It’s rare to be able to put a price tag on piece of Wrestlecrap, and it’s even rarer that a piece of Wrestlecrap influences the affairs of the federal government, but tonight’s induction accomplished both feats. Vince McMahon’s degrading in-ring segment with Trish Stratus ended up shooting his wife’s chances at a United States Senate seat straight to hell a decade later. While there were many factors that led to Linda McMahon’s defeat at the polls (twice) at a personal cost of $100 million dollars, the most widely-publicized may just have been the embarrassing WWE clips floating around the Internet from her time as company CEO, and no clip was more iconic than Linda’s very own husband telling a young woman to bark like a dog.
Okay, maybe the one where Linda kicks JR in the balls.
But seriously, when you watched the segment in 2001, did you ever expect to see it replayed a decade later with the ABC News logo emblazoned over it?
Such was the case when would-be Senator McMahon sat down for an interview with ABC’s Christiane Amanpour to address her business record. Linda’s defense of the clip (that it had come from a different period in her company’s history, before it had gone TV-PG and become more acceptable for younger viewers) didn’t seem to satisfy her interviewer.
But focusing on a seconds-long clip of a woman being forced to bark like a dog meant that the news media missed out on the larger context. See, Vince McMahon, Linda’s husband, was playing the role of the villain by humiliating his mistress, who eventually stood up for herself and triumphed over the evil boss on sports entertainment’s biggest stage, Wrestlemania. Just because something happens on a television show or in a movie doesn’t mean that its creators are presenting it in a positive light; all fiction relies on the protagonist overcoming adversity, and the struggle between good and evil has been dramatized for as long as humans have been telling stories.
That’s what Linda McMahon should have told Christiane Amanpour about the accusations that she peddled smut for years. It wouldn’t have been exactly true, but it’s what she should have told her.
See, although once you dig a little bit deeper, Linda’s former company gets let off the hook, when you dig a little deeper than that, you find out that her critics were probably right about her company promoting misogyny, because her husband’s humiliation of a woman on the McMahons’ TV program was met with near-unanimous approval by the live audience. And here’s how it came to pass:
|’Twas the night after No Way Out, and all through the arena, Vince McMahon was stirring — stirring a putrid mixture of filth in a janitor’s bucket, to be exact, “dumpage” that he implied he was reserving for his daughter Stephanie, who had objected to Trish Stratus sleeping her way to a position of influence.|
|When match time came, and Vince appeared ready to tag Trish in to humiliate Stephanie, he instead pulled her over the ropes, where she was slapped by Steph, flattened (insofar as that is possible for a woman of Trish’s endowment) by William Regal, and verbally berated by the boss, who told her he was tired of her.|
|Steph proceeded to mop Trish with the filthy liquid before Vince dumped the contents of the mystery bucket on his mistress.|
|The next week, Trish came to Raw to address what happened, but instead of tearing into Vince, she begged him for forgiveness for the crime of trying to supplant his daughter as the “dominant female” in the Federation. McMahon, however, wasn’t buying it and demanded that Trish prove her sincerity.|
|If Trish were truly loyal, she would act like man’s best friend. No, she wouldn’t accompany Brian Pillman to the ring; she would have to get on all fours like a dog. Trish crawled around the ring…|
|…while Vince pulled off some killer dance moves.|
|But Vince wasn’t through with the canine antics yet, demanding Trish tell him she’s sorry in “dog language.” The intrigue was building, as the audience wondered whether Trish would simply bark or try to actually speak English in a dog voice like Scooby Doo.|
|“Dammit, bark like a dog!” said Vince, shouting orders at the poor woman as if she were the crowd at a Smackdown taping in Liverpool.
