Today is an infamous day in wrestling history. It was on October 3rd, sixteen years ago that fate handed us the most ridiculous, preposterous, stupendous storyline to ever make it through WWE Creative: the saga of Torrie Wilson, Al Wilson and Dawn Marie.
If you dare, allow me to drag you through this hallucinogenic acid trip of an angle.
Now… there is a lot to unpack here. I have a lot of questions right off the bat. For instance, who on God’s green earth decided to put Al Wilson on television? Actually I know the answer to that, but don’t judge Torrie too harshly. For anyone not aware, Al Wilson is Torrie’s actual, real life father, and I mean he’d have to be because there’s no way you could find an actor this bad. He may actually be the worst performer to ever be on WWE television, and he was a regular on SmackDown for months!
So like, first of all, Al Wilson. Second of all… this entire thing.
It’s particularly… interesting, if that’s quite the word, looking at this series of events through 2018 eyes. A lot of very serious things happen during this angle. Such as, sexual assault. (This is a legit trigger warning for this article in regards to sexual assault, in all seriousness.) Also, extortion. Duping someone into marriage. Destroying a family. Death. Someone DIES during this angle – this angle has fatalities. This is some seriously dark and harrowin-
Oh. Right. This is WWE we’re talking about. Obviously this is a comedy. I apologize in advance for all of this.
Not to mention the fact that all of these lives are destroyed because a Diva lost a bikini contest.
Few things in life are certain: death, taxes, and women on SmackDown starting feuds over bikini contests. In the years when there was no proper women’s division on SmackDown (roughly 2002-07), basically every single Divas match on that show was booked off the back of a heel Diva losing a bikini contest and being pissed about it.
And thus it ever was on that fateful day: Torrie Wilson defeated Dawn Marie in a bikini contest, and Dawn got hot and slapped her. Pretty standard stuff. Vintage Bikini Contest! The only wrinkle in the situation was that, inexplicably, Al Wilson was there backstage at SmackDown watching his daughter have a bikini contest. Again I ask, for the love of God, why?
From then on Al Wilson continues to turn up to TV. I continue to have no explanation. Dawn Marie the Ultimate Opportunist zeroes in on Al and shamelessly flirts with him every week; showing off her bikini outfits, then her magazine pictorial with her hotel room key slipped inside… something is clearly afoot.
There’s a great bit one day where Al brings flowers to TV and Torrie sees him first and goes, “Aww you brought me flowers!” So Al has to be like, “Uhh, yeah, they’re for you…” It’s only later that the makeup lady reads the card and discovers that they were meant for Dawn Marie! Ooooh! She snitches on old mate to Torrie, who goes looking for them and finds them IN THE SHOWERS IN THE DIVAS LOCKER ROOM! Ooooooh!
Now, when I say “in the showers”, this requires an explanation. Dawn Marie is in the shower, getting wet, naked, because she’s in the shower. Al Wilson is in the shower, getting wet, WITH ALL OF HIS CLOTHES STILL ON, because he’s an idiot, I guess. But all the same, Torrie is upset, and all of this leads to her showdown with Dawn Marie on PPV at No Mercy 2002.
Pure sports build.
They have the match (which is surprisingly good by the way) and Torrie prevails. Then on SmackDown, Dawn tells Torrie she was the better woman, that she’s sorry for all the shenanigans and she’ll break it off with Al.
The end. Thanks for reading, next week I-
Dawn is back making out with Al by the end of the episode. So they’re together, much to Torrie’s chagrin, and then on the November 7th SmackDown, Al does the thing. He proposes in the ring to Dawn Marie in one of the worst segments of all time.
Al, have I mentioned, is the worst performer in history. Dawn frankly isn’t a whole lot better sometimes. Cole and Tazz are falling over the table and each other burying this crap into the ground. Al proposes, badly, and Dawn just stands there milking it longer than any pro wrestling handshake has ever been milked. So Al blurts out, “If you say no I’ll kill myself I swear to God!” and Tazz starts begging Dawn to turn him down. But she says yes. The crowd HATES THIS. Vociferously. Torrie is devastated. Cole and Tazz are still laughing. This is grade A steaming hot garbage.
