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Executive Meddling / Professional Wrestling

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And his opponent, from Parts Unknown, weighing in at thirty paper-pushers, the Executive Producer!

  • Vince McMahon:
    • For better or worse, Vince McMahon is well known for having a very hands-on style of managing WWE. He always has final say on everything that happens in the promotion. Unfortunately, as a businessman in his early 70s, McMahon doesn't always do a good job of keeping up with popular culture, and he's nixed a few gimmicks and angles because he personally didn't understand them. For example:
      • When Paul Birchill started using a pirate gimmick inspired by Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean (a few weeks before the release of Dead Man's Chest even), McMahon canned the gimmick because he hadn't even heard of the movie and thought pirates should be heels à la Jean Pierre LaFitte (a.k.a. Carl Oulette).
      • He also cancelled "The Blonde Bytch Project", a parody of The Blair Witch Project starring Stevie Richards and The Blue Meanie that was to bury Sable,note  on the grounds that he had never seen the movie, and therefore assumed nobody else had either.
      • Allegedly, the reason Raven was barely utilized during his WWF/WWE run was because McMahon personally disliked him (he was party buddies with McMahon's son Shane during his Johnny Polo period) and forbade the bookers from pushing him.
      • McMahon hired Último Dragón because Rey Mysterio became very popular, and he wanted another high-flying masked wrestler. However, he did not do the research and was unpleasantly surprised to see that Dragon wasn't a high-flyer. He then decided that Dragon's wrestling style was completely incompatible with anyone in WWE, and went so far as to editing out the cheers Dragon got on the taped shows.note 
      • He has used his Executive Meddling to benefit as well. He did such an efficient job filtering the ideas that Vince Russo and Ed Ferrera came up with that for years Russo was credited as the genius behind the Attitude Era boom. Russo had a pet gimmick called Beaver Cleavage (a hypersexual take on ''Leave It to Beaver') that he fought with the rest of Creative tooth and nail over to get on the air. When Beaver Cleavage got the negative reaction everyone not named Russo expected, McMahon himself pulled the plug and canned the character. This actually led to Russo leaving WWF for WCW.
      • You remember the disaster that was the NXT Season 2 finale? All McMahon. McMahon was furious and was throwing a tantrum backstage over the fact that fans didn't vote for his preferred rookie Alex Riley, who he was high on. Instead, they voted for popular indy wrestler Kaval. McMahon basically told the seven who didn't win to go out there and beat him down. What followed next is best described as a trainwreck as no one had any clue what was happening or what to do. Some of the lowlights were Titus O'Neil no selling MVP's running corner boot and Riley delivering a sitout scoop slam to his own teammate. It stunted all eight of their careers (although three of them rebounded); the winner Kaval was used as a Jobber, winning only once before being released months later.
      • Vince called off Bo Dallas's push because he thought that Dallas's gimmick, that of an insincere and delusional motivational speaker, was too confusing.
      • Cesaro, despite being very talented in the ring as well as being very over with the WWE Universe, was a victim of stop-and-start pushes that has also been the norm of many mid-card talents on the main roster due to the fact that Vince McMahon wasn't a fan of his. McMahon has even gone on record saying Cesaro "doesn't connect with the fans." Anyone who listens to the crowd during Cesaro's matches (especially live ones) know how untrue that statement is.
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    • For better or worse, McMahon combined all manner of meddling with the worst aspects of a Corrupt Corporate Executive in the late '80s when rival promotions scheduled their pay-per-views against his.
      • Rival promoter Jim Crockett at the time owned the flagship company in the NWA, which was the forerunner to WCW. In 1987, Crockett had scheduled the NWA's equivalent of WrestleMania, Starrcade, on Thanksgiving weekend, and had this year pulled out all the stops to make it as widespread and successful as a WrestleMania event. McMahon knew that Crockett was banking his company's future on Starrcade being a huge success and so he announced his own pay-per-view, Survivor Series, to air on the same day. Crockett offered to reschedule Starrcade for a different time slot so that the two didn't run head to head, confident that if fans bought both events, they'd see that his was the superior product. All well and good, except McMahon put the word out that any cable company who wanted to air Survivor Series would have to agree not to run any other wrestling pay-per-views for a month beforehand or for three months after. On top of that, any companies that did decide to run Starrcade rather than Survivor Series would not be allowed to run WrestleMania the following year. Out of over 200 national and local cable companies that had interest in carrying Starrcade, only five ended up doing so. The amazing thing is that he got away with it, especially after having laid down conditions that would have any decent anti-trust lawyer chomping at the bit. Afterward, the cable companies asked the promotions involved never to do this kind of thing again.
