WWE Chairman Vince McMahon was recently interviewed by The Orlando Sentinel (orlandosentinel.com) in conjunction with WrestleMania 24 tickets going on sale tomorrow. Below are the highlights from the interview:
Q.: How excited are you about having WrestleMania in Orlando?
A.: I was delighted when Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and John Saboor, president of the Central Florida Sports Commission, visited our offices in Stamford, Conn., last year to extend an invitation from the City of Orlando to host WrestleMania.
Our fans in Florida have always been extremely supportive of WWE. Orlando is one of the world’s hottest tourist destinations, and WrestleMania is going to make it even hotter.
Q.: After the Chris Benoit tragedy, a good number of your wrestlers have been suspended for drug use. What can be done about this?
A.: I think there has been a rush to judgment on the issue of steroid and drug abuse in WWE. When that happens, it is difficult to get your side of the story told. WWE has had various drug-testing programs for its performers over the past 20 years. The Talent Wellness Program we have today is effective. This has random testing protocols that result in more frequent testing than other drug-testing programs, such as those in professional sports. Random testing is designed to be at 400 percent, meaning that all performers are to be tested at least four times per year. The WWE program imposes serious penalties, up to and including contract termination for repeat offenders. The program is administered by one of the foremost drug-testing authorities in the world, Dr. David L. Black of Aegis Sciences Corporation in Nashville, Tenn. Dr. Black helped develop and implement the NFL’s drug-testing program. His firm provides doping control services to more than 50 NCAA universities. We have suspended 30 performers since the program went into effect in February 2006 for violating the program. Of course, the goal of this program is to one day have no suspensions because our performers are no longer using steroids or abusing prescription drugs. I think that day will come sooner than people expect. As more information is being provided, I think people are getting a better understanding that WWE is serious about eradicating the abuse of drugs and steroids among our performers.
Q.: Do you consider wrestling entertainment or a sport?
A.: Professional wrestling, as done by the WWE, has always been about entertainment. It features fantastic performers who are world-class athletes who have the ability to create entertaining characters and enthrall an audience. However, what we do is scripted and is not competitive sport. Unlike competitive sport, we can control the outcomes to ensure an exciting evening of entertainment. That’s why our fans always get a great show.
Q.: What about the ex-wrestlers complaining that the WWE doesn’t take care of its former athletes?
A.: These are past performers who, for whatever reason, seem bitter about their life after their performing days have ended. While we have no control over what people do when they are no longer under contract to our company, we are very concerned when we hear some of these sad stories about individuals who once performed for us who have squandered their money, abused drugs and fallen into hard times because they cannot adjust to life after their performing life is over. We do help some of our former performers, and just recently offered to cover the cost of rehabilitation for those former performers who feel they need help to overcome drug addiction.
Q.: A lot of your most famous stars have left the WWE. Who are your stars on the rise?
A.: At the top of the list is John Cena. He’s a great athlete with a degree in exercise science, he successfully launched a music career last year, he is a knowledgeable classic-car collector, and he had a successful movie debut as the star of WWE Films’ The Marine. He is athletic, good-looking, well-spoken and charismatic. I think we’re just beginning to see his full potential emerge. There are several other very talented individuals performing for us today.
With Cena now out for several months due to injury, it is going to be interesting to see which performers step up to the opportunities that will present themselves. Guys like Randy Orton, our current WWE champion; Batista, our world heavyweight champion; and CM Punk, our ECW champion, are all performers to watch.
Q.: Any thoughts about retiring?
A.: No . . . It is definitely my passion for the business that gets me up in the morning. As long as I believe I can contribute to provide the fans a product that they want to see and enjoy, I’ll continue to be involved in WWE one way or another. I love what I do. It’s not work.