Just about every wrestling fans knows WWE is off the rails in the modern era, and most of the blame falls on the CEO and owner of the company, Vince McMahon. Another piece of knowledge fans share is that McMahon has likewise been slowly losing grasp of everything that once made his product great, producing a sterilized, corporate version of what he thinks sports entertainment is supposed to be, rather than offering the real deal. McMahon’s always held a reputation for over scripting certain segments and demanding his announcers repeat but buzz words, yet recently he’s been taking the idea way too far.
Roughly one decade ago, notes purportedly written by Vince for his commentary team were leaked to the Internet, including a long list of sayings, idioms, or even plain old regular words he didn’t want them to ever say. Anecdotal evidence would imply that list also applies to the entire WWE roster, and McMahon is none too pleased when his employees use an expression he’s not keen on. Of course, this can be hard, since some of McMahon’s least favorite expressions are integral to centuries of wrestling history. Try and figure out what the heck Vince McMahon was thinking by reading on and learning 15 words or phrases he allegedly banned from WWE.
Kicking things off with one of Vince McMahon’s strangest paradoxes, the most successful wrestling promoter in history doesn’t like it when his employees are called wrestlers. Despite the fact their main job is wrestling and the company’s name also contains the word, McMahon prefers his talent get called WWE superstars. It’s important that WWE is there, too, because without it, there would have been a lost branding opportunity. In the interest of fairness, we’ll point out there’s nothing particularly wrong with McMahon trademarking a special word for his wrestlers. On the other hand, this hardly changes the fact they are indeed wrestlers, wrestling matches in a wrestling ring. Fans probably wouldn’t mind too much if McMahon allowed both phrases and simply had a preference for his term over the more traditional one, but banning it outright has left people scratching their heads for years.
Back in 1979, WWE decided a second major title was needed to compliment the WWE World Championship. After dabbling with the idea of a North American Championship, the McMahons decided to slightly change things and crown Pat Patterson as the first Intercontinental Champion. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, as outside of wrestling, the word intercontinental typically only relates to hotels and flights. Even ignoring convention, the word doesn’t really apply, as the Intercontinental Champion doesn’t defend outside of America any more than the other WWE titleholders. Nonetheless, Vince decided it was going to be the Intercontinental title, and so Intercontinental title it remains, even if a word like International would sound a whole lot more appropriate. To make sure no one catches he error, he appears to have banned the word International outright.
When wrestler A and wrestler B don’t get along, they have a match. Should this not be enough to settle their differences, they’ll have a second match. By the time a third match is in the question, there also usually plenty of insults getting hurled around, making it an all out war. In typical wrestling parlance, one would call this a feud, and yet “feud” happens to be one of the words on McMahon’s list of phrases to avoid. It isn’t as though the wrestling industry invented the word feud, or that it has anything to do with kayfabe in general, making it an extremely curious contention for the boss to have. The absolute only theory we can draw is that the word maybe sounds a little bit violent, although that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, either, considering McMahon owns an industry based around fictional violence.
Most of the items on this list are examples of Vince McMahon abusing his power in weird and eccentric ways, but a select few of them actually reveal small bits of his genius. McMahon’s decree that neither his wrestlers nor announcers should refer to the audience as “fans” is a fairly common concept in broadcast media, with a preferred term being to refer to the audience as “you.” Of course, McMahon tweaks it a bit whenever he sees a branding opportunity, also appreciating it greatly when Michael Cole or JBL call the audience by their full name, the WWE Universe. Also, there’s the issue that knowing Vince and his quirks, this could have nothing to do with mainstream convention whatsoever. For all we know, McMahon is worried people will think his performers are talking to the machines cooling his arenas.
11. House Show
Certain aspects of kayfabe are rarely said out in the open, yet 90% of the wrestling audience has figured them out by now. For example, the word kayfabe, which surprisingly is not on this list, presumably because wrestlers should all know better than to break that decades old concept. The phrase “house show” is banned, however, largely because it exposes there’s a difference between the content seen on television and that seen when cameras aren’t rolling. Our intention is hardly to denigrate untelevised WWE live events for being of a lower quality, as the matches on them can often be pretty great in and of themselves when the talent puts in the work. The fact remains that nothing of note ever happens on them, though, and McMahon doesn’t want his staff spouting out a phrase with that sort of connotation.
Now things are starting to get a little silly. It’s easy enough to accept McMahon wanting to brand everything and hide some of the more blatantly scripted aspects of his show. The man wants to make money, and these concepts could theoretically go towards that goal. That said, there is absolutely nothing to gain in hiding the fact a bunch of stuff going on behind the entranceway before WWE superstars head towards the ring. In fact, WWE constantly cuts to the backstage area throughout their shows, informing fans of what’s happening there. The only catch is announcers are instructed to be very specific, saying it’s a wrestler’s locker room, or someone’s office. Given the prevalence of this word, McMahon isn’t as strict with it as some others, but it nonetheless was one of his banned phrases.
