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August 1, 2005 Obsever Newsletter: Muhammad Hassan character written off, Lord Alfred Hayes passes away


Hopefully, WWE learned a lesson from the past few weeks, and if history is any indication, the odds of that being the case are very small.

WWE's decision making, to attempt to recreate the image of a jihadist terrorist beheading, only got worse. What was never even noted in media stories is it was actually taped on 7/4 in Sacramento. In wrestling, the date like that and shooting an angle like that would usually not be coincidence, although I can't say for sure here. It was certainly set up with the idea of all the particulars being in place to draw incredible heat. But instead, it garnered disgusted silence. 

The Undertaker-Hassan angle will now go in the history books as the first time a WWE television network banned a character. When WWE had done other controversial things over the years, whether it be Sgt. Slaughter as an Iraqi sympathizer during the Gulf War, or the Hot Lesbian Action which for a few weeks was supposed to give the company back its lost edge, or the ridiculous Katie Vick storyline, or the crucifixion of Undertaker, which elicited the same, "It's a symbol, not a cross," they got bad press, but there was little heat on their broadcast partners. 

Not all the above scenarios were outright failures, although most had to be considered unsuccessful in hindsight. WWE, with its own company reputation at stake has had to bite the bullet before, such as hiring back Tom Cole to squash a threatened lawsuit over homosexual harassment of a young man by a company executive; or toning back on racy storylines due to advertiser pullouts with more being threatened in 1999, when it was at its popularity peak; steroid testing wrestlers in 1991 after an embarrassing trial of the Pennsylvania state athletic commission doctor who doubled as the company's leading steroid distributor, in their own dressing room, to their owner and their biggest star.

You can read the rest of this newsletter here.