Today In Wrestling History 7/22: Vince McMahon Talks Verdict, WWF Invasion PPV, Faarooq Debuts, More

* 21 years ago in 1994, a jury found Vince McMahon not guilty of conspiracy charges in connection with Dr. George Zahorian's illegal distribution of anabolic steroids and other prescription drugs to WWF wrestlers. The WWF fans congregated in the courtroom immediately started cheering, only to be admonished by the judge. Prosecutor Sean O'Shea looked shocked. While the government could have opted to refiled the dropped distribution charges (pertaining to splitting a steroid order with Hulk Hogan) in Connecticut, they opted not to, and Vince was a free man.

Prosecutor Sean O'Shea declined to speak to reporters, but later issued a statement:

We thought it was an important case to bring. This case highlighted a serious problem in this country among athletes and athletic organizations, so in that sense we're happy. Obviously you always want the jury to go your way. We accept the jury's verdict.

A few minutes after the verdict was read, McMahon held a press conference outside the courthouse. Here are some of the more interesting quotes:

From his opening statement:

I must say coming into this, having been investigated for over two-and-a-half years, it has been quite an ordeal. Certainly there is no one in America who is above being investigated for any reason. I felt that from time to time the investigation was a bit unfair. I thought the charges that were hurled against me and my company were wrong.:

On if the WWF will continue to institute their drug testing program:

I would invite you to compare and contrast any drug abuse program compared to the WWF. Please, I'll charge you, just as I charged people at that press conference back in 1991, compare us to the NFL even though we're not a sport as such. Compare us to anything Hollywood has in terms of drug abuse or steroids. Compare us and contrast us. Continue to follow this story! That's the only way that young people can be certain the WWF is everything we say it is and will be in the future. The only way they're gonna know that, guys, is through you, the media.

How is he going to celebrate?

I'm not sure about that but I may celebrate by going back to work.

Is it accurate that wrestling's popularity has declined since before the scandals?

I think in every form of sport, in every form of entertainment - some years Hollywood has great years, other years not so good. It's a talent-driven commodity and everything has to be going in a synergy fashion to really work for you. And it will be there - we always will be there in the future - and will be just as popular as it was before.

What does he have to say to children about steroids?

I would say personally as Laura was saying, if you truly believe that you are right about something and you understand the consequences, stand up, stand up for your rights. That's exactly what we did. We stood up for our rights. We knew the government was incorrect. We stood up for our rights and as a result of that we were found innocent of all charges. The other aspect of steroids or any other illegal drugs, as far as kids are concerned, JUST DON'T DO IT, period.

How did the McMahon family get through the trial?

The same way we've gotten through everything. We just stayed together. I'm the most fortunate, luckiest man in the world to have a family like I have. I don't want to talk about that too much or I'll break up. Nonetheless, guys thank you very, very much for being out during what is obviously another hot summer day. I want to thank all the fans that stayed with the WWF, certainly my legal staff, especially the jury, and you guys in the media as well. You've been very respectful and we greatly appreciate it. Thank you very much.

Later, McMahon gave an exclusive interview to WNYW TV (Fox 5).

On the whole trial and his feelings as it went on:

It's been an unbelievable ordeal which I wouldn't wish on anyone. It's been two-and-a-half years that no American should endure. It was endured by us and a jury of my peers found us not guilty. I have a great faith in humanity. I was singled out unfairly. I had everything riding on this. I'd be less than candid to say I wasn't nervous. I was definitely very nervous.

His reaction to the testimony from Hogan and other wrestlers:

I don't feel badly when anyone tells the truth, It feels bad however when someone you've worked with takes the stand and does not tell the whole truth and all of the truth. That hurt me very badly.

But will he sue the federal government? (He didn't)

As they say in the World Wrestling Federation, keep tuned. It could very well be the hunters are soon the hunted.

* 19 years ago in 1996, the WWF taped four weeks of Monday Night Raw at the Key Arena in Seattle, Washington. The most newsworthy moment came on the live show as part of the Shawn Michaels (WWF Champion) and Ahmed Johnson (Intercontinental Champion) vs. Smoking Gunns (Tag Team Champions) main event. The match had been heavily hyped throughout the show, as it was moved from the opener to closing the show after an angle where Michaels shoved Sunny's face in a cake.

Right before the top of the hour, Ron Simmons made his debut, running in wearing a wacky gladiator outfit. On commentary, Jerry Lawler even said that "He looks like Ron Simmons... but bigger than Ron Simmons!" He was now Faarooq Asad, Sunny's new charge. He attacked Ahmed, brutalizing him and legitimately causing a severe kidney injury. That derailed him as his popularity was increasing, keeping him out of action until the end of the year. He never, ever picked his momentum back up, and was cut in February of 1998. As for Faarooq, he was repackaged in November as the leader of the Nation of Domination, patterning him after Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

* 14 years ago in 2001, the WWF held the first and only InVasion pay-per-view event live from the Gund Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. With a WWF vs. WCW/ECW Alliance main event where only Booker T and Diamond Dallas Page were actual outsiders, the show drew 770,000 PPV buys, making it the biggest non-WrestleMania PPV of all time. Yes, even the watered-down invasion could have been huge.

The late hype was built around the idea that the increasingly quirky heel incarnation of Steve Austin had seen the light and had embraced "the old Stone Cold," effectively turning him babyface. Austin's experiment with being top heel wasn't over, though, so he joined The Alliance and became its leader in the main event. As great as Austin was in 2001 (he may very well have been the best wrestler in the world), this was a mistake, to the point that when they blew off the invasion at Survivor Series, he was back to being a babyface WWF star the next night without any explanation.


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