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Ask 411 Wrestling: What If Vince McMahon Accepted Bischoff’s Slamboree Challenge?

July 10, 2020 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Eric Bischoff Vince McMahon

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Lee is talking a big game:

If Vince McMahon had answered Eric Bischoff’s challenge and shown up at Slamboree 1998, what do you think would have happened? Would they have actually fought? Would there have been any long term impact besides bragging rights on TV the next day?

Everybody reading this should know that, realistically, McMahon was never going to appear on a WCW pay per view, and Eric Bischoff never really expected him to, either, because if you go back to the original promo that Bischoff cut including the challenge, he was very clear that he didn’t think McMahon would actually be there so that nobody in the audience could accuse him of using false advertising to get people to buy the Slamboree show. For what it’s worth, the WWF’s official response was to have their attorney Jerry McDevitt send Bischoff a cease and desist letter (which he mockingly read on the following episode of Thunder), while Vince released his own statement in which he claimed that he would be willing to fight Bischoff any time that the WCW head honcho wanted, but there couldn’t be any cameras present, because he didn’t want to give Bischoff the publicity.

However, let’s pretend for a moment that this was going to occur.

In my mind, there are two possible ways that the scenario could play out.

The first is that McMahon and the WWF could have contacted Bischoff and WCW in advance and let them know that they were going to be in attendance. If that were to occur, it would most likely lead to a series of intense negotiations about how exactly any McMahon appearance would go down. This would, in my mind, be similar to the negotiations that lead up to the Muhammad Ali/Antonio Inoki match, with both sides trying to find the angle that would play to their strengths and allow them to look the strongest. Things like what each side would be allowed to say, whether there would be any physicality, and, if so, who would get the upper hand would all be on the table. It strikes me as unlikely that they would be willing to agree to a legitimate fight, particularly on the WWF end since McMahon would have been in a “hostile” arena with both fans and wrestlers who would be willing to intercede and gang up on him if things got out of hand.

If those negotiations ever took place, the most likely outcome is that they would have fallen apart, with each side then blaming the other for the impasse, similar to what we often see nowadays in the United States when a piece of legislation fails to make its way through our Congress.

The second possible scenario is McMahon just showing up at the building unannounced, i.e. accepting the challenge but not notifying anybody in advance that he was going to do so. If that were the case, the most likely outcome in my mind is WCW brass simply refusing to allow him in the building, with Bischoff cutting a smarmy promo about how Vince is so old and senile that he took what was obviously a grandstand challenge seriously.

In short, I don’t believe that there’s any way in a million years that these men were actually going to fight one another. Both of them had far too much to lose. McMahon’s physical safety would have been severely compromised, while Bischoff and Turner would have to deal with severe legal repercussions if matters got out of hand and McMahon were hurt.

If there were an appearance by Vince, I have a hard time imagining any long-term impact. WCW had some real problems with its booking and management, so they were going to have a down slide as the WWF overtook them. There’s nothing about a Bischoff/McMahon confrontation that would have changed that. I also cannot imagine Vince appearing at Slamboree derailing the Fed’s upward momentum, because that was based largely on the rise of Steve Austin and the Rock. Granted, McMahon was also a key figure, but he was a heel to the WWF’s audience, so if he were embarrassed by Bischoff it could be turned into something that his babyface foils would have given him hell over.

Admittedly, the answer that I gave here probably isn’t the most exciting in the world, because when it comes to a potential physical confrontation between Vince McMahon and Eric Bischoff there’s one question that wrestling fans are programmed to want to know the answer to more than any other:

Who would win the fight?

Assuming that we were talking about 1998, I would have to put my money on Bischoff. Yes, he was the smaller of the two men by a pretty wide margin, but he’s more than ten years younger than Vince and has legitimate marital arts training, whereas to my knowledge McMahon has no background in hand-to-hand combat aside from some limited amateur wrestling early in life. Anything can happen in a fight, and it’s possible that Vince could just overpower Bischoff if he managed to get his hands on him, but I suspect that the more agile marital artist would be able to evade McMahon pretty well before finding an opening for some well-placed kicks that would finish the job.

