They roared as “Triple H” — U.S. Senate hopeful Linda McMahon’s son-in-law — pounded his opponent in the ring. They cheered as her husband Vince urged them to wear their World Wrestling Entertainment T-shirts to the polls on Tuesday. They whooped and hollered for the busty “Divas” who stomped their rival hussies. Then the diehards of World Wrestling nation filed out of the arena—some of them, at least, promising to vote for the candidate herself on Tuesday.
The wrasslin’ and unstated politickin’ took center stage Saturday, just three days before Election Day, at the Hartford XL Center.
Saturday’s World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) “Fan Appreciation Day” was not billed as a political rally. But some of the fans being appreciated made no distinction between Linda McMahon the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate—who faces Democrat Richard Blumenthal in the electoral ring Tuesday—and Linda McMahon the celebrity former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment.
At 3 p.m, thousands of people piled into the arena for two and a half hours of simulated combat between the stars of WWE, including Triple H, McMahon’s son-in-law. The event was billed as a special reduced-price wrestling show for WWE’s loyal followers. The entrance fee of $10 or $20 bought a seat for multiple body-slamming bouts, punctuated by giveaways of autographed paraphernalia, and a dance competition between two teams of “Divas.”
Linda McMahon’s husband, current WWE CEO Vince McMahon (pictured), made an appearance to thank the fans and speak out against the “politicians” and “elitists” whom he said have been ridiculing and lying about about professional wrestling.
Did someone say “Dick Blumenthal”? Not Vince.
Nor did he—or any one else in the ring—mention his wife’s name. In fact, fans were discouraged from displaying political signs of any kind.
That didn’t stop Hampton’s Todd Haddad (pictured) from waving a big blue “Linda” sign from his seat. He was one of a couple of ringside spectators who did so.
“I’ve been donating to her campaign since 1984,” said Haddad. That’s how long he’s been a fan of WWE, and, as he sees it, supporting Linda McMahon through his support of her company.
Haddad noted that the event in the state capital was being held just three days before the election on Nov. 2. “The election’s Tuesday and she’s bringing in her” wrestlers, he said.
“It’s almost like a rally for her,” Haddad said.
Haddad said he’s a registered Republican, but he’s never gotten involved in a campaign before.
That’s also true of Saturday’s other ringside campaigner, Jeff Kokiel. He was sitting in the front row next to Wendy Cyr. They’ve been together for 11 years and have that many years of pay-per-view wrestling events on tape.
Kokiel said he usually doesn’t pay attention to politics or politicians since “they’re all crooks.” But he plans to vote for McMahon on Tuesday. He said he sees her as “somebody to vote for that’s different.”
Kokiel made his comments during intermission, after three one-on-one matches and the 24-man “battle royal” (pictured) that began the show.
The first half also include a dance-off between “WWE Divas.” Two groups of provocatively dressed women entered the ring, one friendly and positive, the other haughty and cold. The women took turns showing off their mostly tame dance moves. By audience applause, a member of the first group won the competition.
That prompted a brief and furious fistfight, which ended with the haughty group sent out of the ring, their high-heels thrown after them.
Some have complained about the WWE’s portrayal of women. But one mom who was in town from Boston for the show said during intermission that she had no problem with the Divas’ dance-off. “The Divas wouldn’t do it if they didn’t want to.”
She told her 14-year-old daughter that she could see her being a diva, since she’s “scrappy.”
Vince McMahon stepped into the ring after the divas departed. “You may think I am here to talk politics,” Vince McMahon said, “but nothing could be further from the truth.”
He encouraged WWE fans to vote on Tuesday and to “feel free to wear a WWE T-shirt” to the polls. He also urged them to “Stand up for WWE.” Professional wrestling has been given a bad rap, he said. “We’ve been subject to ridicule by elitists,” he said. Those “elitists” would like to tell people what they should and shouldn’t watch on TV, he said. He asked fans “to stand up for what you want to watch ... for what you think is appropriate for your family to watch.”
The audience cheered and rose to its feet as the house lights came up, heavy metal music kicked in, and McMahon stood on the bottom rope to wave to the fans.
The wrestling show ended the same way it began, with a couple dozen wrestlers pummeling each other in the ring. McMahon’s son-in-law Triple H (pictured) was one of the last standing in the ring.
