Reality From Ringside #18
June 22, 2009
By: Doug Lackey of WrestleView.com
Caught in the Crosshairs
Many of us have vices that can make for unsavory conversations. Fans who root for rival sports franchises, able-minded citizens taking sides over ideologies or philosophies, but like I spoke of last week no topic is more divisive than politics. That, because of my past experience in writing (that I choose not to go into as it has nothing to do with the great website I write for currently), is my biggest vice.
Each night, after returning from a hard day's work, I enjoy flipping between the two warring cable media networks that seem to be glaringly politically-biased: MSNBC from the liberal left and Fox News from the conservative right. I thoroughly enjoy watching the political pundits bash each other forwards and backwards over current events in American politics and listening to their rationales. From Bill O?Reilly and Sean Hannity's venomous rhetoric to Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow's harsh criticisms, it's as if I?m watching a steel cage deathmatch in debate form.
For those of you who do not know of this constant verbal sparring, you now know of it because of WWE and the USA Network's ?fake? press release and the recent reports from Fox Business Channel regarding a potential SEC investigation into the possible manipulation of WWE stock prices.
?What the hell does this have to do with wrestling? I thought I was reading a column about professional wrestling, not politics and stock manipulation! Doug, you?re a damned hypocrite,? you might be saying to yourself right now. Patience, my dear friend, this week's dosage of ?Reality? is not about party politics or Wall Street chaos. This is just what happens when your form of entertainment is dragged into a battle between two companies with quarreling opinions.
First, the quick tutorial is needed on the cable news media's version of the World Wrestling Federation versus World Championship Wrestling: MSNBC versus Fox News. With Fox News? unashamed conservative bias, which they claim is warranted to combat an equally transparent mainstream liberal media; their crosshairs are consistently pointed at their counterpart over the cable airwaves, MSNBC. In part, MSNBC is never hesitant to report the disarray of the Republican Party and the disillusionment of conservative talking heads like radio personality Rush Limbaugh or former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich.
Still with me? Good, now time for the meat of this tussle.
MSNBC is one of the many networks owned and run by Universal Studios, which in turn owns cable outfits USA and Sci-Fi, as well as NBC. Universal Studios is also owned and operated by one of the largest corporations in the United States, General Electric.
On the opposite spectrum, Fox News and Fox Business Channel are owned and run by News Corp., which obviously also owns and operates 20th Century Fox and many newspapers such as the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal.
With these two media conglomerates and their opposing views of the American landscape, it makes for a very heated war of words. What also comes from this is reporting and bias that cloud judgment; stories released solely for the purpose of dismissing the legitimacy of their rival.
Bill O?Reilly, host of Fox News? primetime political shout-fest ?The O?Reilly Factor?, makes MSNBC, NBC, and General Electric a focal point of disparagement on a regular basis. He accuses GE of funding Iranian businesses, NBC of playing cheerleader to President Barack Obama's policies, and MSNBC of being weak and feeble compared to him and his networks Neilsen ratings. In response Keith Olbermann, host of MSNBC's primetime political punditry show ?Countdown?, makes Fox News and News Corp out to be hotheaded, factually-unsound blowhards.
Fox News vs. MSNBC. News Corp vs. General Electric.
Have you got the gist of this battle? Good. Then it is now time to do just I have done before with Randy Orton and Joey Styles? it is time to dissect the story posted on Fox Business? website passing WWE's 'sale? of Donald Trump as possible stock manipulation. Brace yourselves; this ride could get very, very bumpy.
(Credit: FoxBusiness.com ?GE and WWE in Violation of Securities Law?? http://www.foxbusiness.com/story/markets/industries/media/ge-wwe-violation-securities-law/
?What started out as a typical wrestling publicity joke could have serious implications for two companies.
World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (WWE: 12.43, -0.4, -3.12%) and General Electric Company (GE: 12.09, 0.1, 0.83%) could be liable for a violation of securities law, after GE-owned USA Network issued a fake press release that may have caused shares of WWE to fall 6%, Tuesday afternoon.
The release announced the sale of WWE's popular Monday Night RAW wrestling show, which airs on the USA Network, to billionaire investor Donald Trump. The details of the sale were not provided and the release claimed, ?the terms of the deal were not disclosed.? However, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon was quoted as stating, ?this was an offer I couldn?t refuse.??
