“If we spoke a different language, we would perceive a somewhat different world.” – Recent Experiments in Psychology (1950)

You don’t have to watch WWE for long before feeling like you’re in an alternate universe. And that seems to be exactly the point. You are in the “WWE Universe.” The wrestlers and announcers are speaking a special language, using words that you don’t use. They talk about superstars, divas and sports entertainment.

WWE is not pro wrestling, they say. As you’ll see they’d prefer you not even think about what the initials ‘WWE’ stand for. If you’re a wrestling fan who follows other wrestling companies today or if you’re a long time fan of the tradition of wrestling in the US or any other country, it often seems WWE has disowned itself from that tradition, acknowledging portions of it only when convenient to sell it or to prop WWE itself up on — as in every WrestleMania lately.

All in the name of appealing to the masses and the shareholders, though, or so they say.

If you look back on Vince McMahon’s days as a TV announcer, his public media appearances and talking head segments in WWE documentaries, McMahon seems to have always had an affection for certain phrases.[1]

WWE’s fascinating use of language is reminding of the doublespeak of modern politics. All of a candidate’s positions can be branded with positive language (“energy exploration,” “inheritance tax,” “bring our troops home,” etc.) and all the opponent’s positions branded in the negative (“fracking,” “death tax,” “cut-and-run,” etc.).[2]

Likewise, WWE is trying use language to completely reshape in their favor the way the audience understands pro wrestling. Indeed “pro wrestling” is merely something long ago consumed and annihilated by McMahon’s machine, retroactively called ‘sports entertainment.’ They’ll tell you Dusty Rhodes was one of the most phenomenal superstars in sports entertainment in the 1970s; the WWE Universe misses him dearly. John Cena grew up watching sports entertainment and dreamed of one day becoming a WWE Superstar.

Screenshot VKM

[Pro wrestling is] what my dad did. – Vincent K. McMahon (“Stone Cold Podcast,” Dec. 1, 2014)

You’ve heard them say it many times: they’re in the show business.[3]

To say that WWE is way more than a wrestling company is technically true, but misleading.

They do literally make movies now, though not usually at a profit. They are involved in a number of philanthropic endeavors, but with questionable motivations.[4] And their most ambitious out-of-ring projects were their greatest failures: the XFL, WBF and The World restaurant in Times Square.

Maybe WWE believes the perception of pro wrestling needs to be rehabilitated. I’d strongly agree with that. But WWE thinks the way to rehab the image of their industry is to do away with the language wrestling is most associated with and to paint their company as some sort of general, mainstream entertainment production company. But such a strategy ignores and takes no responsibility for the fact that WWE itself is the greatest enabler of the stigma that pro wrestling has contracted. Rather than banning toilet humor, they’ve banned ‘wrestling.’ Rather than presenting women as relatable athletic role models, they’ve branded them ‘divas.’

Above any others, four buzz words have emerged as central to the WWE lexicon.

Sports Entertainment

McMahon offhandedly utters the phrase as early as 1978 while announcing for an MSG Network broadcast: “Professional wrestling is unquestionably the greatest spectacle in sports entertainment in the world.” In this instance though he’s clearly using ‘sports entertainment’ to refer to the larger category of sports and entertainment attractions, a category pro wrestling fits under, rather than the attempt at genre rebranding that the phrase is used as today.

Going back further, at least for a short period of time in 1962, Canadian Maritimes promoter Len Hughes used the phrase to promote his wrestling cards.

51xrAvymonL._SX522_Dave Meltzer claims to have coined ‘athletic entertainment’ sometime around early 1983, which he believes McMahon’s ‘sports entertainment’ was derived from.

By WrestleMania II in 1986 ‘sports entertainment’ was a calculated part of the vernacular as McMahon himself opened his biggest show the year: “Welcome to the greatest sports entertainment spectacular of all-time. Welcome to WrestleMania.” Like his 1978 utterance, it’s ambiguous whether he’s saying ‘sports-entertainment,’ the category of entertainment or ‘sports entertainment,’ the anointed brand.

