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 411mania » Wrestling » Columns

The Year In Wrestling: 9/11 Special
Posted by Michael Benjamin on 09.11.2002

Ken Anderson

Daddy I reached for your hand
but you weren't there
I waited Daddy
but you never came home
Where are you daddy?
I need to know.

Mommy says
that you are with the angels now, Daddy
that you have wings of white
I asked her why, Daddy
and she said because you were gone, Daddy

Will you still protect me, Daddy?
Please, oh please Daddy
Hide me from all the bad things
Hide me in your wings
Because Daddy,
I miss you.
Jessica Woodhead
Pennsdale, PA

7 Years Old

*We Will Never Forget*

†The date was September 11th, 2001. I woke up at eight in the morning and readied myself for class, just like I did on every day prior to this windy September morning. I drove to school the same way that I did every day. I stopped at Starbucks. Everything seemed normal and routine as I sat down in an empty desk within a 200 seat auditorium-type classroom. I unzipped my bag, removed my text and notebook, and readied myself for another early morning accounting class. The doors were shut at nine as the professor readied his presentation. And then the phone rang...

†The phone rang a few minutes past nine and what was on the other end of that phone was something that I couldn't shake for months and will NEVER forget. The Professor quickly hung up the phone and turned on the giant wall-sized TV in the front of the room without saying a word to the class about what was said during his conversation. A class of two-hundred watched in silence as live footage was shown of a terrible "accident" which occurred in New York City. Apparently a passenger jet was flying too low and accidentally ran into one of the World Trade Center Towers.††

My professor went against policy and asked anyone interested and willing to say a silent prayer for the victims of this terrible accident. As we readied to pray, screams came shooting from the speakers of the television. We watched in absolute HORROR as a second plane flew directly into the opposite tower right in front of our very eyes. CHAOS erupted in the class room, as many were both in shock and in an absolute panic due to having loved ones working within the now-burning walls of the World Trade Center. The scene which unfolded in the next half an hour was something that I could never describe and something that I've never experienced before in my entire life. When the news of the Pentagon being hit by another plane struck, classes were dismissed and the campus was locked down. Tom Brokaw told us that there were still planes in the air and that it was unclear as to what their targets were.

The only thing I remember over the course of the next few hours are a series of images... images more haunting than anything that Hollywood could ever produce. I remember watching with crying friends as specs of black fell from the burning towers of the World Trade Center. These specs of black weren't documents, they weren't pieces of the aircraft, and they weren't debris. These black specs were lives. One by one we watched the final seconds of human lives slowly slip away. We watched mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, husbands and wives fall into eternity. We watched an elderly couple share one final embrace before holding hands and falling over a hundred stories to their death. We watched the few who didn't jump desperately and helplessly wave anything they could out the broken windows of the Twin Towers in futility. And then it happened.

At 10:05 Eastern Standard Time, the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed. A hundred and ten stories, Fifty Thousand Windows, Twenty Five Thousand Elevator Doors, and well over one and a half million tons of debris would cave in on the thousands of people still trapped within the buildings. The footage is easily the hardest thing I have ever watched. It's just so hard to accept that in that ten seconds it took for both towers to collapse, over two thousand innocent people lost their lives.

The days following the attack are a complete and total haze. For the first time in my life, I was genuinely afraid. The news was overflowing with stories about biological warfare and the very real possibility of America getting attacked with a terrible disease. The internet was buzzing with bullshit predictions and rumors about the "end of the world" which seem ridiculous in retrospect, but at a time like this, they definitely play tricks with your mind...†

It was a time of great uncertainty in the U.S. The American public was in the dark about what exactly had happened, what it meant, and what exactly the future ramifications of the "Day of Terror" would be. It truly was a scene straight out of a nightmare. All I could think about in the days proceeding the attack were how much things had changed in a matter of minutes and how the normal world may never return. Things like school, work, and 411Wrestling suddenly didn't seem to mean ANYTHING in the grand scheme of things.††

I have honestly never been as genuinely uneasy and frightened as I was in the days directly following 9/11. It was almost impossible not to feel that way. EVERY single aspect of this world stopped what it was doing to point directly at the attack on America. I saw my world turn upside-down overnight and daily routine all but disappeared in the days following the attack. I literally felt as if I was cast into a nightmare that I couldn't wake from... Classes stopped, businesses closed, and in one of the most amazingly surreal things I have ever seen, traffic on I-10 halted for MILES as each and every driver on the road exited their car and held a lit candle into the night sky. Around campus, I saw something that I never thought I'd see: a small population of students carrying GAS MASKS to class with them. Reports of people falling sick of Anthrax headlined the world news, and "experts" talked around the clock on seemingly ever channel about how it was only a matter of time before something much, much worse happened...