A bunch of trash happens in the next few weeks that I don’t even need to get into UNTIL! SmackDown, December 5th. Al Wilson is overseas, praise the Lord. Dawn Marie corners Torrie backstage and admits to her that it’s not Al that she really wants… it’s Torrie! Oooooh! Torrie is great in this moment, because she looks horrified, but she also looks a tiny little bit relieved that she gets it, she finally knows what all this nonsense with her father has actually been for. So Dawn gives Torrie her hotel key and promises to call off the wedding if Torrie comes to her room tonight and… you know. *eyebrow waggle*
Pause. Sidebar. I know it’s 2018 and we’re having a constant public discourse about sexual assault and sexual harrassment, and I realise I’m probably speaking to an audience of mostly male wrestling fans. So my dudes, let me be absolutely clear about this. If you coerce someone into having sex with you by, let’s just say, threatening to marry their father and break his heart for sport if they don’t go along with it, that is sexual assault. Coersion is not consent. Write it down somewhere. Coersion is not consent.
This ends our public service announcement. Let’s get back to giggling at this decidedly rapey development in the story.
So. Later on the same show, we get the skit with Torrie reluctantly turning up to Dawn’s hotel room. She almost chickens out, but finally she opens the door and THERE’S DAWN, sitting on the bed, holding a champagne glass, lit up like a horror movie villain, and this is the single greatest camera shot in SmackDown history I swear. Get a load of Evil Dawn Marie right here.
What a psycho. Anyway, Torrie tries to leave but Dawn is all, “I guess you don’t love your father after all…” and guilt trips her into staying. Dawn starts to touch her and it’s super creepy and suddenly THE CREDITS COME UP AND THIS IS THE END OF THE SHOW. Tune in next week for more rape, I guess. Jesus Christ.
(By the by, the December 5th Smackdown was headlined by an amazing Edge vs. Guerrero vs. Angle vs. Benoit elimination match, and I’m only just now realising that the end of that episode wasn’t the brilliant highspotty zenith of the SmackDown Six Era like I thought but THIS BULLSHIT.)
The fallout next week is super messed up. Firstly, Torrie asks Dawn backstage why there are so many rumours about what they did when it was a private moment between them – I guess she didn’t see the invisible cameraman in the room, but I suppose she was traumatised. She says nothing happened, but then says that she held up her end of the bargain so Dawn should call the wedding off. (Sidebar. PSA #2: This is a good example that sometimes sexual assault victims don’t say that anything happened and then say that it did because they don’t like to admit they’ve been sexually assaulted because it’s incredibly traumatic and terrifying and it doesn’t mean that they’re lying. End of PSA.)
So Dawn and Al go to the ring, and Al, by the way, has seen his fiance try to sexually assault his daughter live on television and visibly does not give a single, solitary, flying fuck about it. What a guy. He tells Dawn he still wants to marry her so Dawn SWERVES~ Torrie and the wedding is still on! Torrie runs out and beats the utter bejesus out of Dawn, who flips her lid and says at Armageddon she’ll play the entire segment and show everyone “how much you liked it!” At this Torrie breaks down in tears, hysterical, because she was blackmailed into sex to try to save her stupid ungrateful father from a loveless marriage and now her sexual assault is going to be broadcast live on PPV. So we cut to Cole and Tazz… who are excited and aroused about the prospect of seeing Torrie and Dawn “getting it on!”
There are no words for how completely fucked this is. The babyface presumably got raped and she’s bawling her eyes out on telly and all of the men around her are getting boners going, “Yeah hot chicks gonna bang!” It is unbelievably disgusting. In 2002 WWE literally reached a point where they were using the promise of seeing a sexual assault to sell PPVs.
And it gets worse, because then we get to Armageddon and see the rest of the clip. We’ve seen the first half already, and where it picks up Dawn plies her with alcohol (textbook predator behaviour) and starts undressing her, touching her and kissing her. Torrie visibly hates this and completely shuts down, and it is decidedly unsettling to watch. (If you don’t find this unsettling to watch, please stop and ask yourself why not.) At one point as Dawn is kissing her, Torrie finally gives in and kisses back, and the crowd EXPLODES – explodes with cheers, I should specify, but also probably other things as well because let’s face it, men are trash. We humans are a garbage people. Total bin juice.
Anyway, it is here that Al bloody Wilson, of all people, stops the tape. He’s finally seen enough… but then Dawn just invites him back to their hotel room for sex and he just kind of goes with her, so all in all he’s still not SUPER concerned that he just watched his fiance sexually assault his own daughter.
I don’t even know what to say at this point.
Some more bollocks happens for the rest of the year: Dawn Marie tries to claim that Torrie is the sexual predator (try to discredit the accuser, textbook predator behaviour), and Al Wilson goes full heel and starts cutting putrid heel promos. It is a shitshow. Nothing interesting happens until The Wedding, which is set to take place on the first SmackDown of 2003.