      • McMahon did pull off the same stunt again, though in a slightly different manner. In January 1988, the NWA tried its hand at pay-per-view again, this time with the Bunkhouse Stampede show. The WWF countered by airing the inaugural Royal Rumble at the same time on the USA Network, and again McMahon got away with it. The WWF did get a taste of their own medicine, however, as the NWA aired the first Clash of Champions on TBS to counter WrestleMania IV. In a sad twist, Jim Crockett got chewed out by the cable companies and took all the blame for WM4 having a poorer buyrate than WM3.
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    • If Paul Heyman is to be believed, McMahon stomped a wide mudhole in the 2006 December to Dismember ECW pay-per-view event, the last WWE event managed by Heyman. Heyman was constantly going to McMahon, begging him to let him revise the direction of the show but McMahon kept insisting his booking would work. Even Big Show, who was the current champion at the time of the event, was eager to let Heyman's ideas flow (which primarily involved CM Punk being allowed to shine) but McMahon kept pushing his own agenda through the event. Unsurprisingly, bad booking and a weak card overall (capped off by a memorably mediocre installment of the Elimination Chamber match with an extreme gimmick bolted on) led to a massive backlash which McMahon promptly turned back onto Heyman as the culprit, dismissing him from further creative interactions with WWE. As an aside worth mentioning, to this day the event still stands as the worst-selling pay-per-view in WWE's entire history at roughly 96,000 verified purchases. To put that into perspective, WrestleMania III held the record for largest WWE live audience in history at over 93,000 seats sold. This show could only bring in about 3000 more views across an entire country than the number of tickets sold to a live event.
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    • McMahon has had issues on occasion with the networks his shows aired on getting involved in the booking as well:
      • There was Muhammad Hassan. This could be looked at as executive meddling on both sides, as McMahon chose to still air Hassan's "terrorist attack" on The Undertaker the same day that real terrorists bombed The London Underground (London's subway). UPN's subsequent edict that Hassan would never appear on the network again forced Vince to not only remove the character but possibly re-book the main events at two pay-per-views. At WWE The Great American Bash 2005, Taker defeated Hassan and even gave him the Last Ride through the stage to send him out of WWE and, in fact, into retirement.
      • Soon before WWE's ECW brand got underway, there were Internet reports that the Sci-Fi Channel had been trying to shoehorn sci-fi elements into this wrestling show. Cue "The Zombie" and other characters being soundly beaten by the Sandman upon the show's airing.
      • Among other things USA Network has been pressuring WWE into: more celebrity involvement and 3-hour Raw broadcasts. The WWE did, however, work the celebrity involvement into some genuinely amusing moments (such as John Cena being beaten by Kevin Federline, Steve-O being legitimately beaten for laughing during his match, and Donald Trump causing McMahon's infamous "bald moment").
      • Soon after Mr. McMahon was blown up in a fiery limo explosion, confirmation came that USA Network executives told WWE to perform a murder storyline, much to the consternation of the writing staff, McMahon himself, and half the fanbase. This made them look like complete morons when news of Chris Benoit's murder-suicide hit the airwaves a few weeks later.
  • The Montreal Screwjob is one of the most notorious cases of executive meddling in WWE history. How justified or effective it was relies a great deal on whether you believe Bret Hart's or Shawn Michaels' version of the story, but as last-minute swerves go, it was a doozy.
