HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — World Wrestling Entertainment fans who cheer and boo on cue during shows say their fanaticism doesn’t guarantee they’ll send the company’s former CEO to Washington as the state’s U.S. senator.
With three days until Election Day, more than 15,000 pro wrestling enthusiasts packed the XL Center in Hartford for WWE’s Fan Appreciation Day event, which company officials said was to reward fans for their support of the brand, not to rally voters for Republican Linda McMahon’s Senate bid.
Besides a fan in the front row holding a poster declaring “Linda for Senate,” there was little mention of politics. Vince McMahon made an appearance in the ring and urged fans to continue supporting the company and to vote, though he didn’t mention his wife.
Though many fans said they’re closely following the Senate race, they said McMahon’s ties to the company will have little to no impact on who gets their votes.
“I don’t think many people bought tickets to rally for Linda McMahon; they came for the show,” said wrestling fan Mark Sziabowski, of New Britain. “Most pro wrestling fans tend to be Democrats and really liberal anyway, so I don’t think there’s going to be much carry-over or automatic votes for her.”
McMahon, who stepped down as WWE’s CEO in 2009, is battling longtime Democratic state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal for the seat of retiring Democratic U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd. A recent poll showed Blumenthal leading McMahon, who’s married to current WWE CEO Vince McMahon. The election is Nov. 2.
Saturday’s WWE event was part of the pro wrestling company’s “Stand Up for WWE” campaign, company officials said. The social media-based promotion was headed by Vince McMahon to counteract attacks on the company’s image from state Democrats and wasn’t affiliated with Linda McMahon’s run for Senate, they said.
“This has nothing to do with a political campaign, it’s all about the fans,” WWE executive vice president of marketing Michelle Wilson said. “We encourage them all to vote, but we’re all about celebrating our fans’ love for the WWE and rewarding them for their continued support.”
Before the show, vehicles covered in the posters of state Republican candidates, including Linda McMahon, circled the arena as fans filed in.
State Democrats have questioned the timing of “Stand Up for WWE” and the company’s decision to hold shows in the state so close to Election Day. The WWE is scheduled to hold another event in Bridgeport on Tuesday.
State Democrats also have recently sought a federal elections investigation into whether WWE has illegally cooperated with the political campaign.
Images of Linda McMahon kicking a male performer in the groin and other less-than-flattering WWE footage have been widely flaunted by the Republican’s opponents.
The show in Hartford was put together only about a month before the scheduled date, even though the company usually schedules its touring dates at least 18 months in advance, WWE spokesman Robert Zimmerman said.
“Vince wanted to do something special for the Connecticut fans, since they’re receiving the brunt of the attacks on WWE,” he said. “The Bridgeport date was scheduled almost two years in advance, but we realized that we would be in the area around that time and, shockingly, the XL Center had an open date, so we booked it.”
Wrestling fan Rob Manouse, of New Milford, said he believes if McMahon loses at the polls, WWE may not be to blame.
“There are just so many ads of her bashing Blumenthal that you don’t really get much of a sense of what she can bring to the table,” said Manouse, who took his two young sons, decked out in WWE gear, to Saturday’s show. “I think that may have hurt her more than being associated with wrestling.”
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)