10 Things You May Not Have Known About
The Billionaire Ted Skits
Amazingly, it's been nearly a quarter-century since Vince McMahon first publicly responded to WCW in the form of the Billionaire Ted skits that began airing on WWF programming in January 1996.
The vignettes were a parody of Ted Turner and his efforts to build a "rasslin' company" by hiring established stars such as Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage.
Whether you liked them or hated them, they are now part of wrestling history. Here are 10 things about the Billionaire Ted skits that you may not remember.
1) Vince Russo played a WCW executive in them
Talk about a fortuitous casting choice!
In the first skit known as "Billionaire Ted's Rasslin' War Room", Russo appeared as one of the board members explaining to Billionaire Ted why the WWF was more in touch with their audience and how the product was more entertaining than theirs. Quite ironic, considering how three years later, Russo would be driving all of WCW's creative decisions.
2) Ted Turner thought the skits were hilarious
One might assume that WWF's portrayal of Ted Turner as a bumbling, sexist, racist, money-hungry, out of touch goofball may have caused hard feelings with the former Time Warner executive. But apparently not.
In Eric Bischoff's (excellent) autobiography Controversy Creates Cash, the former WCW President wrote of the skits: "It didn't bother me, and it really didn't bother Ted. We all thought, Oh, man, Ted is going to be hot. I wasn't in the room, but Harvey Schiller told me that Ted laughed his ass off when he saw them. He thought they were funny as hell."
Apparently, the basis for Billionaire Ted's character had a sense of humor.
3) Randy Savage didn't
Randy Savage didn't like that his doppleganger Nacho Man was portrayed as an over the hill caricature that could no longer compete at a high level.
Given that Savage left WWF after being relegated to the announce booth, we can see why he may have failed to see the humor of the gimmick.
4) The skits were accompanied by threatening newspaper ads.
To Vince McMahon, Ted Turner's open check book was apparently more than a punch line on television.
The WWF launched a series of ads in newspapers, alerting Time-Warner investors that their money was being spend to facilitate Turner's "personal vendetta" against the WWF.
5) WCW sued the WWF over them
Well, kind of. The Billionaire Ted skits were part of a lawsuit the promotion filed against parent company Titan Sports in 1998 (two years after the skits aired), claiming that the WWF was attempting to disparage WCW images and trademarks.
Other examples cited in the lawsuit were the D-Generation X "invasion" of the Norfolk Scope on a live Monday Night Raw and the introduction of new Diesel and Razor Ramon characters while WCW had Kevin Nash and Razor Ramon under contract.
6) The skits were peppered with insider references
Among the claims referenced in the Billionaire Ted skits were that WCW rasslers weren't subject to the same kind of drug testing that WWF superstars were required to take; that WCW gave away free merchandise to fans at televised shows to make it look like fans were buying lots of it; and that Ted Turner purposely scheduled Nitro opposite Monday Night Raw to crater its viewership.
The skits also joked about how Scheme Gene (the parody character of Mean Gene Okerlund) always shilled his hotline on television and portrayed a woman's shoe as a dangerous weapon, a reference to the finish of a Hulk Hogan vs. Arn Anderson match that aired on Nitro.
7) USA Network ordered that the skits be dropped
The WWF aired nine sketches following the exploits of Billionaire Ted, Nacho Man, Scheme Gene and The Huckster (a Hulk Hogan parody) on Raw before USA Network President Kay Koplovitz put a stop to them, according to Sex, Lies and Headlocks (another great wrestling book).
As the home of WWF's Monday Night Raw, the USA Network had more than a casual interest in how the promotion was presenting itself in public.
Pending litigation by WCW may have been a factor in her decision.
8) The skits led to a match at WrestleMania!
When fans think of WrestleMania, they think of classic matches such as Ricky Steamboat vs. Randy Savage, Steve Austin vs The Rock and.... um The Huckster vs. The Nacho Man.
The match (which featured Billionaire Ted as referee and Scheme Gene as an announcer) was shown on the WrestleMania pre-show, on a Mystery Science Theater 3000-type screen with Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler doing commentary. It was declared a no-contest after both competitors passed out (or died?) from exhaustion.
9) WCW later referenced the gimmick in their own storylines
When Scott Hall returned to WCW on May 27, 1996, he entered the ring from the crowd, giving the appearance that he showed up unannounced. And to suggest that he was a WWF invader, Hall said the following when he got to the ring:
"Where is Billionaire Ted? Where is the Nacho Man? That punk can't even get in the building. Me, I go wherever I want, whenever I want. And where, oh where is Scheme Gene? 'Cause I've got a scoop for you."
Ironically, the one character Hall didn't reference in that speech was The Huckster... whose real-life counterpart Hulk Hogan would soon join Hall and Kevin Nash to form the nWo.
10) Speaking of ironic....
All four men referenced in the Billionaire Ted skits later had some form of dealings with Vince McMahon and WWE.
McMahon bought WCW in 2001 from Time Warner, of which Ted Turner was a minority shareholder. Mean Gene Okerlund returned to the WWF shortly after the sale and remains a part-time employee. The "over the hill" Hulk Hogan returned to WWF/E and even won the World Heavyweight Championship. And while Randy Savage never fully mended fences, he did some licensing work for WWE and posthumously was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
No hard feelings?