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[1992-03-16] Donahue: Vince McMahon, Dave Meltzer, John Arezzi, Barry Orton & Bruno Sammartino

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I'll just recap my favorite things:

 

* Donahue claims the WWF made $1.7 BILLION in 1990! More revenue than the NFL!

* Vince's discussion with Barry O later is funny also for Vince saying "Why would I risk this alleged type of revenue?"

* Love Vince telling Murray Hodgson that he was fired because he wasn't very good. "You did a horrible job."

* Graham can't keep his story straight. Did he or did he not see a child get sexually abused? He also uses the word "oralsexual"

* Cue Bix. Vince: "If I saw something like that, I'd call the authorities!"

* Dave's explanation of the secrecy in wrestling and everyone being afraid to go to the cops after Brody's death is always interesting

* John Arezzi brings up Pat Patterson sexually harassing midgets

* Graham says he's injected Hogan at least a half dozen times and accuses Hogan of "child molestation of the minds"

* The woman in the audience is right that career destruction or not, if you see a child being abused, you have a responsibility to report it. The response from everyone that they don't understand wrestling is kinda creepy.

* Bruno gets called out by a kid in the audience who accuses him of having a personal vendetta over how David was fired!

* Favorite audience question: "How many homosexuals percentage in the pro wrestling business?"

 

Still surreal nearly 20 years later. If Vince hadn't gotten jollies from messing with people so many times through his own promotional machine, I'd feel sorry for him, since the truth to lies ratio seemed to be about 30/70.

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Dave's recap in the WON:

 

This brings us to the Phil Donahue show on Monday. I was asked on Thursday that if they were going to do a show, would I be interested in being a guest. I said I wasn't the guy for a show on sexual abuse because I hadn't worked hard enough on the story but said if they wanted to do something on pro wrestling in general or steroids in pro wrestling I'd be interested. On Friday, they told me the segment was a definite for Monday and they wanted me on so I agreed. The only names I knew of that were going to be guests were John Arezzi, Bruno Sammartino, Orton and Hankins. Later that day I learned that Billy Graham and David Shults had been invited and that Titan rejected an invitation to send either McMahon or a spokesperson. Monday morning I received a phone call telling me that McMahon's office was furious about the show because they claimed every guest but one wasn't credible (me supposedly being the one) and they were at a complete loss in regard to Hankins because they knew nothing about him (ie, no dirt for comebacks to throw him off). Later that morning I was told McMahon had agreed to appear provided the show agreed to a few stipulations: 1) 12 spots in the studio audience for "plants" (in order to try and sway the crowd live and at home with audience reactions favorable to McMahon); 2) McMahon would get to open the two with a two minute uninterrupted speech; 3) He wouldn't go on alone and would bring two guests, a doctor (for credibility if steroids came up) and a lawyer (for credibility on legal issues); 4) That David Shults be bounced from the show. They wouldn't agree to any of the stipulations, although later compromised and agreed only to the fourth one. But at that point, it was obvious McMahon would be there because he wouldn't have made demands unless he had already decided to appear. I didn't know for sure that McMahon was going to appear until an hour before showtime, nor about Murray Hodgson.

 

Behind the scenes were fascinating. Hodgson knew nobody but was anxious for the show to get underway. Orton seemed kind of nervous because he wanted to improve on his performance on Friday. Sammartino was frustrated with McMahon's lies on Friday and was begging everyone to make sure McMahon wasn't allowed to sit next to him because he was afraid of his temper. Graham seemed to feel the same way. I was pacing, literally scared out of my mind since I'm not a television personality and almost everyone else was.

 

About ten minutes before show time, Donahue came into the Green Room (waiting room for guests) and all the guests present were in one room. The tension was incredible in the room when McMahon walked in. I don't know if I've ever been in a room where an aura of mutual hatred so filled the air. I believe I was the only one who even acknowledged McMahon and I don't think he made eye contact with anyone else in the room, nor visa versa.