Moving away from using ‘pro wrestling’ was also instrumental in McMahon’s attempts to escape regulation from athletic commissions in states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In at least New Jersey and New York State, McMahon managed to get pro wrestling’s legal definition rewritten to openly acknowledge its worked aspect, defining it as “an activity in which participants struggle hand-in-hand primarily for the purpose of providing entertainment to spectators rather than conducting a bona fide athletic contest.”

I believe throughout most of the 80s, the use of ‘sports entertainment’ by WWF is more intended to refer to the larger entertainment category above pro wrestling that McMahon wanted his product compared to, as opposed to other competitive pro wrestling promotions. In my estimation, as years wore on and as the phrase became more regular in WWF programming and public relations, it gradually morphed into McMahon’s neologism to replace ‘pro wrestling.’

And somehow it’s gotten to the point today where McMahon insists, as in his interview with Steve Austin last December, that he is not a promoter of pro wrestling.

McMahon said in an interview in 2004: “The original emphasis of WrestleMania was all about ‘what is sports entertainment.’ We were still defining it for the masses [during the early WrestleManias]. They understand what sports entertainment is now.”

But if you give it more than a moment thought, I don’t think you actually will understand what sports entertainment is.

In that “New Generation”-era bumper, when the voice-over says WWF is the “leader in sports entertainment,” who is it they’re ahead of? Probably WCW. In the mid-90s when that bumper aired, were ‘pro wrestling’ and ‘sports entertainment’ more synonymous than they are now? Maybe. But according to lore wasn’t WCW just in the “rasslin’” business, while WWF was in the “show business,” as McMahon recounts of his 1988 phone conversation with Ted Turner?[5] Does ‘sports entertainment’ include other worked pseudo-sports like Harlem Globetrotters games and roller derby? What about competitive eating? But any spectator sport, by definition, is watched for entertainment. Does the NFL and NBA belong under McMahon’s definition of sports entertainment? But if so WWF/WWE certainly has never been ahead of major sports leagues in terms of popularity or business. It seems rather the phrase is conveniently ambiguous doublespeak, a consideration McMahon himself has not honestly tackled if his conversation with Austin was any indication.

Superstars

If you’re doing away with the idea of being a wrestling promotion, I guess it’s only consistent to do away with the idea of having wrestlers.

Perhaps in line with the name of the flagship syndicated TV program, “WWF Superstars of Wrestling,” which premiered in 1986, the wrestlers themselves began to be referred to more often as ‘superstars.’

In April 1992 the “of Wrestling” part went away and the program was renamed merely, “WWF Superstars,” but not by WWF’s choice. The name change was due to a lawsuit from small-time wrestling promoter, Albert Patterson who claimed a trademark on ‘Superstars of Wrestling.’[6]

By 1995, their other syndicated program, “WWF Wrestling Challenge,” lost its ‘Wrestling’ as well, being renamed, “WWF Challenge,” apparently not related to any lawsuit this time.

Like ‘sports entertainment,’ the use of ‘superstar’ increased gradually until finally superseding the supposed archaism, ‘wrestler,’ sometime in the late 90s. Finally today not just the most popular talents but even the most unheralded contracted WWE performer – Heath Slater right alongside John Cena – must be called a ‘superstar’ and never a ‘wrestler.’

Divas

Unless you’re a woman, then you’re a ‘diva.’

The earliest use of this word in its modern sense is probably by Sable, who in passing labeled herself “the diva of the World Wrestling Federation,” on the April 19, 1999 edition of WWF Raw.[7]

There is a complimentary sense in which ‘diva’ might be understood, especially considering its etymology. Webster’s dictionary says the word is derived from the Italian for goddess and from Latin, the feminine for divus, divine or god.

For a secondary definition Webster gives us: “a usually glamorous and successful performer or personality; especially a popular female singer.” That too seems complimentary, although it doesn’t seem fair for WWE to predispose that a woman on their programming must necessarily be glamorous.

However the first definition Webster gives is a direct referral to two definitions of ‘prima donna,’ which are:

  1. a principal female singer in an opera or concert organization.
  2. a vain or undisciplined person who finds it difficult to work under direction or as part of a team.

This does seem to be a sadly accurate description of how women are portrayed in (main roster) WWE.

But maybe other dictionaries define ‘diva’ differently. What does Oxford say?

