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  Sep 7, 2000



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READER ALERT: For all the latest wrestling happenings, check out our News & Rumours section.

SLAM! Wrestling Editorial: The WWF's war on internet sites
By JOHN F. MOLINARO -- SLAM! Wrestling

"You're a reporter for SLAM! Wrestling? Yeah, I go to your site. How come you don't interview more WWF guys?"

That was a question posed to me this past Monday at a local bar here in Toronto by a fellow patron while watching Nitro on the big screen.

"Well, we can't contact the guys directly," I answered. "The WWF have this policy in place where all media requests have to go directly through their offices and they make it a point to say no to wrestling Internet sites."

"How come?"

I didn't want to get into it. I was in no mood to give him a detailed explanation. Several pints of Keith's had dimmed my senses considerably and besides, I was off duty, dammit.

"Check out the site on Thursday for my column," I told him. "It'll explain the whole situation."

So here goes.

No doubt, many of you have noticed that save for a recent interview with Val Venis, SLAM! Wrestling has not conducted an interview with any WWF star since April. Surf around the net for other wrestling web sites and you'd be hard pressed to find any other interviews with a WWF star.

Why? Because the WWF brain-trust sitting in their ivory tower in Stamford believe wrestling web sites are competition for wwf.com and they don't want to help supply content for their competitors. (Insert hysterical snickering here.)

Who does the WWF take us for? Their thinly veiled attempt at cloaking the truth is so transparent that it's insulting.

The real reason is because the WWF have declared war on the media. Not the entire media, mind you. They'll gladly talk to newspapers, radio and TV stations or any news agency that doesn't regularly cover pro wrestling. But they've cut off wrestling Internet sites almost entirely.

Not unlike any major billion dollar corporation, the WWF wants to manage its image and control how it's portrayed in the public eye. To that end, they've cut off contact with media agencies that could potentially hurt them.

It's one thing for the WWF to talk to a wire service, a sports radio station or have one of their stars appear on a local news broadcast. As sad as this is to admit, the truth is the mainstream media provide poor coverage of pro wrestling. Because they don't make it a point of covering it regularly, they don't do their homework and are easily conned and duped into reporting whatever organizations like the WWF tell them.

It's another thing entirely to speak to informed reporters who can challenge them on points of fact. Because wrestling is the bread and butter of sites like SLAM! and hundreds of others, the WWF is hesitant to let us interview their wrestlers. They'd rather feed off the inept reporting of the traditional media who don't report on pro wrestling with the seriousness it deserves.

It's this weakness in mainstream coverage that the WWF systematically seeks out and exploits. Countless times, they have snowed hapless reporters and broadcasters into reporting their own version of the truth.

"Facts" as reported by the mainstream media over the past months have included RAW running neck in neck with Monday Night Football in the ratings and Vince McMahon having created the wrestling industry out of thin air in 1984.

Several media sources even picked up on the downright laughable "press release" from the WWF stating that they have over 14 million viewers watching their programs each week and those same viewers will elect the next president.

This is especially disturbing because the news media reported it almost verbatim without looking into it. Had they done a little digging they would have uncovered that the WWF do not have 14 million individual viewers each week and thus the possibility of the WWF fan base coming together to elect the next president would be, as Pro Wrestling Torch columnist Bruce Mitchell so aptly described, "a miracle on par with the loaves and the fishes."

These are just some of the mistruths and distortions traditional media have reported after contacting the WWF. And the WWF likes it that way because it means they can easily hoodwink a major media agency into reporting their revisionist view of wrestling history unchecked.

Wrestling Internet sites, on the other hand, pose a problem. Because sites like SLAM! and others are comprised of -ahem- informed reporters who understand and know the wrestling business, we're not as easily conned by the WWF. Internet reporters, the good ones any way, will know when the WWF is in "spin doctor" mode and will challenge their statements. The WWF's shroud of deceit that they so easily spiel over TV and newspaper reporters, is usually questioned by Internet reporters because they are more "in the know".

What the WWF has done is construct an impenetrable wall where no self-respecting reporter can get through. The WWF insists that all media requests go through them. Yet, they've demonstrated that this policy is a mere tool to weed out potential damaging interviews with competent wrestling reporters.

Faxes, e-mails and letters sent from our office have been summarily ignored the past few months. Phone calls go unreturned. Media credentials to live events have been denied. Direct phone calls to the wrestlers on our part are met with reluctance, as they tell us to call the office to arrange something. About the only time we hear back from the WWF is when they fire off a nasty e-mail or leave an irate phone message voicing their displeasure with us for contacting the talent directly and not going through them. But they do fax us their press releases for both the WWF and the XFL -- just no interviews.

