Pro Wrestling: Sporting Phenomenon of the '90s

Tim Byars (
Thu, 7 Jan 1999 22:06:57 -0800

Aired January 5, 1999 - 4:27 p.m. ET

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: I know you were glued to the Fiesta Bowl last night,
but it was not the only big sporting event last night. In fact it may not
have even been the biggest.

DONNA KELLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, there was just as fierce a battle being
fought here in Atlanta.

And CNN's Brian Cabell, pinned right in the middle of it.


BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the entertainment
phenomenon of the '90s. A billion dollar industry worldwide, a TV ratings
smash, a sport, of sorts, that draws more teenage male viewers than "Monday
Night Football" or World Series Baseball.

UNIDENTIFIED MALES: Hogan sucks! Hogan sucks!

CABELL: But the fans are by no means just young boys.

RIC FLAIR, WRESTLER: College kids, it's huge. I can walk across any college
campus in the country; everyone knows who we are.

CABELL: Guest appearances by celebrities such as Jay Leno and basketball
players Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone indicate that wrestling has hit the
mainstream. Why is it so appealing? Well, it's an extravaganza. It's also
violent, but safely violent, allowing ordinary folks to release pent-up
aggressions. At times, it's even comical: here, a mere finger causes a

really is a soap opera for males, and there are females that watch it, but
there are story lines involved, it's entertaining.

CABELL: And unpredictable. Here the good guy, Bill Goldberg, gets stomped by
the bad guys and loses. The WWF also recently staged a crucifixion.

ERIC BISHCOFF, PRESIDENT, WCW: Oh, they've gone way over the line. In fact,
they've gone so far over the line that it's a little frightening in terms of
the impact that it's going have on the industry.

CABELL: Hogwash, says the WWF, which has garnered better ratings in the last
several weeks than its rival, World Championship Wrestling. The WWF says
it's simply showing more exciting wrestling and stories.

VINCE MCMAHON, OWNER WWF: You'll see a tremendous amount of aggressiveness,
no question about that. You'll see some degree of sexuality. You'll see some
colorful language, but all of that combined doesn't go anywhere near murder,
rape, or robbery.

CABELL: In other words, wrestling has nothing to apologize for, not as long
as the fans fill the arenas and watch the TV shows at home.

Perhaps the most telling sign of wrestling's popularity is the fact that
30,000 people came to this event tonight; the very night that the college
football championship was being decided on TV.

Brian Cabell, CNN, Atlanta.


"All human beings are aware of the same truth. The difference is in the way that we distort it." - Woody Allen, Deconstructing Harry