 

Show time came. McMahon threw the first pitch--the old change-up. Instead of indignance at the charges, it was a new strategy, remorse, understanding, trying just to learn. Clearly, going on the offensive against those who were making allegations about his company on Larry King, while it may have been personally satisfying to those who led him to believe he trounced Bruno, was from a corporate standpoint a bad decision. It only heated the issue. To diffuse the issue there was only one way to go. McMahon was going to have to do a job on television. Sit back and take the lumps and possibly wind up as a babyface at the end because the intensity of some of the guests would be such that it could turn into overkill. From a television and excitement standpoint, the high point of the show was in the opening segment, McMahon going one-on-one with Hodgson. My feeling in retrospect is that there were two people McMahon personally wasn't going to lay down for--Hodgson and Graham. I don't know if Hodgson was honest or not, but he either blitzed McMahon with a well prepared truthful offensive, or simply out-McMahoned McMahon. Hodgson claimed he was fired because he wouldn't sleep with the Vice President. McMahon claimed he was fired because he was a terrible announcer, he couldn't make the transition from radio-to-television. Hodgson made that statement look ridiculous within 30 seconds as he dismantled McMahon with the poise of a 20-year television veteran that even McMahon couldn't match. When McMahon claimed Hodgson's lawyers wanted $160,000 this morning or he'd go on the air, it was clearly last-ditch desperation. When Hodgson denied it and said that ever since he made his charge, McMahon has been trying to buy him out, it resulted is a near standing ovation. Orton and Hankins made their charges, both sounding believable with McMahon really not even trying an offensive against either one.

 

At that point, the rest of the guests, myself included came on. The show never reached that emotional peak again, although Graham and McMahon got pretty heated at one point. It clearly looked like it was everyone against one person, which would have created some sympathy for McMahon, although the live audience didn't buy his attempts at sincerity. He was clearly the heel and his lack of honesty was pretty well exposed for the entire nation to see. He may not have been the only heel on the show, though. Still, as a television personality, he weathered the storm very well all things considered. Even when Graham got out of control to the point McMahon started getting some sympathy, the crowd still popped for Graham's ranting. The show was over too soon. It accomplished very little. Donahue was a super host. His producers had done their homework and unlike King, he was active and thought provoking and wasn't afraid to put anyone on the spot. If there was a negative, I sensed from the audience that the feeling was that no matter how shocking the story, how heinous the situation, that as long as it involved wrestling, to some people, it just didn't matter because as one girl in the audience said, "it's so sleazy and so gross anyway."

 

Maybe so. If there is one thing hopefully learned by what took place this week, it is that dishonesty catches up to people in the long run. The results when exposed, from a p.r. standpoint, make the short-term gains from the con seem like nothing. McMahon had gone through personal hell. He seemed to have aged six-to-eight years since the last time I had seen him live, which was only a few months back. Hey, everyone involved in the story had gone through a personal hell. Chris Loss, one of the kids who corroborated Cole's story, by the end of last week had underwent so much media pressure that he didn't want to talk to anyone else and just wanted to get on with his life. McMahon's newspaper quotes about how this hasn't even affected anything nor would it may cover things on the surface, but the reality was a whole lot different. He'd spent nine years creating an empire and had pretty much autonomous control of his industry. He did what he wanted, when he wanted and to who he wanted. Ethics, honesty, even laws, they were for someone else to follow. He didn't always win, but even the losses were usually only minor inconveniences. But this time, right in the midst of some of the strongest business he's done in a long time, the whole thing was in jeopardy. Not a bad PPV buy rate. Not an angle that didn't play well and some weak houses. Not a short-term cash flow problem. The whole thing.

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This is the first time I've ever seen this and it was just fascinating. Just so trashy and in your face. I guess that's what 90's daytime TV was like? I kinda felt bad for Vince in a way because like Dave said, he couldn't really do anything because the talking heads(Phil, Bruno and Superstar) would hardly let him talk. The guy that came off worse here I thought was Superstar Billy Graham with Bruno in second place. Bruno came off as really bitter but he won me over by laughing at the guy that mentioned his son. Superstar looked real bad and just seemed like a liar. Especially when he brought up the child abuse allegations. Best part and really the home run of the show was the Vince vs Murray confrontation. Signs of Vince's "Mr. Mcmahon" character really came out in that. He looked like he wanted to lunge out and choke Murray to death. Whatever happened to that guy? Was it proven that he was telling the truth or what?

