The Steamy Files: No Country For Old Men (Part One)

“And in the dream I knew that he was goin’ on ahead and he was fixin’ to make a fire somewhere out there in all that dark and all that cold, and I knew that whenever I got there he would be there. And then I woke up…” Tommy Lee Jones, No Country For Old Men (2007)

Hello one and all and welcome back to the most fetching column in all of the IWC, it’s the Steamy Files bay-bay! Now this intro is going to be a bit longer than normal because what I want to talk about today is a bit more scattered than my usual subjects. I try to focus on one particular topic when I’m writing a new column so as to have a coherent train of thought and present my opinion based on the selected subject.

But today, I want to talk about something that I feel has some loose threads of connection that are not directly related but, in my mind at least, share a lot of common ground. You see folks, I’m getting old. I mentioned in my debut column that I was a child of the 80s, and I am right on the cusp on 2 generations. I fall right in between the end of Gen X and the beginning of millennials (also known as gen Y). This gives me a particular viewpoint when it comes to the world as I saw it change and evolve in real time.

The reason I’m telling you all of this is to contextualize that I’m not one of those “get off my lawn” types of people. I respect the past but I don’t dwell in it. I think, for the most part, the world has moved forward towards the best. There are unfortunately still those that refuse to follow and stick their feet in the mud not wanting to move even an inch forward for whatever reasons. I’m not one to judge what someone enjoys or how they want to live their lives, as long as they remain respectful of others. I don’t need to understand or agree with everything that happens as long as either myself or others are not being targeted or disrespected.

You’re probably reading this asking yourself, Steamy, what does this have to do with wrestling? I’m getting there, patience young grasshoppers. As someone who spends a lot of time working at a computer, I also spend a lot of time on social media and various discussion boards. I don’t like to isolate myself and I try to see content I may not agree with. What I’ve noticed are that most of the IWC seems to fall into 2 camps: older wrestling fans/old wrestlers who want the product to go back to what it was in the past and younger wrestling fans who overanalyze and over critique everything and yet here I am stuck in the middle.

Younger fans have this entitlement that their opinion is right and that the old people should shut up and go back to Country Kitchen Buffet before the Early Bird Special runs out. On the other hand, old wrestling personalities and older fans seem to want to tell everyone what they believe wrestling should be and seem to be incapable of letting go of their past fame or experiences to join us in the current day. There are a couple of recent events and comments that really sparked this idea in my head. I will be going back and forth and this won’t be in chronological order and it may not all make sense until the last word of the last part, so I hope you stick with me as I try to unravel this thread. Given how much there is to cover, I will be splitting this column into at least 2 parts.

With all that being said, I think we should start with the elephant in the room.

1-Vince McMahon

1.1.-The accusations

If I’m going to talk about Vince, I’m not going to bury the lead. I was disgusted and appalled to read the accusations by Janel Grant in her sex trafficking lawsuit against Vince McMahon. What she alleges happened to her is beyond sick and twisted; it’s damn near evil. While these are still allegations, the details provided, along with times, dates, places and especially those text messages make me believe that she is telling the truth.

I think we all knew Vince was shady. I mean we’ve seen the man make out with his employees on screen and book himself in storylines with some of the hottest women in the wrestling business. We knew he was probably a bit of a pervert and definitely a weirdo. There are the stories about him hating sneezing, about his unpredictable temper and so many more stories that make you think this is a strange man.

I was reading Brian Gewirtz excellent book and a story he said came to mind. I’m going to paraphrase as I strongly suggest that you read his book if you haven’t already, but basically there are some wild stories about Vince McMahon in there. The one that stuck in my head was Vince honking the horn on his car loudly and proudly in the middle of the night while in a residential neighbourhood. Why did he do it? Because he thought it was funny.

When I pictured Vince, I always thought of a teenager stuck in an old man’s body. Like everyone else, I had heard stories that made me believe he could be heartless at times, but I always chalked it up to his favourite saying, “Best for business”. For all his flaws (I thought), the man truly cares about his company and will do everything to protect it. He’s employing hundreds of people, he’s the only major promoter left in pro wrestling (until our saviour TK) and basically is the de facto guardian of wrestling history thanks to all the footage of dead territories and promotions that the WWE owns.