Flash forward one calendar week. The talk of the country wasn't focused on politics, it wasn't focused on sports, and it sure as hell wasn't focused on wrestling. The country was buzzing with words straight out of a nightmare: Anthrax ... Smallpox... Cropduster... World War 3... The FBI was giving almost daily ominous warnings saying that "We expect to be hit HARD tommorow." Paranoia reached levels not seen since the days of Joseph McCarthy, due to the unsettling fact that men working for the same evil forces as the men responsible for 9/11 had infiltrated OUR country and were walking OUR streets. Racial profiling and discrimination had gone from taboo to tragically widespread literally overnight. The NFL canceled it's games. College Sports STOPPED.††

Vince McMahon no doubt felt horrible about the tragedy that had befallen the nation. Vince McMahon no doubt knew people who died in the attack. But Vince McMahon just could NOT resist taking advantage of the situation, instead of simply taking a step back like the rest of the country and allowing our nation to mourn the loss of three thousand of it's own.††

With that in mind, let's take a look at what would prove to be the most emotionally charged night in WWF history...

WWF Smackdown : WTC Tribute
also known as, "Fuck you Vince, You and your whole damned Family."

A mere two days atter the attack, the WWF went live from the Compaq center in Houston, Texas for Smackdown. While the intentions of the workers and staff were without a doubt touching and admirable, the intentions of Vince McMahon were selfish and despicable. Vince only used the show as yet another way to stroke his massive ego, giving me yet another reminder of why exactly I despise this guy so much.††

In fact, before the Smackdown theme could even begin, Vince McMahon was already marching his way towards the ring, as if he were Abraham Lincoln readying himself to give the Gettysburg Address...

Vince goes through the motions of welcoming the crowd, sending his sympathies to the victims, and saying how proud he is to be an American before finally cutting to the chase... Smackdown is the first major public gathering since the attack. That's right, Vince did it FIRST. For the next thirty seconds or so, Vince basically gave himself the rough equivalent of a verbal blowjob, talking about how the WWF (i.e. Vince) is sending a direct message to the terrorists and how the world was rallying around the WWF, blah blah blah. SHUT UP. Just please, remove yourself from the ring, and SHUT UP. Thanks.... Vince finally removes himself from the ring, waving and smiling as if he's John F Kennedy.††

What followed next was one of the single most emotional moments I've ever seen... anywhere. Ross and Heyman introduce the show as each and every WWF/WCW wrestler, referee, talent agent, ring boy, etc.. make their way onto the ramp for the singing of the national anthem. As Lillian Garcia sings the national anthem, many of the larger-than-life WWF superstars have tears in their eyes. Most hold small American flags and sing along, desperately trying to hold back the tears. As Lillian sings the final lines of the national anthem, the crowd roars to levels that I have personally never heard, as the majority of the arena, talent included, cry tears of pain and loss for the victims of 9/11. It's nearly impossible to convey this scene on paper, but I just watched it for the first time since the week of the attacks, and my God did it ever hit me hard.†

Over the course of the next two hours, dozens of WWF Employees were given a chance to share their thoughts and sympathies with the world. Mixed in were a couple of matches to cheer up the crowd, although none of them really had any long-term significance. In case you're interested, the results were as follows...

Hardyz over Hurricane and Lance Storm†
RVD over Spike†
Jericho over Christian
Rock over Stasiak †
APA over X-Pac/Albert
Booker T over Big Show
Lita over Ivory
Test & Dudleys over Regal, Scotty, and Tajiri
Angle over Rhyno

While the matches themselves were emotionally charged, thanks in all part to the events of two days prior, the real emotion of Smackdown presented itself in the form of short, blue screen monologues by not the wrestlers, but the people behind the wrestlers. The gimmicks and characters were shed in exchange for the living, breathing human behind the entertainer. What came of this was some of the most poignant, heartfelt television that the WWF has EVER produced.

Highlights include...

