TSN’s Off The Record grilled Vince McMahon on Tuesday night, yet in retrospect, it can hardly be called a controversial show.
McMahon ducked a couple of questions, and quite possibly because host Michael Landsberg was in Stamford, CT at the WWF’s head office, he didn’t follow up perhaps the way he would have in his own studio in Toronto.
The first segment of the show was the most enlightening and all about Owen Hart’s accident and funeral. Landsberg asked the tough questions, and deserves kudos for getting McMahon to go on the record.
Criticized in the media for continuing the Over The Edge PPV after Owen’s death, McMahon said that “at the time we didn’t think of not continuing. None of the performers, none of the producers, not me, no one. Whether or not that’s because, as performers, it’s ingrained in us that the show must go on, I don’t know. No one thought of stopping the show at that time.”
Landsberg followed up saying that it was disrespectful to the Hart family to continue. McMahon responded that it all depends for your point of view and that at the time, it did not occur to anyone to stop the show, and that somehow they got through the final two matches after Owen’s death was announced to the TV audience.
McMahon said that he did not announce to the live crowd in Kansas City at the Kemper Arena because he didn’t know how they would react. “My guts were telling me don’t announce it to the live audience that Owen passed away” and that announcing his death after the show was over “didn’t seem right.”
“I don’t know what would have happened to the audience. I don’t know how they would have felt. I don’t know what they would have done, whether or not there could have been any panic.”
The WWF president and chairman also talked about his first meeting with Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart since the Survivor Series incident in November 1997, which took place in Calgary at the time of Owen Hart’s funeral.
“Out of respect for Owen, I met with Bret,” said McMahon. “Bret carried the entire conversation. I really thought he wanted to talk about Owen. He mentioned Owen one sentence and the rest of it was about Bret.”
Landsberg asked what Bret talked about.
“That I ruined his marriage, that I ruined his career, he wanted to go back to that incident at the Survivor Series. All that he wanted to talk about was himself, nothing to do with his brother. It was looking into the eyes of a skeleton, in some respects. It seemed like he wasn’t human. It was a very weird experience,” said McMahon.
He also said that it was his “duty” to be at the funeral, that Owen’s widow Martha asked him to be there, and that he wanted to be there.
McMahon also clarified — eventually — that he was going to pay for the entire. “What Martha wanted was a very lavish funeral. Fine, if that’s what she wanted, then that’s what we were going to give her. And we had a blank cheque for the funeral home. Subsequent to the funeral being over, we understand that she, I guess on the advice of her attorneys, I don’t know, decided to come in and pay for part of the funeral.”
He also said that the letter to the editor of the Calgary Sun was not meant for publication, and that was only to set the record straight.
“I would suggest that one of the reasons why there is such a bad P.R. type situation here is, really don’t rest too much with Owen’s widow Martha as it does with Bret because Bret was right in Martha’s ear in all of the publicity, all of the talk shows, all of the media. Bret talking horrible about the WWF fans. Sure, I mean there’s no question there’s that personal vitriol that he has with me. That’s the entire hour and some conversation was all about that, when Bret and I spoke. Not anything at all about Owen,” McMahon said.
After the first commercial break, things took a decidedly lighter turn as Landsberg brought up Minnesota governor Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura and his participation as a guest referee in SummerSlam. Landsberg’s question was ‘who asked who on his date?’ but McMahon ducked it, and the host never got back to it.
McMahon said that he and Ventura “always respected each other for each other’s abilities.”
Landsberg then countered that it was totally unacceptable that a sitting governor could participate in such an event. McMahon smiled, and said “ouch” and congratulated Landsberg for having his own opinion.
“I couldn’t have imagined I’d be working with Jesse six months ago,” McMahon admitted. He wound up working with Ventura because it is “very good business. I mean, it’s controversial, and you’re adding a little bit to that controversy, thank you very much by the way.”
Landsberg followed up, asking if there was anyone McMahon wouldn’t work with. McMahon again avoided a direct answer, and wondered about the circumstances of a situation such as working with Eric Bischoff, rather than a simple yes or no.
In the next segment, Landsberg brought out an old Wrestling ’86 magazine where McMahon was quoted on the cover as being the ‘Walt Disney of wrestling.’
“I wouldn’t want to be the Walt Disney of 1999. I think I was then, in ’86,” said McMahon and that the times have changed him.
In the final segment, McMahon declined to criticize Eric Bischoff, but said that the Monday night wars were “definitely not” over.
McMahon said that a “more contemporary product” turned the tides of the Monday night wars in the WWF’s favour. “And work ethic and passion, and the fact that the model that Ted Turner bought — or stole depending on your point of view — from us was a 1980s model.”
Landsberg then ended the show by saying that it was the input of Linda McMahon, Vince’s wife, that turned the tides, and promo’d nicely into Wednesday’s Off The Record at 6 pm EST with both Vince and Linda McMahon. The following day, Off The Record will have Shane and Stephanie McMahon.