Wrestling, steroids, politics, XFL and fake deaths: the crazy world of prospective Newcastle owner Vince McMahon

Love them or hate them, rumour and football go hand in hand.

Yet contrary to reason and sense, the rumour mill isn’t just a cliché never more than an inch from Alan Shearer’s tongue. It’s actually a physical construct, located just outside Clapham and manned by three goblins, who spend their days throwing unlikely ideas in the furnaces and packaging up the fully formed rumours that come out… then shipping them out to internet forums.

Yesterday the rumour mill birthed a belter – the ‘news’ that WWE chairman Vince McMahon (no relation) was in talks with Mike Ashley to buy Newcastle United.

Returning to reason and sense for a moment, there’s not even one shred of fact to support such a notion, but if you heard it, and were a Newcastle fan, chances are you shuddered anyway. After all, the fan who watches games at SportsDirect.com@St James’ Park Stadium is one who needs to be weary of ridiculous supposition.

If you don’t know who Vince McMahon is, he’s the 65-year-old billionaire who owns World Wrestling Entertainment. You may remember his work from being a kid – Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, spandex, all that.

He’s also a bona fide, 110 per cent certifiable maniac. In fact, the idea of Vince McMahon owning Toon, even considering Newcastle’s recent history, might make even the most critical opponent of the Ashley era revise their views.

Of course there is the possibility Andy Carroll is practicing his clothesline already. But this is why Vince McMahon would be the worst thing ever to happen to Newcastle United…

He may or may not love steroids
In 1993, Vince was indicted after a steroid controversy engulfed the WWE (which was then called the World Wrestling Federation, and was so until August 10, 2001, when an English court ruled that the World Wide Fund for Nature had the strongest claim to the acronym). Vince was put on trial a year later, accused of distributing steroids to his wrestlers.

One former wrestler, Nailz (who played the role of a not particularly waif-like escaped convict) was called by the prosecution to testify against the chairman, claiming Vince encouraged him to start using illegal growth hormone drugs.

In fact, the trial came about after the US federal government noticed regular shipments of undisclosed items were being delivered to Titan Towers, the WWF’s headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut – by a doctor being investigated for supplying steroids.

WWF wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper was called to testify in court, and Hulk Hogan became the star witness in the trial (admitting to taking steroids for over 13 years, but never being encouraged to do so).

Vince was later acquitted of all charges, the contents of the doctors’ packages being never disclosed. Vince however did admit to taking steroids himself in the 1980’s, while in 2007, deceased WWE wrestler Chris Benoit was found to have testosterone ten times the normal level in his blood steam. But we’ll come to him shortly.

Nobody knows who the ‘real’ Vince McMahon is
When former Glasgow Rangers goalkeeper Andy Goram was diagnosed with a mild form of schizophrenia in the 1990’s, cruel Celtic fans chanted, “there’s only two Andy Gorams”. Wrestling fans have been thinking the same thing about Vince McMahon for years.

While Vince had appeared onscreen as an announcer for many of the WWE’s formulative years, for the large part, his ownership of the company was rarely acknowledged until 1997. This changed with an incident known as ‘The Montreal Screwjob’, where McMahon told wrestler Brett Hart (who was leaving to join rival promotion WCW) he could keep his championship belt at a Pay Per View match in his home city (then lose it at another event before he left WWE for good).

Then when Hart was held in a submission move to opponent Shaun Michaels, McMahon told the referee Earl Hebner to ring the bell early, thereby ‘screwing’ him out of the title. Vince was rewarded for his actions by a very patriotic Hart spitting square in his face on TV.

Wrestling is a business that needs bad guys as much as it does good ones, and in the furore that followed, Vince realised that there were none more hated by fans than he.

He quickly created the Mr McMahon character, a pastiche of an egomaniacal boss, and his trademark “YOUUUUUURE FIRED” motif could be heard echoing around wrestling rings for many years after.

He even found himself wrestling within the ring a few times too; booking himself to win the WWE Championship in 1999. All of this made for good business sense; the WWE was flagging pre-1997, the Mr McMahon character revived business. But fans continue to ask where the line between the two entities can be drawn.