 

Overall it's really interesting to see this so many years later. Too bad the Larry King episode isn't around cause I"d like to see that as a contrast.

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Was it proven that he was telling the truth or what?

The exact opposite, actually. During a deposition (IIRC) it was discovered that Hodgson had made the same sort of accusations at another past employer, and that a judge called him a "habitual liar." His lawyer resigned right then and there, and even apologized to McDevit on his way out the door.

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Flair for the Gold always reminded me of Donahue for some reason. Flair just standing around in a suit trying to get his questions in surrounded by idiots.

 

Just so trashy and in your face. I guess that's what 90's daytime TV was like?

I'm not sure this has really changed. Have you ever watched Dr. Phil? A lot of those episodes are straight up Jerry Springer for the suburbs instead of the trailer parks.

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Was it proven that he was telling the truth or what?

The exact opposite, actually. During a deposition (IIRC) it was discovered that Hodgson had made the same sort of accusations at another past employer, and that a judge called him a "habitual liar." His lawyer resigned right then and there, and even apologized to McDevit on his way out the door.

 

 

thats interesting because at one point Vince says something about bringing up his past and Hodgson cuts him off and says his past has nothing to do with anything.

 

but their interaction was my favourite part of this. especially vince telling him he was shit.

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I took a break from the 1992 set, but watched two discs this past week. I saw this once before, like four years ago, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to watch it again. But I quickly changed my mind as soon as it started, I feel kinda bad saying it's so entertaining. Graham was so awful in this. Loss and the rest of you guys pretty much already went over all the highlights. Also, the woman in black wondering why anyone would want to go into a sleazy business like pro wrestling and the other woman asking "isn't it all fixed" were so amusing. Meltzer saying McMahon used the word he denied he used and then seeing both their and the audience reaction, is such a light-hearted funny moment.

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Dave telling Vince you told me that.

That was a brilliant sequence, that really stood out amid the gloom of the subject matter. I found it humanised Vince too, not least because it came across as a cheeky boy trying ineptly to tell a lie, which countered any image of "godfather whose empire is proliferated with sexual harrassment and dishonesty."

 

John Arezzi - Didn't Vince say in published reports that you were devastated when Hulk Hogan made those statements on Arsenio?

 

Vince McMahon - I wasn't devastated.

 

Dave Meltzer - That was the word you used to me.

 

Vince McMahon - Well, alright *adopts a cheeky "shucks, you got me" grin whilst the audience laughs good naturedly and gives a round of applause*

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Kind of infuriating to see a guy who's pretty much been outed as an compulsive liar beng cheered for these allegations. Graham really was the worst, and the crowd members who know nothing about wrestling were pretty annoying.

 

"It's so.....tacky and sleazy."

 

Well, yeah. I agree with that one. :)

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This was fascinating. The one and one between Vince and Murray was probably my favorite thing. Murray was really taking it to Vince. Interesting to read that he was full of it. McMahon seemed rather subdued compared to his later interviews on Costas/Real Sports. I think that Vince would probably have strangled Murray on the set. Definitely some cringe worthy stuff being said. Graham came off really awful.

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This lasted 45 minutes but was nowhere near long enough. It was so great I could've watched the mudslinging for 2 hours.

 

I loved all the deranged ex-wrestlers ranting. I would've felt sorry for Vince if he didn't have rivers of blood gushing from his hands. The exchange between Vince and Murray was gold with Vince telling him he got fired because he sucked at his job.

 

Wrestling is such a sleazy business, which makes it a match made in heaven with a trashy talk show. And the truth is crazier than fiction.

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It was interesting to finally see this after reading about it in the Observer and Torch. So strange seeing Vince and Dave sitting side by side. Hodgson did not come off as remotely credible in my eyes. I get why this was included, but it didn't exactly leave me wanting more.

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GAY SEX ABUSE IN THE WORLD OF WRESTLING. Involving juveniles! Donahue's deadly serious delivery of the "1.7 BILLION dollar" statement makes it all the funnier--he even gets out of his chair to emphasize that. "More revenue than the NFL," Jesus Christ.