|Vince, apparently bored of doing it doggy-style with Trish, then told her in so many words to take her clothes off. Those words were, “Take your clothes off!”|
|Paul Heyman, in only his first night on the job as an announcer, started his own chant of “Yes! Yes!” a decade before Daniel Bryan.|
|Vince was at his all-time most vile and abusive, but the largely male audience cheered enthusiastically because boobs.|
|Whoops! I accidentally hit the wrong key and ended my sentence before I could complete its subordinate clause. Don’t you hate it when internet writers do that? Anyway, as I was saying, the audience cheered enthusiastically because boobs are very popular among the male 18-35 demographic, among them this Pi Alpha Phi member whose college education never taught him that there will never be nudity on a TV-14 show.|
|Vince, in all his insatiable curiosity, pondered aloud the color of Trish’s panties before ordering her to take her skirt off, too.|
|The only person in the whole arena with any sympathy for Trish was Jim Ross, whose revulsion at the degrading treatment contrasted starkly with the crowd’s wild cheers and his broadcast colleague’s naughty presidential pun, the likes of which hadn’t been heard since the days of Polk and Pierce.|
|But Vince still wasn’t satisfied, shouting this command that Linda’s opponents really missed the boat on when looking for sound bites: “Take your bra off and take it off now!” As sleazy and degrading as McMahon’s order was, it garnered the biggest pop of the night from the audience, who, in their defense, really, really wanted to see Trish naked.|
|The horny fans finally did the right thing and turned against Vince, with chants of “a**hole” directed at the chairman… after he decided that Trish was sorry after all and covered her up with his jacket.|
|After Trish proudly declared the indignities to which she would subject herself to prove her loyalty, Vince closed the segment by turning on the DC crowd (rather than turning the DC crowd on), opining that, like Trish Stratus, anyone working for the government is practically a prostitute. In that case, would being a United States Senator have made Linda the hooker, or the john?|
|Pleased as punch and oblivious to the fact that he was costing his wife a national political office, Vince went on a victory lap the following Thursday, fondly recounting his step-by-step humiliation of his female employee while his comatose prospective Senator sat by. With no possibility of seeing nudity, the new set of fans booed the evil owner.|
|By the time Vince recounted his domination of Trish for the second time, this time on Raw, he was so comfortable with his handiwork that he commentated it in full-on TV Announcer Vince mode, slipping in three “and then from there”s and one “if you would.”|
So the “bark like a dog” segment turned out to be even worse than the snippet publicized by Linda’s opponents, featuring not only the verbal humiliation of a woman, but the physical as well, with a forced stripping that news outlets didn’t even pick up on (since that would have required research of their own, rather than relying on video clips and sound bites from one political campaign or the other).
But strangely, even the whole, disturbing truth wasn’t outrageous enough for some cable news personalities, so they made some stuff up, too, just to trample Linda, whom they portrayed as a closet Larry Flynt in pearls, under the hooves of their high horse.
|The idea that a peddler of seedy content could simply use a quick family-friendly makeover to absolve herself of wrongdoing: this idea truly galled the panel of “Morning Joe,” which had replaced eleven years of Don Imus on MSNBC.|
|The show’s producers edited McMahon’s interview with Amanpour to make it seem like she had told anyone offended by the “bark like a dog” segment to just change the channel, and that her excuse for airing it was that it was legal under the First Amendment. In fact, those comments were in response to a different question about whether the Senate should regulate what cable stations show on TV.|
|Mika Brzezinski, whose permanent sour puss registered a pH of 13 after airing the edited clip, gave a death stare to the camera and, perhaps unaware that MSNBC’s sister network USA had aired the WWF for most of the demonized Attitude Era, blasted McMahon for putting such filth on cable television. “I have already expressed my opinion, and it is definitely my opinion” (as opposed to being Meryl Streep’s or Bozo the Clown’s opinion) “…and, I’m sorry, but that is just not a product I want even available to our kids,” what with the “simulated rape in the boxing ring.”|
|What bothered Joe Scarborough was not just the “simulated rape” (which, for the record, had been perpetrated on a mannequin, Michael Cole, and many of Viscera’s opponents, but never on an actual woman) but the fact that McMahon had put herself on the map with irresponsible programming, having made a fortune off tasteless, offensive content. This would be like MSNBC garnering huge ratings for its coverage of a war that it had helped mislead the public into supporting, then admitting years later that it was probably a mistake, except, obviously, that would have been much more egregious than anything Linda ever did.|
|Finally, Dylan Ratigan lamented the fact that the American people might continue to elect such — and excuse the wrestling lingo — “jambonies.”|
The “real world” coverage of the goings-on of pro wrestling may have been as transparently bogus as a WWE show, but everyone from Democrats to Republicans to The Rock himself would agree:
If you demean women for entertainment, you’re a jamboni.
And if you cheer that degradation of women, you may just be the biggest jamboni of all.