Wrestling walks a blurred line between fiction and reality at the best of times, but as chairman, CEO and chairman of the executive committee of WWE, this much is known: what happens in the company begins and ends with Vince.

This means that every storyline in WWE comes from the brain of Vince McMahon, and every action of the Mr McMahon character is an extension of his own psyche. Which means: Vince writing an angle in which Mr McMahon is revealed to be the father of his (real life) pregnant daughter. Vince writing a series of angles where Mr McMahon passionately kisses attractive female valets infront of his (real life) wife Linda (who was pretending to be in a vegetative state). But also, Vince creating the Kiss My Ass Club, where onscreen employees who’d offended him in some way were scripted to kiss the bare cheeks of his bottom on screen. Or be fired. Nice guy!

He’s currently in a coma (well, sort of)
Vince McMahon has spent the last ten years having a very public breakdown about his own mortality. He’s previously faked his death on screen twice. The first time on June 11 2007, when viewers were show footage of Vince entering his limo, which promptly blew up.

WWE reported that the incident was real on its website, reporting that the FBI were investigating the incident (they weren’t). In the short term, fans seemed genuinely concerned that the chairman had died.

The day after the footage aired, WWE’s website saw over 36.8 million page views, with two million daily unique visitors. Compare that to the WWE.com three-month average of 14.3 million page views and one million unique visitors, and you’ve got a storyline that genuinely resonated with fans.

Until the company’s former champion Chris Benoit killed himself, his wife and his 7-year-old son in a murder suicide. In the face of such real life tragedy, Vince had to admit that, “yeah, I was just kidding around”.

Nevertheless, Vince tried to stunt again just a year later, three weeks into his McMahon’s Million Dollar Mania promotion, where he would give away $1,000,000 to viewers who called in to WWE’s Monday Night Raw show.

On June 23, after giving away $500,000, the Raw set blew up, leaving McMahon trapped under a pile of rubble. McMahon’s condition wasn’t revealed until the following year – this time, nobody really cared.

At the time of writing, the Mr McMahon character is currently in a coma, presumed brain dead.

He’s failed at every other sport he’s promoted
Aside from promoting men pretending to fight each other, Vince has tried his hand at other, more legitimate sports.

His attempts at promoting ice hockey and bodybuilding ended in embarrassment, but his decision to take on the NFL and form his own American Football league in 2000 was one of sports all time follies. It ranks at number two in ESPN’s list of biggest flops in sport.

A joint venture between NBC and the WWE, the XFL was promoted as ‘real’, or ‘extreme’ football. There were no penalties for roughness. Players and coaches were given microphones and cameras to take in the huddle. Stadiums had trash-talking public address announcers. Teams were called things like Birmingham Blast (a reference to Eric Rudolph’s 1998 bombing of a local abortion clinic). Well, they were called that until any sane and decent thinking person watching called in to complain. Then they were called Birmingham Thunderbolts.

The XFL lasted just twelve weeks. Football fans loyal to the history and pomp of the NFL stayed with them, transient fans refused to accept that, like wrestling, matches weren’t scripted. Yet the omens the league would fail were there right from the off: a month before kick-off the XFL’s promotional blimp crashed into the roof of an oyster restaurant, a sailboat and a powerline in Oakland, resulting in $2.5 million of damage.

It is perhaps fitting that there is in episode of The Simpsons where Homer professes to being the XFL’s biggest fan.

He’s failed in politics too
As of September 2009, Vince is at least $50 million worse off, having masterminded the failed campaign of wife Linda McMahon as the Republican nominee in the 2010 race for US Senator of Connecticut.

Linda’s policies included a drive for more offshore drilling, harsher penalties for illegal immigrants and the serious consideration of military action against Iran.

Despite nearing eventual winner, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, to within 3 points during the race, thankfully, for the good of all who walk the earth, Linda got decisively and comprehensively wooped on Election Day.

It’s worth noting that Vince did arise from his aforementioned ‘coma’ once in recent months - the day before election day, pausing momentarily to poo on Blumenthal’s campaign poster.

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