 

Vince comes off horribly to start, as O, Hodgson, and Hankins all take turns demolishing him, all with details as specific as they can get in the setting. Still, Hodgson definitely comes off as a guy cutting a promo rather than a guy trying to make a change. He does it very well, though. Still, even with hindsight the conman underneath can be seen.

 

Graham is in even bigger promo-cutting mode, but sinks himself when he admits to not actually having seen the acts with Tom Cole. And possibly I'm horribly naive or ill-informed, but was the WWF REALLY employing "13 to 20 year old boys" to take the ring up and down? Isn't that a child labor violation waiting to happen? I saw kids/teenage types take wrestlers' ring gear at house shows, so maybe there's something to it, but Graham on the surface doesn't come off as credible. Vince fires back with the Mike McQueary accusation, which is the best and most effective point that he's made.

 

O, along with Bruno (and Meltz, doing his best to be Switzerland), is so far the most credible guy with the most believable story. Even-handed, and just tells his story and remarks that it was evidence of a front office culture.

 

The kid who brings up the firing of David Sammartino was a definite highlight, as was Bruno's reaction. He doesn't really answer the accusation but his "Maybe when you grow up you'll understand" got him a victory in the eyes of the audience.

 

I think it's fantastic that apparently what Vince himself took away from this appearance was what a great promo Hodgson cut on him.

 

Fascinating stuff all around, and like some of the others I wasn't ready for this to be over.

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Wow, the entire episode is here. This covers what was probably the biggest wrestling story of the year - the WWF steroid / sexual harassment scandals. Reading along with Observers from this time, this was a huge deal at the time. Vince was getting it from all ends, the only person not attacking him was the kid in the crowd with the Lex Luger shirt. There was a lot of talk about the scandals really damaging the entire business, but I think a quote from Meltzer's discussion about the experience explains perfectly why that never really happened:

 

 

 

I sensed from the audience that the feeling was that no matter how shocking the story, how heinous the situation, that as long as it involved wrestling, to some people, it just didn't matter because as one girl in the audience said, "it's so sleazy and so gross anyway."

 

I was pretty young at this time and had never seen Donahue before. He was a standout to me, he went after guys, he asked a lot of tough questions, he kept control over eight guests, and was running around the studio like a madman. I was left imagining how awesome he would be on Raw in the Okerlund role. When the show started and he said the topic would be pro wrestling, the crowd was laughing. Donahue: "While you're laughing, somebody is wrestling....all the way to the bank." By the end, the crowd was totally into it.

 

The Vince/Hodgson one on one was great, like others said, you could see Mr. McMahon come out. Does anyone remember Hodgson? Was he any good in the WBF or was Vince being honest? Vince getting Dave'd was hilarious. Dave's suit looked borrowed from Arezzi, he was swimming in that thing.

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I didn't get the Observer at the time. I was still getting the Apter mags (my friend being a spoiled brat got the PWI Weekly and held it over my head that I didn't). So, all of this really was a blur to me. I'd hear about this stuff a little on the news, but, wouldn't really get any detail for another six weeks or so until it was in the PWI.

The weird thing, for me anyway, is that this era of wrestling is one of my very favorite. These years are considered a pretty dark time for wrestling but its my wheelhouse. I thought all the groups that I saw were doing great things. WWF was interesting/if still cloying but they were coming to Indy for WrestleMania, dammit! That made it big to us. WCW had the Dangerous Alliance and Cactus Jack and Abdullah and a Light Heavyweight Title and all kinds of fun. USWA (my home promotion) went wonderfully, gutterfully sleazy with the Embry - DWB feud, the Moondogs vs Lawler, Jarrett and whomever was crazy enough to get in there with them and that smug, little punk Brian Christopher popping up. Global, again, wonderful days. A babyface Eddie Gilbert against Bruce Prichard's crew of rotten bums plus all the fun ancillary characters like the Coast to Coast Connection, Chaz, the Wild Bunch, the Davis Brothers. To me, these were fun fun days, plus I may have been popular in school and with girls for the last time. I might have peaked in 8th grade, now that I think of it. I need a beer...

Oh yeah, and an honest cat could wear Zubaz! Fun days, man.

