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5 Yrs Ago: McMahon addresses WWF's creative direction on Raw

Jan 8, 2003 - 12:57:00 AM
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The following is a reprint of the Torch Newsletter WWF Newswire from five years ago in December.

-Jason Powell, Torch assistant editor

* * *

Torch Newsletter Archive
By Wade Keller, Torch editor
WWF Newswire
Originally published: Pro Wrestling Torch Weekly newsletter #471
Cover dated: December 20, 1997


MCMAHON'S PREEMPTIVE STRIKE
This Monday, Dec. 22, the Los Angeles Times plans to run a major article critical of the direction of the WWF programming in recent months. In anticipation of that article, which may be picked up off the wire by dozens of other newspapers, Vince McMahon made a preemptive strike of sorts during Raw. As a message to justify the direction of the WWF, quell advertisers' fears of associating with such controversy, and to advise parental discretion on Monday nights, McMahon spoke for three minutes as follows:

"It has been said anything can happen here in the WWF, but now more than ever truer words have never been spoken. This is a conscious effort on our part to open the creative envelope so to speak in order to entertain you in a more contemporary manner. Even though we call ourselves sports entertainment because of the athleticism involved, the key word is entertainment. The WWF extends far beyond the strict confines of sports presentation into the wide open environment of broad-based entertainment. We borrow from such program niches as soap operas such as Days of Our Lives, or music videos such as those on MTV, daytime talks shows such as Jerry Springer and others, cartoons like the King of the Hill on Fox, sitcoms such as Seinfeld, and other forms of widely accepted entertainment.

"We in the WWF think that you the audience are quite frankly tired of having your intelligence insulted. We also think you are tired of the same old simplistic theory of good guys versus bad guys. Surely the era of the superhero who urged you to say your prayers and take your vitamins is definitely pass. Therefore we have embarked upon a far more innovative and contemporary campaign that is far more invigorating and extemporaneous than ever before. However, due to the live nature of Raw and Warzone, we encourage some degree of parental discretion when it comes to the younger audience allowed to stay up late. Other WWF programs on USA such as Saturday morning Live Wire and Sunday morning Superstars, where there is a 40 percent increase in the younger audience, obviously however need no such discretion. We are responsible television producers who work hard to bring you this outrageous, wacky, wonderful world known as the WWF. Through some 50 years the WWF has been an entertainment mainstay in North America and all over the world. One reason for that longevity is that as the times have changed, so have we. I am happy to say this new vibrant, creative direction has resulted in a huge increase in television viewership for which we thank USA Network and TSN for allowing us to have the creative freedom, but most especially would like to thank you for watching. Raw and Warzone are definitely the cure for the common show."

Although the logic that "because commercials during WWF programming are often aimed at a young audience means the WWF is irresponsible to air adult themes" is a fallacy of reasoning, the WWF does face legitimate criticism for airing controversial content from Raw on their Saturday and Sunday morning programs. The L.A Times article is expected to feature quotations from Eric Bischoff and advertising executives and point out examples of the recent direction of WWF programming, from strip poker to Goldust and Luna. WCW, not just the WWF, is concerned with what the potential impact will be of the story. It could blow over, or it could lead to a string of similar stories and advertisers abandoning wrestling all together.

OWEN HART SPEAKS OUT ON RAW
Owen Hart established that he is no longer just "Bret's little brother," but now is gunning to be a top tier wrestler with a more serious side than he has shown before. On the Dec. 15 Raw is War, he gave his first interview since the Bret Hart controversy.

At the start of Warzone, Vince McMahon walked to the ring and asked for the house mic. He scolded Owen Hart for endangering the safety of ringside fans by his recent antics. McMahon said Owen is still under WWF contract and therefore as his boss ordered him to report to the ring right away. Owen made his way to the ring. Fans chanted, "Owen, Owen." When Owen entered the ring, McMahon said, "Who do you think you are?" Owen removed his sunglasses and said, "Who the hell do you think you are? You think I owe you a g--d---ed apology. I don't owe you a g--d---ed thing. I'm sick and tired of trying to please everybody around here. And the bullsh-- stops right here." Fans popped.