*I have a serious question I would like to ask everyone right now, from Fox Business reporter Kathryn Glass who posted this story to everyone who is reading my ?Reality?? have you ever heard of any entertainment company selling one of its own television programs which is part of a grander program? Do you realize how ridiculous this sounds? By the way, I just got word that Roger Goodell, has turned over the NFL's ownership rights of ?Monday Night Football? over to long-time American football fan and one of the most recognized and hated sports agents in America, Drew Rosenhaus. Kathryn Glass, did you honestly believe this with all your heart?!
?In the release, Trump revealed that in his first act as new owner, he planned to air the show live and commercial free on Monday, June 22, and he would be making a live appearance on the program as the new owner.
The release was distributed by the GE-owned USA Network via PR Newswire, a business and corporate-relations newswire service. Upon circulation of the release, shares of WWE, a publicly traded company, fell more than 7%, to $12.18 per share, after opening at $13.13, Tuesday morning.?
*June 22nd's ?Monday Night Raw? commercial-free airing from Green Bay, Wisconsin was previously reported by avid Wrestleview.com contributor Chris Kelly? on Friday, June 12! Shouldn?t the stock price have dropped much earlier than June 16th if that is the case?
?But the sale of the franchise to Donald Trump never actually happened. Two days later came a second announcement, saying the original release ?referred to Monday Night RAW's storyline of a 'sale? of WWE's RAW to Donald Trump.? However, the release said, the companies ?intended the release to be promotional for that ongoing story arc on the series. There is no such actual 'sale.' We apologize for any confusion.??
*We would also like to apologize if your eternal fascination with the crumbling of General Electric in the palm of your own hands jaded you from the actual facts regarding this promotional event. With regards to your vast ignorance of the entertaining purposes of professional wrestling and the methods Vince McMahon has used to obtain such mainstream media attention, we suggest you read press releases regarding Wrestlemania 24's match involving proessional boxer Floyd ?Money? Mayweather and Wrestlemania 23's involvement of Donald Trump shaving Vince McMahon's head bald as per their wager on the outcome of a wrestling contest. Seriously? if you?re taking what happens on a televised professional wrestling program as fact? then you should have your credentials as a journalist ripped from your breast-pocket!
?Meissner agrees there is not much risk of an SEC investigation, since it doesn?t appear the company intended to manipulate the stock price, but Randy Katz a securities lawyer with Baker & Hostetler LLP in Orange County, Calif., thinks the SEC might consider opening an investigation.?
*The ?Meissner? that Glass attributes to this report, albeit without formerly introducing us within her very own report, is Stuart D. Meissner, a New York attorney who specializes in securities regulations violations. Very professional of Glass to mention him in the story without any kind of background at all?
?It certainly is a possibility," Katz said. "The world today versus a couple of years ago has less tolerance for these types of issues. There's a greater likelihood today, than if this happened a few years ago."
*It's called ?building a storyline that is reflective of today's current events?. If this Trump/Raw storyline had occurred a couple of years ago, it would have made no sense whatsoever. It is because of the climate of our nation's economy (and USA's sagging ratings), that this took place.
?Both attorneys think WWE investors that sold the stock at a loss could have legal grounds to collect damages, potentially from both WWE and GE, since USA Network issued the release, but he couldn?t think of any legal precedent that could be used.?
*How many shareholders do you think are at home right now after losing four dimes from their $12 stock going, ?I didn?t know this was the kind of shameless, spontaneous promotional gimmicks that Vince McMahon and WWE would resort too! I want my forty cents back and then some!?
?Off (the) top of my head, this is a unique set of facts,? Meissner said. ?It sounds like poor judgment on their part for them to do this?for either company of that size to undertake something like this?it seems silly.?
*?do I really need to add a comment to The Mysterious Meissner's statement?
?USA Network did not return calls for comment.?
*And can you blame them? I wouldn?t want to comment on your farce of an indictment either. If USA Network was not owned by GE, would this issue even have arisen?
The bigger question I have is this: If Vince McMahon truly is the mega-conservative that Jim Cornett and many others claim that he is, why would he have his programs airing on a subsidiary owned by the accusingly liberal General Electric? More to the point, can you imagine the conniption fit he must be having right now?
Again, you should never talk politics in this industry? but when those politics are the fuel for a war between two cable news networks and your decision for a storyline becomes a bullet in one of the network's chambers, it is time to seriously think about where your reservations lie.
But alas, the harsh reality is this, it all falls under the first principle of The McMahonian Theory of Publicity: Any publicity is good publicity.
Until next time, mouth-breathers!