  1. A famous female singer of popular music.
  2. A self-important person, typically a woman, who is temperamental and difficult to please.

While WWE’s women are not typically singers, the two latter definitions from Webster and Oxford, respectively, do seem to reflect the increasingly prevalent criticism (even from a former member of their writing staff) that women in WWE are mostly portrayed as shallow, mentally unstable, catty and not necessarily athletic women who easily flip-flop between heel and face.

But does the dictionary definition really matter? Regardless of however words are defined by writers of dictionaries, maybe words just mean what they represent. Well if they do, ‘diva’ so far in WWE history refers to a woman whose main reason for being onscreen is sex appeal, whose character is often emotionally underdeveloped, who is at least as likely to have a background in modeling as in athletics and whose matches are often unimportant short segments that let the audience cool down between more important parts of the show.

It’s telling too that Stephanie McMahon, by far the most protected and authoritative female character in WWE history, is seldom if ever referred to as a diva.

While the rest of the Language of WWE is plastic and alienating, ‘divas’ is insidious on another level. The self-imposed branding points to a latent sexism in their product, only reinforced by how the women are actually portrayed.

And perhaps it’s not coincidence that in NXT – the lone weekly program free of Vince McMahon’s direct oversight – they have a “women’s championship,” not a “divas championship,” to go along with their far more admirable portrayal of women.

Still, NXT makes regular use of ‘diva.’

With the recent debuts of Becky Lynch, Charlotte and Sasha Banks on Raw, hopefully WWE’s presentation of women will improve. But even if a day comes when women throughout WWE are presented in a more respectable manner, the shadow of WWE’s misogynistic legacy will loom so long as women are commonly called ‘divas’ throughout their programming.

WWE Universe

WWE rebranded themselves and their wrestlers; the only thing left to rebrand was you.

‘The WWE Universe’ was created on June 9, 2008. It was introduced as the passphrase for that night’s episode of Raw, where McMahon gave away a total of $3 million as part of “McMahon’s Million Dollar Mania.” McMahon called fans live on Raw and if they knew the passphrase, “WWE Universe,” they were awarded various amounts of cash.

Later that November WWE launched its very own social media platform of the same name. Dwarfed by other social media platforms, the site was shutdown by January 2011.

Despite the failure of the WWE Universe social media platform, the term has persevered as WWE’s attempt to give their fan base a sense of community. ‘WWE Universe’ is used to refer to the WWE audience as a whole, or even the live audience at a given event. It’s often used in place of ‘fans,’ although it hasn’t quite yet eclipsed its sports-like origin like the other phrases have. Sounding even more unnatural, individual fans are sometimes referred to as “members of the WWE Universe” on WWE.com and elsewhere.

Words to Avoid

There are no banned words if you ask John Bradshaw Layfield or Matt Striker.

Earlier this year JBL tweeted: “[A]nnouncers [have been] produced the same since Heenan. Those who say different are lying.” For whatever reason it appears he later deleted the tweet.

According to Matt Striker in 2013:

No words are banned. There are some phrases [that are] not part of the dialogue, but there are good reasons why. For example, a championship is not a belt. A belt holds up your pants. Someone that doesn’t watch wrestling might ask, “Why are they fighting over wardrobe accessories?” When you say how you’re coming after me for the championship, then it adds importance.[8]

Besides imparting that there can only be one understanding of ‘belt,’ his ‘not part of the dialogue’ remark actually makes great doublespeak for ‘banned.’

Obviously the real reason certain words must not be used is that if they were, then the doublespeak couldn’t be effective (assuming it is effective at all). If you say, ‘We’re firing 1000 people,’ then what good anymore is the euphemism, ‘We’re implementing a synergy-related adjustment which will affect 1000 employees?’

While there may not be an explicit and maintained list of banned terms, a variety of evidence over the years indicates WWE actively discourages or prohibits the use of certain terms. It seems these directives sometimes last, sometimes don’t, and are subject to the whims of McMahon and those involved in producing programming.