McMahon told Owen to calm down. Owen continued, "My brother Bret, and Neidhart and Bulldog, they did what they had to do, and now it's time for me to do what I have to do and that is remain right here in the World Wrestling Federation." The fans popped again. Owen poked McMahon in the chest and said, "I spent nine years breaking my back day after day to earn a reputation in this company and nobody, I mean nobody, is going to run me out of this company and you know exactly who I'm talking about." McMahon said he must be talking about Shawn Michaels and that now he is obsessed with getting the only belt that has eluded him in his WWF years.

Owen responded, "How stupid are you? Is that what you think this is about? You think I give a damn about a worthless title, a piece of leather with tin on it? This is about real life, my life, my reputation, my respect, my dignity. McMahon, don't you get me wrong. I am telling you exactly what I am going to do and that is make Shawn Michaels's life a living hell. You can call me the sole survivor or the black sheep, I really don't give a sh--. Shawn Michaels, this is not a game, this is real life. You started it and now it's time for this little nugget to end it."

The announcers talked about Owen now having more focus and more purpose than ever. Ross said Owen is a changed man. The WWF hopes Owen fills Bret's shoes and believes he made a good start with a strong showing behind the mic. Wrestlers were joking backstage that Owen, even when he is legitimately mad, doesn't swear nearly as much as he did during his interview on Raw.

Owen is being looked at by some family members - including Bret - as a villain for returning to the WWF, yet no one has yet to offer to pay him the salary he would lose if he were to have continued to sit out. The phrase being used is Owen is being torn between his "crazy brother" and his "evil boss." Friends of Owen say part of him is looking forward to not being in Bret's shadow for the first time in his career.

HART FOUNDATION UPDATE
In order for British Bulldog to take advantage of the WWF's offer to legally negotiate with WCW or Japan promotions during a 30 day window, he would need to buy out his contract for $150,000 first. But until he spent the $150,000, he wouldn't be allowed to legally have even preliminary discussions with another organization. Because WCW is concerned with tampering (especially because of the outstanding lawsuit the WWF has against them for doing so with Kevin Nash and Scott Hall), it might be tough for Bulldog to even get a solid under-the-table offer. Because of that, Bulldog may end up staying in the WWF after all. All sources indicate the odds are now better than 50/50 he'll remain in the WWF once he recovers from knee surgery. His knee surgery went well and he is expected back as soon as February.

No word yet on whether WCW has had formal talks with Jim Neidhart, but because of the tone of the WWF's comments about him, it sounds as if the WWF is done using him.

SHAMROCK UFC MATCH OFF
The Japanese promoters who assured UFC they had an agreement from Nobuhiko Takada to fight Ken Shamrock at the Dec. 21 UFC event overstated their position. Takada declared in Japan last week he is still injured and has no plans to enter UFC, but instead wants a rematch against Rickson Gracie. Shamrock signed a contract with UFC, but he had veto power over who his opponent would be. Shamrock has told people he would be willing to face Tank Abbott or even Vitor Belfort on short notice. However, the Japanese promoters who were picking up the estimated $300,000 tab for Shamrock to be released by the WWF for one night on PPV aren't willing to spend that money if Shamrock isn't fighting a major Japanese name - i.e. Takada. As a result, they pulled their offer. Shamrock, after three days of training in Dallas, was told by UFC officials the news and by Thursday was back on the road with the WWF.

UFC and the WWF ended up in a difficult situation. As part of the Shamrock contract, the WWF agreed to plug the UFC event on their television network. They did so over the weekend, even though Ken Shamrock is no longer scheduled to fight on the card. Speculation is that the WWF wants to live up to every detail of the contract in case they have a case to sue the Japanese promoters for not paying them for rights to Shamrock and dumping him despite his willingness to fight another opponent. Considering McMahon told Bret he might have to start missing payments on his contract if Bret didn't restructure his contract (to say he outright threatened to do that would be overstating it), the Shamrock situation is a bit ironic.

RAW/SHOTGUN TAPINGS
Dec. 11 in Lowell, Mass. at the Memorial Auditorium, the WWF taped the Dec. 22 edition of Raw is War and the Dec. 27 edition of Shotgun Saturday Night. In the dark match opener, Steve Blackman ("fan from the stands" from Survivor Series) pinned Brian Walsh.

Taped for Shotgun: Recon & Sniper beat Matt & Jeff Hardy. Flash Funk pinned Faarooq while Faarooq was looking at Rocky Maivia. The Headbangers beat Savio & Miguel via DQ when Jose and Jesus interfered. Mark Henry beat The Sultan via bearhug submission. Tom Brandi pinned Barry Houston.

