Torch Flashbacks TORCH FLASHBACK (1999): Mankind wins the WWF Title at Halftime Heat during Super Bowl
Feb 7, 2010 - 4:09:49 PM
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The following is the cover-story from Torch Newsletter #533 from February 1999 detailing Mankind (Mick Foley) winning the WWF Title from The Rock in a taped Halftime Heat segment that aired during the NFL Super Bowl.
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Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter #533
Cover-Dated: February 6, 1999
Headline: Mankind regains WWF Title at Halftime Heat
By Wade Keller, Torch editor
Vince McMahon hoped to bring new awareness to the WWF product through a Super Bowl halftime special and a $1.6 million second half commercial. The "Halftime Heat" featuring Mankind defeating The Rock to capture the WWF Title in an empty arena match drew a 6.6 rating, the highest rated match of the entire weekend and the widest viewed WWF match in cable history. The match did not receive critical praise, but the second half commercial has. The commercial has also received the ire of the American Family Association (AFA).
The WWF commercial featured Steve Austin, The Rock, Undertaker, Sable, and Mankind. They said the WWF doesn't contain violence or sex and that wrestlers are good role models. Meanwhile, in the background, there was a lot of violence and sexual innuendo. The commercial was shot at the actual WWF Titan Tower headquarters, including a massive fight in the open lobby with people falling over the balcony. The commercial ended with Vince McMahon standing outside. As a fireball shot out of a window of Titan Towers and a man plunged to the ground, McMahon smiled and said, "Get it?"
The commercial was a message to media critics and non-fans who think that if someone watches wrestling, they must think it's real. McMahon is trying to redefine the WWF as an "action-adventure series." Figuring that many people watching Halftime Heat were not usual WWF viewers, during the match he described the WWF. "You're watching action-adventure, that's what the WWF is," he said. "It's soap opera, it's Road Runner, elements of One Life To Live. It's like Hollywood and Broadway and all points in between. There is nothing quite like the WWF, the number one ranked television show in all of cable television."
The WWF did raise its mainstream awareness with the commercial and halftime show. The WWF commercial received positive reviews across the country in newspapers and on news broadcasts. It made many lists of the best commercials during the Super Bowl.
The AFA disagreed strongly with the critical praise. In an alert sent out to members on Monday, they urged members who were offended by the commercial to file an indecent broadcasting complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) against their local Fox affiliate. "The commercial in question promoted the WWF and included a woman lying on a desk with her legs spread open with a man thrusting between her legs in an obvious depiction of a sexual act.," wrote the AFA. Dennis Miller, National Field Director of the AFA, believes Fox violated federal broadcast laws with the WWF commercial. Miller said: "AFA has observed a dramatic increase in sex, profanity, and violence on television in the last 20 years. We're amazed at what has been broadcast, but Fox and the WWF have gone beyond what the FCC finds acceptable and we believe that Fox should be penalized for this one."
The AFA alert specifies that the FCC has defined indecency as "language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary standards for the broadcast medium sexual or excretory organs or activities." The AFA says the simulated sex scene on the desk meets that definition.
Ironically, McMahon's campaign set out to insulate the WWF from such criticism since the slogan implies if you don't like what the WWF is doing, you simply "don't get it." Leading into the Super Bowl there had been signs of momentum building against the WWF's current approach including articles critical of the WWF in the Chicago Sun-Times and New York Daily News last week. The Winnipeg school board controversy continued with the chairwoman of the Winnipeg School Division trustees, Lori Johnson, saying: "We're not interested in helping the (WWF) improve their public image. You can't come in and say, ?tay in school, don't do drugs, and now we're the good guys.'"
Vince McMahon used to argue the WWF was "wholesome family entertainment." Now he makes fun of that slogan during a Super Bowl commercial. Right now it appears profitable to be controversial since Raw has never had a more successful run. In fact, they earned bragging rights this week when PPV numbers came in from January. For the first time ever, a wrestling event (Royal Rumble) drew more buys than a Mike Tyson boxing event.
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