by : Fritz Capp
November 7, 1999
This week I would like to go over the recent commentary by Phil Mushnick and the subsequent "quote" from Dave Meltzer that was in Mushnick's latest column.
On October 31, 1999 Phil Mushnick, semi out of character, went after Ted Turner and World Championship Wrestling. The reason I alluded to Mushnick being "semi" out of character is because Phil usually saves his rants and tirades for the owner of the World Wrestling Federation, Vince McMahon. Allow me to go over some of Phil's comments:
PM : "ONE big difference between the nation's two biggest pro wrestling impresarios, Ted Turner and Vince McMahon, is that when McMahon puts on his righteous face, most everyone knows it's a con. When Turner says he's a do-gooder, lots of people buy it. He has an air of respectability. He owns cable networks, international news programming, a Major League Baseball team and all kinds of things commonly found around the house. So, when he declares himself an altruist, people believe him, even salute him. They shouldn't."
FC : And why would that be Phil? Right off the bat you find a way to sneak your first jab at Vince McMahon, which is not unlike you at all but now you are also taking swipes at Ted Turner. The bottom line is Phil both are very successful businessmen not unlike Donald Trump, Bill Gates or any of the other multimillionaire's that run huge corporations in this country today. I defy you to show me where any of the multinational mega conglomerates made their millions or even billions by being the "Snow White" of the business community. To say that you cannot trust or believe a businessman is a statement in the obvious, as they are out to sell you their product no matter what it is.
PM : "To fully understand the modern phenomenon of pro wrestling -a systemic phenomenon that has established pornography for children as a runaway TV ratings and marketing money machine - it's important to understand the industry's recent history."
FC : Pornography for children? Now let me see, I have been watching pro wrestling for over 30 years and I have yet to see one show that promoted that children should be weaned and bred into or for pornography. Is this happening through subliminal messaging? Is the wrestling industry involved in a deep conspiracy to undermine the youth of today for their own selfish goals? Is pro wrestling the reason that no matter what major channel you turn to there is some form of sex (acted out or implied) being broadcast into the homes of each and every single American family who happens to have their television set turned on? This statement here is nothing more that grandstanding at its highest level. Also to understand wrestling is more then just checking out it's recent history. To understand the "sport" of pro wrestling you need to check "all" of it's history.
PM : "Not since Bruno Sammartino quit the business in disgust - he now speaks out against the drug-infested, deviant sex-fest that pro wrestling has become - has anyone in the business traveled a high road. There now are only two roads taken - lower and lowest.
FC : Although I have not read every single word that Bruno Sammartino has said since he left the sport not once have I ever heard him refer to the "sex-fest" you speak of. As far as the drugs you refer to I believe that Bruno talked about the steroid use that was rampant throughout the industry and still rears its ugly head from time to time even today. But if I remember correctly when Bruno was still wrestling steroids were legal. It wasn't until the horrible side effects were documented and after much research did the use of anabolic steroids become against the law. But by then it was too late. Many sport figures, not just professional wrestlers, were hooked on the usage of steroids and still are today only now they are called performance enhancers and while not legal to sell in this country many of today's athletes still find ways around the laws so they can have that edge don't they? Major League Baseball, the National Football League and National Basketball Association are only three of the sports that still have to deal with substance abuse aren't they Phil? But wait, your talking about sex and how pro wrestling is aiming this directly at children. I'll save this argument for another time.
PM : "Turner's World Championship Wrestling, until two weeks ago, traveled the lower road. It's for that reason that he was getting killed in the TV ratings war by McMahon's World Wrestling Federation. McMahon takes the lowest road. Shoot, as lowest roads go, he's a pioneer, a trail blazer. The more salacious the content, the better the ratings. And McMahon beats Turner in a rout. Sure, as pro wrestling's popularity continues to soar, American society takes a bigger hit, but that's of no concern to McMahon. In 1999, to provide children with the lowest imaginable form of television is to be on top. But now Turner is fighting back."
FC : First off Phil if you even knew anything about pro wrestling the past couple of years, save the things you find to whine and cry about, you would know that it was not only Vince's product that put the WWF on top, it was WCW's lack of product that helped put them in the position that they found themselves to be in. Storylines that went no where, backstage politics that hurt the company week in and week out, that is what helped put the WWF on top and to even suggest that pro wrestling is the reason for society in America being hit in the "moral pocket" is ludicrous to say the least. In fact Phil, take a look at your beloved country before the resurgence of the WWF and tell me what you see.