Taped for Raw is War: Degeneration X came to the ring. Shawn Michaels and Hunter Hearst Helmsley were wearing bathrobes and said they had a Christmas present for the fans. They took off their robes to reveal boxers, but then stripped off those to reveal jock straps with "Merry" written on Hunter's cheeks and "X-Man" written on Michaels's cheeks. Sgt. Slaughter came to the ring and told Michaels he had to defend the European Title later on the show or be stripped for lack of recent title defenses. Slaughter said he was going to choose the opponent and Michaels agreed. Slaughter announced Michaels had to defend against Hunter.

Undertaker fought Rocky Maivia to a no-contest. After Maivia was planted with the tombstone, Kane came to the ring and beat up Undertaker. Undertaker offered no resistance. The European Title match was introduced, but Owen Hart attacked Hunter. The match never took place and Hunter and Michaels returned to the back. Some fans booed, believing the WWF teased an intriguing match, but wasn't going to deliver. Marc Mero pinned Scott Taylor with the TKO. Sable came to the ring with a Rudolph the Reindeer costume. After the match Mero continued to work over Taylor until Tom Brandi made the save. Sable then stripped off her costume to reveal a Santa-like suit and wished the crowd a Merry Christmas.

Kurgan pinned 8-Ball. Ken Shamrock made D-Lo Brown tap out. After the match Maivia challenged Shamrock to an IC Title match at the Royal Rumble and told Shamrock that it was his lucky day. He said, "Kama, D-Lo, Faarooq, let's get out of here." Faarooq glared at Maivia, teasing their seemingly inevitable break-up (Rocky vs. Faarooq at Wrestlemania?). Goldust came out dressed as a Christmas tree and Luna wore a demonic Santa's helper outfit. They began reciting "T'was the night before Christmas." Santa Claus came out and began handing out candy to the crowd. Goldust yelled to Santa to go away, then continued his reading. Santa, though, entered the ring and nailed Goldust with his bag and then clotheslined him. Santa was revealed to be "Vader Claus."

Then the European Title match was reintroduced. All three DX members entered the ring. After a couple of minutes of stalling, Michaels and Hunter locked up. Hunter pushed Michaels, who took an exaggerated bump onto his back. Hunter then bounced back and forth between the ropes five or six times and delivered a purposefully weak splash, then covered Michaels, and scored the three count to win the European Title. Michaels took the mic and began to "cry." He said how emotionally draining the match was for him. As DX was torturing the crowd with their antics, a casket was wheeled to ringside for the dark match.

In the dark main event, Undertaker beat Hunter in a casket match. All three DX members ended up in the casket. (Expect some controversy in about nine months, huh?) Michaels and Hunter came back to life and were flashed by a well-endowed female fan. [John LaBonte]

ON THE ROAD
Nov. 21 in Richmond, Va. (7,438 paid): Mero beat D-Lo, Crush & Chainz & 8-Ball & Skull beat Los Boricuas, Christopher beat Taka, LOD beat Road Dog & Bad Ass, Henry beat Sultan, Shamrock beat Kama, Dude beat Rocky, Undertaker beat Hunter.

Nov. 28 in Cleveland, Ohio (8,089 paid): Miguel & Savio & Jose beat Chainz & Skull & 8-Ball, Shamrock beat D-Lo, Mero beat Flash, Kane beat Vader, LOD & Austin beat Faarooq & Rocky & Kama, Neidhart beat Sultan, Bad Ass & Road Dog beat Headbangers, Undertaker beat Hunter in a casket match.

Dec. 6 in Providence, R.I. (7,105 paid): Christopher beat Taylor, Miguel & Jose & Jesus beat Chainz & Skull & 8-Ball, Kane beat Vader, Shamrock beat D-Lo, LOD & Dude beat Faarooq & Kama & Rocky, Flash beat Barry Hardy, Road Dog & Bad Ass beat Headbangers to retain WWF Tag Belts, Austin (replacing Undertaker) beat Hunter.

Dec. 12 in Chattanooga, Tenn. drew 6,855 paid for $102,899 (merchandising $53,615).