I had always been able to brush aside some of my discomfort with Vince McMahon because even though I strongly disagreed with a lot of his actions and felt he was in the wrong on many occasions, I was always able to tell myself that it was in the interest of his company. When I read that court filing, I was sick to my stomach.

What possible business justification could there be in abusing a woman like that? I’m not a prude by any sense of the imagination. What two consenting adults do behind closed doors is none of my business. However, the key word here is consent. While the IWC rarely agrees on anything, it seems most people understand that Janel Grant didn’t consent, she couldn’t. If you’re in the minority that still doesn’t get why, we’ll go into that later on. Just know that it’s not as black and white as Yes or No.

Suddenly, everything else started clicking into place. What I thought was just childish antics or the machinations of a man who, for better or worse, always put his company above everything, now conveyed a much deeper, darker and sadistic meaning.

1.2-The scandals

There are so many scandals that one could go into when thinking of the WWE/WWF. If I were to try and break every single one of them down and look at it through the lens of what we now know about Vince McMahon today, I could write multiple novels, and I already spent a lot of words on that intro. I want to talk more about the way McMahon addressed 3 scandals in particular: The Ring Boys scandal, the Rita Chatterton rape allegations and the death of Owen Hart.

I laid out these scandals specifically because they all have something in common, and that is the way Vince McMahon responded to them. While it would be untrue to say the responses were exactly the same, he did use similar tactics. Before I talk about his responses, let’s talk about an acronym that will be very relevant to the story: DARVO.

DARVO stands for: deny, attack, and reverse victim and offender. It’s a reaction that is often used by people trying to deflect responsibility for their actions. First, they deny that the incident happened or that they were responsible for it. Then, they will go on the attack and accuse the people trying to hold them accountable, or the victims themselves, of trying to defame them, ruin them or their reputation. Instead of acknowledging wrongdoing and trying to make amends, they aim to reframe it as a debate. Reverse victim and offender is pretty self-explanatory. Basically, the culprit presents themselves as the victim. They’re the ones under attack, they’re the ones being unfairly treated. The victim is lying, the victim is wrong about the events, it’s not the culprit’s fault. Even before DARVO became an acronym to describe a tactic to escape accountability, Vince McMahon was a master at it.

Let’s start with the ring boys and Chatterton scandals since those came to light around the same time and were discussed by Vince in an interview on the Donahue show in 1992. The entire episode is available on YouTube and in light of recent events, it is a chilling watch to see how manipulative McMahon was. McMahon is actually confronted head-on by some of his accusers at that very show and still, he is unable to mutter up a single sympathetic comment, a single acknowledgement of wrongdoing and when he isn’t denying that anything happened, he attacks the accusers’ credibility. They were bad at their jobs, he says, they’re trying to frame Pat Patterson because he’s gay, they didn’t report the incident to him, it’s just excuse after excuse. While he didn’t scream or get noticeably angry at the time, this pattern of behaviour that he showed here would continue and get worse as time went on.

The very night that Owen Hart fell to his death, Vince McMahon held a press conference after the event. His first statement was dismissive, saying that this type of stunt was performed around the world all the time and that it was supposed to be a “superhero-like fashion” entrance (deny). When reporters started asking questions about why there was no back-up line and basically questioning if more precautions could have been taken, Vince answered, “I’m not an expert on rigging, I guess you are”. When the (female I should point out) reporter asked a follow-up question, the first words out of Vince’s mouth in response were “First of all , I resent your tone”. He would then say that it was a tragic accident and accused the reporter of trying to put herself in the spotlight (attack). He would later go on to try and claim the WWF were under attack for what was really not their fault that “as far as they knew ”every safety measure was taken,” which was false as the first rigging company they contacted not only told them their initial request was unsafe, but when they learned who the WWF had hired for the stunt, they contacted them back because they knew the coordinator WWF had hired was not competent to perform this safely. WWF told them the stunt was cancelled.

