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Vince McMahon on "Off the Record"

27.7.99

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Special thanks to Nate Spears who sent the following:

The following transcript is from the July 27 "Off The Record" In which Vince McMahon was the guest for a full half-hour.

The interviewer is Michael Landsberg who I will refer to as Host. And of course Vince is Vince!



Find out what happened ans Vince McMahon gives OTR a world wide exclusive!

Host: He is one of the most controversial men in North America, he is widely respected as one of the best business men in North America, but he has had his morality and many other things questioned about him, he is Vince McMahon. 2 months ago the World Wrestling Federation and in fact the world was shocked and saddened by the death of the great Canadian wrestler Owen Hart there are many issues that stem from that, and for the first time since that tragedy Vince McMahon has agreed to speak one on one in a no holds barred interview with us today. Vince thank you very much for the opportunity to do so.

Vince: My pleasure.

Host: Vince we should it on the line right now, you have told me ask whatever you want, there are no rules, no stipulations about this.

Vince: None

Host: So let me throw it out to you. Owen Hart died, 1 hour later Jim Ross came on with the tragic news to the audience at home, and yet you continued that pay-per-view. Many people have questioned you for that, have criticized you for that.

Vince: Sure

Host: Why didn't you stop it?

Vince: Well I think that when you're. First of all this is the first time, and hopefully the last any incident like this occurs in the WWF, and it's an excellent question as to why we continued on because we have been criticised by many, and some have supported us for continuing on. It was one of the most difficult things we've had to do, continuing on. Quite frankly for better or for worse and a lot of people will think worse of me for saying this. At the time we didn't think of not continuing. None of the performers, none of the producers, not me no one, now whether or not as performers it is ingrained in us that the show must go on. I don't know. No one thought of stopping the show at that time.

Host: So when you look back at it then, at the time you're acting emotionally, your shocked like everyone else and maybe you're almost in a trance. But as you look back and you say if I could do it again, would you have stopped the show?

Vince: Well firstly let me say that by continuing by the show in hindsight there was no disrespect intended none whatsoever.

Host: None intended, but I'm not so sure that disrespect was not laid on the Hart family, I'm not sure that if I was a family member and someone close to me had died in the ring, and as you've put it, what you do is entertainment, and you allowed the entertainment to continue with the blood of Owen Hart still in the ring. I'm not sure that's not disrespectful to Owen Hart, and his family.

Vince: It may be, from your standpoint. Again it is something we did not think about. No one thought about stopping the show, we all thought about how difficult it would be to get through, I think we had two other events after Owens incident. After we found out that Owen passed away we had two other events. Because quite frankly we didn't know after had left the ring, then we didn't know, we had hoped for the very best. But we did get word from the hospital that he passed away and we had two other matches to go on, it was very difficult to do that but we had to get through that as performers.

Host: Why didn't you tell the live audience? J.R. Jim Ross came on and very eloquently and I think very appropriately told the audience watching at home via PPV that Owen Hart had died, yet the audience in Kansas City at the arena didn't know that. Why didn't you tell them?

Vince: Well my guts were telling me don't announce to the live audience that Owen had passed away. I don't know why really other than the fact that I don't know if it was necessarily fair for someone that was there to have that announcement. They were going to find out for sure as everyone else in the world found out in due time. Was it appropriate to announce after the event was over... Oh by the way Owen Hart passed away. That doesn't seem right to me. I don't know what would have happened to the audience, I don't know how they would have felt, what they would have done, whether or not there would have been any panic or what have you. I don't know? It just seemed not to be the right thing to do at that time.

Host: So many issues have come from this, and it seems that wherever you go there has been criticism coming your way.

Vince: Sure

Host: You went to the funeral with the entire roster in Calgary. I want to talk about that, but first I want to talk about your meeting with Bret Hart. Was it your first meeting after Survivor Series and the break up between you and Bret. Very much publicised, he punched you, he spit on you, you changed the script on him. On our show you talked about how you did it.

Vince: Right

Host: Was that the first meeting since then?

Vince: Yes it was.

Host: And what did you guys talk about?

