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September 6, 2018

There's a WWE oral history coming -- and Vince McMahon is involved

The stories of Vince McMahon and the WWE have been told from a variety of different perspectives over the years, but there hasn't been a singular, unfiltered, comprehensive look at the origins of the man or the company he built that included Vince's voice -- until now.

Journalists Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum, the authors of "I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution," are set to write the definitive oral history of the WWE and the man who took professional wrestling into the mainstream and created an empire that continues to grow to this day.

The involvement and commitment of Vince McMahon and his entire family was the final push that made this long-discussed project into a reality.

"I think that that was one of the negotiating points where the WWE knew that we were serious about writing a no-holds-barred book," said Tannenbaum, in an interview with ESPN.com. "Sometimes when you're trying to sell someone on an idea they're reticent about, you underplay what you're asking for. Craig and I, I think if anything, overplayed what we were asking for.

"We made it clear that we wanted access to Vince and to the entire McMahon family," Tannenbaum continued. "And that what we wanted was not a 15-minute phoner. We were going to need an ample amount of his time which in some ways is a dumb thing to ask for, because he's got a lot better things to do than talk to two geeks about the history of the WWE."

Though Vince McMahon rarely does interviews these days, his blessing and willing involvement separate this project from everything that's come before it.

"This will be an unapologetic look at the good, the bad and the ugly, and the journey that made WWE into the global phenomenon it is today," said Vince McMahon, WWE Chairman and CEO, said via a news release Thursday.

So how did Marks, formerly an editor at Spin, Blender and Billboard, and Tannenbaum, who's written for a wide variety of top publications, including GQ and Rolling Stone, come to head up this story, which will be published by Dey Street Books? It starts with "I Want My MTV" which, in 2011, received critical acclaim from a variety of critics, including NPR, Time and USA Today.

After releasing the book, Marks and Tannenbaum set out to find another culture-defining subject for their next oral history -- and while they quickly found their subject, it wouldn't be an easy sell for the long-guarded world of WWE.

"To fulfill what we were looking for, the criteria, there were not very many options. At the very top of our list, as wrestling fans and as interested pop culture observers, was the WWE," Marks said. "We met with representatives from the WWE in 2012 and had a great meeting. We talked for hours, and we continued to talk, and they took us to WrestleMania. Eventually they said, 'No, thank you.'"
"Can I verify one thing, Craig?" Tannenbaum interrupted. "They never really said, 'No, thank you.' They said, 'This is a great idea, but now is not the right time.'"

"The way that these books work is, you talk to Ric Flair and he mentions the names of five people that you've not heard of prior that he thinks are really germane to the story -- and that's how good journalism and good reporting works. We're going to chase everyone down." Craig Marks
"They just weren't ready to tell the story in a way that we felt that it needed to be told, which was very intimate, behind the scenes, no holds barred," Marks continued. "Through the years, about once or twice a year, we would check in ... and they would say we love you guys, love your book, nothing's changed yet, but if they do change, we'll let you know. Then about, I'd say almost a year ago, we checked in again and it turned out that they were interested in having further conversations with us. We've been talking ever since. It took a long time to make happen, but we finally found the follow-up to the first oral history we did and we're thrilled to be doing it."

So how deep and how wide will this story go? For context, the hardcover edition of "I Want My MTV" comes in at over 600 pages, took about 18 months to write and required about 450 interviews by the time all was said and done. The story told covered a timespan of about 13 years, but Marks and Tannenbaum intend on covering a lot more than that in their oral history of the WWE.

"We'll probably start the book in the late '60s, early '70s and continue it through the modern day," said Marks. "Who knows where things will be in two years when we're hopefully done with the book, but we'll be covering the XFL and the new football league. We'll be covering the Fox deal. And so there isn't any part of the McMahon and the WWE's history that we won't be pursuing in the book.
"We plan on interviewing, let's say, a minimum 500 people for this book," Marks continued. "It's really going to span the full narrative arc of the WWE. Not just from the superstars and talent that are in front of the camera, but behind the scenes -- executives, celebrities, business associates, high school friends of Vince. Anyone who we feel has something to add to the story of the WWE, we will pursue and we will interview [them]."

"Perhaps even the president of the United States of America," Tannenbaum added.
While it would be fair for fans and outside observers to be a bit skeptical about how a WWE-supported project might turn out, recent documentaries like 30 for 30's "Nature Boy" and HBO's "Andre the Giant" prove that WWE is interested in putting more than prepackaged, highly produced stories out into the world.

For their part, Marks and Tannenbaum seem poised to dig to the very bottom of every lead and tell as complete a story as is humanly possible over the next couple of years.

"The way that these books work is, you talk to Ric Flair and he mentions the names of five people that you've not heard of prior that he thinks are really germane to the story, and that's how good journalism and good reporting works," Marks said. "We're going to chase everyone down."

source:  espn.com


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