AS I SEE IT - 3/10/2000
by: Bob Magee
Welcome this week to WrestleArea of the United States, and Sports Entertainer Online of the UK, which both now carry AS I SEE IT.
This week, more on Barry Blaustein's "Beyond The Mat" and the actions of the World Wrestling Federation...
It seems that Vince McMahon has a conveniently very short memory.
It wasn't that long ago that Vince McMahon complained (with justification) about the actions of the Parents Television Council in terms of their attempts to take the WWF Smackdown show off of the air by targeting sponsors of the program.
Wrestling Fans Against Censorship, a collaborative effort of PWBTS, Strictly ECW and Piledriver Press, as well as 200 other websites, spoke out against the actions being taken by Parents Television Council, and against the participation of many major retail and service companies in a Marketplace program that provided funding for the PTC's political efforts.
But now with the national premiere of Beyond The Mat, Vince McMahon has engaged in exactly the same behavior that he condemned only months before.
As reported here and all over the Internet last week, Vince McMahon pulled pre-paid advertising of Beyond The Mat from his show purchased by Lions Gate Films, a division of Lions Gate Entertainment Corporation, leading up to the film's March 17th release. The first commercial, scheduled to air on USA on Monday, February 28, was abruptly pulled by the WWF that day. This timing was not so coincidental, after Barry Blaustein, Ron Howard's Imagine Studios and Lions Gate Entertainment refused to sell Beyond The Mat to the World Wrestling Federation, despite frequent offers over a three year period from Vince McMahon.
Further, Vince McMahon strongarmed UPN and USA Networks to pull such advertising from network programs, including Pacific Blue and La Femme Nikita. McMahon is also using the widely-reported negotiations with CBS and TNN regarding the relocation of World Wrestling Federation programming as leverage against USA Networks and UPN in these demands to pull this pre-paid advertising.
Mark Urman, co-president of Lions' Gate Films, adds "Without notice or explanation, the WWF has dealt a serious blow to our campaign for Beyond The Mat. Vince McMahon, head of the WWF, has personally put this obstacle in our path. Mr. McMahon has decided that he doesn't like our film so now he wants to prevent wrestling fans nationwide, who have so far embraced the film, from finding out about it."
McMahon appears prominently in BEYOND THE MAT, and is featured in Lions Gate's TV spots. Lions Gate offered yesterday to modify the commercial to eliminate the shots of McMahon but were told the WWF wouldn't accept any advertisements of any sort for the film.
As I said in last week's AS I SEE IT column:
"Tom Ortenberg said 'Vince McMahon spent three years trying to buy the movie, and when he couldn't get it, he got angry....We have signed contracts with the WWF, and they are not living up to the agreement. We are now exploring our legal options to counteract this outrageous act.'
In response, Jim Byrne, WWF Senior Vice President of Marketing said: 'We do not permit third-party wrestling product to be advertised in the body of our shows. It creates confusion.'
Was it confusion? Or a change of heart once Vince McMahon saw the final print of Beyond The Mat?
One has to wonder if McMahon felt that some of the realities of wrestling depicted in the movie were best left hidden, such as the horrified reactionby the Foley family to Mick Foley's senseless beating at Royal Rumble 1999; or the reminder through Aurelian Smith, (a former WWF employee) of the tragic toll in shortened and shattered lives that drug and alcohol use has inflicted on the professional wrestling industry and the families of those within it. One can reasonably assume that neither likely made Vince McMahon very happy.
Does the fact that a movie shows the fact that the increasingly violent style within wrestling has a very human cost disturb Vince McMahon?
Does McMahon hate the fact that the very real, very human, cost of substance abuse is depicted? Particularly since, according to Canada's SLAMWrestling.com, McMahon is paying $75,000 for Davey Boy Smith's drug rehabilitation because of Smith's addiction to morphine, painkillers, somas, and sleeping pills?
If that is why Beyond The Mat bothers Vince McMahon, too damned bad.
No matter whether or not Vince McMahon runs the most successful entertainment company of its type in North America, if not the world, he needs to be reminded that he still can't script reality, no matter now hard he tries."
All of this casts a very different light on the publicly expressed and storyline high regard of the WWF toward Mick Foley. Vince McMahon comes across as a blatant hypocrite for his actions toward Barry Blaustein given what he went through himself only months before with the Parents Television Council, and what he claims he feels about Mick Foley as a performer and as a person.
What Vince McMahon was interested in wasn't showing the wrestling business, or in showing the human sides of Mick Foley. What he was apparently was interested was control. For three years, Vince McMahon apparently tried to convince Ron Howard's Imagine Studios and Lions Gate to let him invest in the film. When they refused, Vince McMahon pulled this power play at the last possible instant.
Just as many of you sent hundreds and hundreds of e-mails to the
Parents Television Council and their sponsors in defense of the WWF and all other
wrestling companies when they were being threatened by the PTC's lobbying actions, to a degree that many sponsors screamed at PWBTS and Wrestling Fans Against Censorship to stop. Now it's time to raise just as much hell AT the WWF for engaging in exactly the same actions in attempting to censor this excellent motion picture.
If you are interested in voicing your opinions, here's how you do it:
World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc.
1241 East Main Street
PO Box 3857
Stamford, CT 06905-3857
One option is this: When you call the WWF, since Jim Byrne, WWF Senior Vice President of Marketing has defended the actions of Vince McMahon in the above quoted passage, ask to speak to him.
Additionally, these publicly numbers of those within his department can be contacted as well:
Gary Fishman (203) 352-8600 ext. 110
Karen Sager (203) 352-8600 ext. 131
Susan Romeo (212) 889-1727 ext. 141
Here are three publicly available e-mail addresses to contact the World Wrestling Federation:
Since USA Networks has allowed themselves to be strong-armed regarding this matter, they can be contacted as follows:
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020 USA
The e-mail address ordinarily given for those who want to comment on Monday Night RAW, Sunday Night Heat, SuperStars, or LiveWire, is email@example.com. This address may or may not be operational at this time, as those supporting Barry Blaustein had filled the mailbox as of earlier this week.
If that address is not available, please sent messages expressing your concerns to the following e-mail addresses:
The latter two are especially appropriate, since pre-paid advertisements for Beyond The Mat were also pulled from these non-WWF shows through World Wrestling Federation pressure.
UPN Network can be contacted through the following:
United Paramount Network
5555 Melrose Avenue/MOB 1200
Los Angeles, California 90038
UPN is co-owned by Viacom and Chris Craft Industries. Viacom can be contacted through the following address/phone number:
Martin M. Shea
Vice President/Investor Relations
New York, NY
Time to go to work, folks. Please feel free to quote and circulate the above information as widely as possible.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)