The World Wrestling Federation has once again closed its doors to pro-wrestling Internet sites and newsletters. In an announcement published on their official site a mere three days after their biggest yearly event — WrestleMania — was held, the WWF made it clear that they would not be providing any information to Internet sites and newsletters beyond their press releases or the content that is published on their site.
“Please understand that we will be notifying our associates and fans that information in your newsletters and on your websites is published without comment and verification from World Wrestling Federation Entertainment,” the WWF said in the statement.
In the Open Letter, the WWF maintains that the move was sparked by the proliferation of new stories that rely on unidentified sources within or close to the company. Sources which the WWF believes “often have other agendas at play other than providing facts”. The WWF says that many of their “associates” and fans rely on the Web and newsletters for their information and that the company has had to spend an inordinate amount of time “correcting” published stories and facts.
“Despite our efforts to make ourselves available for official comment, it is the rare occasion when you call to confirm your facts or to get official comment before publishing information about the WWFE. As a result, many times what you report is more rumor, innuendo and speculation than fact,” said the WWF.
Word within the wrestling media is that the announcement was speedily ushered out in response to a story that leaked earlier this week concerning WWF superstar “Stone Cold” Steve Austin not appearing on Raw or Smackdown! because of his reported dissatisfaction with the current focus of the WWF — Hulk Hogan and the nWo — and the use of his character.
The reaction to the statement from the Net community has been swift and sharp. In an editorial at 1Wrestling.com, reporter Bob Ryder took aim at the WWF.
“I can’t speak for other websites or newsletters, but I can speak for 1Wrestling.com. We have tried to do what they suggest, and it’s just not practical. Maybe it’s the nature of the business they are in…but it’s ridiculous to think that we would be so naive as to rely on their ‘on the record’ comments to form the basis of our reporting,” he wrote.
Characterizing the WWF’s move as a “temper tantrum”, Ryder stated that for the wrestling media as a whole, business would continue as usual despite the restrictions placed upon them by the WWF.
“I can’t remember a legitimate news item that we have contacted the WWF about that has resulted in anything other than a ‘no comment’ or a denial. To their credit, they have made people like Jim Ross available for conference calls and they have provided advance copies of tapes for Tough Enough and other similar material….but their cooperation with the “wrestling media” is limited to circumstances where it is to the WWF’s advantage to cooperate,” explained Ryder.
In his Daily Lariat column, 1Wrestling.com reporter Dave Scherer called the WWF’s statement “bizarre” and were fashioned “more out of frustration at their inability to have complete control of the coverage of their product than anything else”.
On the subject of anonymous sources, Scherer admitted that they are used frequently for good reason.
“Let’s forget for a moment that in every field of journalism, anonymous sources are used in stories every day. Let’s forget for a moment that the sources have to be kept anonymous because they are telling the reporter things that those being reported on don’t want told. Let’s even forget that those spilling the beans would get in trouble, and perhaps fired, for telling if they were found out. And let’s even assume that WWF.com wasn’t talking about someone like myself, who has called their offices and spoken to numerous members of the WWF on many occasions, and is instead referring to the many sites that will “post anything” rather than checking into stories. The bottom line is, their position here is ludicrous,” he wrote.
According to Scherer, the new policy just makes the WWF’s problem worse as they will no longer be commenting on the stories they take issue with. In closing, he also took a direct shot at WWF owner Vince McMahon.
“Vince McMahon has pointed to his First Amendment rights to free speech. I wonder if, by posting what he did on his company website, he realizes how big of a hypocrite he has just made himself,” wrote Scherer.
Two years ago, the WWF launched a similar policy which for months banned Internet sites from interviewing any of their talent. At the time, the WWF’s stance was that by supplying Internet sites with information and interviews, they were in fact feeding their competition. Later that same year, the policy was scrapped and the WWF has worked diligently since then to mend frayed partnerships into constructive and beneficial relationships. What is not known at the present time is whether the WWF would also be denying any interviews with their talent or other routine requests made to them.
WWF could not be reached for comment on the story due to the late press time but SLAM! Wrestling will continue to pursue a statement from the company concerning their new policy.