Vince: Out of respect to Owen I met with Bret, otherwise I'd have no reason to meet with Bret. Only out of respect to Owen. And Bret carried the entire conversation, I really thought he'd want to talk about Owen. He only mentioned Owen in one sentence. The rest was all about Bret. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. it was all about Bret.

Host: What kind of things was he saying?

Vince: I had ruined his marriage, I had ruined his career, he wanted to go back to that incident at Survivor Series, All he wanted to talk about was himself, nothing to do with his brother. It was like looking into the eyes of a skeleton in some respects, it seemed like he wasn't human. It was a very weird experience.

Host: So what do you feel like there in the funeral home? In that setting? Surrounded by the Harts who obviously are feeling a lot of anger towards you, the Ultimate Warrior, Hulk Hogan, guys who don't like you. You're clearly there in enemy territory. Give the viewers at home a feeling of what it felt like to be Vince McMahon in that situation?

Vince: Well firstly, it was my duty to be there, and I wanted to be there, where I was persona en grata or not, Owen Harts widow Martha asked me to be there, so I wanted to be there on my own anyhow. Regardless of me being persona en grata you know at that. I didn't care about me. In terms of what people were thinking about me, I could care less at that time. It wasn't a time to be thinking about me, it was a time to be thinking about Owen.

Host: Vince people say they think you were thinking about publicity, about public relations, about image. You knew there would be a lot of cameras there and people have questioned the motivation of you bringing the entire roster there, that they think you were doing this to try to put the best possible image on the company. And before you answer that, some of the criticism I think I think, or at least some of the questioning is valid because when Brian Pillman passed away 2 years earlier there was no one from the WWF there, a much less publicized event.

Vince: Well that was an entirely different set of circumstances altogether. I went to Brians wake I didn't go to his funeral because of a conflict, but as far as this instance is concerned again Martha asked that as many people as possible on the roster come to Calgary. So I allowed that to happen, any one that wanted to go, it wasn't the entire roster, but anyone that wanted to go I'd be happy to make it as convenient as possible for them to go. And a lot of people wanted to go, because Owen was a wonderful human being and a great friend to many of us in the WWF.

Host: In terms of the funeral itself, I want to ask you this question as it relates to Owen Hart and all of the people that were there. You saw that as your opportunity to make a statement. You came forward and you say you paid for the funeral, Martha has come forward, his widow and says that you didn't. What's the truth the way you see it?

Vince: You have to understand in all of this I don't blame the Canadian public as seeing me as the bad guy and looking at every...... not withstanding my character on television, I'm hardly a sympathetic individual, nor would I ask for any sympathy. When you look at this I'm at a tremendous disadvantage when it comes to this situation because with this tragedy of Owen and Owen leaving his wife and his two young children, so naturally the Canadian sympathy and sympathy all over the world is rightfully.........

Host: Did you pay for the funeral?

Vince: Well here's what happened. We contacted the funeral home, sent our deposit, and what Martha wanted was a very lavish funeral; fine. If that's what she wanted then that's what we wanted to give her and we had a blank cheque to the funeral home. Subsequent to the funeral being over we understand, she I guess on advise of attorneys? I don't know, she paid for part of the funeral. Well you say that I say that I paid for the funeral. The only reason that you can say that is because I sent a letter to the Calgary Sun, not a letter that was to be published by the way. Just a letter for the record to the editor to state that. Look things are being said here I don't wish to engage Martha in a public debate, I don't win in terms of sympathy regardless of the facts, she could be lying through her teeth, but I don't win that regardless of the facts. So I did right a letter to the Calgary Sun simply stating the facts, and those facts were yes, I thought we were paying for the entire funeral we were asked to, and a very lavish one at that. One of the most lavish funerals ever, which is great, if that's what Martha wanted for Owen for a you know send off, then that's fine, if I can support that in any way, by bringing as many talents as would come, paying their way, things of that nature covering their out of pocket expenses, or whatever. I'm happy to do that, I'm only happy to do that. All of that of course was turned around, and I would suggest that one of the reasons there was such a bad PR type situation here, really doesn't rest so much with Owens widow Martha, as it does with Bret, because Bret was right in Martha's ear, because in all the publicity, all the talk shows and media and this, Bret talking horrible about WWF fans, sure there's that personal vitriol he has with me, the entire 1 hour and some conversation, was about that when Bret and I spoke, nothing at all about Owen. So I mean I think that you know that in you know in a vulnerable position that Martha was, I credit Bret for being in her ear and I just don't know that if some of the actions taken by Martha and the Hart family are based solely on Bret.