Dec. 13 in Nashville, Tenn. at the Nashville Arena (5,345 for $93,934; merch. $44,609): Brian Christopher beat Scott Taylor, Rocky & Kama beat Skull & 8-Ball, Henry beat Spellbinder with a powerslam, Jarrett & Lawler (w/Dude Love) beat Road Dog & Bad Ass via DQ (before the match Bart Gunn returned and attacked former tag partner Bad Ass), Godwinns beat Headbangers in a country whipping match, Goldust and Luna came out and attempted to read Silent Night, Ken Shamrock beat Hunter (w/Chyna), Kane (w/Paul Bearer) beat Chainz, Mero (w/Sable) beat Flash, and Undertaker beat Michaels via DQ so Michaels retained the WWF Title. [Chris Wheeler]

Dec. 14 in Memphis, Tenn. at the Pyramid (5,078 for $72,973; merch. $29,000): 8-Ball beat D-Lo Brown in the opener. 8-Ball got good crowd heat. D-Lo went for a moonsault, but missed, enabling 8-Ball to get the pin. Brian Christopher beat Scott Taylor with a Tennessee Jam. Christopher had some crowd support, but Memphis fans also chanted, "Jerry's Kid" at him. He wrestled more of a WWF heel style match than his Memphis style. A few good highspots. Taylor slapped a cap off of a kid's head which got a pop. So-so match.

Mark Henry beat Spellbinder after a powerslam. This match wouldn't pass muster at the Big One Expo Center on an old USWA card. Bad. Road Dog & Bad Ass beat The Headbangers to retain the WWF Tag Team Titles. A pretty good match. Mosh took the bulk of the beating during the match through double teaming. Eventually Thrasher got the hot tag and was able to cover Road Dog. Bad Ass hit him with one of the tag belts without the ref seeing. He put Road Dog on top and the ref turned to count the pin.

Undertaker beat Rocky Maivia (w/D-Lo & Kama) in a casket match. D-Lo and Kama interfered during the match. Undertaker eventually gave Rocky the tombstone and put him in the casket for the win. Marc Mero (w/Sable) beat Flash Funk. Flash missed a top rope splash and Mero followed with a low-blow for the victory. Sable checked on Flash's condition after the match. Mero berated her, stomped on Flash some more, then returned to the back.

Kane (w/Paul Bearer) beat Chainz. Bearer got heel heat for his mic work before the match. A pretty standard Kane match with Chainz getting brief offense and clotheslining Kane over the top rope. Kane, though, landed on his feet, returned to the ring, and eventually used the tombstone for the win. Kane also got a big pop, behind only Undertaker and Sable. In the semi-final match of the night, Ken Shamrock beat Phinneous Godwinn (w/Henry Godwinn). Standard fare. Shamrock got the win with an ankle lock submission. Then came the main event of DX vs. Lawler & Jarrett that was called off due to fan rowdiness (see "Cover Story") [Chuck Morris]

SHOTGUN SATURDAY NIGHT
The Dec. 6 Shotgun opened with Dude Love beating Marc Mero via DQ. Mero was DQ'd for using a low blow. Throughout the match Mero kept complaining about Sable getting so much attention from the fans. He forcibly led her away from the ring and back to the dressing room after the match. Ken Shamrock beat Mark Kyle with an armbar submission in a brief squash match. They re-aired the Goldust and Luna interview from Raw. Legion of Doom beat Roger Hill & Frank Parker. Hill has wrestled under the name Roger Anderson in the past and has also wrestled as Roger Boone when in WCW. Hill & Parker wrestle locally as Death & Destruction for independent groups in the Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee area. During the match Jim Cornette mentioned that the LOD were destroying their opponents so badly, they might as well call them death and destruction. In the main event, Brian Christopher & Aguila beat Taka Michinoku & Flash Flanagan when Christopher pinned Flanagan.

The Dec. 13 Shotgun was hosted by Jim Cornette and, replacing Jim Ross, Michael Cole. In the opener, Undertaker beat Sultan with a tombstone. Then highlights aired from Raw of the Steve Austin-Vince McMahon angle. In first-run footage, they showed what happened after the show went off the air. McMahon and Austin got into it again and had to be held apart by officials. McMahon grabbed a chair and swung at Austin with it. Vader beat Faarooq. A ton of outside interference by NOD members. In the end Rocky's interference backfired and Vader ended up falling on Faarooq and scoring the pin. Doug Furnas & Phil LaFon beat The Hardy Boys. The Hardys took a ton of dangerous bumps, including one of the Hardys going for a springboard moonsault to the floor, but slipping off the rope and landing on his back on the floor. In the main event, The Head Bangers fought Recon & Sniper to a DDQ in a really poorly executed match. [Tim Whitehead]

WWF NOTEBOOK
Royal Rumble line-up: Michaels vs. Undertaker, LOD vs. New Age Outlaws (Gunn & Road Dog), Rocky vs. Shamrock, Mexican minis, Vader vs. Goldust, and 30-man rumble...