Early on in the show Dawn Marie threatens to get married in the nude, and the people are so over this sewage that they don’t even pop for nudity. And this is only weeks after they popped for rape! Stephanie McMahon the SmackDown GM vetoes this, so I may be able to forgive her for the Brie Bella match after all. But they get out there and start the wedding, it sucks, and when it comes time to object, Dawn Marie OBJECTS TO HER OWN WEDDING because she is deadset on this nude shit for some ungodly reason, so they both strip down to their underwear. Close enough I guess. They continue on, and Al is so awful that he forgets his lines and delivers his sacred wedding vows as such:
“I, Al Wilson, take you, Dawn Marie, to have and to hold, from this day forward, forever, in honest [?], through sickness, and through w-wellness, or whatever. I take all the vows.”
Or whatever. He is the dirt worst. So they get married, and… that’s it. Torrie Wilson doesn’t even interrupt it even though she was in the building and everyone was waiting for her to run in. It just happened. It’s not fun or offensive anymore, this angle just needs to die.
Hmm. Poor choice of words.
Next stop is the honeymoon, of course. Dawn gave Al a camcorder as a present for their wedding night, and it must have been quite an expensive camera because it can do everything, including walking around and knocking on doors because it is, in fact, the invisible cameraman. Anyway we get a bunch of bad porn acting, then Dawn tries to wake up Al for one more round, and he’s not moving. After an ad we cut back to the room and Dawn is shrieking hysterically. The paramedics are already there trying to revive him, it doesn’t work, and then they cart him off, presumably already dead. Even by the standards of this storyline this is more tasteless and uncomfortable viewing, watching a man die vexingly of a heart attack in front of his wife.
But just when you think we’ve seen it all, the angle redeems itself with the fantastically trashy funeral of Al Wilson.
The Public Viewing of Al Wilson, to be precise. Dawn is in a sexy black widow’s dress, and she flirts with the undertaker (small ‘u’, not the actual Undertaker, although that would have been AMAZING). She also pretends to cry and be upset and then trashtalks Al’s corpse when she thinks nobody is looking. Dawn Marie is honestly a LOT.
Once everyone else has arrived, TORRIE SHOWS UP. Ooooh! A hush falls over the relatives! Torrie is also in a sexy black dress (just like Al would have wanted I guess), and she tries to ignore Dawn and see her father but Dawn starts bitching at her and SLAPS HER, they start brawling and knock over the coffin and Dawn smashes a lamp over Torrie’s head and knocks her out. None of the relos break this up, they just watch. This whole segment was actually a lot of fun and both Dawn and Torrie were great here.
Amazingly, this is the go home for their match at the Royal Rumble PPV. Which is another surprisingly good match, even though Dawn Marie decides to work the arm during it, and I cannot think of a single match in wrestling history that needed limbwork less than this one. But this match is all about Torrie Wilson. She is, honest to God, super great in it. She is an empty shell. She can’t even bring herself to get angry and go after Dawn here, because she just feels nothing now. Her father is DEAD from all this nonsense. She is done. At the end she hits her finish and just flops into the most lifeless cover you’ve ever seen. She has nothing left to give. She may have won the battle of the wrestling match, but she sure as hell has lost the war. She got raped and her father is dead, gone forever. What kind of wrestling victory could ever make up for that? That’s how Torrie plays it and it’s magnificent, and once again, this is some astonishingly dark shit for a comedic wrestling storyline. Good Lord.
So that’s largely the feud. It’s not entirely done with because for the next few months Dawn is still announced as ‘Dawn Marie Wilson’, and they have a few more matches on SmackDown where it’s clear Torrie ain’t forgetting what Dawn did to her. One time they’re wrestling on TV and I swear Tazz is like, “there seems to be some bad blood between these two…” and umm like yeah dude, she was raped and her father was killed! A month ago!
But anyway the meat of the feud ends here. I don’t know how many of you are still with me, but that shit was wild. I know I’ve tried to thread quite the needle here, recapping this madness in the way it deserves without making too much light of some very serious issues, so I apologise if I’ve fallen short on either front.
Whether it’s 2002 or 2018 it is amazing that this was ever on television, for so many reasons. One of the most amazing things about it is that I think it did actually help Torrie get over as a babyface. In the months following crowds are clearly into her more than ever. I guess even if an angle is total toilet water, if it’s high profile and memorable enough, something sticks. I know I fell in love with Torrie Wilson around this time too, but for a slightly different reason, which I will get into in a future piece, ‘Torrie Wilson: The Lost Worker of Her Generation’.
Next week, I will probably try to cleanse myself of this fuckshit junk and talk about some pro wrestling. Probably. Possibly. Can’t promise anything.
Check it out:
Torrie Wilson vs. Dawn Marie (No Mercy 2002)
Torrie Wilson vs. Dawn Marie (Royal Rumble 2003)