Back in 2001, Vince McMahon went on HBO Sports’ On The Record for a sit down interview with host Bob Costas about the XFL.
It didn’t take long for things to get heated, as McMahon bristled at questions about the sagging ratings for his first attempt at starting a football league. The two cut each other off repeatedly during the 15+ minute segment, with WWE Chairman leaning into Costas’ personal space as the Emmy-winning sportscaster smirked in Vince’s face.
Hard feelings were evident, and even though a “rematch” a little more than a year later didn’t produce the same fireworks, there’s bad blood to this day.
How do we know? Because they’re still talking about it.
McMahon’s thoughts on the matter have been making headlines this week thanks to their inclusion in James Andrew Miller’s new book Tinderbox: HBO’s Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers. The oral history includes Vince’s no holds barred comments on the first Costas interview:
“Once we were doing the interview, he kept interrupting me and interrupting me, and bringing up topics that had nothing to do with what we were supposed to be talking about. He kept trying to do the ‘I gotcha’ kind of thing. It was clear he didn’t want to hear any of my answers.
“The other problem was that Bob is so freaking pompous. The entire time he acted like he was above me and was just using me to show how great he was. I was sitting there really pissed off and started thinking, I wish he wasn’t 5-feet high and 140 pounds. If he was 6-5 and 295, he would deserve to get the shit beat out of him. I could have really given them some great television.”
Costas was asked about this while appearing on STWeekly’s Here’s The Pitch with Brad Straubinger. He’s arguing against settling debates with fists, but he didn’t pull too many punches either:
“Here’s my answer to this. Let’s test Vince’s premise. He probably outweighed me two-to-one. I weigh around 150 [pounds]. He might’ve weighed, especially then, certainly 275 at a minimum, maybe 300 pounds. And who knows what might have enhanced that physical standing. But in any case, his premise was - or is that, ‘Well, if Bob and I were closer in size, his line of questioning was ticking me off and we would’ve come to blows and I would have beat the crap out of him.’
“Let’s test this premise. Let’s suppose somebody’s on Meet The Press, and they don’t like Chuck Todd’s line of questioning. They’re a Congressman or Senator, and like Chuck, they’re roughly 5 foot 10 to six feet tall, and they weigh between 175 and 185. So, they’re in the same weight class. It would be entirely appropriate for the Senator from whatever state to just go to blows. Think about that. Think what this premise is: ‘I don’t like your line of questioning, but as long as it’s a fair fight, I should be allowed to kick the shit out of you.’ Brilliant... Do you really have to respond to something that stupid? On its base, it’s idiotic...
“What really ticked him off was this — it’s obvious he was getting very, very angry. It was great TV. People are still talking about it, and it was 20 years ago. I didn’t expect it to go that way, but when it did and when he went off, it didn’t throw me off. And I’ve said this many, many times — he’s not dumb. If you look at a transcript of this, it might’ve been a draw. But on tone, he’s losing his shit, and I’m just like, ‘Okay, let’s proceed.’ So if this was supposed to throw me off, it didn’t work.”
Given [gestures broadly at everything], I don’t think it’s too long before a Senator does fight Chuck Todd on Meet The Press — but I get Costas’ point.
We’ll keep you posted on when these two legendary rivals schedule round three.