In 2011 before their post-WrestleMania international tour, WWE sent out a memo to those doing voice-overs for international markets with the subject line, “The Language of WWE.” The memo explicitly prohibited ‘wrestling,’ ‘catch,’ ‘sports,’ ‘wrestlers,’ ‘catchers,’ ‘athletes,’ ‘sportsmen,’ ‘fight’ (in reference to matches) and ‘fighting.’ Key soundbytes voice-overs should use were: “WWE is pure entertainment,” “WWE is an action soap opera,” and “WWE Superstars are entertainers with tremendous athletic prowess.”

In October 2013, details of another memo were reported in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. This one was already a few years old, but prohibited the following:

• ‘granddaddy of them all’ – The sometimes moniker for WrestleMania sounds too old according to McMahon.
• ‘choke’ – Too violent?
• ‘Hell’s Gate’ – The Undertaker’s submission move was renamed ‘triangle submission hold,’ even though it’s actually a gogoplata.
• ‘title changes hands’ – Banned by Kevin Dunn. Titles should be said to be won or lost, not merely “changing hands.”
• ‘five star match’ and ‘match of the year’ – Announcers were also directed by McMahon to stop reading “dirtsheets,” feeling it influences how they call matches.
• ‘the referee didn’t see it’ – A pet peeve of Stephanie McMahon. It “treats fans like they’re in grade school.”
• ‘hate’ and ‘hatred’ – Too intense an emotion?
• ‘blood’ – Never call blood, probably out of fear of damaging sponsor relationships.

Then recently, eight pages worth of notes for WWE announcers were leaked on Reddit. They appear to be from around 2010, about the same time as the aforementioned memo.

Other than those already mentioned, the notes list these as “words to avoid:”

• ‘belt’ or ‘strap’
• ‘the business’ or ‘our industry’
• ‘feud’ – Too rasslin’. Use ‘rivalry.’
• ‘war’
• ‘performance,’ ‘performer’ or ‘choreograph’
• ‘house show’ – Use ‘live event.’
• ‘backstage’ – Use ‘in the back’ or ‘in the lockerroom area.’
• ‘pro wrestling’ or ‘pro wrestler’ – Use ‘superstar,’ ‘star’ or ‘athlete.’ Note this is probably about a year before they told international voiceovers not to use ‘athletes.’
• ‘international’ – Use ‘global.’
• ‘shot’ – as in a ‘title shot.’ Notice how often we hear ‘opportunity’ in WWE programming.
• ‘acrobatics’
• ‘interesting’
• ‘DQ’
• ‘talent’ – Use ‘star,’ ‘superstar’ or ‘diva.’
• ‘me’ or ‘I’
• Insider terms like ‘heel,’ ‘babyface,’ ‘blown up,’ ‘shoot,’ ‘rib,’ ‘mark’
• ‘U.S.’ – Use ‘United States.’
• ‘fans’ – Refer to the audience as ‘you’ when possible.
• ‘hospital’ – Use ‘medical center.’
• ‘faction’ – Use ‘group.’
• ‘on sale’ – Use ‘now available.’
• ‘the title is on the line’ – Use ‘the title will be defended.’

There’s even an edict to not use pronouns as they apparently cause too much confusion about who’s being referred to.

Just this past Monday former WWE writer Kevin Eck posted to his blog additional terms he says there were restrictions on, at least temporarily, in his experience with the company:

  • ‘big guy’ – McMahon did not originally favor this nickname for Ryback.
  • ‘fake’ – Never to be used in any context for obvious reasons.
  • ‘it will be’ – Teddy Long wore this out in his GM run.
  • ‘major announcement’ – Just ‘announcement’ is enough.
  • ‘non-title match’ – Too negative.
  • ‘return match’ – Use ‘rematch,’ although Eck can’t remember if it was vice versa.
  • Roman Reigns’ Samoan heritage – During his Shield run there was concern this would harm his mystique.
  • Royal Rumble – You have to be clear whether you’re talking about the match or the event. Likewise for Elimination Chamber, Money in the Bank, Hell in a Cell and TLC.
  • ‘title is held up’ – Use ‘state of abeyance’ instead. Seriously.

Obviously some of these edicts have been relaxed since whenever they were issued. Perhaps they’ve been replaced by others. Perhaps many new rules have come and gone and been forgotten about. While it still seems to be avoided, ‘wrestling’ or ‘wrestler’ does occasionally slip by here and there, especially in NXT.

