The latest edition of Dark Side of The Ring took a look at one of professional wrestling’s most infamous moments; when Dr “D” David Schultz slapped a reporter who asked if wrestling was fake.
The reporter in question was John Stossel, who fronted ABC’s 20/20 and had made a name for himself by exposing shady businesses and businessmen.
During the interview, he talks about being an amateur wrestler in high school and the fact that people thought pro-wrestling was real annoyed him. He planned to expose that, in his words “This big, growing, successful business was based on bullshit. Cleverly done, athletic bullshit, but lies.”.
But, this was more than just an hour-long blow-by-blow account of that brief interaction between Stossel and Schultz.
We learned how we got to that moment, players that we didn’t know existed and all the fallout following this brief moment in time.
The first interesting note was how big of a deal David Schultz was. Before this documentary, I only knew the name from the slap itself, but in reality, Schultz was a phenomenal heel in his day, keeping kayfabe to the enth degree. He made everyone believe that he was this crazy redneck that hated everyone. This went to such a degree that, during a segment on Tuesday Night Titans where he verbally berated his ‘wife’ and ‘son’, the police were called to Titan Towers to ask where Schultz’ house was.
Talk about heat.
Another disgusting insight was the ‘tactics’ employed by Schultz’ trainer, Herb Welch. A man who was trained by some of modern professional wrestling’s pioneers, Jim Cornette described him as a ‘salty and mean bastard’. This included him rubbing his own feces into his armpits and locking a side headlock on his opponents.
That’s just grim.
We now take a look at the incident itself.
Something else we found out, was that the incident itself wasn’t a case of Stossel grabbing a wrestler for an interview and what happened happened. We find out that Vince sent Schultz out to talk to Stossel, with instructions to ‘tear his ass up’.
That he did, staying completely in character before Stossel asks the infamous question of if wrestling is ‘fake’. Two slaps later, and history is written. This was a complete set-up by Vince to either protect the business or more likely, scare Stossel.
We learn about another player in this story by the name of Eddy Mansfield. He was the third man in this story, a disgruntled former wrestler who held a grudge after problems with payoffs for sold out arenas and that there was no health insurance.
Call him the prototypical David Starr.
He threatened to go on national TV and expose the business – and that he did. But it seems this didn’t go the way he wanted. Mansfield wanted to expose the shady promoters and the underhand, carny aspect of the business, but instead got roped into showing the faker aspects of pro wrestling.
To the shock of no one, this made Mansfield public enemy number one.
We then learn of some classic WWF double standards as, following Schultz’ slap, McMahon sent him away to Japan and ultimately let him go after an incident between him and Mr. T in Los Angeles.
There are differing stories on this, Schultz said Vince didn’t want him talking to Mr. T (who he didn’t like being in the business) and when he did, Schultz got thrown out, while Hulk Hogan says Schultz slapped T leading to his removal and ultimate dismissal. Being as Hogan is a bastion of truth, it’s up to you which story you believe.
However, back to the double standards. Later in the year during the lead up to WrestleMania I, Hulk Hogan did something similar to another non-wrestler, choking out talk show host Richard Belzer who was mocking his industry. After a brief front-face lock, Belzer passes out and splits his head open on the floor. Did Hogan receive any condemation or punishment for this? Of course not.
A final interesting wrinkle shows that in the end, Vince McMahon didn’t really care about keeping the integrity of professional wrestling in tact until it affected his bottom line. Four years after WrestleMania I, Vince openly says in court that wrestling is, in fact, entertainment to avoid paying athletic commission taxes. So, after selling one wrestler’s career down the river to protect the industry, McMahon openly tells the world wrestling is predetermined to make more money.
Shocking I know.
A final thought is the fact that one moment can change a persons life. Before the slap, Schultz was on track to be one of WWF’s biggest villains. He could of been the man that Hogan defeated for the title to kickstart Hulkamania, and would be remembered alongside the likes of Roddy Piper, Randy Savage and Andre The Giant.
But two slaps later, and Schultz is dropped, first by WWF and then the industry as a whole (which Schultz insists is Vince’s doing).
All because he wanted to protect the business, he became a forgotten man.
This is a really interesting episode, looking at the art of the heel as well as fleshing out a fascinating story between a wrestler, a promoter and a reporter trying to make a name for himself. In addition, the stuff on Schultz being a bounty hunter is amazing.
Dog ain’t got nothing on Dr D.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @MattyID. Thanks for reading!