Vince McMahon usually never partied with the wrestlers. But when he did, he made sure it was a night nobody would ever forget.
Date: December 4, 1991
Location: San Antonio, TX
Source: John Clark’s Wrestling Flyer Interview Collection #1, Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling, Sports Illustrated
The year was 1991, and the WWF was in the middle of what would become its most stressful period in company history.
It was a series of events, all covered in the mainstream press, that all piled up in succession. Dr George Zahorian, who had distributed steroids for years at WWF TV tapings, was sentenced to prison. Hulk Hogan lied about his own steroid use on the Arsenio Hall Show. Superstar Billy Graham came forward and said he personally injected Hulk Hogan numerous times. The floodgates opened up and it was a public relations disaster for the WWF.
In the middle of all this, drug testing in the WWF was being enforced seriously, which it had to be because Vince McMahon knew the government was about to be zeroing in on him (which they did, and he was later indicted). While the company was never 100% clean, most of the wrestlers started shrinking around this time. Without being able to use steroids, they all suddenly looked normal. Go back and watch the WWF in late 1991 and you can see for yourself how all the physiques magically started changing.
This Tuesday in Texas
The Survivor Series was the annual Thanksgiving tradition in the WWF, originally started as a competing event on the same night the NWA held their first ever PPV (Starrcade) on Thanksgiving night in 1987. By 1991, it was held on the night before Thanksgiving, which was a Wednesday. The show was notable for the Undertaker winning the WWF Title for the first time, defeating Hulk Hogan.
The whole PPV was designed to sell an additional PPV the following week, which would be priced lower and held in the middle of the week. Dubbed “This Tuesday in Texas,” it continued some of the storylines from Survivor Series, including Hogan winning back the WWF Title from the Undertaker.
The real stories, however, were behind the scenes. Vince had hired Dr Mario DiPisquale to institute Olympic style drug testing, and it was going to be expanded to include non-prescription drugs like marijuana. This Tuesday in Texas was held on a Tuesday (obviously), and there were TV tapings scheduled the next day in Austin, TX. Over these tapings, Vince was going to announce the new drug testing policy.
With marijuana about to be banned (which some thought was a mistake because it would lead to more reliance on alcohol), a lot of the wrestlers figured this was their last night to get really high without consequence. Vince himself wanted to have one last party with the wrestlers before the new policy, so he decided to join the boys on their wild night out.
The Strip Club
After the PPV, a lot of the boys went to a local strip club in San Antonio. This was quite unusual, as he never partied with the wrestlers by this point. Another reason he decided to go out, aside from the drug policy changes, was that he wanted to improve his relations with Hulk Hogan. The two had ongoing contract negotiations around this time, and there was pressure on Hogan to take a sabbatical due to all the media pressure. He also wanted time off to film a movie.
Bret Hart was with his brother Owen, who had just re-joined the company. Bret and Owen shared one last joint of marijuana before heading into the strip club, knowing it might be their last puff for awhile. Bret took Owen with him inside and planned on introducing him to everyone (even though most already knew who he was).
Vince arrived around midnight, and was already not in the best state of mind. Pat Patterson was with him and told him it was a bad idea to be there in his condition. Sgt Slaughter was there and tasked with making sure Vince was okay, and was also his designated driver. Once Patterson saw Vince would be taken care of, he bailed rather quickly.
Already at the strip club were Hogan, Curt Hennig, Big Bossman, Hercules, and the Rockers (Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty), among others. One notable name there was Brutus Beefcake, who had finally recovered enough from his parasailing accident in 1990, which required extensive surgery and limited his ability to wrestle when he eventually returned years later.
Vince, with his tie hanging loosely around his neck, came in and had more drinks. He was clearly having a good time, which he probably needed due to the immense amount of stress he was under at the time. Perhaps he had too good of a time. Before he knew it, he found himself on the receiving end of everyone’s finishing maneuver.
The Road Warriors
As the night progressed, Vince got more and more drunk. The word “sh*t faced” was used to describe him.
As one thing led to another, someone got the bright idea to get physical. Hogan got the Road Warriors riled up about giving Vince their finisher, called the Doomsday Device. In this move, Animal would hoist the guy on his shoulders, and then Hawk would come flying off the top rope with a clothesline. In the 80s, the job guys hated taking the move because it required they do a back flip and take a hard landing on the mat. This was on top of the usual stiff potato shots the Road Warriors were known for giving to the job guys.
Hogan finally gave the thumbs up, and Animal went behind Vince and put him on his shoulders. Hawk grabbed a stripper pole and climbed onto the stage, causing the dancer to move out of the way of these huge monsters with crazy haircuts and muscles bursting out of every part of their bodies.
Hawk then ran and leaped off. He must have had second thoughts as he was in mid-air, as he ended up just lightly tagging Vince instead of the full-on clothesline. That was probably a good idea. Not only did Vince barely get hit, but also Hogan and Beefcake were there to catch him as he fell down.
It was all playful and everyone laughed.
The Hart Foundation
Bret Hart wasn’t laughing. He was rolling his eyes at his brother-in-law and former tag team partner, Jim Neidhart.
