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  July 26, 1999

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SLAM! Wrestling Editorial: Financial Post story full of holes
By JOHN F. MOLINARO -- SLAM! Wrestling

DEMARCO WWF Canada President, Carl DeMarco.
  In an article appearing in the July issue of the Canadian Financial Post Magazine, writer Noel Hulsman interviewed WWF Canada President Carl DeMarco and reports that the Vince McMahon "merged with local wrestling syndicates in order to build his wrestling empire."

This is but one of the few statements Hulsman reports as fact in his piece. It is disturbing if for no other reason than it gives a pretty clear indication of the quality of reportage by the mainstream media on pro-wrestling. This piece is representative of what passes for investigative pro wrestling pieces these days and it's troubling that a journalist from a magazine with the stature and reputation of the Financial Post was taken in by the WWF's corporate-speak language.

Even more unconscionable is that the article shows little evidence of the kind of research necessary to tackle the subject of pro wrestling.

Take, for example, the notion that McMahon "merged with local wrestling syndicates." It is downright laughable. The truth is many wrestling promotions went out of business after McMahon invaded their territory. Several of those operations' top stars were convinced to leave and sign lucrative deals with the WWF. Then TV contracts were signed that gave McMahon a wrestling monopoly in the area.

None of this is mentioned in the article. Sadly, Hulsman has become another in a long line of people who have fallen victim to the WWF's revisionist version of pro wrestling history.

The inaccuracies doesn't stop there either. Hulsman also reported that the WWF have had an extensive drug policy since 1987, that the WWF grosses $1 billion a year in merchandise revenue alone and that in the promotional war between WCW and the WWF, "WCW landed the first blow when it lured away WWF icons "Nature Boy" Ric Flair (among others)."

The truth is that the WWF instituted their drug testing program in 1994 in the wake of the McMahon-steroid trial and that the program is rarely even mentioned these days. The $1 billion a year figure in merchandise revenue is a gross exaggeration considering that the entire gross from all forms of revenue is around $230 million, according to leading wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer. And to refer to Ric Flair as a WWF icon, well, I won't even comment on the absurdity of that statement. Suffice to say no intelligent person will think of Flair as anything but the greatest NWA World Champion of all-time.

Hulsman also goes on to report that McMahon largely fashioned Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant into the stars they became. It may come as a surprise to Hulsman, but Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant were huge stars before Vince McMahon ever got his mitts on them. Andre was one of top working heels in Japan, earning one of the most lucrative contracts in wrestling at the time. Hogan split his time between touring Japan, where he was crowned the first IWGP (New Japan Pro Wrestling) Heavyweight champion and was one of the top gate attractions in the U.S. as a main event star for Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association outfit.

McMahon and the WWF gave Andre and Hogan a bigger stage. But to suggest that he took them from obscurity and made them into something is absurd.

Then Hulsman rolls out the cliches, referring to the WWF roster as no-neck bruisers and silicon-enhanced centrefolds, ignoring the fact that these same bruisers maintain a work schedule that's far more gruelling than any other professional sport.

Just for good measure, Hulsman claims rather emphatically that wrestling "remained largely a trailer park distraction until 1982" thanks to McMahon. The characterization that pro wrestling appeals only to people of a lower class income is not only unfair, it's also untrue.

When wrestling first exploded on a national basis back in the 1940s with the advent of television, the typical live pro wrestling crowd consisted of middle and upper class men and women, dressed in suits and ties and dress skirts. Working professionals comprised the demographic of wrestling fans back then, and it was hardly a sport with that appealed to young children and teenagers, as it does today.

Some might be tempted to blame this article on the WWF. That is too easy. All Carl De Marco is guilty of is successfully spinning the WWF's version of the truth.

No, the real blame here lies squarely with journalists who buy it hook, line and sinker. This article is a serious indictment against the mainstream media. The fact that the quality of reportage found in this article passes as the standard when it comes to pro wrestling is a sobering reality.

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