Scared of Success

Mark Madden

Mark MaddenOne big problem on the creative side of wrestling is that bookers don’t do their jobs, they just strive to keep them. Even if bucking the boss’ creative vision is the right thing to do – and it certainly would be with WWE and TNA at this point – bookers don’t dare do so because continued employment isn’t based on independent thinking, it’s based on sycophancy.

The wife’s going to shop, the kids have to eat, so keeping the job – often at the cost of good TV and strong revenues – becomes the priority, especially when getting the head honcho to see the light is highly unlikely.

When Vince Russo convinced Vince McMahon to enter the "Attitude" era, the miracle wasn’t that Russo had good ideas. The miracle was that McMahon listened. Russo’s ideas were the proverbial desperate measures called for during desperate times, and McMahon was lucky Russo was a lowly magazine guy with nothing to lose and a career to gain. Jerry Brisco wouldn’t have gone out on a limb.

This phenomenon was a staple of WCW. Everyone just wanted to keep their jobs, refused to rock the boat even when it was sinking, took zero pride in the product and didn’t care if it sucked. Many of these people now work for TNA.

Bookers used to be judged on one thing and one thing only: Do they draw money? But now McMahon runs WWE as a vanity promotion, using it to settle scores and further personal agendas, and I’m not even sure what Dixie Carter’s priorities are with TNA besides hanging around hot, half-dressed guys.

The next big wrestling boom will incorporate two things: A company owner absolutely aching for success/survival and a booker willing to take risks. It will probably also involve going back to the future by returning to a more traditional wrestling format and eschewing the absurd notion that wrestlers are equal parts actors and athletes.

Bruce Mitchell of Pro Wrestling Torch once took old Mid-South storylines and rewrote them for today’s WWE, inserting WWE performers in the roles of Mid-South mainstays like Junkyard Dog, the Freebirds and Mr. Wrestling II. It was great. If a school marm can figure it out, why can’t McMahon?

SCARED OF SCOTT STEINER

When I worked in WCW, everyone was scared of Scott Steiner. Everyone.

With good reason, too. Scott was jacked to the max and had a hair-trigger temper. As an announcer, I tried harder for him than I did anyone else. I tried to get over the terror Scott invoked everywhere he went because A) I honestly thought he was one of WCW’s more compelling characters and performers and B) who needs trouble with him?

I would rather have been punched by DDMe than yelled at by Scott. He was that fearsome. The only time he ever got cross with me, thank God, was when I called him “White Thunder” after he first went bleached-blond: “Knock that **** off, you make me sound like a ****ing Nazi!” Yes, sir.

Scott once came into the announcers’ dressing room and started yelling: “How come you guys call it a huracanrana whenever one of the Mexicans does it? It a ****ing Frankensteiner no matter who does it! A ****ING FRANKENSTEINER!” Some of the announcers thought Scott was kidding at first. He wasn’t. Fortunately, by way of a preemptive strike, I ALWAYS called it a Frankensteiner. Check the tapes. (Well, except when a woman did it. Then I called it a tunacanrana.)

Two on-air incidents spring to mind when it comes to Scott:

*His tirade against Ric Flair, when Scott called Flair a “jealous old bastard” who made people grab their remotes and flip to WWF to watch Stone Cold Steve Austin, who Flair “got fired from WCW.” He also called Flair an “ass-kissing, butt-sucking bastard” and concluded by saying “WCW sucks!” Steiner got suspended two weeks with pay. Love those “with pay” suspensions. I once got suspended for a week with pay for heeling too hard on poor, fragile DDMe, and I asked Terry Taylor if he could make it two.

*Scott once joined the announce team at ringside for the express purpose of insulting Torrie Wilson, who was involved with the match at hand: “What the heck is wrong with her face, Madden? Look at that acne. She puts on so much makeup she has to use a plaster trowel!” After a few minutes of me sitting there slack-jawed, Scott smiled and said, “What’s the matter, Madden? You don’t look so good!”

The most amazing thing about those incidents is that Steiner wasn’t even scheduled for TV time. He just went out there, grabbed a mic and demanded the camera’s attention, and everyone involved was too scared to say no.

But I really like Scott. He treated me fine and occasionally even complimented my announcing. He always had a great work ethic, and that’s still true today with TNA as he works through the pain of a bad back that would cause most to retire.

Not long after WCW folded, I ran into Scott, and I started telling him how great he looked, etc., and after a few seconds he said, “OK, enough with the ass-kissing.”

Hey, old habits die hard.

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