I encourage everyone to read the leaked notes entirely. Much of the advice is actually well-intended and aimed at establishing characters and titles as important. However the endless ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ are incredible evidence of just how hard it is to walk the very thin line that McMahon demands of announcers. While today’s WWE announcers are almost universally panned by fans and reviewers, Michael Cole and the like are very good at what they do – even if the thing they do isn’t any good.[9]

The War on ‘Wrestling’

Circa 2010-2011 seems to have been a golden era for language control in WWE. Before WrestleMania 27, TVWeek.com published an article referencing WWE’s “pro wrestling hall of fame.” This drew the attention of WWE publicist Kellie Baldyga, who tried to get the TV news website to change the headline to remove the word ‘wrestling.’ The writer, Chuck Ross, rather than change the headline, took down the article and wrote a new one about his exchange with Baldyga, who argued, “[WWE is] no longer a wrestling company but rather a global entertainment company.”

It also dawned on WWE that they could finally scrub ‘wrestling’ from their company name without fully rebranding. To coincide with WrestleMania weekend, World Wrestling Entertainment formally renamed itself ‘WWE.’ That’s right, just the initials. What do the initials stand for? Don’t ask.

A month later, Bret Hart was censored on WWE Tough Enough when he had the bad manners to utter ‘wrestler’ on the show. According to Dave Meltzer, the censorship was a compromise between WWE and their partner in the production, Shed Media. WWE wanted utterances of ‘the indies’ or ‘independents’ (as in, ‘independent wrestling’) removed from the broadcast as well. Just censoring ‘wrestler’ was the middle ground.

Slave Names

The opening statement of WWE’s 2005 annual report for investors, signed by Vince McMahon, specifically brags that their “superstars” are the company’s own intellectual property: “WWE’s success emanates from our intellectual property – our Superstars – who bridge cultural, economic and social barriers around the world.”

Monty Brown was signed by WWE in 2006. He’d made a significant name for himself in TNA but, regardless, his name was changed to Marquis Cor Von. On his blog Jim Ross endorsed the policy:

Monty Brown debuted as Marquis Cor Von because the publicly traded WWE wanted to own the character’s name and intellectual property. I strongly suggest that the WWE will own the vast majority if not all their performer’s names in the future. Yes, I know it did not used to be that way, but that was then and times have changed. Protecting the company’s intellectual property is an obligation to the stockholders. Personally, I like the name Monty Brown, but this decision apparently wasn’t made based on like but on need and to legally protect the WWE. Bottom line, it is what it is and all the bitching in the world isn’t going to change it.

What I think is frustrating to avid wrestling fans is not just that the names change, but that the changes seem to be a part of an attempt to disregard any history a wrestler might have had before arriving in WWE. While most fans at-large may have never heard of Monty Brown or Bryan Danielson, it’s just another case among many where you’re punished rather than rewarded for investing your time to be a fan.

And for the wrestlers, this is certainly not in their interest. This is a ploy WWE is able to pull off because they have a relative monopoly on the wrestling business. There is no other close number-two that offers wrestlers to keep their name as one of their perks. In any other business, your reputation and your ability to keep it stays with you; it’s not someone else’s intellectual property. But WWE is different.

By 2008 or 2009, almost no new on-air talent were allowed to use their legal names or any name they had already used in wrestling elsewhere. WWE wants full rights to trademark talent names so wrestlers are forced to leave at the door any name notoriety they earn while at on WWE television.

This also means the second- and third-generation wrestlers they so favor signing usually cannot use their family names. Examples from the active roster include Curtis Axel, Charlotte, Bo Dallas and Natalya, with Cody Rhodes (when he’s not Stardust) and Tamina Snuka being exceptions.

For most name changes a weak argument at the least can be made that the new name is an improvement over the talent’s past name. But the most arbitrary name change of all is probably the renaming of Bryan Danielson to ‘Daniel Bryan.’ He debuted on the first episode of NXT on February 23, 2010, the same episode David Otunga was allowed to debut using his real name. At least it wasn’t ‘Buddy Peacock,‘ one of the names under consideration for Bryan.

