Last night’s final broadcast of Monday Night RAW on Spike TV was marred by a senseless decision by the network. At the top of the show, Vince McMahon acknowledged that both Spike and WWE had come a long way in the last five years and thanked Spike for its successful partnership with WWE (watch).
During McMahon’s speech, the audio mysteriously dropped out in mid sentence. For the first time in a five-year relationship, Spike censored WWE. Not for language, nudity or violence, but for an apparently more grievous offense, the utterance of the phrase “USA Network.” Watch Mr. McMahon’s comments: Censored – Uncensored
When WWE attempted to inform fans that McMahon’s full comments could be found on WWE.com, Spike again censored the content.
Then the battle began.
Executive Vice President of Television Production Kevin Dunn was shocked by the continuing censorship and decided it was time for the gloves to come off.
“At the end of the day, it was our jobs to tell our fans where they can watch next week’s Monday Night RAW,” said Dunn. “It was an obligation we took very seriously. Initially, we were going to inform the fans of the move to USA in a very judicious and fair fashion. But Spike started censoring us right from the beginning. And then they censored us again later on when we attempted to inform our fans that Vince McMahon’s comments were available on WWE.com.
“At that point, we began to fight back.”
What followed were several back-and-forth conversations among RAW commentators Jim Ross, Jerry “The King” Lawler and Jonathon Coachman where the three mentioned USA Network on numerous occasions (watch).
“We went overboard,” admitted Vince McMahon. “But we did it in a very entertaining fashion. What we did was not mean spirited in any way. What Spike did, however, was mean spirited. At no time leading up to Monday night did Spike TV ever call us and say ‘Okay, this is what we won’t allow.’ We had no warning whatsoever. So for us it was business as usual.”
Or so McMahon thought. While in the ring Monday night, he had no way of knowing his comments were being deleted.
“Once we learned of the censoring, we decided to have a little fun of our own,” said Dunn. “Understanding the censoring technology the way we do, we knew that it was impossible for a technician to cut out a USA reference and listen for another one at the same time. Knowing that, we decided to load up on the USA comments. We knew that they weren’t all going to make their way through, but we also knew a good amount would. At that point, we were having fun with it. And I think it showed.”
While WWE was able to turn this surprising situation into several entertaining and informative segments of television, the topic of censorship is very serious, according to McMahon.
“I abhor blatant censorship,” McMahon said after RAW Monday night. “That’s exactly what happened tonight. I completely understand censorship in terms of FCC regulations. I don’t always agree with them, but I understand them. Of course, the FCC does not allow certain words or graphic nudity, but blatant censorship, which was executed by Spike TV, should not be tolerated. This was just as reprehensible as the flagrant violation of censorship itself.”
The good news is that RAW, the program with the most original episodes of any weekly fictional entertainment program ever on television, is coming home to the USA Network next Monday night.
Note: They then link to some questions sent to Spike by WWE and the response they got was “We had a good five years with WWE and we wish you well.”