WWE News WWE NEWS FLASHBACK: What did McMahon say in TV interview about WCW/Turner, Hogan, Sammartino, Austin, and taking WWE public 15 years ago this week?
Feb 24, 2013 - 10:28:19 AM
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Fifteen years ago this week, WWE head Vince McMahon was interviewed on TSN in Canada to present his side of the Monday Night Wars against WCW and Ted Turner. The comments made by McMahon on everyone from Turner to Hulk Hogan to Bruno Sammartino to his thoughts on taking WWE public are fascinating to read back.
At the time, WWE was coming out of the fog of 1996 and 1997 leading to a landmark WrestleMania 14 event in March 1998 that centered on "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's first WWF Title victory, Mike Tyson's heavily-publicized involvement, and a DX restart. The following is a flashback to McMahon on TSN, air-date February 25, 1998.
* On whether he has a problem with Raw losing to Nitro in the TV ratings: "I don't have a problem. When your competitor owns television networks that are male dominated, they have an NBA package, an NFL package which they just lost, Major League Baseball. When they have that kind of strength, those kind of male demos on at least two of their networks and cross-promote and actually promote their Nitro television show more heavily than any television show in history, then I would suggest you're bound to get some television ratings. Television ratings are only part of the equation in terms of competition. We are in the television business, yes, and we look for excellent ratings, but it's not the be all and end all of what we do. They are in the television business. I'm in the sports entertainment business. There is a big difference philosophically and in terms of ratings."
* On how he feels about WCW building around stars he built: "That fits the Ted Turner philosophy. Ted goes out and copies things. That's what he's done all his life. I don't know that Ted has had an original thought in his head ever. He is very good at copying things. You can go out and attempt to copy the WWF and open up your wallet and pay exorbitant sums of money for superstars that we created. That's fine. He can do that. That's not going to last forever. We protected ourselves now with long-term contracts with those individuals we want to stay here. If something comes along or happens to an individual and you want to allow them to be stolen, you can always do that. But you want to protect yourself with longterm contracts and be able to build a nucleus and be able to create new stars, which is something we've always been able to do. Disney used to say he could innovate faster than his competitor could imitate. That's the task before us."
* On whether he regrets letting Hulk Hogan, Diesel, and Razor Ramon go: "I would suggest with Hogan, no, I don't regret that. With Scott Hall and Diesel, perhaps. That's when we started doing our guaranteed contracts. We stayed out of that as long as we could. But right after that we started with our guaranteed contracts and that's what made them go to Turner. That and the sum of money."
* On why he doesn't regret losing Hogan even though everywhere Hogan goes, success seems to follow: "That's very true. Again, I guess to a certain extent that's a compliment to us having worked with him and having been part of the overall success of who he was and who he still is to this day in terms of television. In terms of a live event, if you see Hulk Hogan perform at a live event, you're disappointed naturally. He's not the same man he was 10 or 15 years ago in terms of athleticism."
* On whether he'd take Hogan back: "Only on the right terms. I certainly wouldn't take him back in terms of a bidding war between Turner and the WWF. You can't do that. We have to be smarter. We have to stay out of this bidding war situation. We can't do that. Turner has unlimited resources. We are the last of the independents in this business. Turner with Time-Warner, with their resources, we're like a little speck in the ocean."
* On whether he's considered taking on Rupert Murdoch as a partner: "I've talked to Rupert a number of times, not about being a partner. One day we may make this a public company. I think that's probably the way to go one day. I don't know. I like being an independent. I don't like being part of being swept away if you're part of a conglomerate somehow. There are some advantages, yes. I like competing. I like being out in the marketplace... I enjoy what we're doing now. There is no way to have an even playing field with Ted Turner... Other than television ratings we are kicking Ted Turner's ass." Eric Bischoff planned to interview with TSN this week and bring hard numbers to the table to dispute that statement by McMahon.
* On dealing with Mike Tyson: "He might wrestle. He's not currently scheduled to wrestle at Wrestlemania. We're a couple of weeks away and anything can happen. He may wrestle after Wrestlemania is over. He may go back to boxing. We don't know yet."
* On whether they've gotten their money's worth from Tyson: "I think we already have."
* On whether DX is the WWF's answer to the NWO: "No, no, no, no. I think you make a big mistake in any form of entertainment by copying. I think people know where the real deal is and that's why they support us so overwhelmingly in pay-per-view and merchandising and licensing and live events. The live event is really what our business is all about because the athletes we have a need to perform. That's their biggest thrill, to be able to perform. When you give them that forum to be able to perform, they do and our audience greatly appreciates it."