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I was going to do a great big long post on this, but I barely got six minutes into the show before I accidentally wiped it out. So I'm going to do general impressions from what I've already seen and pick it up play-by-play wise at about seven minutes in. (No, I'm not interested enough to rewatch from the beginning with twenty-three other discs of actual wrestling to watch.)

 

We haven't seen Vince yet except for two closeups, but I can tell he's simply thrilled to be there listening to these allegations.

 

Phil's starting with the gay sex stuff in an effort to have a bigger hook for his audience, which may be smart television but is liable to turn those more interested in the athletic aspect of the scandals off.

 

The crowd in general is the typical non-fan crowd who would just as soon laugh this whole thing off and get into something important, like lesbians who are asking for paternity tests on their newborn babies.

 

I've never heard of Murray Hodgson in my life, and apparently he was only with the WWF a month, so his commentary must have been overdubbed when he was fired. Based on his looks and such, I'm guessing he might have been a replacement for Sean Mooney (Events Center, Coliseum Video, etc.) He refuses to say much of substance, even though this is the best forum he's ever likely to have to air his beefs. The best we get from him is that one of the WWF's vice presidents "threatened his job security."

 

Barry Orton details his own problems with Terry Garvin, who apparently resigned from the WWF a few weeks before the show was taped. I'm a bit suspicious that he had to go all the way back to 1978 to provide a story, but he seems to be carrying himself well overall. He's already corrected Phil by saying that one of the vice presidents who resigned did not ask to sleep with him.

 

Apparently the veeps who have resigned at this point are Garvin and Patterson. I guess Pat got his job back once the heat was off.

 

Tom Hanklns tells of his refusal to sleep with Patterson while the WWF was in Los Angeles for a card in '85. In retaliation, Patterson had him physically ejected from the dressing room at the next LA card. He says he's there to back up Barry, which is a classy gesture on his part.

 

"Pontiac Superdome"? Come on, Phil, have your people do a little research. I guess he's not a football fan, because even non-wrestling fans who follow football know where the Lions used to play.

 

"The PGA should pray for this kind ($1.7 billion a year) of revenue." So should every non-NFL sporting enterprise in North America, even in 2016.

 

Now we hear from Vince, who claims that he always took these allegations seriously, and is here today in an effort to not only give his accusers their day in court, but perhaps to learn something that might aid his investigators in in their "independent" investigation.

 

Orton and Hankins don't really go for the jugular, but Hodgson channels Perry Mason, trying to pin Vince down as to whether he believes sexual harassment goes on in the WWF. Vince admits that it's a possibility, just like it is everywhere else, which is more than I ever expected him to admit to outside of a courtroom. Vince gets a laugh when he tells Hankins that he doesn't remember his 1985 phone calls about the Los Angeles incident. Not to defend Vince too much, but does anyone remember specific phone calls they received seven years ago that weren't dire emergencies?

 

Vince asserts that he fired Hodgson purely on the basis of poor performance. Hodgson goes into detail about the hiring process, which according to him lasted over a year and included four or five separate interviews. Amazingly, he uses his own supposed incompetence to defend himself, saying that Vince, on top of everything else, simply isn't a good judge of talent. He also claims that he was hired to be the main face and voice of the WWF. Was Vince planning to spend more time in the office? Could Hodgson have been a possible replacement for Gino. who was starting to fade quite a bit around this time frame? As I said above, he looks and sounds more like a possible replacement for Sean Mooney in the Events Center and on Coliseum Video.

 

Hodgson gets a huge hand when he brings up a letter from Vince to his landlord describing his secure employment and what an overall positive he is for the company. Of course, I don't think we'll see the letter during the show, but I could definitely see Vince doing something like that, then turning around and firing the guy he wrote the letter about, especially if, as he claims, he could fire that person almost at will. Vince then brings up the fact that Hodgson waited six months after he was fired to sue Patterson, which calls into question his true motivation. He also alleges that Hodgson tried to shake him down for $160,000 in exchange for his not going on the show, which Hodgson angrily denies. Hodgson then states that his attorneys informed Vince of their case in September of '91, which he claims was three (later six) weeks after he was fired, and that Vince kept trying to buy his silence.