As fans began to filter out, WWE spokesman Robert Zimmerman said Fan Appreciation Day was in no way intended to be a political event. It came together when WWE discovered it could get the XL Center on a Saturday, between a show in Massachusetts and one in Bridgeport on Tuesday.
Vince McMahon’s comments and the “Stand Up For WWE” campaign are meant to combat “everything negative that’s been said about the brand” over the last year, Zimmerman said.
The event was not designed to pull votes for Linda McMahon, he said. In fact many WWE enthusiasts are Democrats, he said. “You ask them. I don’t know how they’re voting.”
Brothers Jerry and Tony Negron (left and right in photo) said they’re voting for McMahon. Jerry was leaving the center with wrestler John Cena’s own T-shirt, which he’d tossed into the seats and into Jerry’s outstretched hands.
Jerry asked to be reminded whom McMahon is running against, then said “Blumenthal, if he will win, Connecticut will go down.”
“This is Linda’s state,” he said. Both brothers said that WWE and the McMahon family are synonymous with Connecticut.
“Vince loves Connecticut. You can’t beat Connecticut,” Jerry said.
Asked why he’s voting for McMahon, Jerry said, “She cares about the people. She doesn’t ignore the people. She’s a family person.”
“She’s bringing jobs,” he said. He said he recently went through two jobs and now works at Bridgeport Hospital.
“This is like Thanksgiving,” said Rosa Smith, who was getting ready to leave with her family, all of whom said they love WWE. She said she’s going to vote for McMahon on Tuesday. She said she likes McMahon as a candidate, but it’s intertwined with her love of WWE.
Gabriel Rivera (at right in photo) and Jonathan Roman (at left) said they’re voting for McMahon. At first, his support came from being a wrestling fan, Rivera said. But after seeing all McMahon’s ads, his stance became more political, he said. He said he likes that she’s for creating jobs.
“Everything she said is right,” Roman said. “We do need more jobs.”
New Havener Brandon Stovall (center background in photo) bought a $20 autographed picture of wrestler Big Show for 9-year-old Julius Dixon (center foreground). He said he hadn’t decided whom he was going to vote for on Tuesday. Informed that McMahon is running for U.S. Senate, he made his mind up on the spot. “She has my support then,” he said. “Just because I’ve been a fan of wrestling all my life. If she’s on the ballot, I’ll vote for her.”
Outside the doors of the arena, Mike Thompson (pictured) of Branford was handing out “Linda” buttons after watching the show. “I like all her policies,” he said. “She knows how to create jobs. Plus, Blumenthal’s a liar.”
Antonio Reyes of Hartford passed by on his way out, wearing a navy blue “Linda” hat and T-Shirt. The 31-year-old said he’s been a wrestling fan for 25 years.
He said Fan Appreciation Day was not a political event at all. “I understand it’s three days before the election,” he said. “I believe they’re separate.”
posted by: Cedarhillresident on October 31, 2010 10:39am
Are you f*cking kidding me!
Sorry but my right to vote and my country mean more to me than this circus! Grant it, I am aware that it is always a bit of a circus, but this is a slap in the face to those of us that think our right to vote is one of our most important rights. And to turn it into nothing more than a sad reality show truly saddens me
THIS COUNTRY SHOULD NOT BE FOR SALE TO THOSE WHO CAN AFFORD IT! because the rest of us will, in the end reap the rath!
posted by: dallas daniel hessler junior on October 31, 2010 12:38pm
it should b coed matches
posted by: robn on October 31, 2010 12:50pm
A moment of factliness…. before it goes completely down the memory hole…
When George W Bush took office (joining his already 6 year reigning GOP controlled Congress) the national debt was $5.7T. 8 years later when he left office (after having begun the bailout…not Obama but him) it was $10.6T. So in other words he just about created more national debt than all other prior presidents combined, and left a huge stinker on the carpet of the White House for the next occupant. So much for the conservative myth of the GOP’s own conservatism.
When you go to the polls just remember, if the Democrats look dirty, its only because they’re trying to pull us all out of a hole that was dug by the GOP.
posted by: William Kurtz on October 31, 2010 2:34pm
. . . he made his mind up on the spot. “She has my support then,” he said. “Just because I’ve been a fan of wrestling all my life. If she’s on the ballot, I’ll vote for her.”