As far I can tell, among active wrestlers, Kofi Kingston is the last person to debut on main roster WWE TV with a name previously used outside WWE — and Kingston only worked on New England indies for seven months with that name before being signed. He debuted on ECW on SyFy on January 22, 2008. Arguably Sheamus has him beat, making his TV debut on June 30, 2009. He used the name Sheamus O’Shaunessy in independent promotions and even in WWE developmental. But upon his main roster debut, it seems McMahon stripped him of his surname, a habit we’ve seen more of in recent years.

In February 2014, amidst one of the peaks of a start-stop push, with no explanation Antonio Cesaro was suddenly rendered just Cesaro. The following May, Alexander Rusev, without warning, was redubbed ‘Rusev.’ This year after Adrian Neville was one of the top stars in NXT, he was finally brought to the main roster and immediately lost his given name.

EDIT: Neville said in an interview in May that he wanted the name change, saying he’d been frequently confused for the musical artist Aaron Neville.

While he may not have a completely opposite viewpoint, Paul Levesque seems softer on this issue. Until just before their in-ring debuts in NXT, KENTA, Fergal Devitt and Kevin Steen were openly being called by those names in WWE media. When Levesque was asked if there had been a change in philosophy regarding name changes, he said:

No, the philosophy hasn’t changed. I’m a big believer that you can’t stick your head in the dirt and act like it didn’t exist. I’ve been that way my whole career, I guess, all the way back to Madison Square Garden [the “Curtain Call” incident], right? Like, “Why can’t we say this? I don’t get it. Everybody knows, right? They’re all gonna freak out when we do it.” … I can’t go out and promote KENTA as someone they’ve never seen before, under a different name. Once he’s in then I can do it. He brings a name value here. Are we gonna make that our own and WWEize it? Yes. But all for the right reasons… When you get up to Raw and Smackdown, it’s different because you have a lot of fans who maybe– their knowledge of the wrestling world is the WWE, and they don’t know anything else. It’s a large part of our fan base. The internet’s changed that some. But there’s still those people.[10]

When rumors circulated that Samoa Joe would be showing up in NXT, internet trolls everywhere savored trying to anticipate what his new WWE name might be.

Since Joe’s NXT debut on May 20, even after signing a full-time deal with WWE, somewhat surprisingly, he’s been allowed to keep his name.

Former Evolve and Dragon Gate star Uhha Nation so far has been allowed to keep his name as well. However he’s only worked untelevised matches for NXT at this point.

WWE Doublespeak

But, hey, all kinds of businesses – especially big corporations – use special, branded vocabulary to try to sell their product!

However true, the Language of WWE is more alienating than it’s worth. It’s obvious doublespeak that’s damaging to the credibility of the performers and announcers who are forced to use the specialized vocabulary as they try to sell the product to the audience. Their strange choice of words is the thing that hangs in the background to keep the vibe of the programming more artificial and corporate.

And doublespeak is exactly what WWE CFO George Barrios is engaging in during most of his public presentations and Q&As. He’s attempting to deflect legitimate critiques with buzzwords and dry, long-winded responses until the issue becomes too unbearably bland and confusing to continue dedicating the attention required to administer viable criticism.[11]

Is there something die-hard fans just don’t get about this though? Is the current speaking and announcing style actually a net positive for the masses? Does the style really do something for kids, the fans in passing and corporate partners that makes it worth it?

Much of the language is meant to remove WWE from anything sports-like or reminding of the wrestling product that, despite their most fundamental attempts to re-language, they undeniably are. Despite decades of utterances of ‘sports entertainment,’ everyone from the most ardent to most casual fans still call WWE a wrestling show. To continue to try to present itself otherwise is a futile, self-loathing and often intelligence-insulting attempt to get audiences see them as more than the wrestling company it seems McMahon wishes they weren’t. And if the problem is corporate partners are apprehensive about doing business with a wrestling company due to wrestling’s low-brow stigma, rather than using euphemisms, WWE and McMahon should revisit some of the creative decisions they’ve made over the years to reinforce that stigma. In fact, the WWE Network just came out with a show for that.