Bret was beginning a singles career, and Owen Hart was brought in to replace him as Neidhart’s tag team partner. The two would be billed as the New Hart Foundation.
Neidhart said he and Bret would’ve had the balls to really give the move to Vince, and not lighten up the way Hawk did. “Damn right,” said Bret, who was holding shots of Jack Daniels.
Bret then thought, ‘Oh no, what did I just say.’
Soon enough, Neidhart pretended like he was hugging Vince, and then lifted him up. Hogan stared at Bret as if to say, ‘You don’t have the balls to do it.’
Bret put down his drinks, stepped back, and ran towards Vince. He gave him the Hart Attack clothesline finisher, and Vince’s head bounced off the carpet. They both lay on their backs, and Vince said, “You owe me a drink, Hitman.”
“Don’t worry, I’m buying,” said Bret.
“Double Dewars on ice,” said Vince.
According to Marty Jannetty, Bret also put Vince in the sharpshooter, which was Bret’s finishing move as a singles wrestler. When Bret later told the story, he never mentioned the sharpshooter.
At this point, the police were called. No one had done anything illegal, but all these big guys were being rough and it probably scared the staff and the strippers. Vince was getting knocked around pretty good from taking people’s finishers.
The lights came up and it was last call. In what must have been a hilarious visual, the lights came on and Vince was draped over the shoulder of Davey Boy Smith, the British Bulldog. Smith was looking for a place to powerslam Vince, which was his finishing maneuver. With nowhere to slam him safely, he set Vince down.
Police arrived and escorted the wrestlers out. But the party was not over…
Ric Flair was not at the strip club, but he was certainly having fun. He had a penthouse booked at the Marriot, and some of the wrestlers went there after the strip club to continue the hijinks.
Owen, Bret, and some of the strippers drove there in one car. Vince arrived later and they all circled the desk clerk. Flair hadn’t checked in yet, so Vince demanded his key. The clerk said he couldn’t do that, as it was against hotel policy. Vince got belligerent and demanded the key, and he got it.
The penthouse was huge with a full bar. Vince was still drunk and in playful mode, and soon started challenging wrestlers to take him down. While this was going on, wrestlers like Hercules and Curt Hennig were peeing on Flair’s bed. Eventually Vince did too. Bret noted that this made him realize what the boys really thought of Flair, saying nobody would’ve ever done this to Harley Race.
The Broken Nose
There’s one side story that Marty Jannetty told, although we haven’t been able to find confirmation of this. Marty said that Vince had been eyeing the Warlord and whispered to someone, “Watch him (Warlord), I’m going to take him down.”
The only problem was, Vince was so drunk that he didn’t realize his “whispering” was really quite loud. Warlord heard exactly what he said, and said to Marty, “Okay, we’ll see.”
The Warlord was absolutely humongous, even off steroids. His arms, neck, chest, and legs were positively massive. He waited patiently for Vince to make his move, and sure enough, Vince inched up little by little.
Finally Vince saw his chance and went for a leg dive. Warlord, fully prepared, stuck his knee up and nailed Vince right in the face. Vince’s nose was busted open and he was bleeding everywhere.
It’s strange that we’ve not seen that part of the story reported elsewhere, as one would think it would’ve made the rounds. Marty said Vince showed up at the TV tapings the next day with a broken nose, cauliflower ear, and scrubs all over his face. That all adds up, and since Vince never went out with the boys, it’s not like Marty would’ve confused it for another night that it happened.
Vince was also three hours late for the tapings, which was newsworthy because this was the taping where he was going to announce the new drug policy.
Marty noted that he had been fined several times for being late, and noted to Vince that here he was after one night out and he’s late by three hours. Lots of wrestlers were often fined for being late, most notably the British Bulldogs, who were late so often that they sometimes owed Vince money instead of getting paychecks.
Bret noted that a year or two later, Vince had neck surgery. Before surgery, Vince told Bret that he had no idea why his neck was in such bad shape. Bret joked to him that maybe it was the Hart Attack at the strip club in San Antonio, which Vince chuckled about.
Oh, and Flair never checked into his hotel. He must have been on Space Mountain with one of the countless women he has bedded in his time.
There were no other repercussions from the party itself, although the effects from the steroid investigation were of course legendary. Vince was indicted, and later acquitted. Before and after the acquittal, the WWF was as clean as they would ever be. The smaller physiques, along with bad booking and lack of star power, led to a depression in the company and industry overall. It picked up later with the Monday night wars, during which steroids were back in full effect.
Steroids weren’t really addressed again until 2005 when Eddie Guerrero passed away, and again later when Chris Benoit passed away and steroids were found in his home. Since then, the company has instituted a rigid drug policy. Still, there are wrestlers with exemptions (like Ryback admitted) that allow them to take testosterone for health reasons. Growth hormone is also still not detectable in their tests, which is why many of the bodies you see on TV still look good.
However, you don’t hear much about wrestling having a steroid problem anymore, and the early deaths have slowed down considerably. Physiques aren’t as important as they used to be, but as the recent push of Jinder Mahal has shown, muscles still matter. And they always will as long as Vince McMahon is in control.