If you follow the WWE currently, you know CM Punk kicked the wrestling world in the ass with his worked shoot promo on Monday Night Raw this week. When a pro wrestling interview gets mainstream attention, you know someone hit a nerve.
Punk’s promo was reminiscent of mic work we saw nearly every week during the Monday Night Wars between WCW and the WWF in the late 1990s. So what Punk did isn’t new, but it hasn’t been seen in a long, long time.
However, in the WWF of the 1980s, when I first started watching as a kid, you almost never saw promos that pushed the line of a worked shoot.
I remember the occasional shoot interview — the most famous probably being when 20/20 reporter John Stossel told “Dr. D” David Schultz wrestling was fake and then got a nasty smack to the ear in response — but I don’t remember wrestlers of that era coming out and talking as if they had gone against the script.
About the only skit I can remember that left you wondering whether it was real was on Tuesday Night Titans in 1985, just before the first WrestleMania. If you never saw TNT, it was kind of like a poor man’s version of the Tonight Show, during which Jay Leno was played, of course, by Vince McMahon, and guests came out to a couch to be interviewed. Yes, this type of show actually aired on the USA Network.
Anyway, at the time Andre the Giant was feuding with Big John Studd. Studd frequently challenged people to bodyslam him, offering $15,000 to anyone who could. Andre accepted the challenge as part of a match at WrestleMania.
On TNT, McMahon was interviewing Andre and said that many people might think Andre had “a bit of yellow streak running down your back” if he didn’t also put something up in the challenge. Upon hearing those words, Andre got up, grabbed Vince by the tie, and berated him before throwing him back down on his seat. Andre stormed off, and I remember Vince whipping a coffee mug off the stage in mock embarrassment.
You didn’t see stuff like that in 1985. For a moment, you wondered whether Andre had really lost his cool. After a while, logic set in: The show was taped, so any real mishaps would have been edited off. The WWF was trying to push a match with Studd and Andre. And Andre, even though he was belligerent at times in real life, probably wasn’t going to legitimately assault his boss on TV.
All that said, Andre’s confrontation with McMahon may very well have been the WWF’s first attempt at a worked shoot promo.