When asked why he didn’t stop the show after Owen died, Vince claimed that “no one knew what to do” and that “Owen would have wanted it this way” (reverse offender and victim). When asked why he didn’t tell the live audience in the arena about Owen’s death, he claimed that he was afraid of starting a panic.

1.3-“The Narcissist” Vince McMahon:

I firmly believe that Vince McMahon is a narcissist. According to the Mayo Clinic, Narcissistic personality disorder is “A disorder in which a person has an inflated sense of self-importance. Symptoms include an excessive need for admiration, disregard for others’ feelings, an inability to handle any criticism, and a sense of entitlement.”

Whenever blame comes, whenever someone tried to hold Vince accountable for his negligence or his crimes, he had been able in the past to use his position and his money to skirt any real accountability. This gave him a sense on entitlement, a sense of power. Even when the federal government tried to go after him for steroid distribution, he beat the case.

As time went on, Vince grew more powerful and richer. He started seeing everyone around him as either a plus or a minus. Either you were useful and could help him make more money, or you were not and hence you didn’t matter. This attitude also seems to have been present when it comes to dealing with women.

There’s a difference between having affairs and being an abuser. One is being a bad partner while the other is being a terrible person and a criminal. What Janel Grant went through is sick. The fact is that if this was just about sex and getting his rocks off, Vince had enough money to hire high-class escorts. The type of escorts that service the rich and famous and will cost more but know how to be discreet. If it had come out that Vince paid for hookers, it would be a little embarrassing for sure, he’d have some egg on his face but it wouldn’t have caused this severe of a backlash. It would also have been way cheaper than the settlement he paid under the original terms of the NDA. It’s kind of ironic how his belief of being bulletproof led him to violate the terms of the NDA and opened the door for Janel Grant to come forward.

Vince didn’t want a mistress; he wanted a toy. He wanted to control a woman, to have her at his beck and call, to humiliate and degrade her for his own twisted pleasure. There’s been some questioning the “grooming” accusations, saying that Janel Grant could have walked away, that she was an adult and had free will to simply quit. Hence, they argue, she must have consented? This is wrong on so many levels.

While it’s true we often associate grooming with underage individuals being “buttered up” by an abuser for sexual abuse when they eventually come of age, it can also apply to any form of coercive control. In this case, Vince met a young woman who lost both her parents, was unemployed, most likely in debt and in desperate need of help.

He started slow, interviewing her while in his underwear, stealing kisses, fondling, escalating to giving her oral sex and eventually passed her around to his subordinates as a reward, hence why sex trafficking is amongst the accusations. He gave her gifts, made her feel special, the classic cycle of abuse. Once she was in the claws of Vince, once he pushed her boundaries slowly but surely, she became more and more under his control. Quitting? What was she going to say to potential employers? “Why did you leave your last job?” “Oh, because my boss took a shit in my hair while I was having a threesome with him and another employee.” Even if she didn’t say that, any future employer would want a reference from the previous company she worked for, what do you think the mandate from Vince would be? Tear this woman’s reputation apart. She knew too much; she had seen too much.

She was Vince’s toy, and he wasn’t going to let her go until he got tired of her or until her presence became too big of a risk for his bottom line. This is consistent with past behaviour. Why did he not work with law enforcement to truly get to the bottom of the ring boy scandal? Because it would have made the company look bad. We are blessed nowadays in the digital age that a story can spread in minutes, and nothing is ever truly gone, but that wasn’t the case back in the 80’s and early 90’s. The same thing happened to Rita Chatterton, but Vince hadn’t grown as emboldened by his ability to deflect consequences for his actions just yet. It was 1986, he wanted to have sex with that woman and he knew that even if she told, it would be her word against his. It’s no coincidence that he had her fired later that year, he had his fun already, she was of no use to him.