Terry Funk is talking with the WWF about a three month program early next year...

Wrestlemania's line-up is taking shape as follows: Michaels vs. Austin for the WWF Title, Owen vs. Hunter, Jarrett vs. Bulldog (if Bulldog stays; or else throw Jarrett into a three-way with Owen and Hunter), Rocky vs. Faarooq for the IC Title, and Undertaker vs. Kane, plus probably Shamrock vs. Dan Severn (a deal with Severn is said to be imminent, but not a done deal yet), and LOD vs. Road Dog & Gunn, Taka defending the light-heavyweight title, and perhaps Cactus Jack in a singles match. That leaves Ahmed, Vader, Goldust, Mero, DOA, Los Boricuas, D-Lo, Kama, Truth Commission, Mark Henry, and The Blackjacks all left to fill one or two other slots at the most...

Crush was given permission by the WWF to have talks with WCW. Crush was upset that he was used as fodder for Kane a few weeks back on Raw. Then Kane dropped him pretty hard on his head during the angle, which upset him even more. He went home and told the front office he was disgruntled. He has four years left on a contract with a $200,000 downside. Even though the WWF had plans to push the DOA, McMahon and Ross jumped at the chance to unload his downside. Crush was signed to the $200,000 downside when the WWF was panicking a bit over the roster depletion and wanted everyone signed to long-term deals. That is one of the frenzies that cost Bruce Prichard his power and led to Jim Ross gaining power behind the scenes. As it stands now, Crush says he has a deal with WCW on the table that is slightly better than his WWF deal and he probably will take it, so the DOA will be down to three members...

LOD will be out until Royal Rumble. They are taking a hiatus for personal reasons, not because of injury or suspension...

Shawn Michaels on reports of occasional friction between himself and fellow Clique members, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and Sean Waltman (Charleston Post and Courier): "We all get along wonderfully and probably talk every week or every other week. What bothers people about us is that we're true friends, and true friends are very rare in this business"...

In case anyone plans to go metal detecting in a river, Austin threw the IC belt off of a bridge that wasn't far from the site of the Raw tapings. The walking General Sullivan Bridge is in New Hampshire between Greenland and Dover Point, just outside of Durham...

Undertaker missed the house show the night before the DX In Your House because his resting heart rate was up to 160 bpm. He was taken to the hospital and treated for stress (due to a serious family illness). He hadn't eaten all day. He went to a doctor in Nashville this past weekend and was also diagnosed with two hairline fractures in his lower vertebrae and his hip is badly bruised, so physically he's in rough shape, too. He's also scheduled to see a cardiologist about the heart rate, although expectations are it was just a one-time problem due to extreme stress...

Dude Love suffered a legit rib injury from the bump that he took off the stage on the Dec. 15 Raw (taped Dec. 9), therefore he was inactive over the weekend, but did appear at all the shows as a corner man. Right now it is clear that Dude Love is feuding with Road Dog & Gunn. Since the talk is that the Dude Love character will be taking a rest and Cactus Jack will return full time for a while, it seems logical Cactus's partner in his feud with Dog & Gunn will be Terry Funk if he comes to terms with the WWF. The February PPV could feature Dog & Gunn vs. Cactus & Funk...

Keep in mind that WWF ref Jimmy Cordez is Canadian. That could be used as part of an upcoming storyline with "Canada getting revenge" for the Bret Hart finish...

There is some concern over airing the Michaels and Hunter jock strap skit on the Dec. 22 Raw because of the L.A. Times story that is coming out. It's not just the nudity that has some in the WWF concerned; it's also that Michaels and Hunter are taking swigs from a bottle of Jack Daniels during the skits. It might be too much coming on the heels of Austin drinking beer right after driving his truck into the arena...

The WWF is holding a 12-day training camp (Jan. 2-13) run by Tom Prichard and Pat Patterson for a dozen or so WWF wrestlers to help them learn better psychology and pacing. Marc Mero will be there helping out, as he did at WCW's Power Plant


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