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The Vince McMahon “Death Angle” was a distasteful storyline coming out of the June 3, 2007 “One Night Stand” PPV event. Prior to his loss at the PPV Vince McMahon was the ECW World Champion and shortly after he began to show signs of a breakdown. To begin with he was angry that he lost the title to Lashley, taking out his frustrations on other stars and ripping in to the new champion, but In the end it all became too much for him and the TV shows leading up to his limo exploding showed a weak shadow of a man who would babel incoherently and walk to the ring looking scared and timid. Many experts believed that this was the storyline version of Vince McMahon’s true feelings of being an old man who should probably retire.
June 11, 2007 was the night. Raw’s Vince McMahon “appreciation night” to be precise. This special episode showed many former and current stars giving their opinions on the Chairman, almost all negative. The whole show seemed to be focused on the bad things Vince had done and on all the stars getting their own back on the former evil genius. It got the viewer almost feeling sorry for the frail old man, which was perfect for what was to come at the end of the show. After being booed out of the ring Vince, slowly with near tears in his eyes seemed to walk for hours past every superstar on the show, lapping up all the humiliation. He reached the fire exit and after one quick glance at the company that had turned its back on him, made his way to his limo. After some bystanders chuckled at him in the background he opened the limo, closed the door and BOOM! It exploded. The end of Vince McMahon and a shocking end to that episode of Raw.
Immediately after this incident there was a media uproar. Due to the fact that WWE were treating this as 100% real, a lot of sources detached from wrestling reported it as real and the Stamford offices even got phone calls from business partners offering their condolences. Analysts stated that stock prices may have even dropped because some holders legitimately thought their Chairman had died and the business was going to turn in to a shambles.
WWE.com stayed loyal to this story for days, covering the investigations of “federal agents” and showing fake/real flowers and cards outside WWE Headquarters with the WWE flag at half mast.
Yahoo’s buzz index and other search engine results were flooded with Vince McMahon queries and message boards could barely cope with the streams of questions asking if Vince had really died. It’s amazing that even in 2007 people were fooled by the angle. The reason why was probably due to the next disgusting and chilling events in the saga.
The next ECW and Smackdown shows in many peoples opinions cold heartedly pissed all over the graves of former wrestlers Eddie Guerrero and Owen Hart among others. WWE used out of character methods of mourning the real dead, with mourning the fake dead Mr McMahon. ECW showed a teary and speechless Joey Styles and Tazz trying to come to turns with “this tremendous loss,” and Smackdown had a sickening Ten Bell Salute featuring all the locker room standing solemnly in the entrance way. A lot of fans and a lot of wrestlers were turned off by this handling of the storyline. It’s one thing doing a death angle but it becomes down right wrong when you milk the deaths of other wrestlers by mimicking things that happened after they died.
Perhaps the worst thing that could happen during the storyline, happened. A real wrestler died in Chris Benoit and although we now know the shocking details in that massacre you could still feel the “I told you so” tension in the air when wrestlers who just days ago were giving heartfelt messages about Vince, were now giving them about Chris Benoit. The angle was immediately dropped and Vince disappeared from television.
If this shocking turn of events hadn’t happened According to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter the plan was to have Vince return in the summer claiming that he faked his own death. He was then going to reveal an accomplice with several names being mentioned for the role. Mr. Kennedy was a top candidate for the role as WWE wanted to build a monster heel character off the storyline.
The June 25th edition of RAW (which ended up being a Chris Benoit tribute show) was scheduled to be a memorial service for Vince. WWE brought in a casket, flowers, candles, and pictures of the Chairman. All of the talent was told to wear a black suit for the evening. The show was suppose to end with a cliff hanger with the lead detective (“Mr. Beck”) making an arrest of the fake culprit, which would later turn out to be Linda McMahon.
Following a shocking ratings decrease to a 2.5 (later turned out to be a false reading) WWE decided to return Vince McMahon to TV, hopefully boosting ratings and on the August 6th episode it was hyped as “Mr McMahon Strikes Back.” The chairman returned and quickly dismissed the angle stating he faked his own death because he needed to know if the fans and his family still loved him. He said his family didn’t care and just wanted their inheritance, but he was willing to bring them back together. Later it was revealed that Vince had an illegitimate child leading on to another crazy storyline.
Before the live episode of Raw, on the Saturday and Sunday the actual explosion was filmed. WWE hired a Hollywood style pyro team Zenith Pyrotechnology and had to acquire several permits to make the explosion legal. As Vince left the arena they cut the live feed and went to the pre taped explosion making it seem live. Before the crowd left the arena they placed the burnt out husk of the limo in position to add to the effect.