Steve Austin:"I don't have anything philosophical to say or anything that's gonna change the world. I just know that I was given an opportunity to speak about what's happening, so all I have to offer is my opinion. What I think is the people who did this are a bunch of complete cowards. My heart goes out to anybody that lost loved ones in this whole ordeal. And I think that tonight, by going back to work with the World Wrestling Federation, I think it's, I think it's the thing to do. It feels strange, and I've had this, I've had this bad feeling come over me ever since this whole thing has happened and it doesn't seem like I can shake it. But as a person, and I think as a country I think we have to shake it. We have to mourn the losses of the people that we knew, but we have to, we have to get back - we have to get the gears rolling' again, and that's what we're here to do tonight. What happened this past Tuesday was the worst thing that I've ever seen in my life, and I hope that I never ever see anything like this again, except to the people that get a payback, because they deserve a payback, and they deserve exactly what they have coming..."

Kurt Angle:†" I just want to say that my heart, my thoughts and my prayers go to the victims and their families. And you know, all my life I've always wanted to do something special to be considered an American hero. And after winning the Olympic gold medal at the Olympics, some people would consider me to be an American hero. But after watching this terrible tragedy - now I know who the true American heroes are. They're the police officers and the firemen, and the doctors and nurses, and the paramedics, and all the people that stretched out their arms to help the victims and their families. They're the true American heroes. THEY deserve a gold medal. Or better yet...they earned the right to be called Americans. It's true."

Ricky Santana (Agent): †".. I'm at a loss for words at this point... but I just wanna say on a personally note... To my lovely wife Mimi and to my daughters Nicole and Desiree, everything's gonna be ok... and (cries) Daddy's coming home..."

Terri: †"And what hit me the strongest was... to think about all the children who will not have their Mommies, Daddies, Grandparents, Brothers, Sisters. It breaks my heart that, that this could happen, and in the name of what?"

The Rock: †" I can't fathom or comprehend the pain and the suffering and the anguish that the families and friends of the victims are going through. The workers, working diligently, 24 hours a day, sifting through the rubble and looking for any remnants of life. It's difficult. It's difficult to talk about this and I will say that I can't, I couldn't imagine what it is like to be there. I couldn't imagine. I couldn't imagine if my own family were there. I offer my condolences and certainly say that everyone is in my heart and in my prayers. To everyone out there, to the families and friends of the victims and everyone involved.... stay strong. Stay strong."

Chris Jericho:†"† To be quite honest, I'd rather be in New York City going through the rubble and seeing what I could do to help right now; but since I'm not, maybe, just maybe we can help in a different way. Maybe we can begin with ourselves, and maybe we can learn from this and become a more peaceful nation and a more peaceful race in the long run.... I think it's one thing that we've learned from this is that we never know what's gonna happen tomorrow, in the next five minutes, in the next ten minutes. And maybe above anything else, maybe tonight if we could all just hug our loved one a little bit harder, or give him or her an extra kiss. Be a little bit nicer to a stranger on the street. Be a little more kind, a little more gentle. Our fate and our destiny lies in our hands now..."

Tazz:: †" Ahh, besides the Pentagon and the plane that went down outside of Pittsburgh, and all the bomb scares in New York, it's scary for me right now, to be here in Houston and be this far from my family, my parents live in Staten Island, and my wife and son, I'm just worried, you know, because of all these bomb scares, and I just want to be there to protect them and be there with them and I'm not. I've gotta do what I gotta do and I'm here and I miss her and I miss my son... These people who are responsible for this, they're gonna pay, and they're gonna pay hard. And I don't know who it was, the President or one of these Senator people, they said you know, we're gonna bring them to justice. Well to me that's a load of crap. Don't bring them to justice, bring them down... to their knees, to their stomachs - until they're not breathing. You gotta fight force with force, and that's just what they did... I don't know when I'm going home, but it'll be in New York, that's where my home is, and I can't wait to go home."

Bubba Ray Dudley: † "The one thing I did want to say is that there's an old saying: 'That which does not kill us makes us stronger.' A lot of people died, but you can't kill America, and you can't kill American spirit. Somebody's gonna pay for this, and I hope it's soon.

Ivory:†" ...I want to speak to the young Americans of our country: the children. I don't want you to be afraid, and I don't want you to be judgmental. I just want the children to know that there are far, far more good people in this country and in this world than there are bad. America is made up of people of all creeds and all religions, of all different beliefs, and that's what makes our country so wonderful, so diverse, and so free. As a country we are going to embrace this tragedy. We will embrace it, and remember it, and its devastation and its cruelty is what will challenge all of us to become a stronger, more connected human race.

