When the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform decided to look into steroid and illegal drug use in pro wrestling, three members of the McMahon family were called to testify. We've already addressed the testimony of WWE head Vince McMahon and his wife Linda McMahon, but the appearance before the committee of daughter Stephanie McMahon Levesque may have been the most interesting.
Stephanie (who is pictured between her mom and her husband Paul Levesque, better known as the wrestler Triple H) attempted to explain to Congressional investigators what constitutes a good and bad wrestler, and she informed them in the process that Hulk Hogan was "terrible" at the art of professional wrestling, that Stone Cold Steve Austin was one of the pro wrestlers who really understood what it meant to have the "it" factor, and that giving Chris Benoit (who later killed his wife, his son and himself) time off to deal with family issues was an example of the WWE's good treatment of its talent.
As was the case when Vince testified, the WWE's lawyer, Jerry McDevitt, was an interesting part of the proceedings. At one point, Stephanie told the investigators, "Within our vernacular, we have 'babyfaces' and 'heels,' babyfaces being the good guys, heels being the bad guys."
McDevitt then interrupted and said to the investigators, "Would you like to guess which side you guys are on?"
One investigator replied, "I will wait for the script."
In explaining how Stephanie's parents are her bosses, she told the investigators, "I report to Mr. McMahon. I call him Vince in business, so please don't be deterred by that. At home he is Dad. And Linda is the same way; in business she is Linda, and at home she is Mom."
In explaining how wrestlers become big stars, Stephanie said, "You really don't even have to be a good wrestler. Hulk Hogan was a terrible wrestler, and he still is. ... I am sure he would disagree with that. I forget this is all public. But, you know, he was. He was a terrible wrestler."
McMahon later said of her Hogan comment, "I didn't really realize I was on the record and wasn't thinking about that."
When the investigator suggested that WWE wrestlers are at risk of concussions because of chair shots and pile drivers, Stephanie disagreed.
"We only allow two people to do pile drivers," she said. "And they are two of the stronger guys, superstars who have done these maneuvers for a long time, really know how to do them safely. They are very rare. They have to be approved. Pile drivers, chair shots, everything has to be approved, and it is all approved by Vince."
But the subject of the investigation was steroids, and it was clear that the investigators wanted her to say that getting bigger and more muscular was the way to move up in the wrestling world. Stephanie wouldn't bite.
When asked whether she ever told a wrestler to get bigger, she answered, "No. The only time physical appearance has ever come into play is, I had to ask a diva to lose some weight ‐‐ which was very uncomfortable, by the way."
But while Stephanie wants the divas to look good, she also said pro wrestling doesn't just appeal to young males: "Vince's feeling and his company philosophy has always been, well, we are a cross‐section of Americana," she said.
Although Stephanie didn't get nearly as upset with the investigators as her father did, McDevitt, the WWE's lawyer, got testy with the Congressional investigator as the testimony wore on. This was one of several heated exchanges:
Q: Did you have any opinion about whether there was any widespread use of steroids among WWE talent?
A: No, I had no opinion on the subject.
Q: You had no opinion, meaning you didn't think there was widespread use?
Mr. McDevitt. She just said she had no opinion on the subject, Counsel. Did you hear her answer?
When the investigator asked Stephanie if the WWE had ever hired a wrestler who was rumored to be on steroids, McDevitt interrupted and said, "Give her a specific factual predicate and she'll answer the question, but don't deal in rumor mongering for Christ's sake."
You might think the last person the WWE would have wanted to talk about was Benoit, whose double murder suicide tarnished the WWE's name. But Stephanie actually brought up Benoit without the investigators even mentioning him. At one point while discussing wrestlers' schedules, Stephanie said, "Chris Benoit came to us and said that he was having a very difficult time and he needed time off for home. And so Talent Relations made the call, and Talent Relations told Creative Writing we are not going to have Benoit for four months. So no problem."
Stephanie also informed Congress that "s**t the bed" is an important term in wrestling parlance. When Stephanie said the WWE looks for wrestlers who have "it," she and the Congressional investigator had this exchange:
Q: And "it" is, sort of, charisma?
A: It is the total package, yes. It is the charisma. It the ability to take the audience on a ride. It is hopefully some wrestling ability, because you can't ‐‐ again, to use the parlance of our business ‐‐ s**t the bed when you are out there. Excuse me.
Q It is a business term, I understand.
A It actually is, believe it or not.
Later in the questioning, an investigator tried to get Stephanie to acknowledge that part of having "it" was being muscular. But Stephanie was having none of that.
"No, not necessarily," she said. "I mean we have a guy right now that is a really big, fat, bloppy guy. I mean, that's the only, really, way to describe him; and I shouldn't say his name now because it's going to be on record. He is a spectacle. He is an attraction. There are some attractions that we certainly look for in our business. I mean, we have a giant, a giant colleague right now. We have a midget ‐‐ a little person, sorry."
Then, as she discussed the WWE's various champions, McMahon said, "Our champion on SmackDown right now, Batista, is also a good‐looking guy, and he is more of the ‐‐ more of the bigger kind of kick‐your‐ass‐type guy. Excuse my language again."
The investigator replied, "This is Congress. We can take it."
The Oversight Committee web site has a PDF of Stephanie's testimony.