WWE Girls Gone Wild PPV: Where Did It All Go Wrong?

An ill-fated collaboration between WWE and Girls Gone Wild occurred on March 13th, 2003. What was meant to turn fans onto the WWE product instead left them disappointed, upset, and with $20 less in their pockets! Soon after, WWE attempted to hide the footage as if it had never happened. We uncover where it all went wrong.

The ill-fated collaboration between WWE and Girls Gone Wild "Live From Spring Break" occurred on March 13th, 2003.
The ill-fated collaboration between WWE and Girls Gone Wild “Live From Spring Break” occurred on March 13th, 2003.

WWE and Girls Gone Wild Team Up for Ill-Fated Pay-Per-View

Over the years, there have been odd collaborations between pop culture and professional wrestling. One that somehow perfectly encompassed the late 1990s and early 2000s zeitgeist was the brief alliance between Girls Gone Wild and WWE.

To set the scene for such an incident, one must go back to the start of 2003 in WWE, a time that saw moments such as a Paddle on a Pole Match, and Dawn Marie and Torrie Wilson’s father stripping down to their underwear to get married (which you can see in the embedded video that follows). There was scarcely a woman’s wrestling match in sight.

WWE was suffering from the aftermath of the ending of the Attitude Era.

The Attitude Era witnessed some of the highest ratings in history. One such example was when the Undertaker went up against Stone Cold Steve Austin. That night’s rating exploded, getting a record 8.1 television rating (roughly about 1 in 12 televisions with cable were watching this show).

However, WWE’s ratings were on the lower side after 2002.

Things were changing as the world moved into the new millennium, and people’s relationships with wrestling began to change, too. After the Attitude Era ended, the company had to reassess.

At this time, WWE was desperate to maintain its target audience that had generated so much profit: young men.

As a result of needing to hold their attention, the WWE’s answer was to make the content more violent, more sexual, and overall more graphic.

It didn’t hurt that, at this time, the media canvas was primed for this sort. Daytime talk shows, twenty-four-hour media cycles, and soap operas ruled the landscape.

VH1, Mad TV, and Celebrity Deathmatch gained audiences in a different sphere of entertainment. Scary Movie (1 and 2) had already come out, and people were more interested in dipping their toes in tawdry media.

Girls Gone Wild

The seed that would become Girls Gone Wild was planted in 1996 when a television show, Real TV, was incepted. The show featured home videos in the vein of America’s Funniest Home Video but much darker.

Their television’s "real" aspect was depicted through clips of natural disasters, people being rescued from emergencies, escapes, and accidents. It was a spiritual precursor to the MTV show Scarred.

Naturally, there was a lot of excess footage to sort through, leaving a production assistant, Joe Francis, to spend hours sifting through the content.

Watching the hundreds of VHSs, he regularly came across footage the show could not use. Some of the unusable media was quite disturbing, like executions, graphic accidents, and the like.

Naturally, Francis chose to combine the explicit clips, called his project Banned From Television, and sold them via mail order. This resulted in a lawsuit from his Real TV employers that was settled out of court. But this subversive media would find its audience.

As Francis traversed through this minefield of content, he consistently found other media not viable for this money-making venture.

He always came across reels of parties at Mardi Gras in New Orleans or massive Spring Break beach celebrations. In every video, as is par for the course at these events, all party-goers were drunk, and many women flashed the cameras that roamed by them on the beach or in the bar.

When Joe realized he could make money from sexual exploitation rather than just emergencies, he jumped. Rosemary’s baby was born, and he christened it Girls Gone Wild.

Joe Francis of Girls Gone Wild.
Joe Francis of Girls Gone Wild. [Photo: TNT / The Guardian]
The early 2000s celebrity economy was explosive, pushed by tabloids and paparazzi. Its obsession was reminiscent of another decade remembered for its parties, the 1920s, with its money-obsessed glamour.

Like heiresses and starlets of the past, images of Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan, and Britney Spears tumbling out of clubs, bombarded with flash photography all around them. TMZ had its cameras focused.