SPLANCK thinks loose lips sink ships:

Through my career, both as an employee and as a freelancer, I’ve had to sign some pretty serious Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) with most of my employers, all of them extending the obligations even after employment. Why doesn’t WWE, a publicly traded company, enforce the same type of agreements with their former “independent contractors”? How can CM Punk and Jon Moxley get away with their podcasts appearances giving away inside information on WWE creative operations? After all, Punk got sued by the WWE doctor, not WWE themselves. Worse, many wrestlers actually profit from disclosing confidential information about WWE in various shoot interviews. What am I missing here?

The issue is that, in many U.S. jurisdictions, courts actually disfavor enforcement of non-disclosure agreements. Typically, in order for an NDA to be found enforceable, the employer has to have some legitimate business interest in maintaining confidentiality of the information that it is attempting to prevent the disclosure of. If I leave my employment and then go release a series of tweets about how the refrigerator in the office break room was always messy or about how my boss yelled at me one day, chances are good that a court isn’t going to enforce an NDA related to those comments, because it’s not as though that information getting out into the world will have any impact on my former employer’s business. It’s a different story, though, if I start releasing information about who my former employer’s customers are or what new products they have in development. Then I’ve started to put information out into the world that a competitor could use to negatively impact my former employer’s bottom line, and that’s the sort of action for which a court might think there is a legitimate basis for enforcing an NDA.

As it relates to professional wrestling, the sort of things that you hear wrestlers say in shoot interviews are their road stories or their experiences in the ring with other performers. Those sorts of things would not impact WWE’s business. Though it is true that the interviews also get into the creative process, it’s not as though WWE has some secret means for writing a television show that isn’t used anywhere else in the entertainment industry. Maybe you could make the argument that WWE would have a legitimate interest in preventing a proposed storyline from being leaked because it is something that could be used in the future, but even that seems like a bit of a stretch.

Tony is swimming upstream:

There is always speculation on which WWE wrestlers should or will make the jump to AEW when their contracts are up. Far less speculation is made of AEW wrestlers making the move? Who do you foresee (low and high profile stars) making the jump first and when?

Presumably it will be a while before we see any AEW to WWE jumps, because AEW has just started up within the last year, so they presumably have anybody who is featured on their TV locked in to a decently long contract.

Honestly, I think that the most likely people to head from Cody’s company in to the waiting arms of Vince McMahon are members of the AEW women’s division. I say that because, if you compare men’s matches in WWE to men’s matches in AEW, there is a bit of a different style, and AEW is willing to take a chance on wrestlers who have a look that falls outside of WWE’s normal mold. However, if you compare an AEW women’s match to a WWE women’s match, there’s not that much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. (Aside from the fact that I don’t see WWE featuring an openly trans wrestler anytime soon.) A Britt Baker or a Bea Priestley would fit right in among the Sasha Bankses and Carmellas of the world in a way that Orange Cassidy or Marko Stunt wouldn’t mesh as well with Bray Wyatt or Randy Orton.

If I had to pick a man to jump to WWE, my money would probably be on Jungle Boy. Though he is small per typical WWE standards, I could see the company getting behind him due to his teen idol good looks and his Hollywood pedigree. If he could add just a bit of mass to his frame, it would be all the better.

John is giving me an opportunity to plug fellow 411 writer Adam Nedeff’s work reviewing USWA shows for the site:

I have enjoyed reading Adam Nedeff’s USWA reviews, and they have brought up a burning question. What happened to Eric Embry in the year-plus after saving WCCW/USWA from Skandor Akbar? Embry defeated PY Chu Hi in August ‘89, creating USWA. There is a great series on YouTube documenting the Embry/Akbar feud, but in Nedeff’s reviews I haven’t seen anything related to Eric Embry. He should have been the biggest face and he just disappeared. There’s a Percy Pringle heel turn somewhere in the spring of ‘90 and I remember Embry being a heel feuding with Dundee and Jarrett over the secondary titles, but can you answer why he wasn’t the top baby face in 1990 and what happened to him before turning heel I’m guessing sometime in 1990?