I'll tell you exactly what you see Phil, you see a country that was morally starved. The "nuclear" family was in full swing with parents splitting up at a rate that had never been seen before in all of man's time on this planet. Teenage pregnancy was at an all time high. Drugs were rampant in the street and gangs roamed the inner city's not allowing normal people to even be able to walk the streets without fearing for their lives. Pornography was for sale at every magazine stand. Drive by shootings, murder, rape, theft, swearing, adultery, homosexuality, spousal abuse, transsexuality, homelessness, hunger, child abuse, greed, pedophiles, deceit and bad breath were all a fact of life in this country before 1997 Phil. You see Phil, that's when the WWF came out with it's "over the edge" programming. What kind of programming was on television before 1997 Phil? Was there any reference to sex? Of course there was Phil, on almost every program imaginable there was talk of sex, innuendos about sex, acts of sex, teenagers considering sex. In the movies no matter what the genre before 1997 there always was some form of sex scene wasn't there Phil? Be it comedy, horror, science fiction, action adventure, romance and even some documentaries there is always one constant and that is/was sex.
Sex is used today and has been used for years to sell many different products hasn't it Phil? Sex has been used to get you to smell better, look better and even feel better am I right? Sex has been used to entice you to buy that car, bar of soap, toothpaste, foot spray, after shave lotion, new suit, computer and even orange juice. Why do you think they use those models Phil to do the advertisements, because of their I.Q.?
To say that with every ratings point that pro wrestling jumps means that America sinks a little lower in the cesspool of life is a ridiculous statement. It isn't wrestling that is sinking this country Phil, it's the inhabitants that are doing that all by themselves. Pro wrestling is now using the same medium that everyone else has been free to use for years and years. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then the movie and television industry should be feeling very good about themselves because wrestling is now using what they created, correct?
PM : "Several years ago, after the WWF's inside drug and sex scandals (as if the content of McMahon's current shows aren't scandalous), Turner's WCW seized the opportunity to unseat the WWF. One of Turner's first orders of business was to sign Hulk Hogan, despite the fact that Hogan's kiddie-embracing, excessively muscled WWF character had been revealed to have been built on years of steroid use and abuse. The signing of Hogan and other WWF ring stars - drug-ring stars, included - also revealed Turner to be a king-sized phony. After all, Turner's image of global altruism, as manifested through his "Goodwill Games," environmental concerns and acts of generosity such as pledging $1 billion to the United Nations for the advancement of humankind, certainly didn't rhyme with selecting the nation's most notorious steroid abuser as his marquee act within primetime TV programming favored by American children. Furthermore, the content of WCW shows - negative racial and ethnic stereotyping, obscene gestures and good, old-fashioned violence for violence's sake - was wildly inconsistent with Turner's lofty, oft-stated goals of world harmony.
FC : I have a question, why is this guy so intent on showing only the bad side to pro wrestling and attacking those who put it on no matter how many good things they have done? Both Ted Turner and Vince McMahon have done great things with the money they have made through their businesses. Both make substantial charitable contributions and both (as we have seen time and time again) go out of their way to help the less fortunate. As far as Turner hiring Hogan what is the problem? How many movie studios have hired and rehired known alcohol and drug users and abusers. These are the same people that Phil Mushnick will praise for their on screen appearances. Did Hogan use steroids? Yes! Has he admitted as much. Yes! Is he still using them? Highly doubtful. So let me see if I understand this, it is ok for someone in Hollywood to use drugs and rehab but not for a professional wrestler? Where is the consistency in that? Hogan used steroids in the 80's, it is now almost 2000 and yet this simpleton still tries to base his argument on something that happened 10-15 years ago.
PM : "Ah, but business is business. And Turner's WCW business was brisk. The WCW began to bury the wounded WWF. But McMahon, as we all know by now, was hardly through. He would fight back by turning the WWF into a showcase for lascivious acts, words, and images. Porn for kids."
FC : Porn for kids? Let me see, the last time I checked "kids" could not drive themselves to an arena to see the show. The last time I checked if kids were watching wrestling at home it was with full permission of the parents who I am sure were monitoring what their precious little darlings were watching correct? No you say? Why not? Isn't it the parents responsibility to see what their children are watching on television? If not why not?
PM : "Operating off the same marketing plan applied by the Medellin drug cartel, McMahon's capsule explanation of his successful new strategy became, "I'm only giving people what they want." Soon, riding a wave of unmitigated sleaze, McMahon's WWF was back on top, and then some. The ratings were through the roof. They still are. And network programmers threw themselves at McMahon for more."
FC : I can see it now people, Vince McMahon huddled with his wife, kids and his closest friends in a meeting behind closed doors:
Vince McMahon: Ok look, WCW has us in the ratings so what we are going to do is target the kids with pornography.
Linda McMahon : What do you mean Vince?
Stephanie and Shane : Yeah dad, just what do you mean?
Vince : Look it's simple, if we strip the girls down to barely nothing, have everyone used obscenities and have a few people doing lewd gestures we'll get right back on top.
Linda : But Vince, this is wrong.