  • One rumor floating around about WWE is not so much executive meddling as much as tenured meddling. Some are arguing that younger talent is being buried so the older wrestlers (The Undertaker and Triple H especially and most recently, The Rock and Brock Lesnar) can milk the last few years of their careers for all they're worth (as evidence from WrestleMania 29 in which the three main events featured four of its part-time talent). Some of it is minor (no one on the roster can have gear that looks like The Undertaker's). However, some of it's more serious, like the claim some have argued that Triple H forced Chris Masters to keep doing the Masterlock Challenge, long after it stopped being entertaining, making Masters universally loathed by fans, and possibly torpedoing his career before it could get off the ground, and the claim that The Undertaker has also helped hold back talent in the women's division by having WWE keep that belt on his then-girlfriend, now wife, Michelle McCool. This might be even more egregious because it buried the much more talented, popular, and experienced Mickie James. Beth Phoenix might have been spared this only due to her ACL injury, so they'd taken to burying Melina. It is believed that The Undertaker gets little flak for using his pull in the company because of the many stories of him keeping other wrestlers in check. People are wondering why guys like Evan Bourne and Shelton Benjamin got nowhere fast in WWE, and many think it's this. The reason it seems that part-time talent such as The Rock can draw, while most of the younger full-time talent do not.
  • Hulk Hogan has been faced with executive meddling, and done quite a bit of it himself over the years:
    • For starters, Hogan is notorious for his very limited wrestling ability. The thing is, Hogan, while never a technical wizard, could carry his end of a match. He was trained by Florida "house shooter" Hiro Matsuda, and could play the foreign big man heel in New Japan Pro-Wrestling (one of the most physically demanding positions in wrestling) quite well, performing shoot-style submission moves and high impact moves like the enziguiri. But when he came to the WWF under Vince McMahon, Sr. he was told to wrestle like a generic 'big man' character, and Hogan was able to get by on his admittedly, massive amounts of on-screen charisma while letting his opponents do most of the work. Hogan's side of the story has varied between "No one ever asked me to work hard so I didn't bother" to "they wouldn't let me work hard".
    • WCW was so desperate to get Hogan working for them that they gave him carte blanche over the entire company. His contract gave him complete creative control over every aspect of the show that his character was even tangentially involved in, and even aside from that nobody ever stood up to him because they didn't want to get on his bad side for fear of reprisal from higher in the Turner hierarchy. It was a normal thing for an episode of WCW Monday Nitro to be rewritten from scratch according to Hogan's whims. The low point of Hogan's meddling with WCW booking was Starrcade 1997. After an incredibly hot slow burn of a feud between Hogan and Sting, Starrcade was set as the stage where Sting would finally get the revenge he'd been seeking for a year and a half. Instead, Hogan demanded that he would get a pinfall over Sting. A heat-killing scenario was concocted in which Hogan would hit his leg drop on Sting and a biased referee would do a fast count, leading to Bret Hart coming out to restart the match. The referee, Nick Patrick, did a normal count instead. Allegedly, Hogan privately insisted that Patrick should do a normal count, although other sources claim Patrick simply forgot to do a fast count. This was one of the admittedly many things that lead to WCW's demise.
    • Hogan fuddled around with the finish to his match at SummerSlam 2005 against Shawn Michaels so he'd go over and there would be no "rubber match" (a rematch that Michaels could take victory in) due to Hogan claiming he had an injury. This agitated Michaels enough to where he spent the entire match flopping around like a fish in a vibrant display of overselling. If Goldberg vs. Lesnar at WrestleMania XX could be seen as the deconstruction of kayfabe (that is a scripted fight without the dramatics that make pro wrestling believable), this was the reconstruction.
    • In a rare positive example, Hogan changed the finish of Bound for Glory 2011 so that the champion, Kurt Angle, won instead of the heavily pushed Bobby Roode. The Internet erupted in outrage. According to Scott Steiner, so did Roode himself. Three weeks later, however, Roode turned heel as a result of the loss and then proceeded to become a breakout star and the longest-reigning champion in TNA's history. Apparently, the reason why he did that was so Roode wouldn't outshine him, as in the event Hogan did a Heel–Face Turn after having been a heel for a year (no surprise there considering Hogan's ego). TNA had no choice due to the outrage but to give Roode the belt. On the downside, it wasn't all positive, as the angle absolutely destroyed any momentum that James Storm had, as he won the belt from Angle, lost it two weeks later to Roode after giving a whole speech about how he didn't have to be an ass kisser to be champ, and when the payoff match against Roode came at next year's Bound for Glory, Roode was no longer champion.