Bradshaw:† " You know, I have heard and I have seen the cowardly acts that have happened before. The extermination of Jews by some maniac in Germany. The bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City by some maniac. And now some maniac has attacked America - attacked innocent men, women and children...husbands, fathers, parents...all because of some religious belief, or some other motive that he has. These people had nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with you. We're running this show tonight because we're gonna show you that you cannot break, you cannot even bend the fiber, the backbone of the United States of America. There's gonna be some critics. There's gonna be some critics that wonder why we run this show. I wanna make this perfectly clear: go to hell. We're doing this show because we love America. This is all we have to give you for tonight is this, is this evening. If I had to, I'd give my life, readily, for this country. I have relatives who have done that, who are buried overseas, who are buried in many different places. I would do the same thing 'cause I love this great country. George W. was one of the greatest governors of the state of Texas - it's time he become - it's time he will become a great president. You guys who are out there, we're gonna find your ass. We're gonna make whatever country's hiding you into a stinking parking lot. God bless this country - God bless this great state I live in, and God rest the sorry son of a (beep) that did this. We will find you."

Lance Storm:† " You know, I've spent the better part of the day trying to come up with the right words... but I've realised that there aren't any. They don't exist. I've watch the news, the attack on America, things like this shouldn't happen in the US, but things like this shouldn't happen in the world, and it's an attack on the world. I'm not an American, I don't live in this country...yet this affects my life. I'm a husband, I'm a father, and from now on every day I step on a plane to come to work...my wife, my kids - they're gonna worry about me. Every day I'm not home, to tuck my kids into bed, kiss my wife good night - I'm gonna worry about them. Make no mistakes about it, you know, this is not an attack on America...this is an attack on the world. It affects us all. And...just very sad day that...I don't think I'll ever forget.

Lilian Garcia:† "Well, to say the least, this has been a real roller coaster of a week. And especially because I live in New York City. Um, I have loved ones there, and I'm just very fortunate and very glad that a specific one didn't get to go to his meeting at 8:30 in the morning that he was supposed to be at at the Twin Towers, and uh...so I thank God for that, and I still don't know about a lot of my friends. I have...uh, we'll be finding out, I guess, little by little. I pray for everybody there..."

WWF Smackdown: WTC Tribute II
"Daddy's Little Bitch."
One more WWF "SuperStar" spoke out on this September evening in regards to her thoughts on the terrorist attacks that claimed 3,000+ American lives, and that "SuperStar" was Stephanie McMahon. Stephanie McMahon, probably in direct response to the goading of the asshole disguised as her father, gave one of the single most offensive interviews in the long, long history of the WWF's offensive interviews.††
Stephanie McMahon did what no one watching thought she could possibly do: offend an American public who had just been witness to the single most offensive act in United States history two days earlier. But I'll be damned if she didn't do it. Stephanie McMahon had the NERVE to compare the terrorist attack on America to her father's steroid trial years prior. I honestly could not believe what I was hearing as Stephanie McMahon likened the severity of the situation to that of Vince's STEROID TRIAL. Stephanie painted the Federal Government out to be the "Taliban," and the McMahon family to be the courageous post-attack Americans. This woman actually had the gall to spend 80 percent of her interview time talking about her Father's indictment years ago... I swear to God, pages and pages of pissed-off ramblings by yours truly won't make any difference, because the facts speak louder than words, and the facts say that this was absolute ridiculous. I watched the video again for the first time in close to a year, and it irritates me even more the second time to around. I just want to throw a heavy pewter object at the TV as Stephanie McMahon wildly flails her arms around in the air screaming in her whiney, spoiled dialect about how the McMahon family survived the steroid trials. UGH.