Vince : TO HELL WITH WHAT IS RIGHT OR WRONG LINDA, I NEED RATINGS AND THE ONLY WAY I'M GOING TO GET THEM IS IF I FORCE FEED ALL THE KIDS IN THIS COUNTRY PORNOGRAPHY!
Stephanie : But daddy, pornography is wrong.
Vince : Listen up little girl, do you still want all those credit cards in your pocket? Well then you MUST force the kids to watch our style of pornography.
Shane : But Dad, what your proposing is already being done on every channel and in every movie for the past 20 years, It's not like it's anything new.
Vince : Dammit Shane, aren't you listening to a word I said. Nothing like this is being done anywhere. We are going to be the originators of porn for kids. There is no porn for them to watch right now and the WWF is going to give them all they want.
Stephanie : OK Daddy, we're with you all the way.
Pat Patterson : Does this mean we're going to get the ring boys back?
Ok, I didn't have to take a shot at Pat like that so I apologize. But my point is Phil Mushnick makes it seems as if there was a big plan on Vince's part to promote porn for kids. THERE ISN'T ONE THING GOING ON IN THE WWF OR WCW THAT HASN'T BEEN DONE ON NETWORK TELEVISION OR IN THE MOVIES FOR YEARS!!!!
PM : "In addition to McMahon's longtime confederates at USA Network, the UPN Network (Channel 9 here) now regularly "entertains" American children in primetime with words so profane that they can't be printed here and acts so vile that they can't be described here. Oh, yes, the WWF's transvestite oral sex angle has given way to even less describable acts."
FC : Wow, I wonder what feed he is getting because it surely isn't the one I see each week on UPN. The UPN show I watch is full of censorship, in fact so much so that it takes away from what is being said in the ring.
PM : "A few months ago, in announcing that UPN was adding the WWF, UPN boss Dean Valentine told a conclave of concerned TV critics that the WWF is "incredibly mild entertainment." If that's the case, I challenge Valentine to rise in public and repeat exactly what's said and done on UPN's WWF shows at 8:30 or so on Thursday nights."
FC : Phil, I challenge you right here and now to show myself and the rest of the world where the WWF or WCW is any different then the majority of television programs that are on air right now. Baywatch, VIP, South Park, 90210, Party of Five, ER, Dawson's Creek, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Friends and a multitude of other shows use sex to put over a particular part of the storyline in a number of ways. If you want to accept this challenge I am sure that I can list at least 100 shows that are watched in millions of homes that use sex to further their storylines. Phil, I can start this list back in the 80's and double the number I just said. I don't even have to get into violence or foul language which would up that number considerably.
PM : "Few of those concerned TV critics bothered to follow up on the content of UPN's WWF shows, otherwise there would be a national outcry that would've painted Valentine a more evil TV monster than even, oh, Jim Gray. After voicing their concerns, few of those TV critics would bother to learn that 11-year-old boys now regularly verbally and graphically abuse 11-year-old girls with exactly the same expressions and acts that the WWF teaches them. Few would bother to learn that grammar school, middle school and high school principals increasingly have declared bans on most anything that the WWF sells."
FC : Hold on one second there Phil, I believe this goes back to parenting and the responsibilities that parenthood brings. First off, I am 43 years old and I know for a fact that boys picking on girls in school is nothing new to the scene. It has been going on for as long as I have been alive and I am sure that it has been going on as long as you have been alive, so exactly what are you trying to say here? That the WWF is the cause of this? Are you nuts or just plain stupid?
I know for a fact that for a long time now the WWF has stated that it is not oriented towards children. It went after a more mature audience when it changed its format and stated that many times. As far as school principals are concerned you have taken a relatively small number of people and tried to make it sound like an enormously large number. That right there shows that you are grasping at straws and are trying to make your personal crusade against the sport of wrestling sound like it is something of grave importance, when in actuality the lack of responsibility by parents is what you should be taking issue with.
Who allows an 11 year old school child to stay up until 11 pm to watch a WWF or WCW program on Monday nights? Who allows them to stay up until 10 pm to watch a WWF or WCW program on Thursday nights? These kids are supposed to be in bed resting up for their next day in school, not up late watching a wrestling program that is geared for adults? The Saturday and Sunday programing for both promotions are geared for that particular age group and do not have any of the things that you are complaining about in them.
It does not take a rocket scientist to see that it is not the wrestling promotions that are at fault here Mr. Mushnick, that problems lie with the parents who are too busy to take the time to monitor their children.
PM : "Meanwhile, what does Valentine care that every week he's proved a liar on his own national network? He and UPN are cashing in big. Why should he care that nearly 40 percent of WWF viewers are minors, or that 15 percent of the audience is 11 years old and younger?"
FC : Read the above statement again.