When Owen Hart fell to his death, who would have blamed the WWF for stopping the show? It’s one thing if someone suffers an injury in the course of a match and has to be stretchered out. That’s bad, but at least it’s understandable. Owen had fell from the ceiling and died in the middle of the ring, in front of a packed audience. A riot? Why would there be a riot? Unless Vince means he anticipated a riot because he would not be offering refunds. Even then, when a man just died in front of your eyes, are you really concerned about getting your money back? At worse, you stop the show and you offer refunds to the fans who want one or you tell everyone that already bought a ticket that if they keep it, it’ll be honoured next time the company comes to town. Or you know, just figure it out later, a man lost his life, you most likely have insurance and you’re a millionaire on his way to becoming a billionaire, maybe just don’t worry about the fucking money?

But no, to Vince this was just a minor hiccup. He was the victim, because Owen’s death looked bad for his company and cancelling the show meant taking a financial loss. Not to mention that the extra time before surrendering the scene over to the police and extra time to get their story straight was an added bonus. Vince loves money, like so many other billionaires, he’s obsessed with it. However, despite this rich history of underhanded and cruel tactics, it hasn’t stopped some old men from deluding themselves in response to this lawsuit.

1.4- Old men say the dumbest things

1.4.1-The sound of silence

What really drove this column wasn’t specifically Vince’s actions. I wish I could say I had never heard or read anything worse in my life but that would be a lie. This story is far too common in our society and thankfully the Internet and social media, for all its flaws, has allowed people to have a voice. Unfortunately, some old men didn’t get the memo that times have changed. The actions of Vince McMahon were never acceptable. But nowadays especially, there is even more focus on the actions of powerful rich men, but more importantly, people are starting to question the system that is in place to protect these men.

Make no mistake about it, there is no doubt in my mind that people knew that something was going on, either before Janel Grant ever joined WWE, during the time she was employed or when Vince initially left the board when it became public knowledge that he had made multiple women sign NDAs. I’m not going to start accusing anyone of any specific crimes because at this point, I don’t know. There has been news that Janel Grant has accused Stephanie McMahon, Nick Khan and Brad Blum of helping to cover up what happened to her. They had originally been included in the lawsuit but their identities were not public knowledge at the time of the initial filing.

At some point, someone could have stepped in and ended this poor woman’s nightmare. Even if all they knew was that she was having sex with Vince, that is enough to step in and say “That’s not OK”. One of the things we understand now that was glossed over back in the day was the role that power plays in relationships. Gone are the days where bosses can just hire any attractive woman to be their secretary/mistress. This is especially true in a public company that has to worry about reporting to shareholders. Even if they believed that Janel Grant was a consenting participant, they should have never allowed it to continue given that if it became public, it could damage the company’s stock. Keep in mind, this is the best-case scenario of an inappropriate workplace affair, but that wasn’t what was actually going on. At this point, until there is a full criminal investigation into WWE and details come out, this is all speculation. What is not speculation, however, is how certain former and current wrestling personalities responded to this news.

1.4.2-Those who don’t learn from history

I want to take a moment to highlight the two men who had, in my opinion, the best responses of any wrestling-related personalities to this news: Bret Hart and Lance Storm. Not a surprise to see 2 Canadians who were born and still live here to have the sanest takes, but basically both expressed utter disgust at Vince’s actions, truly condemned him and expressed sympathy for the victim without ever trying to romanticize Vince McMahon and their relationships with him. I won’t go over everyone’s responses as they seem to fall into the category of being emotional not at the treatment that Janel Grant suffered, but rather at the impact Vince McMahon had on their lives and the wrestling business and how it affects his “legacy”.

I will, however, highlight two people: Kevin Nash and John Cena. I’m assuming everyone (or most everyone) has read or heard their terrible responses at this point so I won’t quote them word for word, I simply don’t want to read, hear or type what they said ever again, especially Nash.

To paraphrase Big Daddy Dumbass, Janel Grant was an adult who could have walked away and she couldn’t possibly be groomed because she wasn’t a minor and she just wants money. John Cena’s comments were less inflammatory but basically, he painted Vince McMahon in this heavenly light, like this great guy who was going through troubles, but that John, like the good friend that he is, would be there to support him and show him love. Nash can go suck a rock. There’s nothing to say to something so wrong, so dumb and so unbelievably cold-hearted. Get a soul Kevin. If cancel culture was a real thing, your ass would be grass and we’d all collectively smoke you back to the shadows.

