Not just the central points of hostility between The Undertaker and IRS during their heinously boring 1995 feud, but the two things that - more than any other interventions - force Vince McMahon to act outside of his normal sphere of robustly self-confident certainty.
In 1989, McMahon kicked kayfabe's decaying corpse in order to get out of paying fees in New Jersey other sporting pursuits were subjected to. 'Sports Entertainment' was a phrase invented not just for neat marketing purposes but also to cannily navigate through legislation designed in-part to retain finances within the state as well protect the wellbeing of the athletes involved. Neither jived with McMahon, the stuffed-pocket wrestling promoter known for building an billion dollar empire on the back of exclusivity deals with the industry's best and brightest that still had to identify as self-employed sub-contractors. That very status (along with wrestling's long-held disdain for unionisation) removed employee rights from the wrestlers, and subsequently drove them to push their bodies beyond reasonable restraint in a quest for riches.
This capitalistic endeavour was nothing new and actively stoked the competitive fires of the roster, but McMahon's killer calendar was unlike any ever attempted. His expansion required wall-to-wall coverage of the country with his product, and shows of varying quality would often be taking place in up to four locations at once at his company's 1987 peak. Substance abuse was rampant, as wrestlers medicated and meditated using a cocktail of painkillers, party drugs and performance-enhancers to keep up with both the schedule and the lifestyle.
Front and centre of the marketing machine was Hulk Hogan, but it would be his image that would come crashing down (and hurt inside) first when the company were at long last hauled over the coals for flagrant steroid use at the turn of the decade. McMahon's 1994 trial (itself spawning from the 1991 capture and imprisonment of bent medic Dr George Zahorian - Zahorian admitted under oath to supplying wrestlers with steroids and other supplements during his time working for the Pennsylvania State Athletic association) saw wrestling's realities unravelling, but a 'Not Guilty' verdict that summer didn't scare McMahon straight. The testing WWE had initiated during the original heat of the Zahorian revelations were officially terminated by company memo in 1996 despite the hypocritical lambasting of WCW earlier that year for having no such system. The letter implied that the company no longer needed the testing, which was as farcical as it was irresponsible.
1997, like 1987, was a time of competition and capitalism. There was no place for frivolous spending on trivial matters such as talent wellness. [CONT'D]