9. Title Shot
If anyone reading this article is starting to shake their heads and wonder what the heck Vince McMahon is thinking sometimes, don’t worry—you’re in good company. No less a source than WWE Hall of Famer and legendary linguist Mick Foley happens to be right there with the complainants, with one specific story he told on Lilian Garcia’s podcast standing out as an egregious example of McMahon’s madness. In the early days of Braun Strowman’s push, Foley overheard him filming a promo where he demanded a “title shot.” Immediately, McMahon cut the tape, screamed in fury, and started angrily correcting Strowman’s clearly terrible mistake. What did Braun do wrong? Well, he said title SHOT, when he should have said title MATCH. Foley rightfully called the experience a ridiculous sight to see, and that’s not even mentioning a similar word McMahon has had a problem with for years…
Continuing the thought about Braun Strowman’s faux pas of a request in asking for a “title shot,” we hesitate to imagine how horribly things could have gone did Strowman dare ask for a shot at the “belt.” Despite the fact that, literally speaking, every single championship in WWE is indeed presented in belt form, McMahon has long despised the idea of his pieces of gold getting referred to as such. Fans of the Attitude Era and earlier will find this especially odd, as back then, a heel champion winning a match via a good old fashioned belt shot to the head was commonplace, and that was pretty much how Jim Ross would describe it. In one sense, it is understandable that McMahon wants it known his championships are prestigious and more than mere belts, but he has to face facts and accept that people wear those prestigious prizes around their waists.
7. “On The Line”
With how persnickety this list proves Vince McMahon is when it comes to choosing his words carefully, it isn’t surprising he would ban an idiom that doesn’t make much sense. Everyone knows what people say when something is “on the line,” the same way they could recognize “up for grabs.” In WWE parlance, nine times out of ten it means one superstar is putting their championship against another, and the object in question is a title, wait no belt, er, make that the championship. Reasonably enough, what this means is Vince prefers his talent not say “the title is on the line,” but rather “the champion is defending his gold,” or vice versa, that the challenger is challenging for it. Of course, the mere fact it makes sense doesn’t make it sound any more natural when a person actually tries to say it out loud.
Anyone looking to save time can skip ahead from this entry at the first sentence, because there’s really nothing different about it from the fact Vince banned “feud.” Picking another entirely innocuous f word, McMahon also isn’t a fan of the word “faction,” despite the fact it has little to do with the wrestling business and simply describes a basic concept. For those who don’t know, a faction is pretty much any group of more than two people banded together. Wrestling also sometimes calls this a stable in honor of the Four Horsemen, and there are probably a few reasons McMahon doesn’t love that word, either. However, those reasons relate to history and kayfabe, and thus make a little bit of sense. The word faction isn’t even violent, and thus we’re forced to take back what we said about it being the same as “feud,” because somehow it’s even dumber.
Of all the terms and utterances on this list, we have to admit nothing wrong the fact Vince McMahon doesn’t want the word “acrobatics” on his product. Indeed, much of what the WWE superstars do inside the squared circle could be described with the word, especially the smaller cruiserweight performers. Any move that starts with climbing the jump rope or flying through the sky has a touch of Cirque du Soleil to it, and yet making the comparison so flagrantly almost trivializes the story WWE is trying to sell. Acrobatics are flashy and in a way beautiful, but the intention is not in any way to maim or hurt the people they are performed with. The same is true of wrestling, of course, but the entire point of the industry is convincing fans of the opposite. Naturally, using a word that prevents that ability is out of the question.
Believe it or not, there are a handful of rare cases where Vince McMahon is actually doing a favor to the community by banning some of these words from WWE. All right, this example happens to be the only such one, and it happens to be pretty funny. Generally speaking, when a wrestler is sent to some kayfabe place that theoretically could exist in the real world, like a police station or especially a hospital, McMahon doesn’t want his broadcasters naming that establishment on television. He doesn’t even want them to say the word “hospital,” lest his fans look up which one could be closest to the arena. The reason isn’t solely to protect his own illusion, but also because in rare occasions where a hospital was named, they inevitably got flooded with calls from WWE fans.
3. Granddaddy Of Them All
At 71 years young, Vince McMahon should be pretty used to being called old by now. When it comes to the word grandpa, he’s been one since 2004, and now has six grandchildren total. When it comes to his WWE Universe, though, McMahon is perhaps justified in wanting things to sound fresh and current, which is why he has specifically banned announcers from referring to WrestleMania as the “Granddaddy of Them All.” Quite frankly, it’s a little weird Vince felt the need to do this, since it was WCW/NWA Starrcade that was more synonymous with the expression. That said, once he swallowed WCW into his empire, he did earn their trademarks, and if he felt strongly enough about this to make an official decree, it’s all fair game.
That’s it. We give up. There is no way any explanation could possibly justify why the word “interesting” made an appearance on Vince McMahon’s list of banned expressions. Webster’s Dictionary defines the word as holding one’s attention or arousing interest, two things WWE should strive to accomplish with their every segment should they intend to make fans stick around. Is the word a little vague? Maybe. But reproachable in any way, shape, or form? Absolutely not. Interesting is basically a synonym for good, at least insofar as scripted entertainment is concerned, and demanding the concept erase from WWE is counterintuitive to the promotion continuing to exist. Granted, it’s not as though WWE can’t still be interesting without being called such, but given how the company is going these days, it feels like McMahon doesn’t want that, either.
1. Professional Wrestling
Whatever, man. Vince McMahon, the owner of World Wrestling Entertainment, the largest professional wrestling company in the world for over three decades, hates the phrase “professional wrestling.” Does it even matter? The man clearly possesses a locution all his own, and his dying effort is getting people to start talking and thinking the way he does before his time expires. At first, McMahon didn’t like pro wrestling for branding reasons, wanting to put over sports entertainment and his WWE superstars. By the modern era, though, it seems like McMahon is making things up as he goes along and doing whatever it takes to reaffirm he’s still the most powerful man in the industry. What industry is that, exactly? Whatever the hell he wants to call it. And you’ll call it that, too. He’s Vince McMahon, damn it.
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