There’s a pretty simple answer to this one. As I understand it, when Embry was the top babyface of WCCW/USWA Dallas, he was in that position in large part because he was the booker. Don’t get me wrong, the guy did have a certain charisma and ability to connect with audiences, but anytime he was in the absolute top spot of a promotion it seemed to be because he was positioning himself to be there. In 1990 after the match for control of the territory, Embry lost the book, and his position on the card diminished accordingly. He has also mentioned in shoot interviews that he never had a great personal relationship with Jerry Lawler, and, though I don’t know he’s ever directly connected that to his reduced push, it certainly couldn’t have helped given the large shadow that Lawler cast over the USWA.

In fact, Embry left the USWA altogether about halfway through 1990, as he toured with All Japan Pro Wrestling in August and September of that year and then spent some time working in Puerto Rico. He didn’t pop back up in the USWA until 1991.

Uzoma wants to ask us a question that involves noted anti-masker Low Ki:

I read that Vince McMahon wanted Alex Riley to win Season 2 of the original NXT but because fan voting was allowed, Low Ki f/k/a Kaval was heavily voted instead to win despite his poor win-loss record. Is it true that Riley was supposed to be the winner?

I have never read anything which expressly states that the company was backing Riley as the winner of the show, though it was obvious to anybody watching that he had all of the characteristics that the company typically looks for in a hot young star. (To be fair, you could say the same thing about Curtis Axel, who was part of the same season.) However, I have read reports – including in the January 3, 2011 Wrestling Observer – that those in power in WWE were not happy with Low Ki winning, which is why his win/loss record was abysmal when he began wrestling on the main roster following NXT.

So, though I cannot confirm that anybody behind the scenes wanted Riley to win, I can confirm that they did not want Ki to win.

Paul wants us to adopt a more somber tone:

Putting aside the Owen Hart and Chris Benoit tragedies, would you say that what happened to The Renegade (Richard Wilson) would be among the biggest tragedy/travesties to occur in wrestling? I have not heard anyone on his behalf come out and speak for him or anyone in the industry really address why this man was never given a second chance.

For those not familiar with the story, in 1995 Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage were in WCW, and they started doing vignettes hyping an “ultimate surprise” coming in to help them face their heel rivals. It was heavily implied that the surprise was the Ultimate Warrior, though it was eventually unveiled to be indy wrestler Rick Wilson, formerly known as Rio Lord of the Jungle, who was renamed the Renegade and told to knock off the Warrior’s gimmick to the fullest extent possible. (The WWF even threatened legal action when the original “ultimate surprise” vignettes ran.) He was given an early push as the third man in a trio with Hogan and Savage and was even given Jimmy Hart as a manager. He also basically squashed Arn Anderson to win the World Television Title. They also put him over a young rising star by the name of “Stunning” Steve Austin, which basically derailed this Austin guy’s momentum, and he never amounted to anything as a result.

However, the fans quickly realized that this was not the real Ultimate Warrior, and the wrestlers resented Renegade for getting an immediate push despite having no discernible talent. Though he kept the Renegade name, after only a few months he was stripped of all of the vestiges of his Warrior-wannabe gimmick and was relegated to the role of a job guy who mainly appeared on c-shows like WCW Saturday Night. Ultimately (pun intended), having nothing for him to do, WCW let the guy go in early 1999.

He shot and killed himself on February 23 of that year following an argument with his girlfriend. There have been comments over the years that Wilson’s suicide was caused at least in part by his being despondent over his WCW release and what was a promising career flaming out so quickly.

Though an individual killing himself is almost always tragic, I have a hard time thinking about this situation as a professional wrestling tragedy in the same way that I think of the Owen and Benoit episodes as professional wrestling tragedies. When you talk about Hart or Benoit, you’re talking about incidents that are inexorably linked to professional wrestling, because Hart’s death occurred at an ongoing wrestling show while the likely causes of the Benoit murder/suicide are a direct result of the man’s participation in the industry. The Renegade suicide, on the other hand, is something that could have just as easily happened to a man who suffered from depression and had difficulties in his professional and personal lives, regardless of what that profession may have been. In my mind, that’s a big part of the reason it doesn’t get classified along the Hart and Benoit stories and why you’re not likely to see a Dark Side of the Ring episode about it anytime soon.

Also, if you yourself are entertaining thoughts of suicide, please know that there are resources out there to assist you. A good source in the United States may be the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which you can call at 1-800-273-8255.

That will do it for this week’s installment of the column. We’ll return in seven-ish days, and, as always, you can contribute your questions by emailing [email protected].