PM : "And so, it's now time for Turner to fight back. The first order of business is to again meet McMahon on his turf - the gutter. If Turner beat McMahon the first time by buying up McMahon's steroid-swollen TV characters, why not again seek to unseat McMahon as No. 1 by playing McMahon's sexual-content game? Two weeks ago, Turner hired two of McMahon's top porn writers, er, script writers. Would Turner, his ratings lagging because he chose the lower road for the WCW, now choose to join McMahon on the lowest road? You bet he would!"
FC : Read that last statement again Phil.
PM : "This past Monday night, while channel-surfing upon Turner's latest 8 p.m. WCW show on TNT, we immediately saw a line of barely clothed young women marching toward the ring. The last in line was a woman with enormous breasts. Naturally, the live audience began to hoot as one. The ringside announcers dutifully grew breathless."
FC : Pacific Blue, La Femme Nikita, almost any MTV music video, 3/4's of all television commercials, HBO, Showtime...need I go on?
PM : "Dave Meltzer publishes the authoritative weekly, Wrestling Observer Newsletter. "It'll get worse," Meltzer said. "Now that it has WWF writers the WCW will copy the WWF formula: Find any excuse, or even no excuse, to go heavy on sexual content. The big draw isn't wrestling, anymore, it's sex. And the primary target is kids."
FC : Screw you Dave Meltzer! After making your living off of the sport, you now (as is happening a lot lately with Meltzer) trash the sport by spouting off that lie? Is there anything you won't say to get yourself a national newsbyte? No wonder the majority of the workers in the business have never liked you. I didn't realize it until I read this. You may have some friends on the inside but the bottom line is Dave is that you are a bottom feeder and will ride whatever wave that will get you closer to your own personal goals. You know damn well that while wrestling is still watched by all that they content is (and has been for awhile) geared to adults. If it wasn't the Saturday shows the promotions have would be exactly the same as the week night shows. Meltzer, you have never made a payday for one wrestler. You have never laced up a boot and got in the ring but yet you have made an untold amount of money off of pro wrestling and this is the thanks that you give the sport? Keep selling out Dave, you will soon join that illustrious few that shows time and time again that money is more important than loyalty to the sport they "supposedly" love.
PM : "Ted Turner, Mr. Global Goodwill himself, has declared yet another war against Vince McMahon on the battlefield of How-Low-Can-You-Go. And, bless their hearts, they're fighting for the hearts and minds of America's children."
FC : The only person I see here in the "How Low Can You Go" department is you Mr. Mushnick because I am amazed at just how low you will go to make yourself seem like the guardian of the faith. You have twisted facts, made ludicrous comparisons and basically showed once again why I believe that you are not doing anything but venting a personal vendetta against pro wrestling for whatever reason.
Pro wrestling has always crossed the line, pushed the envelope or basically did anything it could to get a reaction from the crowd. That is why there were Russian wrestlers during the Cold War, Iraqi wrestlers when fighting Saddam and the list can go on and on. Wrestling has always mimicked life to some degree, that is a fact that has been around as long as the sport has been around.
No Mr. Mushnick, the wrestling promotions are not to blame for their recent actions in the ring. People like you are Mr. Mushnick. You see, it is people like you who tend to look the other way when it is your favorite television show or movie star doing something provocative or risque. Then you call it art don't you? But when something you do not like does the same thing you cry for all to hear and point yelling, "Look at that".
There needs to be consistency Mr. Mushnick and that will never happen as long as the fat cat television and movie conglomerates make their money off of pushing sleaze and using sex to hawk their products to the public. There will never be consistency as long as the public desires the use of sex as an additive for their viewing pleasure and there will not be consistency as long as parents look to blame other people for their lack of interest in their children and their viewing habits. The reason there will never be consistency is because people like yourself look to use pro wrestling as the scapegoat for all of your problems when in fact the problems lie within each and every one of us. Believe me, if it didn't work and wasn't wanted pro wrestling would drop it like a hot potato and go onto something else.
Pro wrestling is what it is, nothing more and certainly nothing less. It is entertainment plain and simple. It has no hidden Machiavellian agendas. It does not conspire to undermine the youth of America. All it is doing is what everyone else is doing and has been doing for almost two decades now, taking things to the edge for entertainments sake. I say it is about time that pro wrestling caught up with everyone else as far as programming is concerned. Why should everyone else be allowed the latitude of "crossing the line" and not wrestling?
My advise to you is to sit back and take a good long look in the mirror before you condemn pro wrestling because the word hypocrite is written all over your face for all the world to see and believe me with all of your issues it is not a pretty sight.
And with that I'm outta here. Remember wrestling is nothing more than it appears to be.
Fritz Capp is the editor of Pro Wrestling's Between The Sheets - for comments or opposing viewpoints please e-mail to Fritz Capp