SLAM! Wrestling Editorial: SLAM! responds to J.R.
By JOHN POWELL -- SLAM! Wrestling
A few weeks ago, SLAM! Wrestling's John Molinaro wrote an editorial that
sent rumblings throughout the wrestling world. Molinaro's controversial
piece - "The WWF's war on Internet sites"
- made public the World Wrestling
Federation's exclusionary policy directed towards all "rival" Internet
sites. As you might guess, the reaction was staggering.
Fans from all over the globe sent their honest and open messages to us.
Those who supported our stance termed the WWF's approach as "absurd",
"hypocritical", "Machavellian" and acting like "Big Brother". Others
faithfully sided with the federation citing their right to control their
image in the media.
What was really troubling though was that some took it one step further and
made it personal calling us a bunch of whiners throwing a collective hissy
fit because we didn't get our way. What these readers fail to understand is
that they don't have the whole story upon which to make such condemnations.
As fans on the fringes of the industry, they don't know all that has gone
on behind the scenes. They see the image the WWF projects on television and
not the way they do or do not do business on a daily basis. Molinaro's
candid editorial revealed a bit of that and for some, the criticism of
their beloved federation was just too hard to take so they lashed out. I
understand that reaction. Many of my fondest pro wrestling moments can be
attributed to the WWF's talent and bookers too. That being said, I can be
honest enough to admit that not every decision they have made is a good one
and that for every great achievement there has been a great failing too,
just like in any other promotion.
If it was just SLAM! Wrestling that WWF Stamford was restricting, we would
have kept it as a private matter. That, however, is evidently not the case.
In his communications with other wrestling journalists, Molinaro discovered
how wide-spread the problem was. Everywhere he turned, he heard stories
similar to our very own.
Whereas other sites without the backing and prominence that we are
fortunate enough to enjoy didn't wish to jeopardize their business
relationships by going public and taking a stand, we felt we had a
responsibility to do so. Not just for the media but more importantly for
you, the fans, who have e-mailed us time and time again complaining about the
recent lack of WWF interviews on our site. You deserved a straightforward
answer. Being fans ourselves, we understand who REALLY is responsible for
pro wrestling's success and it assuredly isn't a bunch of suits locked away
in a boardroom somewhere. It's you. The people who tune into the television
shows, buy the merchandise, log-on to the Web sites and attend the house
shows. That is something that SLAM! has never and won't ever
forget, unlike the WWF offices in Stamford who proved as much by
instituting their anti-Internet policy.
As most of you are aware by now, Jim Ross responded to our editorial in his
Ross Report on the official WWF site. I used to respect the WWF
Vice-President and on-air commentator. Since jumping to the World Wrestling
Federation from World Championship Wrestling, he has strengthened the
company immeasurably. Behind the scenes, he has supported hard-working and
deserving talent like Mick Foley and Steve Austin so that they could ascend
to superstar status following years of struggle and strife. He gave them a
second chance when others had written them off. In front of the cameras,
his masterful play-by-play commentary is peerless adding excitement and
credence to the matches we watch.
Jim Ross is a great commentator but as evidenced by his comments, he's an
appallingly bad spin doctor. The one advantage of having a Web site is it
gives the WWF a forum to put forth their take on contentious issues.
With the WWF Stamford's confidential policy becoming common knowledge, J.R.
tried to nip the criticism in the bud. His comments did the opposite
digging the hole deeper for himself and the WWF.
Cryptically referring to Molinaro's editorial as an "internet report", J.R.
sought to devalue our status. He respected our position in the industry as
a wrestling site which is owned and operated by one of the largest media
organizations in the world and run by professional journalists enough to
address the issue but under no circumstances was he going to give us any
sort of credit like he would USA Today, Rolling Stone or The Kansas City
His mindset in this instance is indicative of the WWF's ignorance when it
comes to the online media. They lump the imaginative 12-year-old fan
running his Rock site out of his basement with media professionals.
People who have no background in journalism but a lot of enthusiasm with
people who have experience dealing with far more important and influential
organizations in their journalistic careers than the WWF, like federal
government offices and courts. They don't bother to find out the difference
and therefore fumble meaningful business relationships by underestimating
the people they are in contact with.
Ross goes on to say that he doesn't understand SLAM! Wrestling complaining
about their policy of "encouraging" superstars to "get Talent Relations
approval before doing non-WWF interviews." We here at SLAM! Wrestling have
no problem with going through the "proper channels". Though it is hard to
take J.R.'s invitation seriously knowing the WWF's stance on Internet
sites. Approval is always denied by their lack of a professional response
(ie: returning a phone call or a fax just to say yes or no) once they figure out you represent a
Web site. The process Ross describes is an exercise in futility and
fundamentally a sham that wastes everyone's valuable time and effort
including that of his own employees.