 

We then get into the details of his firing, which I suspect precipitated most of this. Hodgson claims that Vince lied about his job status on Larry King Live, claiming that he never worked for the WBF. Ah, so that's what he was really hired for. Hodgson claims that the producer who fired him felt so badly about having to do it that he offered to let Hodgson stay with his family. Vince uses that as a way to promote the goodness of everyone at Titan Sports not named Garvin or Patterson. Phil then interrupts to recap Hogan's appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show (during which he admitted to limited steroid use for medical purposes) and set up the steroid portion of the program, which I'll get to in another post.

 

Hodgson is the main figure in this portion of the show, and I'm not quite sure what his deal is. He mixes up his facts, we're not even sure which branch of Titan he was working for, and if Vince is right about even a little of what he claimed, this is a witch hunt using some very serious allegations as its foundation. Amazingly, Vince is the sympathetic character so far, although that could certainly change once the topic switches to steroids.

 

More to come!

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Now for the steroids discussion. Phil introduces Dave, who laughs off Phil's description of the Observer as the New York Times of wrestling, and Arezzi. Dave claims that one of the reasons stuff like sex scandals and steroids is allowed to go on is because the mainstream media, who could really use their power to bring such things to light, choose to ignore wrestling. Phil's been harping on that point for the whole show. Arezzi says that it was only when steroids became involved that the media began to pay attention. It all goes back to the Zahorian trial, after which Vince held a press conference to which the regular wrestling media wasn't invited. Arezzi alerted Phil Muchnick, which led to other people coming forward about more allegations of various types. Talk about media manipulation backfiring!

 

Superstar's out next, and gets quite an ovation for someone who hasn't been on TV as a wrestler in almost five years. Phil jokes about having to punch him in the mouth before the show because he was disobeying orders, which gets a bit of a nervous laugh. For someone known as a paragon of sensitivity, that was a bit of a low blow considering Superstar's condition. Superstar claims that he's seen ring boys (ages 13-20) being sexually harassed, Thirteen? Maybe if they were Andre's size at that age. Patterson supposedly grabbed one of the ring boys by their crotch as he was working one night in New Haven, and Superstar also saw Mel Phillips performing oral sex on a ten-year old one night in Allentown during his Kung Fu run in '82. He complained to both Senior and Vinnie and was told that they would handle it.

 

Vince looks pained, and again I can't blame him; now Senior, who by all accounts was as close to a gentleman promoter as there was in wrestling, is being dragged into this mess from the grave. Vince denies everything, and Phil points out that not only is there no proof of any of this, but that Superstar never claimed to see any of the illegal acts that he's alleging. What happened to the ring boy in New Haven, then? Superstar brushes that off and goes on to talk about Zahorian. He claims that Vince was right there in the room while Zahorian sold his drugs, and that wouldn't surprise me, really. According to Superstar, if Vince condones the drug use, he automatically condones the sexual abuse (or "homosexuality", in Superstar's words) as well. Superstar's taking a bigger leap here than he ever did in the ring Vince says that if he'd seen sexual abuse going on, he'd call the authorities. I sure as hell hope so. Superstar then brings up Rick McGraw and how Zahorian sold him barbiturates that were found in his blood when he died. One scandal at a time, brother.

 

Phil tries to reign him in, but Superstar plows right on, talking about his three "hardcore drug" overdoses and how his wife Valerie would have murdered both Zahorian and Vince if she'd had a gun. Phil says that he must have been a real "crank" when he was on the drugs, which had to have affected his personality. After a few more seconds of Superstar's ranting, Phil flat-out asks him if he could have been successful without steroids, and he says no.

 

If Donahue's producers had set out deliberately to make Vince a hero and a martyr, they couldn't have come up with a better cast for him to play off of. Neither Hodgson nor Superstar come off well at all, and Vince looks and sounds every inch the concerned CEO who just wants the truth about the allegations that are destroying his company. So far, no one has laid a glove on Vince, and it's hard to imagine Bruno doing so either. It's to the point where I'm wondering if the producers had to set things up this way so Vince would agree to come on the show at all.

 

More to come!