Here's a good example. Last week, Greg Oliver contacted Gerry Brisco for a couple of old-timer stories. Brisco, who still works for the WWF as a road agent, was able to talk about the past freely, just not the present. "It depends on what the subject matter is," Brisco said. "If it's a WWF-style interview, of course I've got to clear it with the WWF. If it's an interview about other characters that I've experienced in the past, my past life, I can do pretty well what I want to do."

SLAM! has been blacklisted for the simple reason that we do an honest and critical job of reporting on wrestling news. And we're not the only ones. I've had conversations with colleagues and fellow reporters from other sites who run into the same walls when trying to land interviews with WWF personnel. And not just for other web sites. Our newspaper colleagues both at the Suns and other papers have expressed similar frustrations in dealing with the WWF media machine.

This cat and mouse game should dispel the myth that the WWF is a warm and fuzzy operation, run by people who are not image conscious at all. The exact opposite is true.

The WWF is a cold, heartless corporation. Bottom line. They will stop at nothing to protect the Mary Poppins-like image they have created for themselves.

Shutting out a portion of the media that doesn't buy their line of bull is just an means to a end. Machiavelli would be proud.




Reader Feedback

  • Aug. 31:Consider The Radicals before jumping


  • Let's see : Malenko books the light heavyweight division. Benoit has been I-C champ and is considered main event material. Guerrero just got the I-C title last night and looks to be heading for a profile feud.

    The only Radical who has been let down is Saturn but then that could change when Raven enters the picture ( at least that's what I'm hoping )

    Whatever the case it beats running around WCW, playing "Revolution" and threatening to burn American flags. Besides all 4 radicals were never going to stay on top in WCW for long. How would Nash feel about seeing one of the "Vanilla Midgets" holding the world title. I'm glad Benoit got away so he wouldn't have to do the inevitable job. Mark J.
    MJensenT@aol.com
    Save your pity, where the Radicalz are concerned. When they first jumped to the WWF, they were handed the keys to the city. They were on every show, they had title belts thrown their collective ways, while guys like D'LO Brown were buried. They were given weekly opportunities to shine. The fact that they have so far failed are their own faults. With the exception of Eddie Guerrero who I think has gotten over in the WWF, they are still dressing and acting like they are in a second rate promotion. Chris Benoit is still wearing the same ratty tights he wore in WCW. He is strange looking, and has poor mic skills. I appreciate great technical wrestling as much as the next person, but this is 2000. Benoit needs a complete overhaul. Perry Saturn is just plain weird, and appears to have an attitude outside of the ring. Maybe Raven can get him over again, but I'm not holding my breath. Dean Malenko, again you say a great technical wrestler. That's nice, but the guy is boring and he looks like a business man in his underwear. . He desperately needs a makeover. I like Edde Guerrero, of the four, I think he belongs in the WWF.

    Lest you think I'm just a negative person, I will bring up Y2J. Chris Jericho came to the WWF amid great fanfare also. He had a bit of trouble adjusting the first couple of months because the WCW style is so slow-paced. Look at Chris now. He shifted his gears, he worked hard and he is now more famous then he's ever been. Chris Jericho wanted it, and he was willing to adapt to make it happen. He's also willing to spend money on new tights, so that his look is always changing. Ironically, a year from now, maybe sooner, I predict Malenko and Saturn will be buried. Don't blame Vince McMahon. He gave them an apportunity, they needed to do the rest.

    erlewis
    erlewis@webtv.net
    I've been waiting for someone to write a column about this for quite sometime! The grass does seem to always be greener on the other side and maybe...just maybe... the Radicals made a huge mistake going to the WWF. By the way, can you imagine the uproar with people (especially with Malenko and Saturn) if WCW had misused them (if they actually were misused) the same way the WWF has with the Radicals? Imagine the internet people besides themself about Malenko not being used for a month and being a midcarder at best! Let's just say it like it is. In the WWF, personality means everything! With the exception of Eddie Guerrero, the Radicals just don't have personality or really any character. I believe Malenko is about as big as he ever will be, Saturn will get better but will never be a main eventer or anything close to being World Champ, Guerrero may get more exposure as a funny character like Al Snow but that's about it, and Benoit (the best of the bunch) might possibly be given a World Championship but not a significant reign and will never be the champion that guys like HHH, the Rock or Stone Cold have been. They just aren't WWF quality! That's not to say that if you aren't WWF quality that you are bad. It's just that WWF quality is different from WCW or ECW quality. One side note, I also hate the way they have used Tazz. To have him not use his stiff suplexes only hurts his character! I wish he were back in ECW and I can't help but wonder if he wishes the same thing.

    Jim Harper
    immars88@hotmail.com

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