Host: He is Vince McMahon, the president and chairman of the WWF, there is many other issues that we can talk about, issues that fortunately aren't quite as sad. And you and I can engage in a debate on what you are doing with the governor of Minnesota in your ring, when Off The Record Continues.

*Commercial Break*

Host: Welcome back to the show, I am Michael Landsberg, and he is Vince McMahon. Vince Jesse Ventura a decade ago sued you, Ventura after Owen Harts passing, came out and questioned the morality of your company, and had all kind of disparaging things to say, even talked about unionizing and your workers needing more power, then we see this news conference and you hire Jesse Ventura to work with you first of all who asked who on this date?

Vince: Well first of all let me say politics makes strange bedfellows as the expression goes on, and I guess the same can be said for the entertainment business. Jesse if you listen carefully about what he said about our company, Jesse has been out of the wrestling business for some time, and I have enlightened Jesse in terms of all the revenue streams and things of that nature and I think he's changed his tune on all that.

Host: Any legitimate heat between the two of you?

Vince: Ummmm not really.

Host: That wasn't that convincing Vince.

Vince: No?

Host: Not really.

Vince: Well again I think that there is a little underlying, it's funny the relationship how it's been even in the best of times, we've always respected each other for our abilities.

Host: And you know what? I used to respect Jesse Ventura, but now as the governor of Minnesota accepting this job. I've defended you a lot, and people that watch this show know I support your views, but this in my opinion is totally inappropriate, there's no way that a governor of a state who is paid by the constituents of a state should be performing on a wrestling show.

Vince: Ouch! Well you're defiantly entitled to your opinion, and I'm certainly entitled to mine.

Host: But how do you justify his presence?

Vince: How do I justify his presence? Well first of all I don't live in the state of Minnesota. If I did.....

Host: But you're a national corporation, you service people all over the country, so you can't hide behind the fact that you don't vote him.

Vince: But I would vote for Jesse, you didn't let me finish. If I lived in Minnesota I would have voted for him, and I would vote for him again, I mean I really like very much that a politician tells me that as if he were a piano player prior to becoming the governor, and the he once again wants to play piano for someone....

Host: It's not the same.

Vince: Now wait a minute.. Why isn't it the same thing?

Host: Because he's assuming a role for you, and it becomes very difficult for some people to distinguish between the roles, he's up there talking in this voice *Deep voice* and in the future I don't know what's the real Jesse Ventura, plus you have story lines I think compromise his integrity, a lot of his constituents don't believe in your product, and he's representing him.

Vince: Again you're entitled to your point of view, I mean congratulations!

Host: So if you would work with Jesse Ventura, would you work with anybody? Would you work with Hogan again?

Vince: I think in the entertainment business I think it's important to never say never, I couldn't imagine I'd be working with Jesse 6 months ago but here I am working with Jesse.

Host: Because it's good business.

Vince: It's very good business, it's controversial, and you're creating and adding a little something else to that controversy, thank you very much by the way.

Host: That's the thing, the most complex part of Vince McMahon, you go to interview him and you push him hard, you push him hard and you think you're winning but inside your head you're thinking hey criticize us all you want, it's good business right?

Vince: Generally speaking

Host: Who wouldn't you work with?

Vince: I don't know?

Host: Eric Bichoff, he's on the line and he says you know what? I'm looking for a new job I'm looking to move over, I like the way you're doing things, I want to move over. Would you take him on?

Vince: Is he still employed with the other people?

Host: He's looking to better himself, something you've done. You've had his guys look to better them self with you.