  • WCW, which was broadcast on Turner Networks, was occasionally forced by the higher-ups to include Product Placement in their shows:
    • Rick Steiner was forced to debate Chucky, who shilled the then-upcoming Bride of Chucky movie. Later, Robert Wuhl, the star of Arliss, had a guest commentary spot, in-character as Arliss, which was made even worse by his commentary being non-stop burial of the match he was calling (Randy Savage vs. Billy Kidman) and pro wrestling in general.
    • Back in 1990, the Capital Combat PPV was done specifically to shill the movie RoboCop 2, complete with a guy dressed as RoboCop appearing on the show. Sting, who had suffered a major knee injury earlier that year while trying to attack the The Four Horsemen in the main event cage match at Clash of the Champions X came out for an interview and the Horsemen attacked him and locked him in the cage at ringside.note  Now, a reasonable promotion would have a bunch of Faces run out to rescue Sting, but, well, this was WCW, so they had the guy in the RoboCop suit come down and rescue Sting, with the Horsemen just sort of walking away. It was incidents such as this, among others, that led to Ole Anderson, the booker at the time, later titling his autobiography Inside Out: How Corporate America Destroyed Professional Wrestling.
    • The existence of B Show WCW Thunder was solely the result of Turner executives recognising WCW's massive advertiser appeal, and wanting them to produce a show like Nitro that would air on Thursday (seen as the best day to advertise certain products as people prepare to relax over the weekend). WCW's creative, including Eric Bischoff, didn't like the idea as WCW's content production was already becoming overstretched, but had little input in the decision.
    • Both of those pale in comparison to a mind-boggling cameo by Lord Ruber on Thunder. As a refresher, Ruber is a cartoon character. On a post-nWo WCW. The weird part is, Lord Ruber actually got a pop. The man playing him was big and he did have a unique look.
    • Still argued as a major factor of killing the company, David Arquette was made the WCW champion to cross-promote Ready to Rumble. This was particularly stupid, as every other single person, including Arquette, warned Russo not to do it, but he didn’t listen to them.
  • Turner Networks also forced WCW to keep their shows at a PG level, which made it difficult for WCW to compete with the more risqué WWF. This was in theory not a bad idea as they were counting on WWF's programming alienating their sponsors and putting WCW in a more advantageous position. However, some of the changes were somewhat silly. For example:
    • "Foreign objects" (a pro wrestling term for weapons introduced into the match) were renamed to "international objects" when a directive meant to apply to CNN was applied to all Turner Networks programming by mistake.
    • They also nixed at least one gimmick before it started; Seven, a mysterious dream/Seven Deadly Sins character, was introduced in promos the network felt uncomfortably close to child abduction (the gimmick itself was thought to be based on the 1995 movie Powder, written and directed by a convicted child molester, and people confused the character with the director).
  • John Cena:
    • Depending on who you listen to, some say that John Cena is going through a situation similar to what Hogan claims he did; he wants to branch out of his Invincible Hero gimmick, he wants to do more than his Five Moves of Doom, he wants to go back to being arrogant. He's just so popular (at least among the target demographic) and merchandise-worthy as "this generation's Hulk Hogan" that the writers simply won't let him, just giving him a Roaring Rampage of Revenge once in a while. This is backed up by some "insiders" and called absolute bunk by others, so it's difficult to pinpoint.
    • It has been confirmed that Cena has wanted to turn heel at some points, considering the fact that he's been a face for years (the Heel–Face Turn essentially started at Survivor Series '03 and was solidified by WrestleMania XX - and he's never made a Face–Heel Turn since then, meaning he's been a face for almost a decade). Whether he wants to now is possibly an entirely different story. Bret Hart noted this problem in a shoot interview. It isn't whether or not Cena has ever been capable of playing heel (because we all know he can), it's whether or not he can do it now. Cena's character hinges on the kids and their dreams and being their hero and all that other good stuff. The question is whether or not he can handle the heartache of doing such a thing to said kids - much like Bret and his own Face–Heel Turn all those years ago. Unless the kids themselves start hating him too, and that's the majority of them, then he's stuck as a face. On the other hand, a press interview prior to WrestleMania 29 had Cena make the inane insinuation that he can't turn heel because he's "not a bad guy in real life", which has Unfortunate Implications toward almost every single wrestler that's ever been around for more than a cup of coffee. He's also been rumored and accused of having bullied several wrestlers over the years. i.e.  Whether these particular rumors are true or not, his push as essentially being the WWE Creator's Pet has also led to the momentum of many hot acts being damaged if not killed just to make him look good, as the list of people who work with Cena over the years has actually helped at all since he's been cast as The Hero can be counted on one hand. Many of his detractors believe that not only does he has a certain degree of creative control which comes with being the face of the company, he either actively uses that stroke to protect himself at the expense of his co-workers or he doesn't use it to reign in Vince's dependency on him and help build the other talent around him as much as he should at this stage in his career.
