Thursday, April 29, 1999
SLAM! Wrestling Guest Column
Vince's time has come
As wrestling fans, we all owe Vincent K. McMahon a great deal of gratitude and appreciation. Wrestling is what it is today because of him. And for the purists who cry for his dismise because of the WWF's emphasis on storylines and characterizations, they need to realize that without Vince McMahon there probably would BE no wrestling, surely not the way we know it.
Ted Turner and the WCW? Turner wouldn't even be involved in professional wrestling if it were not specifically to combat McMahon, whom he unsuccessfully tried to buy the WWF from years ago. So, like it or not, he's the man most responsible for wrestling's white-hot success especially in the last couple years.
In November 1997, right after the Survivor Series fiasco, McMahon foretold of a changing WWF. One focusing more on storylines, creating the "male soap opera" we all now tune in for every Monday Night religiously. He told us the WWF would challenge us, even upset us at times, but he refused to offend us with "good guys" versus "bad guys" No one really put much stock into his words, just desperate rantings of a man on a sinking ship. After all, with Raw losing week after week to the WCW and WWF talent leaving for Turner's open checkbook, Vince seemed to be fighting a losing battle.
Things got even worse when it became clear that Shawn Michaels could no longer be a full-time worker. Even raising Stone Cold Steve Austin to World Title status didn't appear to be the answer. Not enough foils for Stone Cold the critics said. But Vince McMahon had a "master plan" so to speak.
He got involved. VERY involved.
He turned his creative juices inward and proceded to make himself the most hated man in professional wrestling. Not even a competitor, but a participant nonetheless. In the year to follow we saw him align himself with Dude Love, Kane, and the Undertaker, sending them for Austin's head. He "screwed" Austin out of the title with the handicap match versus Kane and Taker at 'Breakdown' and then he fooled us all when he formed the Corporation with his son Shane (who betrayed Stone Cold in his match with Mankind at Survivor Series 98) and the Rock.
Even in December, you would catch glimpses of things to come (remember the burning teddy bear and the envelope?) In January, he involved himself in the Royal Rumble, winning that and facing Austin at St. Valentine's Day Massacre. During that match he gave the fans exactly what they wanted: he was battered, bloodied and embarrassed. He even did the unthinkable by flinging himself from the cage unto a table at the age of 53 for one reason: the fans. We loved it, we called for his head, and he gave it to us.
Fast forward to the Sunday Night Heat before Backlash. With Shane McMahon in the ring, insulting his father, the limo pulled up out back. We've seen that limo so many times in the past, most often to cause Stone Cold Steve Austin yet another headache. We've showered his arrival so many times in the past with a chorus of boos and with chants of A**hole, but this time, when Vince exited the limo, the arena roared.
Of course, we've all been primed for this, we've seen it coming, what with Stephanie's proclimation that she only feels safe with her "daddy", with Shane becoming drunk with power and slapping his father, and with the announcers' reference to 'Vince' instead of 'Mr.McMahon'
So, Vince, once the perfect foil for Stone Cold Steve Austin, now is the hero, cheered upon sight. We all now can shower Vince with our appreciation and respect not only for his role in this current angle, but for his impact on professional wrestling itself.
Vince McMahon is the most powerful and influential man in wrestling. Period.
The WCW has even publicly stated that they are concentrating more on their storylines to upgrade their product.....words Vince McMahon said over a year and a half ago.
We have all loved to hate him for so long as the ruthless owner. Now, we can cheer him for being the savior, not only of Stephanie, but of professional wrestling as we know it. He's deserved our cheers for so long, and now through his newest angle he's given us the excuse. And we know the day is coming when the owner and the Rattlesnake will stand side by side, probably downing a few beers in victory, and we will eat it up, because whether we admit or not, we love Vince McMahon. The time has come to show it.
Rich Shumate is from Morgantown, WV, and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.