Vince: Sure, I don't know? I don't know what he could offer us in terms of bettering our product for our fans, because everything we do is for the betterment of our product, and our fans. And quite frankly when you look at it from my perspective, geez I think that Summer Slam will be extraordinary partly because of the controversy and Jesse's involvement. It's the first time ever that to my knowledge that a sitting governor has ever been a part of something like this. I think it's real cool, I like that Jesse can say this is what I'm doing, and this is how much money I'm making, as opposed to being elected by special interest groups and not knowing what the politician is doing. I like an outspoken politician.

Host: There's a big surprise Vince likes an outspoken politician, I can't believe it! We'll talk about a lot more things I can't believe about Vince McMahon after these messages.

*Quirky Facts* Vince McMahon was the promoter of the stunt of the century - Evil Knievel's jump over Snake River Canyon.

*Commercials*

Host: I hold in my hand "Wrestling 86" A picture of Vince McMahon. Vince it says here I am the Walt Disney of wrestling, quoting you back in 1986. Last time I checked the last time Walt talked about puppies, he wasn't talking about it the same way as you. What is Vince McMahon now? You're not the Walt Disney of 1999.

Vince: I'm not so sure about that.

Host: You're not so sure about that? If that's the case I'm going to Disneyland.

Vince: Now when you think about ABC, all that company has become. All the different labels, and different entities that Disney owns. Some of them are out there, I mean some of the movies they produce are R rated from certain studios, thing of that nature. They have pretty much across the board, they don't call it all the same thing I mean you don't see the Mousekateers (sp?) in everything they do.

Host: So you're saying this still works? The Walt Disney of wrestling?

Vince: I don't know about that.

Host: You're very good at twisting Semitics, you say we don't use the word whore, we use the word ho. Things of that nature.

Vince: But that's true.

Host: Well I know that's true, but there is no way you can sit there and tell me without breaking out in a smile that you are the Walt Disney of 1999.

Vince: I wouldn't want to be the Walt Disney of 1999, I think it was true at the time in 1986.

Host: What changed you?

Vince: What changed me? Times. I think that any successful entrepreneur changes with the times, and absolutely has his fingers on the pulse of the marketplace and is responsible for one thing. Giving the public what they want.

Host: And that's the only responsibility?

Vince: Well again with giving the public what they want there are a lot of responsibilities.

Host: It's not just about giving them what they want. Pornographers hide behind that.

Vince: Well I don't know what portion of the public wants pornography, I would like to think it would have to be a small portion that want pornography.

Host: But there have to be guidelines, you can't just simply throw it out there and say here it is, if you want it take it if not don't take it. There has to be some responsibility.

Vince: I think there is some degree of responsibility, as any responsible broadcaster would have, there is a degree of responsibility, at the same time as long as you are working within the framework of everyone else I think that's a pretty safe environment.

Host: Eric Bichoff on this show said he would continue to kick your ass in the ratings Vince McMahon, and I offer you the chance to respond to Eric Bichoff, but right after this. We're very responsible we go to break.

Vince: Impressive

*Commercial*

Host: Eric Bichoff said on this show Vince McMahon, that he would continue to kick your ass. He actually made a bet with me, what do you say to Eric Bichoff. He bet $5 and I have not seen the money. I bet that you'd beat him in the ratings. What do you say to Eric Bichoff, and the attitude and the swagger that he carried when he was beating you.

Vince: I really don't want to say anything to Eric.

Host: Oh come on! You say it on Monday Night Raw. Give us the good stuff.

Vince: Not really, again what I say is thank you to our viewers. That's what I say.

Host: Are the Monday night wars over?

Vince: No defiantly not.

Host: What turned it for you guys? Because when you and I first met you were losing.

Vince: Yes we were.

Host: So what was it quickly?

Vince: I think a more contemporary product turned it, 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.

Host: See I think you're wrong!

Vince: ok what was it?

Host: I think it was the input of your wife, Linda McMahon, the CEO of your company, and we will talk to her tomorrow along with Vince here on Off The Record. Thank you very much Vince.

Vince: Thank you I appreciate it.

*The End*


Well there you all have it. We find out some very interesting things like Vince McMahon is going to build Wrestleland, and Eric Bichoff stiffs poor guys on bets. What do you all think?

Big Nate

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