Monday, November 5, 2012

The Other Kind of Politicking

WWE has had a long history of involvement in electoral politics, starting in 2000, when the Smackdown Your Vote campaign, aimed at registering young WWF fans to vote, was launched. The non-partisan campaign emphasized only the importance of voter participation, as well as legitimizing the then-World Wrestling Federation, a lightning rod for criticism, in the eyes of the mainstream media. Somehow, WWE has always managed to blow every opportunity to be taken seriously by the media and the politicians.

Our story begins in Houston, Texas, in the opening segment of the November 6th, 2000 Raw, when after months of campaigning by the WWF for fan involvement in the electoral process, Vince McMahon made a surprise return  (following a months-long absence wherein he promised to impregnate Linda), not to cut a classic heel promo, but to encourage the Raw audience (now known as the "WWE Universe") to vote in the following day's election. "The most important thing," said Vince to the Houston crowd, "is who will each and every one of you vote for tomorrow? ...Now there might be some of you here in this arena who say, 'Come on Vince, I don't care, I'm not gonna vote because I don't give a damn!'" He then said that the reason political pundits don't care about WWF fans is because they think they don't vote. Vince said he was going to give the fans a reason to vote, pointing out that the two parties' voting blocs and special interest groups would cancel each other out, meaning that WWF fans would be the ones to cast the tie-breaking votes.

As you probably remember, the state of Texas was never really in play during the 2000 campaign, being solidly behind Gov. Bush, so even if every single member of the live audience in Houston had voted for Gore, the Republican candidate still would have carried the state by well over a million votes. Perhaps if Raw had been held in Miami, the Raw fans could have decided the election.

Vince acknowledged that many of the WWF fans felt that all of the candidates were crooked, but he encouraged them to vote nonetheless for the politician they thought was "lying the least." Way to put over democracy, Vince! If I didn't know better, I could swear that Vince just wanted a big turnout so he could establish the WWF as an influential political entity.

Vince would be interrupted by Steve Austin, who wanted to know who the mastermind was behind Rikishi running him over. He asked who was always manipulating people into giving him what he wants. Jerry Lawler, in a stunningly prescient moment, wondered aloud, "Linda McMahon?" Not for ten more years, Jerry. Kurt Angle would then come down to the ring and accuse George W. Bush of masterminding the attempted vehicular homicide "after a few cold ones," drawing cheap heat from the Texas crowd.

Still, heel tactics aside, the message of the night was non-partisan, as the Smackdown Your Vote campaign had been for months, with Superstars attending both the Democratic and Republican conventions. All of that neutrality would fly out the window, though, with Jerry Lawler's commentary on this night. During a Val Venis-Undertaker match, Jerry slipped in this cryptic comment: "I've got a good idea who Right to Censor is gonna vote for tomorrow."

Right to Censor, said Lawler during an RTC-Hardy Boyz match, "doesn't want anybody to have any freedom. They want to control what everybody does." When asked by JR who he was going to vote for, King replied, "I tell you who I'm not gonna vote for.... I'm not going to vote for Gore and Lieberman. I mean, Gore and Lieberman could be card-carrying members of RTC. They love to censor things," referring to Lieberman's attempts to censor video games in the 90s and Gore's wife Tipper's efforts to censor music in the 80s. "Well, folks, let me remind you," says JR, "that King's views are his own, and certainly not those of the World Wrestling Federation."

"Okay, I'm just saying I'm gonna vote for Bush because I'm in Texas. How 'bout that?" However, King would continue to rail against the RTC as a stand-in for Gore and Lieberman (instead of a stand-in for the PTC, Parents' Television Council, like they were intended). "They don't want you to have freedom of speech, freedom of press. They want to control everything about everybody's life!"

"Folks, all we're saying is we're a non-partisan organization," insisted Ross, who was now in damage-control mode. "We're just trying to say, simply, vote tomorrow, for whomever you choose, but do exercise your right to vote."

WWE's next big foray into the electoral business would be in 2008, when it would invite all three remaining major-party candidates to speak on Raw. Senators John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama all delivered pre-recorded speeches pandering to the WWE Universe (a term that would originate that summer). Then, Vince and company showed their impartiality by putting on one of their hilarious celebrity-impersonator matches featuring Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and, of course, Bill Clinton. What, were you expecting a John McCain impersonator to be involved in this farce? I don't know whether it was fear of portraying the 71-year-old POW disrespectfully, or the fact that Vince and Linda are partisan Republicans, but the incisive political commentary would be reserved only for the two Democratic candidates. They could also rely on the Clinton impersonator (who may or may not be the same one they had been using since Wrestlemania X), for some tried and true "jokes." Umaga ultimately came down to the ring to destroy the candidates physically, thus ensuring that no presidential candidate would ever again be foolish enough to affiliate with WWE (much like GLAAD would regret endorsing Billy and Chuck's gay wedding on Smackdown back in 2002).

To put this all in perspective, the WWE featured three U.S. Senators, one of whom was all but guaranteed to be the next president, on their television show, then blew all the company's credibility on a silly "comedy" skit just a notch above their "Rosie vs. Donald" match from the previous year. Is it any wonder that this year, no candidates showed up on WWE television? (Although, to be fair, the WWE's current target demographic won't be able to vote until 2028, anyway)

2010, of course, saw Linda McMahon run for senate in Connecticut, leading her Republican primary opponent to use footage of Linda kicking Jim Ross in the crotch in an attack ad. This led to the infamous, "Stand Up For WWE" campaign and a Fan Appreciation Day just before the election, conveniently held in Connecticut.

Hopefully 2012's purge of Attitude Era footage by WWE will be the last politically-motivated campaign by Vince and Linda for the foreseeable future, as this year's election is Linda's last chance for four years to get into the U.S. Senate.

As always, we here at How Much Does this Guy Weigh? are totally impartial and are not here to tell you whom to vote for, unless you live in Connecticut, in which case you should definitely not vote for Linda McMahon.

1 comment:

  1. don't forget after the election at the end of the "Stephanie dream" segment where Vince wears one of Linda's opponent's campange poster over his ass