How Linda McMahon’s WWE ‘Handled’ The Undertaker’s Heat

All of today’s talk about Linda McMahon’s Senate campaign entourage handlers reminds me of how her company, World Wrestling Entertainment, handles spontaneity.

Occasionally at WWE television tapings, a wrestler screws up his lines in an interview, or the planned “finish” of a match doesn’t go well. When that happens, they just re-shoot it. The difference between a political campaign and wrestling is that, in the latter, there are thousands of people eagerly telling “the rest of the story” on scores of forums in the fan blogosphere.

Then, for those of you who haven’t heard, there’s the incident from this Sunday’s “Elimination Chamber” pay-per-view show from St. Louis, which illuminated – literally – the demands of the McMahons’ industry, as well as identifying the people who bear the occupational health and safety risks in its service.

In the midst of the elaborate production number that was his ring entrance, Mark Calloway, who plays “The Undertaker,” very nearly met the real one when a mistimed release of pyrotechnics engulfed him in flames. Some of the people at the arena, but almost no one watching at home, could tell something was amiss when Calloway threw off his jacket and hat, abandoned his next entrance spot, and doused himself with water. A show-must-go-on trooper, Calloway not only went through with his main-event match but even refused to shorten it from the planned half-hour length.

A later medical examination showed first- and second-degree burns on The Undertaker’s chest and neck. WWE flack Robert Zimmerman said, “Thank God he was fine. It basically amounted to a sunburn.” Yeah, right. Lather up with a little SPF 6,000 next time, Mark.

Wasn’t it Harry Truman who said, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the squared circle”?

Irv Muchnick

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February 2010

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