One Year Later:
Eleven months after the most deadly attack in American history, not a damned thing has changed with Vince McMahon. Just like he did with the Gulf War, Vince is attempting to profit through a national tragedy.††
Back in 1991, while thousands of our boys were in the Persian Gulf fending off the pure evil known as Saddam Hussein, Vince McMahon was on the phone with an old worker of his named Sgt. Slaughter, telling him that he could come back to the WWF if and only if he agreed to play the part of Saddam's right hand man. As our troops were dying for our great country, Vince McMahon was hiring a dead ringer for Saddam to accompany Slaughter to the ring. As mothers went to sleep in tears, praying for the safe return of their sons, Vince McMahon was USING the Gulf War as a way to sell out the 100,000 seat Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. When only 10,000 tickets had been sold a month before the event, Vince McMahon again used the War to his advantage, citing a "serious bomb threat" as the cause of the change to a smaller venue. Well you know what Vince -- Fuck You. The only bomb that year was "The Biggest Wrestlemania of All Time." You tried to take advantage of our boys overseas, and in the end it got you about 12,000 fans who sat on their hands during "The Biggest Main Event of All Time."††Congratulations.
I try to understand you Vince, I really do, but you just keep making it harder and harder to accept you and your "good intentions" after all the damn bullshit that you pull.††
I tried to understand as a kid why Sgt. Slaughter would burn the American Flag on WWF Sunday Morning SuperStars, while my Father was half a world away, and may never come back, defending that very same flag that the WWF was desecrating.††
Vince, I wasn't one of the thousands upon thousands of people who blamed you for the death of one of my favorite wrestlers. I know that you weren't the one who set up the equipment, and I know that you weren't the one who directly responsible for ensuring that the cable mechanism wouldn't break... but I also know this. Two years later when Raw came to the late Owen Hart's hometown, you tried to make amends with his family. I saw it as a kind, charitable act when you invited Owen's parents to attend RAW in Calgary, and to publicly recognize them in their hometown. I should have know though Vince... I should have known. What seemed like a kind gesture was nothing more than a setup... A setup so that you could once again (for something original) rehash the famed "Montreal Screwjob," this time right in front of the unknowing parents of a wrestler who you had a hand in killing. Fuck You Vince.
I bit my lip when Lou Thesz's death came and went without even a PASSING mention from you or your broadcast team. I bit my lip Vince because you felt no remorse in mentioning Thesz's name hundreds of times during the Invasion Angle that YOU blew. Remember Vince ??? Remember how you would have your "boys" come out each and every week and talk about the lineage and history of the WCW Title ??? The title that the "Great Lou Thesz" wore. You thought that mentioning Thesz's name would add credibility to your paper-thin title, thus putting more money in your pocket. What happened when the classiest wrestler in the history of our business died at 86 and their was no money to be had my mentioning his name ??? You just ignore his death Vince... you just fucking ignored it. Your company wouldn't EXIST today if it weren't for Lou Thesz, and you go out of your way to ignore his death. You should be real proud of yourself Vince. Real Proud.
You do it over and over again, but I try to let it slide. You brag to dirty adult magazines about how many women you sleep with, despite being married to a woman who, by all accounts, is nothing less than an amazing wife to you. You get caught by the cameras checking out your OWN DAUGHTER. YOUR OWN DAUGHTER.††
I don't care about that though. I honestly don't. But I do care about what Vince is doing now. I honestly cannot even begin to fathom how somebody could so bastardize himself and his family for so little of a payoff as Vince McMahon is doing with September 11th. I swear to God, it makes me sick but I could almost audibly HEAR the sound of rattling moneybags in Vince McMahon's head as September 11th drew nearer.††
I could see the dollar signs in his eyes and sense the fact that he had something up his sleeve. I just honestly never thought he'd pull the trigger. He did. How does Vince McMahon commemorate and honor the souls of our fallen American heroes... He forms a group of wrestlers called "The UnAmericans" and has them try to torch the American flag, all in hopes of putting a few extra asses in the seats or get a few more dollars off of the next PPV. To that, I say one final time to you Vince before I leave it for dead...
Fuck You.

Well, I've said my peace, and I feel a little bit better now. Bitter you ask ??? Well, I guess there's a reason I tend to focus on the early WCW years.....
I hope everyone has a safe and reflective September 11th, remembering the important lessons that his tragedy taught us...
Life is a precious gift -- a gift that we simply can't allow ourselves to take for granted.
I'm not self-centered enough to have an Amazon wish list, I don't have an elaborate database of tapes I want you to send me, just a few simple requests...

Give your kids an extra kiss goodnight tonight.†
Hold your wife a little bit tighter as you fall asleep.††
Call your Mom just to tell her you love her.††
Help out a stranger.††
Be a little bit more patient.††
Give up your seat on the bus to someone who needs it more than you do.††
Be less quick to judge, and more quick to help.††
Remember the countless who died, the heroes who will transcend time, and the reasons why this country is so damn great: freedom.

Ken Anderson


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