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McMahon's money madness the talk of L.A.
WWE press conference keeps things businesslike
By KURT NIELSEN - SLAM! Wrestling


Money talks Tuesday at a press conference in Los Angeles, where Vince McMahon (holding money) announced plans to give away money on Monday Night RAW. Photos by Kurt Nielsen

LOS ANGELES -- This morning, as I hung around the proverbial water cooler, there were two big topics of conversation: the massive fire that destroyed a great deal of Universal Studios in Hollywood, and Vince McMahon’s latest bizarre stunt. You couldn’t avoid either topic, since news of both events were scattered all across the internet.

Many people I talked to wondered if McMahon had finally lost it, or if he was so desperate for ratings that he was going to actually pay people to watch his show. Since I was slated to attend WWE’s press conference for McMahon’s Million Dollar Mania, I had a lot of folks desperate for some answers out of a rather outlandish publicity stunt.

Fans were eagerly lined up well in advance of the noon start time Tuesday at the Staples Center. There were several chants of "We want money!" hollered by a very impatient crowd. Those of us in the press section merely wondered how all of this was going to gel, since nary a one of us had any idea of what to expect.

As it turned out, the whole event was handled in a very straight-forward, businesslike manner. I was both surprised and pleased by this. And as the event unfolded, it became clear that WWE and the USA Network were hoping to use all of this hoopla to do two things: widen their fan base, and attain solid credibility in the mainstream media.

The countless achievements of WWE were highlighted -- ones that the mainstream media is pained to admit to, but the facts are purely undeniable. WWE does gargantuan numbers worldwide on television, and pioneered pay-per-view. They’ve sold unfathomable amounts of merchandise, including three books that were number 1 on The New York Times Best Seller list, and DVDs that consistently top the Sports ratings.

Early on in the event, John Cena referred to the word "passion" -- this became a common thread used throughout the presentations. Cena talked about all the passion the fans of WWE have for their product, and the passions those working for the company have for bringing them the best product in the world. He mentioned that no other entertainment company gives back to the fans as much as WWE.

Chris McCumber, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Brand Strategy for the USA Network, went on to say, "WWE has a long history of giving back to its fans." He cited their involvement with the Make-a-Wish Foundation, entertaining American troops overseas, and countless charitable events throughout the years.

For those who follow WWE, the company’s benevolent side is understood. But when you scrape away all the veneer from Vince McMahon’s latest crazy scheme, one cannot help but wonder: "What is Vince McMahon thinking by giving away a million dollars every week?"

As Triple H pointed out on McMahon, "Either he's a genius or he's crazy." Then he jokingly said "he's absolutely crazy," but noted that this was just a smart strategy employed by one of the most successful entertainment machines in the world.

Interesting Facts About McMahon’s Million Dollar Mania
  • This is the biggest guaranteed money giveaway for a primetime, episodic series in the history of television.
  • It took Ken Jennings 74 episodes to win $2.5 million on Jeopardy. Vince McMahon is giving away $1 million of his own money per episode each week.
  • Monday Night RAW viewers are 120 times more likely to be a winner on McMahon’s Million Dollar Mania than to win PowerBall.
  • NBC’s hit game show Deal or No Deal has yet to have a million dollar winner.
  • The giveaway, which McMahon calls "My own version of an economic stimulus plan for our viewers," is definitely a bold step for WWE to take. In this contest, fans who sign up on wwe.com become eligible to win a portion of one million dollars. There will be one million dollars given away every single week, broken down into various increments. This will all end when Vince (as he puts it) gets tired of giving away his money.

    When further discussing his father-in-law, Triple H proudly stated, "He will do anything to make sure that his brand continues to grow." This particular effort will come in the form of an exciting segment where he gets to give directly back to the fans by lining their pocketbooks. Triple H also went on to say that this will continue the company’s growth by attracting new fans.

    Professional wrestling, which always seems to move in cycles, is currently in a downward swing. RAW received its worst-ever rating for a Memorial Day telecast only last week. Obviously the powers that be knew it was time to switch gears, and they were more than willing to put out the dough it took to ensure that it happened.

    At the start of the press conference, a team of security came out and unloaded one million dollars in cash. They placed this in a clear plastic podium, as was done at Raw the night before. As Triple H looked down to the encased greenbacks under his nose, he said, "There's a million reasons right here why everybody should be watching RAW."

    When asked if McMahon had any help coming up with this concept, Triple H playfully stated, "Vince is very capable of coming up with crazy ideas on his own."


    Vince McMahon hits the podium, as Triple H and Maria Kanellis applaud.
    Vince did not go into his "Mr. McMahon" shtick, and refreshingly kept everything rather matter-of-fact. He said the gimmick of a crazy billionaire giving away his money was a natural draw. This was a huge opportunity for both WWE and the USA Network to increase their numbers and get more people to be aware of his product.

    WHAT YOU THINK
    Will "McMahon’s Million Dollar Mania" make you tune in to Monday Night Raw?
    I watch anyway - 38%
    Yes, I'm intrigued - 4%
    It makes no difference - 32%
    It's a turnoff - 8%
    Never watch it anyway - 18%
    "The audience understands what we are," said McMahon. He stated there needs to be an educational process, clearly pointing to the incorrect perceptions that many people have of WWE. He also discussed all of the positive things his company does on a worldwide scale -- in many cases, better than anybody in the world. He desires a platform in which he can show off his company in a proper light.

    "We have to educate the media as to who we are," admitted McMahon.

    McCumber referred to this giveaway as a "historic event," and urged everybody to keep watching RAW to be part of it.

    RELATED LINKS

  • WWE.com
  • Vince McMahon bio and story archive

    Kurt Nielsen ran to and from work in a suit to attend this press conference. His medal is in the mail for Service Above And Beyond The Call of Duty.