    • Another factor going against Cena turning heel is that the man is well known for his charity work (including setting the record of over 500 visits to Make-A-Wish Foundation kids) and WWE is worried about losing such a great positive connection with young fans and the media.
  • The WWE Divas frequently faced this, as several Divas revealed.
    • Gail Kim revealed in a 2011 interview that they were apparently told off for getting "too good" and were forbidden from punching one week and kicking the next. Johnny Ace apparently wanted more girliness in Diva matches. Kim said that she frequently had to sneak spots into her matches past the agents in fear of not being allowed to do them.
    • Michelle McCool revealed that she and Melina snuck a spot into their Night of Champions match where Melina was given a DDT onto the security wall. After they got backstage they were yelled at for being too high risk and "better than the guys". McCool also thanks Chris Jericho for coming to their defense. She says that she and Melina also later had to retape one of their matches because Vince said their punches in the corner were "too good".
  • In 2013, Ring of Honor pulled Jay Lethal out of two straight Family Wrestling Entertainment Events before deciding it did not want any of its contracted wrestlers working FWE shows. They later relented, slightly, and let FWE book AJ Styles.
  • In 2013, Kevin Steen agreed to let Figures Inc make merchandise of him that Ring of Honor would promote. In 2015, Steen was in WWE and they got upset that these figures were still being made and released, even though the deal was two years before he signed with them. This lead WWE to try and get the World Wrestling Network, of which ROH was a former member of, to only make merchandise agreements with companies it had approved of so less independent talent would come in with "third party" deals.
  • In the WWE, while people tend to gripe about the McMahons all the time, until around the mid-2010s they failed to mention Kevin Dunn, the Executive Vice President of Television Production. A little background on Dunn: he's Vince McMahon's best friend, or at least the closest to it. Dunn was promised a job for life after his father risked his life to save some tapes from a fire during Vince Sr.'s reign, tapes that were instrumental to the company's programming at the time. He's been with the company since the eighties, and did whatever Vince has asked of him over the years, from cable to HD. Either way, Dunn has been Vince's go-to-guy for decades, and has always had his ear — he's even a member of the Board of Directors. However, he's a TV guy, not a wrestling guy. That's where the problems begin.
    • Dunn was reportedly responsible for how the NXT call-ups are being treated, not being high on Paige, Bo Dallas, or Adam Rose. He managed to bury Rose but had less success with the other two. The trend has continued, and rumors are surfacing that it's because Dunn is trying to obstruct Triple H and prevent him from taking over the company, as when Hunter does take over, Dunn is apparently very close to being the first on the chopping block.
    • As a man of aesthetics, Dunn tends to favor a certain look. He's a big fan of Cena, explaining partly why he has a near-perpetual push. He's also reportedly a huge fan of Roman Reigns due to the fact that Dunn, like McMahon, loves Reigns' look and wrestling pedigree. He's not so high on Sheamus, which explains his inconsistent booking considering Sheamus's ties to Hunter. Dunn was also reportedly responsible for the infamous 18-second squash match between Sheamus and Daniel Bryan (which both wrestlers hated), owing to the fact that he didn't like both of them.