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Now on to Bruno. We don't get to hear any applause he might have gotten as he came out; he's actually been sitting there since Superstar first appeared at least. Phil asks him if he's impressed with Vince acknowledging that there are problems in the WWF, and Bruno responds that the people who are applauding Vince for being so caring (like who?) don't really know him at all. He then tells the story of having to make a swing through Arizona and New Mexico in 1987 to replace a wrestler suspended for drugs (I've heard this before, and it's Jake Roberts, although Bruno doesn't identify him here) and being so afraid of driving with a wrestler who may have drugs in his car that he went to Vince, who arranged for Chief Jay Strongbow to be his driver. Smart move; could you imagine the headlines on the East Coast if Bruno was pulled over in a car that was busted for pot or heroin? So many people of all ages still believe in him and love him in cities like New York, Boston, and Pittsburgh, even though he hasn't been near a wrestling ring in close to thirty years. I should know; I'm one of them.

 

Phil then asks why these charges are just coming to light, and Dave responds that there's never been a forum for them before. According to him, wrestling is just like elementary school; nothing's worse than a snitch. That may be the most apt comparison I've ever heard concerning the business. He then talks briefly about Brody's murder and how no one wanted to go to the cops. Phil replies that this like another scandal involving the New York Mets concerning charges brought by a woman (I don't remember this), and that no one, least of all an audience of his, is surprised by the idea of drug use among wrestlers.

 

Arezzi then tells about two midget wrestlers (Karate Kid and Lord Littlebrook). Patterson made advances toward Karate, which scared him to the point of tears, and Littlebrook went to Patterson and told him to leave Karate alone, especially because he wasn't gay. According to Arezzi, the midgets were only used one more time before their contract was revoked. Phil spends the rest of the segment recapping the program so far and priming his audience for the question-and answer period that should be up next.

 

This segment was too rushed for its own good; I hadn't heard why the midgets were canned, but there wasn't much ground covered other than that. Bruno only got a minute or two, and he and Vince didn't interact at all, which was disappointing. I guess once Phil realized that he wasn't getting any tearful confessions out of anybody, he decided to wrap things up. I don't anticipate many probing questions from the audience, most of whom likely dismiss the whole scandal as sleazy people doing sleazy things to other sleazy people and are content to leave it at that.

 

More to come!

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We begin the next segment with a few short clips, one of Liz standing in the ring crying after Savage won the tournament at Mania IV and two brief clips of the Mania 2 battle royal: John Studd eliminating Refrigerator Perry and Andre eliminating Bret Hart to win it. What the point was of using stuff this old featuring four guys who aren't even with the WWF at this time I can't begin to guess. Besides, I believe that the footage came courtesy of Larry King Live, so Phil's researchers couldn't even be bothered to dig up clips of their own. Great job, gentlemen. Way to take your subject matter seriously! Over the footage, Phil notes that many wrestling fans are children, which is always good to know.

 

I thought we were headed for Q&A, but apparently not. Phil asks Dave if he's impressed with Vince's willingness to come forward, Dave says he's glad, because no one else with the possible exception of the accusers knows for sure if there's a problem. Dave then says he believes Barry's story and that he's pretty good at talking to wrestlers and separating fact from fiction. He adds that Barry's taken and passed a polygraph.

 

Barry then tells his second story of the show, this one about being alone in a car with Terry Garvin on a drive from Amarillo to Albuquerque during which Garvin asked to perform oral sex on him at least every forty to fifty miles. Orton kept refusing as politely as he could, Vince and Phil both interrupt before he can finish (they must be legitimately short on time), and Phil asks if he wants to destroy Vince for what Garvin did to him. Barry says no, he just wants the sexual harassment laws to be respected, and that he knows he's out of the business for good because he's outed executives and bookers who are more important to the business than he is. Bruno agrees, and tells the story of how Senior blackballed him back in 1961 for taking dates with his opposition, which Phil objects to, probably because he wants to get to the Q&A. Bruno finishes by saying that there's no union for wrestlers and that if you cross the promoters, you're dead.