* On whether he regrets the interview with Melanie Pillman: "No, not at all. Actually there is very little in my life that I regret. I don't regret that whatsoever because the purpose of having Melanie on, because at the time Brian was known as a real free spirit. He was known from time to time to use recreational drugs. And it was felt at that time by his wife that that was one of the reasons he passed away. So I gave her the forum to say maybe everyone can learn from this, benefit from this tragedy in some capacity and that's why we had Melanie Pillman on. As it turned out he had a heart attack, he had a diseased heart."
* On Ahmed Johnson: "Ahmed Johnson hurt a lot of people. I think he started believing his own publicity. I think he absolutely lost the focus. He couldn't determine the difference between Tony Norris (his real name) and Ahmed Johnson. I mean, hello."
* On Vince McMahon: "The luckiest man on Earth. I've got a wonderful, wonderful family. I have the privilege of being in a company and doing the thing that I love to do which is entertain people. It's the biggest thrill of my life other than my family."
* On Rick Rude: "Someone who would like to be in this era and performing with the greats, but unfortunately can't."
* On Goldust imitating Dusty Rhodes: "We don't slap people in the face. That's a tribute to Dusty. Dusty was called right after we did that and Dusty laughed so hard because he knew what we were doing."
* On his favorite creation of all time: "I don't think I have a favorite. Certainly the Undertaker is a phenomenal athlete and a phenomenal characterization. The man behind it is one of the most wonderful men you'll ever see in the squared circle."
* On turning Undertaker from a no-name in WCW to a superstar in the WWF: "But you've seen that over and over again with stars who have left Turner's organization where they had tremendous talent but it wasn't recognized and they didn't have the opportunity to be all they could be. Steve Austin is another one."
* On Undertaker's appeal: "I think people can relate to that character. I think they can relate to someone who can't die."
* On Steve Austin's appeal: "Unbelievably enormous. I've never seen anything like it, not even in the brightest of the Hogan days, nothing has equaled Stone Cold's popularity. I think Stone Cold more than anything else is saying what the populace would like to say, is doing what the populace would like to do, and I think basically the everyday man or woman can relate to Austin. That's who he is. He doesn't aspire to be anything beyond that. He is very proud of being who he is. That is probably the relationship, although I'm not certain."
* On the evolution of Steve Austin vs. what McMahon originally conceived of Stone Cold: "I think that one of the things we do as a company is we're good listeners. We're decent producers as well, but I think that if you're a good listener and you recognize talent that someone has, it's pretty obvious when they have talent. You can camouflage that talent, you can hide that talent if you chose to politically, but that's not what the WWF is all about. But we're good listeners. I think most of the athletes that are here and their popularity really relates to them, the talent, more than it does what the WWF does to enhance it. Although it all has to work together, naturally."
* On Steve Austin saying he wants to kick Vince McMahon's ass on TV: "I think it's good television. I think a lot of people would like to kick my ass. I don't have a problem with somebody saying it, especially when it adds to the flavor and the attitude of the WWF."
* On the irony of how he buried the smaller territories during his days of expansion: "They ended up burying themselves. When I bought my dad's business, he had no idea what my intentions were. He would never have sold me the business had he known we were going national, notwithstanding international. My dad would get a phone call just about every other week from one of his cronies. When I bought my dad's business, it was on a balloon payment basis. We had pay for it within a year or he and his other stockholders kept the money and got the business back. It was a tremendous gamble, but after I made that gamble, I had to keep on gambling in terms of cash flow. We went to Los Angeles, St. Louis, and all points east and west and in the middle. By the way, most of the independents we went to, I went to them and sat down with them and said, 'Can we work a deal? Can we absorb this or pay you x-number of dollars through the years?' Here was this young kid at the time standing in front of these elderly millionaires who had far more resources than I did."
* Other comments: On Ultimate Warrior: "Lunatic"... On Eric Bischoff: "Don't know him that well. By reputation, not a nice man"... On Hogan: "Wow. Not as big as he thinks he is"... On Bruno Sammartino: "A confused individual, probably suffering from dementia but one with a great reputation"... On Jesse Ventura: "Overrated at the time and still is confused about his place in history in the WWF"... On Kevin Nash: "A very fortunate individual that someone saw the talent finally that he had and gave him the opportunity to be somebody."
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