    • Dunn was also the brains behind the Diva Search. It wouldn't be too far to believe that he and Johnny Ace are responsible for the greater emphasis the division has put on looks. In fact, according to most sources, how he views the Divas are so objectifying if not sexist that many are surprised he hasn't been arrested yet. Former WWE writer Alex Greenfield once recounted a story of being in the WWE corporate jet alongside several writers that were captained by Vince McMahon, Dunn, and Michael Hayes. They were flying back from TV after taping one of the early shows of WWE's ECW brand, the one where Kelly Kelly has just been introduced as the exhibitionist girlfriend of Mike Knox. Hayes was telling McMahon that he felt that she wasn't connecting, McMahon agreed, saying that she needed to find her sensuality. Then Dunn, with sniggering laughter, was trying to get McMahon to pay attention to him. When McMahon turns to him, Dunn tells him, "She needs to find some TITS!" Dunn continued to snicker, eyes on McMahon, begging for approval. McMahon's only reaction was to snort and continue the conversation with Hayes. However since late 2015, the WWE has pretty much done away with the emphasis on the female talents' looks in favor of actual wrestling talent thanks in large part to the rise of the Four Horsewomen (Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Charlotte, and Bayley), not to mention getting rid of the Divas moniker altogether in April of 2016.
    • However, Dunn's greatest "achievement" is Katie Vick. It was an idea that only he and McMahon liked. Even Hunter, a Professional Butt-Kisser at the time, hated it and questioned McMahon about it. Kane, being the company man that he is, hated it too but did what he was told. If there was any reason that Hunter, or, hell, any wrestling fan, had to hate Dunn, that would be it.
  • Roman Reigns
    • Reigns is currently being groomed by the WWE as the successor to Cena despite hatred from numerous wrestling fans due to the fact that Reigns "can't wrestle" while being pushed ahead of fan favorites Daniel Bryan, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Cesaro, among others. But Reigns has huge support from Vince McMahon and Kevin Dunn and to a lesser extent, Triple H due to Reigns's look and marketing ability. CM Punk mentioned on a Colt Cabana podcast that the plan was for "Reigns to look strong" despite going over the Shield. That being said, it wasn't really the wrestling ability people had problems with later down the line, and Roman's wrestling ability improved leaps and bounds over time — it was the character. After people started turning on Reigns, Vince personally stepped in and started taking over the direction of Roman's character...and turned him into a John Cena clone. That's when everything went downhill for him, as it became very clear that the character did not fit him at all. When that didn't work out (to no one's surprise), Roman went through many character changes while the crowds kept having tepid reactions if not being outright hostile. The company continued to push him regardless even though business was suffering for it (RAW's ratings went through a noticeable dip during his title reign after WM 32 — it was dangerously close to going under a 2.0). The madness didn't stop until Reigns violated the Wellness Policy, forcing the company to take the title off him and drop him down the card while the heat died down.
      • Ultimately it didn't fully stop as while Reigns hasn't regained the title since he did go on to main-event at WrestleMania 33 and defeat and retire the Undertaker (for a year, at least), which is arguably the biggest rub of all time in WWE history. Finally, he was rumored to win the WWE Universal title from Brock Lesnar in the main event of WrestleMania 34, which strangely didn't happen, and he didn't win the title until SummerSlam later that year.
  • Over the years, WWE pay-per-views tend to be held in top-drawing markets (Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, the NYC/NJ area, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Dallas, and Houston in particular, tend to each get a PPV every year) while ignoring lesser markets such as Seattle, Portland, Kansas City, Denver, and several others.
  • In 1988, a conglomerate of independent promotions led by Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association, Fritz Von Erich's World Class Championship Wrestling and Jerry Jarrett's Continental Wrestling co-produced the Superclash III PPV that was supposed to make them all a major competitor to Vince McMahon... and it was one of wrestling's biggest disasters because of the egos and meddling of those promoters. The main event was AWA champion Jerry Lawler vs WCCW champion Kerry Von Erich to unify their titles... in a match the promotions had already given away multiple times in the months prior, always with controversial finishes. And on the day of Superclash itself, mere minutes before the main event was to start, they still didn't have a finish because neither promoter was willing to put over the other guy. What made this dumber is how Fritz Von Erich was unwilling to have Kerry put over Lawler clean despite the fact that he was secretly selling WCCW to Lawler and Jarrett knowing they would merge it with the AWA and make Lawler champion anyway. After they finally agreed to a finish that had Lawler walk out with both belts while not looking particularly good and the sale of WCCW was complete... then Gagne screwed over everything by backing out of the merger, refusing to pay Lawler for working the match after Superclash failed to make money (Only about 1500 showed up to the event) and expecting Lawler to still hand over the AWA belt (Which Lawler did not). All major promotions involved with the event were out of business within a few years after.

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