 

Phil then plays Perry Mason with Vince, asking if the money in the business was so good that he looked the other way when these charges were brought to him. Vince says no, asking why he would risk all that money to cover it up. He had no clue what was going on. He then makes the point that the stories Barry's telling happened fourteen years before (and in another territory to boot). They could very well have happened just as Barry described, but all Vince can do now is make sure that things like that don't happen again. Another masterful job by Vince of painting himself as the concerned CEO who only wants to get at the truth and defend his company and livelihood against those who want to bring him down (which is almost everyone else on the panel). Phil ends the segment by telling Vince that if the problems within the WWF aren't fixed, he won't be able to give tickets away, and Vince agrees.

 

The major takeaway from this part for me is how Vince continues to rule the day against all odds. Everyone on that panel wants to trap him in a lie, then hand him his head. But he makes that impossible by playing the sympathetic boss about as well as he ever would. This probably isn't making much of an impression on the audience, but it's certainly doing a lot to present Barry, Superstar, and Bruno as lunatics with such a big ax to grind that they're bringing up allegations and situations from as far back as thirty-one years prior. He may have made mistakes, but surely he can't be as evil as these poor misguided souls say he is, can he?

 

We've got about twelve minutes left, so Q&A almost has to be next.

 

More to come!

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We begin the next segment with a few seconds of Savage wrestling (I think) The Barbarian. it's recent, as he's wearing a shirt. Phil references a People article on Hogan, and that segues into him asking Superstar if he introduced young wrestlers to steroids. He answers that Hogan came to him in Florida in 1977 and inquired about them. Phil interrupts and says that he doesn't want to send him to jail for that; he seems to want to take extra caution with guys making charges in order to avoid the show being sued. He talks over Superstar for a few moments, and I can't tell what either guy is saying.

 

The next thing I can hear clearly is Superstar saying that he freely gave Hogan the information, and that he's injected Hogan at least a half dozen times. I can't dispute that, exactly, but their paths have crossed so seldom over the years that I suspect he's exaggerating at least. David Shultz has injected him over two hundred times, which is a little more plausible since they were friends in the AWA and a package deal when Hogan first went to the WWF in 1984. According to Superstar, Hogan was so clueless about steroid use for the first year he took them that he injected himself every day instead of cycling. Phil's so hot to interrupt that all I can make out is something about Hogan's income. Superstar then accuses Hogan of child abuse through his lies about steroids and cocaine use. The words are a little harsh, maybe, but the idea's fundamentally true. All through this, they cut back and forth to Vince rolling his eyes in disgust. The audience gives Superstar one of the biggest hands of the show.

 

Arezzi then asks Vince if he was devastated when Hogan made his admission on Arsenio, and Vince denies it until Dave calls him out on it. Vince smirks uncomfortably as the audience applauds again. Vince and Dave talk over each other a bit, with Dave saying that Hogan's admission to three instances of steroid use isn't the whole truth. Vince then reminds everyone that steroids were legal back when Superstar first started using them. Dave starts to rebut that by saying that they weren't legal in Florida, but Phil interrupts again, saying that he doesn't want to "string up" anyone who took steroids when they were legal. To borrow Phil's own phrase, if you ask me Phil got bored with this show once the subject turned from gay sex, which is titillating and right down daytime TV's alley, to steroid use, which is really a subject better suited to sports discussion panels.

 

The Q&A then begins with a young lady asking what percentage of wrestlers in the WWF are currently performing sexual favors to keep their jobs. Barry says he can't say, since Garvin and Patterson, the two main culprits, are gone. The same young lady then asks for a percentage while Barry was employed, Barry can't speak to that either, and we go to break in the middle of his answer.

 

As I said above, the steam went out of this show for the most part once the subject turned from sex to steroids. Phil's scared to death of Hogan and others possibly suing the show (especially since Shults was pulled at the last minute per Vince's demand) so he's trying to stop everyone from saying too much, and Superstar, who's not exactly Mr. Credibility, is the only one really talking now. Maybe this should have been a two-part show: steroids one day, sex the next, although getting Vince to appear for both would have been damn near impossible. If I had to bet, I'd say that most of the audience questions will have to do with the sex scandal, which is not only meatier, but has a lot less of a moral gray area attached.

 

More to come!

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