undertaker, vince mcmahon, WCW, wrestlemania, WWE, WWE RAW