Tuesday, April 3, 2007


By the end of watching the 'McMahon' documentary, I was more enlightened and at the same time more confused than before about who exactly Vincent Kennedy McMahon is. Some said he's nothing like his 'on screen' character, Mr.McMahon. Some said the TV Vince is all the stuff Vince wish he could do in real life. Then some others said the real Vince is far more ruthless than his on-screen persona. Well, both of them are ruthless alright.

For a documentary produced in-house about the Boss, probably with his hands-on input, it didn't portray him they way one would think. It was not 'Vince is great, Vince is perfect, yada yada' as you might expect. It wasn't even gushing about him like Verne Gagne's portrayal seemed to be. It basically rounded Vince out to be a brilliant and crazy promoter, a workaholic family man, and a ballsy and sometimes retarded businessman (the bodybuilding league? not mentioned. the XFL? a poorly-timed good idea, etc). They seemed to throw in enough good with enough bad that it seemed orchestrated instead of realistic, as if they were deliberately trying to throw in enough negative material so that the audience would believe they were trying to make an accurate, honest documentary of his life. They may well have, but it felt very forced.

While the WWE crew may have been trying to paint a 'realistic' picture of Vince, we could see that they were conveniently leaving out key points that we had read about elsewhere, such as the fact that Vince Jr. didn't even know his real father until he was a teenager, that he grew up in a trailer, and that little multi-million dollar bungle that was the Bodybuilding League (of Steroids). They basically picked up from when Vince Sr. kicked his son out in front of the camera as an announcer and ran from there. Yes, they went into detail about the XFL, but I suspect they included that because it was such a high profile failure that the entire piece would have lost the rest of its credibility if it wasn't included. Even so, they painted the whole thing as bad timing, or someone else's fault, since it was so obviously a good idea in premise.

Then, there was the whole coverage of the McMahon family and their involvement in TV storylines and the business itself. Now, I've been watching for a good while, and I know some of the crazy stuff that Shane, Stephanie and Linda have gotten into on WWE programming, but seeing it all cut together so quick and close, it dawned on me that this family (or more likely Vince) will do anything for the business, for the product - where anything is that next big idea that Vince has at the time. Thank goodness some of them have more sense than Vince at times, such as when he wanted to be the father of Stephanie's baby on TV while she was pregnant. EW EW EW. Luckily she refused. It seems that sometimes Vince confuses 'shock' and 'entertainment', such as the Katie Vick necrophilia angle. Was that entertaining? No, not really. Was it shocking? Yeah! Did it get WWE press? Hell yeah. Didn't matter to Vince that it was bad press.

Indeed Vince is a brilliant businessman for taking advantage of the Pay Per View revolution, bringing us Wrestlemania and so much more, but those 'balls the size of grapefruits' have also gotten him into trouble from time to time, both with his fans and the general media. The fine line between crazed TV personality and real live Chairman has become even more blurred as the years go by, and this documentary has done nothing more than make that distinction ever more difficult to make.


Omar said...

McMahon really made it even more difficult to distinguish between Vince and his alter ego. Everybody praised his business sense at one point or another and then also criticized his outrageous stunts in the ring. They all made it seem like Vince took a piece of his real self everytime he went into the ring. We just never seem to find out how much.

Many of the wrestlers appear to want to portray vince as a bad guy, but they always come back with an "can't-blame-the-guy" attitude, even after they've been fired.

Throughout the documentary I felt like Vince's character would win no matter you thought of him. By this I mean that whether you liked him or hated him, he would still be able to draw some heat from you. That may simply be a virtue of how the documentary was set up and not necessarily any truth about his character. Either way, it was hard not to watch the very many facets of Vince McMahon, the man, the character, unravel.

Sam Ford said...

Deirdre, I think Vince's philosophy of all press being good press explains a lot about the WWE mentality, and it's not a philosophy I subscribe to. It will be interesting to talk with Bryce about this today, but Vince's documentary probably makes an interesting extension of Bryce's study of the public development of Vince McMahon as chairman, and how he is removed (or is supposed to be) from the Mr. McMahon character.

narwood said...

Why make a distinction between Vince and Mr McMahon at all? Especially since I see no indication that anyone feels Vince is not playing into his personality for the on-screen 'performances.' This whole notion of the two 'blurring' over the years only makes sense if you believe that you are who you are, were then and always shall be.

Pertaining more to Omar's post - might I introduce the word 'respect?'

Brian "Louxchador" Loux said...

One of the other strong bad press reactions he got was from the entire gimmick of Mohammad Hassan, the arab-american who so hated the discrimination he felt since 9/11 that he pretty much became a terrorist.

The deal killer was how Hassan and 8 other guys dressed like Iraqi insurgents choked out Undertaker with piano wire just a day after the London bombings of 7/7. THAT got bad press. But I remember that Hassan would pretend to cut people's heads off (a la the terrorist videos on the internet) well before that, and people would be pissed.

The thing is that to me - since I hold almost nothing sacred - I occasionally find the antics funny. Not funny ha ha, but funny uh oh. Making light of people that just died or beating god in a match, I have a "wow, they're SO going to come down on him" reaction but it's not a "enough, I'm watching Law and Order" reaction. Shock jocks Opie and Anthony, with whom the WWE has worked on occasion and work in the same vein, have shown sympathy when trouble comes down on Vince. We still watch. So Vince is technically not alone.

I think for Vince, he sees "the media" or much of mainstream culture as already disdainful of wrestling, so throwing in a dead corpse rape won't change their opinion. Which really isn't true. Bob Costas is a pretty good measuring stick. He was perfectly content in providing pre-match promo analysis for Wrestlemania 18 (i think), but grilled him on his treatment of women and stereotyping.