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EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.

Friday, March 16, 2001

McMahon takes down Costas with ease

Eric Benner
Special to SLAM! Sports

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Vince McMahon has yet again become the subject of conversation of choice on the Internet and in mainstream sports media (though less so), following his recent appearance on Bob Costas' HBO sports program, 'On The Record'. Now, don't confuse that particular program with TSN's own sports show, 'Off The Record.' Also, don't confuse 'Off The Record' host Michael Lansberg with Costas. Lansberg, you see, doesn't try to ambush his guests with poorly-researched, cheap heat questions.

People seem divided somewhat on McMahon's performance on the somewhat popular HBO sports program. Some suggest that he defended wrestling adequately and with vigor, and was right on just about every point. Others state that McMahon actually hurt wrestling's cause with his confrontational antics. I say everyone's right.

Let's face it. It doesn't exactly take a genius to see that the XFL isn't a roaring success at the moment, so Costas gets few, if any, points for his vague attacks of the XFL. Not only did he take the typical mainstream media stance of 'it won't last the year, get it off our airwaves, what is this garbage?', the difference with Costas is that I'm not even really sure he felt that way. He came off more as someone quoting popular opinion than actually voicing his own.

I like Bob Costas. To me, at the very least, he's the Jim Ross of the World Series -- he does his research, calls the game with enthusiasm, and brings credibility to it at the same time. So despite my naturally siding with wrestling, it's not for wishing ill of Costas. Simply, he dropped the ball in this interview. A more meaningful attack of the XFL could definitely have been constructed, but few of Costas' arguments brought any new meaning to the table.

The unprepared host's attacks on the XFL may have been lame, but what he had to say about the WWF was just plain embarrassing. McMahon responded adequately to XFL criticisms, and made me want to give his league a second look, but he simply smoked Costas about the wrestling. I suppose that makes sense.

Costas realizes that his XFL line of questions is going nowhere, so he switches to the WWF. The worst thing is, he starts off with the cheap heat, going right after the Trish Stratus incident. Of course, the whole thing is spliced together ridiculously, making it look far worse than it actually was. McMahon defended himself more easily than I'd expected on this one, simply reiterating that it was fake. The realization that the Vince McMahon sitting next to Costas was not the same man as the one in the ring almost seemed to surprise our kind host.

Costas then reached beyond his grasp, bringing up the old WWF critic's standby, the crotch chop. And the 'suck it' chant. Oh yeah, that hasn't been really done since 1999, Vince throws back at him. McMahon goes so far as to attack Costas for the content of the show preceding his on HBO, The Sopranos. That's another show I love, and Vincent K. McMahon Jr. has a point.

Costas raises the very valid point that the WWF markets itself to children, but doesn't do a very good job following that up. He's clearly losing ground, at this point.

After more give-and-take, Costas makes a huge blunder in bringing up that Florida child who committed murder and whose lawyers blamed wrestling. Costas had no idea what was going on in that now-resolved case, and McMahon had to explain it to him. Some research. Some ambush. At this point, McMahonowns Costas, and other than bickering, not much more is said.

Like I said, though, McMahon may have done nothing to advance wrestling's cause. Nothing he said was a surprise, and people already know what they think of this man. His credibility (or lack thereof) is already established. Vince survived 'On The Record', and did an excellent job. But I don't know if he actually enlightened anyone.

Hey wait -- didn't Bob Costas announce for a WWF program in the not-too-distant past? Oh right, he's mainstream now.

Here's the mailbag.

Bill Kochuk, from, writes:
"I have to agree with John. I grew up in Charlotte in the Jim Crockett days and really enjoyed wrestling back then - Rip Hawk, Johnny Weaver, George Becker, et al. I've watched off and on in the past few years both WWF and WCW. I've enjoyed some of the angles and not liked others but the Vince/Trish one was the final straw. I won't watch WWF again. But since I'm too old to fit their target demographic, they probably won't even care or notice.
Cheers, Bill Kochuk, Cary, NC"

That's where you're wrong. Rather than whine and moan, you've just exercised your one and only power in the world of television entertainment: your right to vote. In deciding not to watch wrestling, you're sending a message that you don't approve of what you see, and if enough people follow, then the folks at the WWF will have to listen. And if they don't, then there's no reason you have to watch other people's idea of content. More power to you.

Brooks Davis, from, writes:
"I wonder if Raw and Smackdown could meet Canadian content regulations as TV shows. There seemed to be a Canadian in every segment in the first hour of Smackdown on Thursday -- Christian, Benoit, Jericho, Test, Val Venus, and Trish Stratus. Cheers, Brooks Davis Victoria, BC, Canada"

Actually, if anything, doesn't that make the Canadian content filler, and suggest that there's a glass ceiling for Canadian wrestlers? Actually, I'm just kidding, I think Canadians are extremely well-represented right now, and poised to advance in the future. A toast to Canadians!

That's all for this week, folks. I'll be at the Molson Centre this Sunday to catch the WWF show for SLAM!. Come and say hi -- I'll be the guy with the shirt, pants, probably white socks, and sneakers. Adios!

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