John Cena hits a bit different. Nash is an idiot with a podcast, there are thousands of those, he’s not special. Cena is a mainstream star, who works in Hollywood and has an agent, a publicist and went on the Howard Stern show to promote a new project. Howard isn’t known for softballs, it was a guarantee that Cena was going to be asked about Vince and yet, this is the best he could do. You’re defending your friend John? Really?

When was the last time you went on a double date with Vince and Linda John? When was the last time Vince came to your house and had a BBQ? If you had children and you chose to baptize them, would you expect Vince to come? How often do you two hang out and just have fun, not talking any business? Do you exchange Christmas gifts? Invite him to holiday/birthday parties? Ever just go somewhere and chill? Maybe a few times and I’m sure you guys talk on the phone and text, but how much do you know about each other as people?

That’s what friends do. What John Cena and Vince McMahon have is a business relationship. Cena seems to believe that he owes Vince for what he has gotten in life, the money, the fame, the success, but that’s false. Vince McMahon paid John Cena a fraction of what he himself earned off the back of John Cena. It’s not like Vince just gave Cena money out of the goodness of his heart, he was an employee. Vince marketed Cena, but if Cena had not had the It factor, if he had not been able to deliver, then he would not have made the money he made nor would he have become famous. Vince McMahon is a good marketer, but every good marketer needs a good product. When Vince tried to push Giant Gonzalez, no matter what he did, it failed, because GG was a terrible wrestler with no charisma. He was big, but that was it. It was you John who made Vince money. You were out there on the road, wrestling in different towns, getting slammed on the mat and connecting with the fans.

Vince McMahon was never your friend, to borrow a quote from Dana White. He likes you because you make him money. He paid you because he was making tons of money off your name and he wanted to keep you around. Would you still consider Vince a friend if he had fired you right before you got over as the Doctor of Thuganomics? I understand that you may feel a sense of loyalty to the man, that you can appreciate the opportunity you got and are thankful for your career, but at some point, where’s your sense of right and wrong? You played your part, you were the good corporate boy with the squeaky-clean image, you sold a metric ton of merch in different colours, you were out there being a good person, doing Make-A-Wish and through your humanity and your efforts, you made WWE look good and when WWE looks good, Vince McMahon makes more money. That’s what you were to him. I wonder what sex toy he named after you? Perhaps the butt plug?

What that tone-deaf statement shows is that Cena is more concerned about a sexual predator who Cena himself help make the billionaire he became, which in turn allowed him to satisfy his sadistic urges, than the women that man went on to abuse. Where is your sympathy for the victim John? If Janel Grant was named Shay Shariatzadeh (his wife for those who don’t know), would you feel the same way? What if it had been one of your brothers who were part of the ring crew during that scandal and Vince covered it up, would you still want to show him love and support then?

The fact of the matter is, Vince McMahon’s legacy is dead. His entire history is gone because he doesn’t deserve to be remembered as anything other than a monster, a rapist and a narcissist who profited off the hard work of others, who exploited his wrestlers even after their deaths and who refused to take any accountability for his actions. As I said, he is a great marketer, but that’s it. The wrestlers had to buy into his idea, the fans had to pay money to go see it, the production crew had to make it look good and an entire team of people had to work hard for very little money and recognition for their contribution in order for everything to happen the way it did.

This is my message to all the old men who worked for Vince and feel the need to justify their positive thoughts on him: don’t. I’m not denying you the right to be shocked or to be hurt by finding out what this man truly is, but now that the truth is out there, it’s time to come to terms with the fact that you helped. Stop defending him, or trying to justify why he should still be remembered. I am by no means blaming people who worked for WWE or those who were close to McMahon. Just ask yourselves this, if the shoe was on the other foot, would Vince do the same for you now that you’re no longer useful to him?


I will end Part 1 here as I have a lot more to say. Join me next week as we move away from Vince and into a more general look at old vs. young and where the middle ground lies. Follow me on Twitter @steamyrv