. . . “She cares about the people. She doesn’t ignore the people. She’s a family person.”
. . . usually doesn’t pay attention to politics or politicians since “they’re all crooks.” But he plans to vote for McMahon on Tuesday. He said he sees her as “somebody to vote for that’s different.”
How encouraging to see so many well-thought out political philosophies on display among the fan base of the WWE.
Yes, you could say the same thing about people who voted for President Obama and could only offer platitudes about “hope” and “change” when asked why they supported him. But the McMahon’s shameless commercial pandering is an entirely different league.
I’m wary of infringing on first amendment rights, and it seems Mr. McMahon won his lawsuit (regarding WWE clothing at the polls) fair and square. But I fear that we will remember this moment as the one where the line between celebrity and public servant, between real-life and fiction became hopelessly blurred.
Politics and government aren’t wrestling, people. If that’s elitist, well then please pass me the argula.
posted by: City Hall II on October 31, 2010 3:31pm
Your site has always remained child appropriate and Kosher, these photos were a set back folks at NHI. I love your site and appreciate all your tireless reporting but these photos lost the taste of the class that NHI has and deserves.
posted by: high horse on October 31, 2010 3:47pm
William Kurtz “But I fear that we will remember this moment as the one where the line between celebrity and public servant, between real-life and fiction became hopelessly blurred.”
Ronald Reagan Any Kennedy Sonny Bono Jesse venturo
Just to name a few. The lines were not only blurred a long time ago, they were completely erased.
...This is America, where any legal born non incarcerated over 18 (over 35 for President), man or woman, disabled or not, black, white or Hispanic person can run for office. It is elitist for you or any other person to question the motives or reasons of any other person’s choice.
posted by: robn on October 31, 2010 4:27pm
You call it elitist…I call it, for lack of a better word… non-jackasstic
posted by: Chicwa on October 31, 2010 4:53pm
Be afraid, be very afraid….
posted by: William Kurtz on October 31, 2010 6:07pm
I’m not questioning their motives; I’m criticizing them as immature and ill-considered. One of the people profiled didn’t even know she was running, and another had no idea who she was running against.
posted by: Get off the high horse on October 31, 2010 7:03pm
Robn—“I call it, for lack of a better word… non-jackasstic”
William— “I’m not questioning their motives; I’m criticizing them as immature and ill-considered. One of the people profiled didn’t even know she was running, and another had no idea who she was running against.”
Merriam-Webster Dictionary Elitism: the selectivity of the elite; especially : snobbery
Snob: : one who has an offensive air of superiority in matters of knowledge or taste
Sound familiar? If the word fits, wear it proudly!!!
Yep, the non-billionaires commenting on local issues that effect them are definitely the elitists in this equation.
posted by: Threefifths on October 31, 2010 8:44pm
posted by: Cedarhillresident on October 31, 2010 11:39am
THIS COUNTRY SHOULD NOT BE FOR SALE TO THOSE WHO CAN AFFORD IT! because the rest of us will, in the end reap the rath!
It has already been sold.Vote Teletubies.
Theodore Dreiser—“The government has ceased to function, the corporations are the government.
posted by: Cedarhillresident on November 1, 2010 6:02am
non-jackasstic :) Love it!
It is a much more scary time for our country than some people seem to realize. If the republicans had a much more realistic candidate they may have got some votes. the linda vote is counting on people that have no clue how important this election really is for them. I pray to god I do not get the chance to say I told you so. My son likes WWE and he is in his early 20’s but even he knows that we need the dem’s in office to get this country back on track. All the BS but out there is to confuse the voters and saddly it is working.
GOD BLESS AMERICA! vote smart, vote for the DEM"S
posted by: Bill on November 1, 2010 6:36am
Hey Robn ...
President Bush presided over a $2.5 trillion increase in the public debt through 2008. President Obama’s budget would add $7.5 trillion in public debt from the beginning of 2009 through 2016.
posted by: William Kurtz on November 1, 2010 6:36am
Immature : lacking complete growth, differentiation, or development
As to the charge of snobbery, well, regarding superiority in knowledge (“Just because I’ve been a fan of wrestling all my life. If she’s on the ballot, I’ll vote for her.”), Q.E.D.