__________________________________

^[1] Including but not limited to: “and then from there,” “forget about it,” “from our standpoint,” “hammering away now,” “nevertheless,” “notwithstanding,” “pal,” “quite frankly,” “things of that nature,” “unquestionably,” “welcome everyone,” “what a maneuver,” etc.

^[2] Read the work of political consultant Frank Luntz for more on this manipulative and evil concept (or don’t).

^[3] Think back to Beyond the Mat (1999). That moment where Vince appears on-screen in his sit-down interview with director Barry Blaustein. Vince — apparently finishing lunch, mouthful of enormous calories — tells Blaustein, “…and then you can see what we really do.” Vince’s pregnant pause, leaving us to wonder, chewing through a smirk, tacitly telling us he is the smartest man history. Finally he reveals it: “We make movies.” He projects his swagger even while seated. He reaches for the water bottle, pumping his brow, deeply pleased with himself. He swigs from the bottle, giving you time to absorb what he clearly thinks should be an epiphany for you.

^[4] See Justin Roberts’ blog on Connor “The Crusher” Michalek and Stephanie McMahon’s tweet about philanthropy and marketing, containing a screenshot from a section of the WWE Business Partners Summit which was edited out of the online video release.

^[5] First episode of the “Monday Night Wars” series on WWE Network, jump to 8:39. McMahon in a patronizing tone on a scale only he could convey tells the story.

ted-turner-vince-mcmahon-elite

Ted called me up. He said, “Hey Vince, I’m wanna let you know I’m in the rasslin’ business!”

And I said, “Okay. That means we’re in different businesses.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Well, you’re in the rasslin’ business,” as he called it. “I’m in the entertainment business. And that’s two completely different philosophies.”

^[6] This is also why any appearances of the “of Wrestling” portion of “Superstars of Wrestling” are blurred by WWE in modern video releases. The legal case is here: https://casetext.com/case/patterson-v-world-wrestling-entertainment. A half-maddening, half-fascinating interview with Albert Patterson regarding his trademarks is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKzzJXPaNv4.

^[7] Jump to 4:15: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xf4f4d_wwf-raw-is-war-04-19-1999-vhsrip-xv_sport&start=257

^[8] Regarding the older style of commentary, Strikers says: “I loved Gordon Solie, Jim Crockett and Bob Caudle… They had the nice monotone voices, and gave me the history, and told me why that submission hurts. But there’s no room for that anymore. The WWE wants storytellers. It doesn’t matter that Jack Brisco won the [National Wrestling Alliance] title in 1970-whatever. Tell me why that matters for John Cena.”

^[9] Cole even seems to admit there are problems with the WWE’s approach to announcing but that he just accepts the job as it is.

“You have to deal with social media, storylines and all the different things the company is involved in. So a lot of times you don’t get to focus on the match as much as you would want to,” he says in a 2013 interview. “I need to do what [WWE] wants me to do. Does it get to be too much sometimes? Yeah, of course it does. I think we do a lot of things in excess, but that’s what we want.” In a 2014 interview, Cole confirmed he has as many as six people talking to him on his headset at once, often including McMahon.

Mick Foley however could not accept the job as it was. He discussed his brief run as a color commentator in 2008 with Mike Mooneyham of The Post and Courier.

It was a month before I got the first dose of Vince’s unique medicine… I spoke to him the next day about it and told him I couldn’t remember the last time I had been belittled and treated so disrespectfully. I accepted his apology and accepted that it was just part of a bad night he was having. But within a few weeks I realized that it would be part of the job and that I had to make a decision as to whether I found that acceptable… In the end I told Vince that’s not why I slept in my car and slept on a cot in the Red Roof Inn even while I was WWE champion… I told Vince had he treated me like that in ’96 or at any time over the last 12 years, it wouldn’t have come as such a shock. But those were magic headsets… All the respect I had earned over the past 12 years just kind of disappeared.

^[10] Jump to 26:06: http://media001.f4wonline.com/dmdocuments/091014hhh.mp3

^[11] For an example, I challenge you (without stopping or your eyes bleeding) to actually read the entire “Forward-Looking Statements” page in the WWE corporate investor presentation (p. 2). For bonus points, be sure to lookup any terms or acronyms you don’t understand. Within these incredibly boring nests, those in power try to run from the truth.