In late 1984, David Schultz gained notoriety after assaulting 20/20 reporter John Stossel during a report on the legitimacy of pro wrestling. Today on the blog, Brian revisits that incident in ‘The Slap Heard ‘Round The World (Wrestling Federation)’.
1. A thing that is not genuine; a forgery or sham.
I have often spoken about how professional wrestling is anything but “fake.” Is it scripted? Yes. Is it predetermined? Yes. Is the physicality real? Yes. Are the injuries real? 100% Yes! With all that said, it hasn’t stopped journalist and mainstream media from classifying the industry as nothing more than a joke.
For many, this business is a way of life…a means to support a family…to pay bills, rent…put food on the table…etc. So when an outsider who doesn’t regularly follow the business calls it fake…don’t be surprised if it is met with some hostility. Over 30 years ago, one journalist took it upon himself to call pro wrestling the F word and it caused quite the stir.
John has been involved in the news industry for over 40 years. He has won 19 Emmy awards for his reporting and has written a two successful books.
A pro wrestler for 13 years and considered by many in the business as a legitimate bad ass.
In December of 1984, John Stossel and his cameras followed the business of professional wrestling and to question its true legitimacy. This coming during a time where there was no internet and social media and kayfabe was still fully enforced by everyone involved. Stossel went around interviewing wrestlers and showing wrestling footage while slowing the video down to show how these men and women were pulling the wool over our eyes.
Then Stossel went backstage at Madison Square Garden during a WWF house show to further his “investigation.” It was there where he met and talked to ‘Dr. D’ David Schultz. Admittedly, Schultz came off belligerent and crass…giving short and terse answers to Stossel’s questions. It looked like right from the get go…Schultz was pissed and looking for a reason…any reason…to stomp the crap out of John Stossel.
Wanting a more direct answer to his questioning…Stossel did the unthinkable…he said straight out…“I Think it’s fake.”
Without any hesitation, Schultz open hand slapped Stossel in the left ear…knocking him to the ground. As Stossel got himself up, Schultz open hand slapped him in the right ear…once again knocking Stossel to the floor. John Stossel quickly got up and took off with Schultz following him from behind. When the expose aired a few weeks later, John sat down with Barbara Walters and said he was still feeling the after effects of the slaps to his ears.
The network (ABC) which showed the piece was inundated with thousands of phone calls from viewers voicing their disgust for Schultz and the WWF as well as hoping to hear about Stossel’s medical condition. Stossel ended up suing the World Wrestling Federation for the incident and won a settlement of close to $500,000. David Schultz was later fired from the WWF. The reasoning was an alleged backstage argument with Mr. T…but others suspected that was just an excuse.
Depending on who you believe, Vince didn’t expect the massive negative backlash his company was receiving because of the slap and wanted to cut his losses. Others believed that Hulk Hogan who was once good friends with Schultz feared that Schultz would be too much of a legitimate threat during his main event run and refused to work with him.
If you think that slap killed the career of Schultz…you’d be sorely mistaken. Various promotions wanted him to come in because of the reputation and exposure he got from the incident. Schultz walked away from wrestling when promoters couldn’t meet his asking price of $1,500 a night.
According to Schultz years later…he accused Vince McMahon of ordering him to beat down Stossel as a way to put fear in him. Does that sound bitter? Does it sound made up? Before you answer, John Stossel also claimed that when talking with Vince McMahon…Vince told him a good person to talk with was David Schultz. Did McMahon orchestrate the slap from the get go? We will probably never know for sure…but it seems at least a small realm of possibility.
After he retired, Schultz went on to become a successful bounty hunter for many years.
John Stossel is still going strong in the news business and has even stated…he regrets suing the WWF for his expose.