Billionaire Ted

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Billionaire Ted was a series of comedy parody sketches run on World Wrestling Federation (WWF) programming in 1996. They were created to parody Ted Turner and his World Championship Wrestling (WCW) wrestlers; the skits were ended by USA Network president Kay Koplovitz who felt the skits moved away from parody and towards mirroring WWF chairman Vince McMahon's personal opinions on Turner and WCW.[1]

Background[edit]

The World Wrestling Federation had been the top professional wrestling organization in the United States in the 1980s. Ted Turner purchased WCW and started to compete with the WWF by buying in some of their top wrestlers from the 1980s and started to directly target the WWF by putting WCW Monday Nitro in the same timeslot as the WWF's flagship show WWF Monday Night Raw.[1] McMahon decided in 1996 that he wanted to parody WCW owner Ted Turner. Despite going against his long-time policy of not acknowledging his competition, McMahon decreed to his aides: "It's going to be the funniest thing we've ever done".[1]

The skits featured a parody of Turner, who was called "Billionaire Ted" and portrayed as a bumbling, out-of-touch hillbilly initially trying to improve his WCW product compared with the perceived superiority of WWF programming;[2] also parodied alongside him in the skits were former WWF employees: The Huckster, a parody of Hulk Hogan; The Nacho Man, a parody of "Macho Man" Randy Savage and Scheme Gene, a parody of "Mean" Gene Okerlund. Hogan and Savage were portrayed as elderly and incapable wrestlers while Okerlund was depicted as a conman who wanted to scam money from fans via premium phone lines.[1]

Original Sketches[edit]

The first few sketches (originally promoted as "Billionaire Ted's Rasslin' Warroom") featured Billionaire Ted in his boardroom trying to copy WWF programming but his older wrestlers stating they were unable to do the more athletic moves or use original promotional tactics. McMahon made the point that the WWF promoted it as satire to protect them from any possible defamation lawsuits;[3] some of the skits also included allusion's to WCW's in-house drug testing compared with the WWF's independent drug testing program.[3] The WCW vice-president Eric Bischoff, whom had previously called the WWF to express his support for the skits, wrote a letter (which McMahon then broadcast) defending WCW and stating they were looking into a lawsuit about the skits.[3] In response WCW, who had usually made comments about the WWF on their programming, limited their remarks on television as a result of the steroids skit and temporarily dropped their "Where the Big Boys Play" tagline to avoid implications that it equated to steroids.[3]

The following sketch featured Billionaire Ted wanting to buy some WWF New Generation wrestlers to which a WWF voiceover said "It's not for sale!", in reference to Turner buying older assets and repackaging them.[2]

Cancellation[edit]

Though the Billionaire Ted skits were initially popular, McMahon started moving WWF employees from other writing tasks to work on them.[1] McMahon also ordered the WWF's lawyers to send a dossier to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) stating the proposed merger between Turner Broadcasting System and Time Warner was an attempt to drive the WWF out of business, which he also supplemented by taking out adverts in newspapers and financial magazines alleging Turner was using stockholder money to fund a "personal vendetta" against the WWF.[4] Though most newspapers refused to print them on the grounds that the papers felt they were defamatory, the New York Times published an edited version which was broadcast on television;[3] the skits eventually started moving away from WCW references and focused on targeting Turner. One of the skits had Billionaire Ted on a mock television trivia game show identifying quotes involving racial and sexual language from Turner.[5] Another had Billionaire Ted on a parody of Larry King Live refusing to answer why The Huckster's salary was drawn from other more profitable Turner businesses opposed to from the loss-making WCW; this was something WCW had been doing with Hogan in reality by drawing his salary from Turner Home Entertainment instead of WCW on the grounds of Hogan's movie work.[3]

The final skit on the USA Network featured Billionaire Ted appearing in front of an FTC committee akin to A Few Good Men using the "you can't handle the truth" line;[1] the USA Network president, Kay Kolovitz felt that McMahon was under stress and that the videos were becoming malicious rather than humorous.[1] As a result, she ordered that no more Billionaire Ted skits would appear on the USA Network;[1] the final Billionaire Ted skit involved a wrestling match between The Huckster and The Nacho Man with Billionaire Ted refereeing on the WrestleMania XII free pre-show where all the characters died from heart attacks.[6]

Legacy[edit]

As a result of the skits being broadcast, Kolovitz insisted on all future WWF scripts being sent in advance to the network and that the network have a representative on the WWF's creative team.[1] Due to her concerns over McMahon, she sent one of her executives to work with him on WWF programming which they had hitherto paid little attention to until WWF Raw started pulling in low ratings and due to network opposition to some characters in the past such as the heel Doink the Clown.[1]

Despite the parody, Turner reportedly found the sketches amusing;[7] when Scott Hall moved from the WWF to WCW, his debut promo on WCW Monday Nitro involved him asking to see Billionaire Ted, The Nacho Man, and Scheme Gene.[8] When Hall, Hogan, and Kevin Nash formed the New World Order (nWo) in WCW, in his first promo since turning heel, Hogan referred to Turner as Billionaire Ted. Later, former WWF wrestler Ted DiBiase was brought in as the nWo's manager and was called "Trillionaire Ted" as a play on the Billionaire Ted name.[9]

Professional wrestling reviewers stated that they felt that though the skits were good parody and did bring up legitimate concerns (such as about steroids), the Billionaire Ted skits were viewed as petty and not addressing the reason why WCW had been challenging the WWF.[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Page2 – Sex, Lies, and Headlocks, Excerpt 2". ESPN. Retrieved 2019-05-03.
  2. ^ a b "Billionaire Ted 15 Years Ago This Week – Vince McMahon Takes Shots at Surging WCW Nitro". PW Torch. Retrieved 2019-05-03.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Dixon, James (2015). Titan Shattered. Lulu. pp. 3–9. ISBN 1326355813.
  4. ^ "10 things you may not have known about the Billionaire Ted skits". Canadian Bulldog. Retrieved 2019-05-03.
  5. ^ Sidgwick, Michael (2017). Development Hell: The NXT Story. Lulu. p. 58. ISBN 1326971670.
  6. ^ Jasper, Gavin (2017-03-26). "WWE: The 100 Worst Moments in WrestleMania History – 4". Den of Geek. Retrieved 2019-05-03.
  7. ^ Bischoff, Eric (2006). Controversy Creates Cash. Simon and Schuster. p. 191. ISBN 141652729X.
  8. ^ Lynch, Andrew (2016-05-27). "20 years ago, Scott Hall invaded WCW and launched wrestling's Monday Night Wars". FOX Sports. Retrieved 2019-05-03.
  9. ^ DiBiase, Ted; Caiazzo, Tom (2008). Ted DiBiase: The Million Dollar Man. Pocket Books. p. 200. ISBN 978-1-4165-5890-3.
  10. ^ Randle, Stephen (2015-09-17). "10 Controversial WWE Story Lines That Were Total Disasters". Goliath.com. Retrieved 2019-05-03.