Cedarhillresident already mentioned Idiocracy. Here’s some more good readingt about the dangerous rise of ignorance, superstition, and pseudo-science in contemporary culture.
posted by: robn on November 1, 2010 6:50am
Bush doubled the national debt from $5.7T. to $10.6T. He began the TARP (bailout) and left a huge mess to mop up which is exactly why we’re spending so much money now (I concede the point about spending but not about responsibility.)
posted by: high horse on November 1, 2010 6:54am
Please keep writing, with every word you type you reinforce my point. Thanks for making me look like a genius (in a non elite sort of way).
n the first independent analysis, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded that President Obama’s budget would rack up massive deficits even after the economy recovers, forcing the nation to borrow nearly $9.3 trillion over the next decade.
By the way the TARP bailout were loans, most of which have been paid back and did NOT add to the deficit unlike the so called stimulus.
posted by: Bill on November 1, 2010 9:27am
For those naive democrats who still believe the financial crisis was caused by the republicans you can view this and see how the democrats stopped and reform that could have prevented the financial crisis.
Ahhh I love it, lib…s still blaming GW…. 2 years later. How’s that hope and change workin’ out for ya??? I am not saying Bush was perfect but this gem we got now just thinks if we keep throwing money around the problems will all just disappear. Note none of the liberals will trace the mortgage crisis back to the Clinton administration, and what is one of the biggest factors that got this whole recession rolling?? Don’t be a lib… and buy into the propaganda… Get out and vote… If you want real change vote republican…
I stand by my numbers. Rather than argue back and forth, I’ll leave you with this. After several years with the densest number of minority GOP partisan filibusters ever and the most party line votes against many steeply compromised bills, I’m looking forward to having the GOP in the drivers seat of the House for another couple of years so they’re afforded no more cover or deniability. Hopefully Americans will see just how destructive they really are.
posted by: Cedarhillresident on November 1, 2010 2:47pm
here here robn,
Reality…they go back we are screwed but at least they will NEVER be able to blame the dem’s anymore..and I say all Rep’s get to pay for our way out of it!
posted by: robn on November 1, 2010 5:37pm
“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, GOP
posted by: Larry Conger on November 1, 2010 5:40pm
One question, will any wrestler be fired if he or she DOESN’T vote for McMahon? My guess is YES!! ...
posted by: William Kurtz on November 1, 2010 5:50pm
... for the record, I am not criticizing Mrs. McMahon’s supporters in and of themselves—just the astonishing lack of forethought and deliberation displayed by some of the people profiled in this story. Interestingly enough, there was a lot of similar criticism from the political right leveled at people with stars in their eyes who supported President Obama in 2008.
posted by: terrapin on November 1, 2010 7:38pm
You bet I’m an elitist. Because if you are voting for Linda because she’s played a part in bringing you professional wrestling, then you ARE a frigging moron.
posted by: GW on November 1, 2010 8:44pm
Ahhhh delusional liberals….... Rest assured the rep’s will pay for our way out of this. We are the ones working while the ” dem” voting base sits on there backsides leaching off “the system” of government handouts!!!! Pay we do, pay we will…we always will… That’s the way it works
posted by: robn on November 2, 2010 8:22am
You’re being far too generous. Convincing oneself that centrist candidate is either right wing or left wing (when that candidate happens to be just slightly right or left of center) is far different than voting for someone because they throw a kick-ass faux-wrestling shin-dig.
That being said, let the people speak (smartly or stupidly)....if we get a knucklehead in office then our system of representative democracy has told us something.
posted by: Wicked Lester on November 2, 2010 11:58am
Pro-wrestling is the perfect metaphor for politics. Both feature supposed “good guys” vs “bad guys” who beat each other up in public, then laugh all the way to the bank arm in arm on our money.
posted by: ROBN on November 2, 2010 12:44pm
You are very wicked indeed!
posted by: Not yet Nuts on November 3, 2010 10:36am
Why are you reporting this garbage that by no stretch of my imagination can be deemed newsworthy? I expect more appropriate journalism from you. Are you pandering? Whazzup?