Dave Meltzer Discusses Appearing On 'Donahue' With Vince McMahon, WON, UFC, '90s Wrestling, More

Meltzer: Yeah, that was a crazy period and I remember that day very well. There was a lot of stuff that happened that day. [Laughs.] I was not supposed to be sitting next to Vince. The focal point was supposed to be Vince and Bruno [Sammartino]. Vince was the big star and Bruno was the legend and they were supposed to be in the middle and I was supposed to be off to the side.

The ended up switching my chair with Bruno's because of fear of what would happen if Vince and Bruno were sitting together. Bruno was very mad at Vince at that time because a couple of days earlier, they were on Larry King. Things happened on Larry King, there was a lot of double-talk that made Bruno look bad.

Bruno brought up that the WBF announcer said so and so and so. Vince just goes, 'That guy was never the WBF announcer,' just to make Bruno look bad on TV. In fact, he was the WBF announcer. Or when the name Mel Philips came up, Vince goes, 'Mel Philips never worked a day in the WWE.'

It makes it look like Bruno is this out-of-touch guy talking about this Mel Philips, when Mel Philips was an independent contractor who had worked solely for WWF for years. Not only that, his home address for the athletic commissions was the WWF corporate offices.

Bruno was very, very upset that day at Vince and so it was for everyone's best concern that I sat next to Vince. So, I did. [Laughs.] The funny part was -- and I think a lot of people knows this -- I was talking to Vince during every commercial break. It was a long hour for him. I remember at the 45 minute mark, he said something to me like, 'This is the longest hour of my life.'

It was definitely a very different Vince from what you would see, I think, any other time. I don't think there's ever been a TV show where Vince was like that.

WrestlingINC: Yeah. The only time I can ever think of him looking vulnerable was in the Wrestling With Shadows documentary after he got punched out [by Bret Hart].

Meltzer: Yeah, that was also a very different situation.

WrestlingINC: Do you think the wrestling business really went down at that time due to the public reaction to the steroid scandal or do you think it was more the company's reaction? Because, you went from the Ultimate Warriors' and the Randy Savages', to now having Doink The Clown and Mabel. It was kind of hard to watch even if you wanted to stick with the product.

Meltzer: I don't think that any sport goes down because athletes use steroids. The public will complain, but they will still watch. Look at baseball. People are mad that the people use it but it's not like attendance went down or things like that.

I think what happened was that you had a generation of people who were groomed [to know] this was what a wrestler looked like. Then, when they had to clean up, the guys didn't look like that anymore. Then, the other thing that I think you have to remember that you had American Gladiators. American Gladiators gained a lot of popularity at the time that wrestling lost popularity. Even though American Gladiators was a short-lived thing.

They were on the same stations and it was a syndicated battle for ratings and they were doing really great numbers and wrestling was starting to hurt. I think that had a little bit to do with it as well.

I think that the creative was a lot worse. I think that if you really look back on the creative in those years when they were down, it was pretty bad in comparison to other years. But you gotta remember: they built this whole thing around Hulk Hogan.

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