J.R. continued with an outrageous statement that truly boggles the mind. He
wrote "...my office has yet to speak with any internet Web site outside our
company who want to interview any of our superstars". Of course, his office
hasn't. As a source within the WWF told us, J.R.'s department
doesn't deal with media requests. According to the source, Ross is only
made aware of the high-profile ones that have been scheduled. Maybe J.R.
needs to reacquaint himself with the WWF's corporate structure and spend
less time developing his own brand of barbecue sauce because apparently,
he's out of the loop.
As far as not a single Web site contacting the company for interviews,
that's not true at all. In the past SLAM! Wrestling has followed the WWF's
policy towards obtaining interviews on our readers' behalf . Recently, both
Greg Oliver and I have tried to do just that.
A few months ago, I called Taz up, reminded him of the previous interview we did with
him through ECW and he was more than happy to take our questions and yours.
He gave me the number of the WWF Public Relations Department (which I
already had) saying that all Internet-related interviews had to go through
them. I called and left messages on three separate occasions. I have yet to
hear back regarding my request.
In another case, Greg Oliver contacted WWF Stamford to set up a chat with
Kurt Angle and Mark Henry for his series of pieces on Olympic athletes turned wrestlers to
coincide with the opening of the Olympic Games. He sent a fax and left
several messages. So far, no response. You'd think the WWF would jump at
the opportunity before the Games end. That was weeks and weeks ago. Greg is still sitting by the
phone in hopes his calls will be returned.
Both of these occurrences exemplify our five-year-long experience with the
WWF offices in Stamford. You are asked to call. You do. They ask for a fax
outlining who you are and what you'd like to do. You send it off and that's
the last you ever hear from them, unlike the WWF office here in Canada.
Even if it is just to nix the request, WWF Canada President Carl De Marco
and his experienced staff are always accessible and responsive. They could
sure teach Stamford a few lessons in proper and polite media relations.
To follow-up his editorial, Molinaro did contact WWF Stamford in an attempt
to speak to Jim Ross about his written remarks. Molinaro was told by an
influential source within the company that if he did get an interview with
Ross he might as just as well just "put a bullet" in his head because
"that'll be the end of trying to work with us at all in the future". Again,
this curious pronouncement points to the WWF Stamford's puzzling view of
the news media. What's more bizarre than that statement is that WWF
Stamford bars us from interviewing their talent, however, they continue to
fax us press releases concerning such things as their election campaign to
register voters and their deal with Viacom. As a former WCW Public
Relations employee told us..."The WWF is exercising what they feel is a
prudent media policy. For them, control is the issue". It sure seems that
way. When WWF Stamford wants publicity through press releases and press
conferences, they are accommodating. When it's the press who takes the
initiave and therefore has "total control" (as if there is any such thing),
they are automatically uncomfortable and wary.
The WWF mistakenly assumes that hoarding their talent will lead to an
increase in their own page views. There are many things wrong about that
reasoning. People don't surf the Web like they buy magazines or newspapers.
They visit many different sites to gather information and they always will
because it doesn't cost them anything but their monthly Internet provider
fee to do so. You can't "corner the market" like you do in other
traditional mediums. The WWF doesn't understand that, yet.
Also, their official site's main objective is to promote the federation.
WWF.com is not an exercise in professional journalism or independent news
gathering but another arm of their public relations department. Any "news"
they do report is tainted by the company's vested interest. You won't find
any revealing inside information there. It's not beneficial for them or
their product to disclose storylines, recent hirings and the happenings
behind closed doors. They are not going to tell you that Vince McMahon
didn't really fire Steve Austin, give you a detailed background of their
talent's accomplishments in other federations or post an objective review
of their recent pay-per-view. The site is an online informercial for the
WWF and should be viewed as such.
Ironically, the WWF's position on outside Internet sites is the lone
blockade. WCW, who once had a similar policy but later became aware of the
importance of online media coverage, has a mutually beneficial relationship
with us. They are helpful, courteous, prompt and professional. ECW is as
well, inviting us to their next CyberSlam extravaganza in Philly and even
linking to our recent chat with Cyrus on their site to cross-promote it.
The WWF is the only holdout and stands out as such.
Since Molinaro's editorial was first published, we have had on-going
discussions with WWF Stamford. To their credit, they expressed the
possibility that it might be time to review their policy and admit that
they may have dropped the ball when it comes to separating the credible
sites from those who aren't. Though any future relationship we would have
with WWF Stamford may be in doubt following the publication of this
editorial, it is our hope that by having brought this issue to light that
the situation will improve for the many genuine wrestling reporters out
there and that you the fans will benefit from that as that's what sparked
this debate in the first place. You desire to see more WWF content and we as always, will deliver it as best we can.