The SEC at Work: Is the Investigation of Fake Wrestling Real?

The SEC at Work: Is the Investigation of Fake Wrestling Real?

On the evening of June 15, 2009, on the television broadcast Monday Night Raw, World Wrestling Entertainment C.E.O. Vince McMahon announced that he had sold the Raw brand to Donald Trump. This is what is known in wrestling parlance as a “work,” or a scripted piece of outside-the-ring drama that is played by the participants as if it is real.
 
In the days that followed the broadcast, bloggers began to report that in the wake of Mr. McMahon’s announcement, certain legitimate news outlets reported the sale as real and the price of WWE stock fell by as much as 8 percent. The SEC was supposedly investigating the legality of the fabricated sale. This was allegedly why, on the subsequent Raw production the following Monday, McMahon “bought” the Raw franchise back from Trump, bringing a prompt end to a story-line that was originally set to run all summer.
 
I heard all this on the radio and decided to look into it for myself. However, I could find very little mention of the alleged SEC “investigation” outside of wrestling-themed blogs. Every time I clicked a link purporting to contain the truth of the situation, I was greeted with photos and video of overly-muscled men with face paint and mullet haircuts engaging in pantomimed fisticuffs. Obviously, the veracity of the reporting was in serious doubt. Concerned that LexisNexis’ H.R. department might be curious as to why I was surfing Wrestling blogs on company time, I curtailed my research rather quickly.
 
What confused me was that these wrestling bloggers were not part of the original work: they were commenting on the work and fully acknowledging it as such. But their commentary seemed to be fake also, a viral internet work overlaying the original trumped-up (forgive the terrible pun) story-line. Yet although the sources were highly questionable, the reasoning seemed sound. And while I had very little on which to base my own assumptions it did seem like the WWE was cutting a rather major story-line short. Adding to my confusion was the fact that McMahon is the actual CEO of the WWE and a character in the show. The character he plays: Vince McMahon, CEO of the WWE.
 
Basically I could no longer tell where truth ended and fiction began. For a moment I felt like the protagonist in a Philip K. *** short story: reality and fantasy were completely blurred. Who was the man behind the Tony Clifton makeup: Andy Kaufman or his writer Bob Zmuda? For that briefest of picoseconds I was Neo finding out he was actually little more than a biological battery and the world he knew was just the Matrix, or Alice, tumbling down the professional wrestling rabbit hole.
 
This was a rabbit hole I had ventured down before, albeit many years ago. From approximately the age of 10 to 12 years, I was a diehard wrestling fan. I watched it every Saturday afternoon on TV and even attended a few matches in person. At that time, wrestling fans either did not know or chose not to acknowledge, that it was fake. We had no idea what a “work” was, and we did not wish to know. My friends and I performed an interesting feat of mental gymnastics to account for what our eyes, and skeptical parents, were telling us: the actual wrestling moves were not real, but the outcome of the matches was undecided. Therefore it was not ridiculous to get excited over the result. 
 
In sum, we believed pro wrestling was like chess. When a grandmaster’s knight takes his or her opponent’s bishop, a little man astride a horse does not physically draw a broadsword and lop the head off of an equally tiny church official. However, that does not make the grandmaster’s strategic decision to use the knight to take the bishop any less valid. It was as if Greg “The Hammer” Valentine would meet the Iron Sheik in the locker room after a match and say, “your decision to counter my Figure Four Leg Lock with an Atomic Elbow…BRILLIANT; I did not see that one coming. Well played, sir!”
 
It seems reality has always been a vague and amorphous concept for World Wrestling Entertainment, and that this is the intended result. In fact, the corporation owes its very success to this elusiveness. However, whether the SEC is investigating the WWE or not (and I am currently leaning towards “not”), Vince McMahon, who is both a part of the show and the head of the corporation, needs to make sure future “works” do not draw actual regulatory attention.