Girls Gone Wild exploited party culture in an unprecedented way.

In pre-recession, post-9/11 America, people found comfort in cynical points of view, and the early 2000s landscape rewarded bad behavior.

Nothing exists in a vacuum, and while the urge to forget recent traumas persisted, the United States waged wars unapproved by many Americans and left them looking for a distraction.

These once Reagan-cited children who swore an oath to DARE became teenagers and young adults. They were riding the cultural pendulum, like a mechanical bull, as it swung.

Because of this and many other things, GGW exploded in popularity and made Joe Francis a millionaire. A millionaire who would pay his subjects, the actual draw of the whole thing, in a simple t-shirt for their time.

A millionaire who paid his crew, who did all of the labor, wildly low wages.

WWE and Girls Gone Wild: Two Fates Intersect

Now to see fates intersect. In the fair United States, two star-crossed lovers alike in indignity is where we lay our scene.

The road to the WWE Girls Gone Wild pay-per-view starts with Jason Hervey, former child star of the sitcom The Wonder Years.

Actor Jason Hervey and Eric Bischoff.
Actor Jason Hervey and Eric Bischoff.

In the early ’90s, Hervey worked in the sports subsection of Mandalay Entertainment, the production company responsible for the film I Know What You Did Last Summer.

His interest in sports led him backstage to an NWA (National Wrestling Alliance) show, where he met Eric Bischoff, the then vice president of WCW (World Championship Wrestling).

Their meeting sparked a friendship, and in 2003, friendship became business when they decided to join forces to create (the now defunct) Bischoff Hervey Entertainment.

To wrap back in the Joe Francis of it all, Girls Gone Wild was distributed by Mandalay Entertainment at the time, which set the scene for a meeting between Hervey and Francis.

Hervey brought in Eric Bischoff with the assist, and this troublesome trio was ready for whatever may come.

Eric Bischoff later explained that during this time, he was privy to the knowledge that the McMahons were interested in buying the entirety of the Playboy empire.

Bischoff also knew his friend Joe Francis wanted to buy the company, allowing him to facilitate a meeting between the Girls Gone Wild owner and Linda McMahon.

Their intersection reveals how sexuality is used as a tool for capitalism, exploiting people’s most basic wants and needs and driving profit. The economy of Girls Gone Wild and WWE both drank from the same salacious well.

Although the meetings of these minds did not result in the purchase of Playboy, it did birth another little monster.

The Girls Gone Wild and WWE pay-per-view was on!

WWE Girls Gone Wild "Live from Spring Break" pay-per-view logo.
WWE Girls Gone Wild “Live from Spring Break” pay-per-view logo.

Lead-Up to WWE Girls Gone Wild “Live From Spring Break” PPV

Promotion for the WWE and Girls Gone Wild collaboration was consistent in the lead-up to the “Live From Spring Break” pay-per-view.

The main event for the occasion begged the question– Who looked hotter stripped down: Diva Torrie Wilson or reality show "Tough Enough" alumni Nidia?

Something that didn’t hurt publicity in the buildup was a well-timed announcement that Wilson would be on the cover of Playboy, featuring a full centerfold.

Below you can find an embedded video of Stephanie McMahon announcing the news:

The pay-per-view date was set for Thursday, March 13th, 2003. The promise to fans worldwide was that purchasing this MA-rated program for only $20 allowed one to see the bare bodies of the WWE Divas.

This covenant was cemented in fans’ minds when Diva Dawn Marie graced the stage at SmackDown the same night as the event.

She whispered her first words into the microphone, asking the audience, "You people think I have a voluptuous body, don’t you?"

While they roared in approval, Dawn Marie elaborated that when "those girls" at the pay-per-view go all Coyote Ugly, she would be meeting them there.

Then, she flashed the audience at the SmackDown live event while the cameras blurred her chest for viewers at home.

If Dawn Marie bared her breasts to the SmackDown audience of thousands on network television, what could they possibly expose in this pay-per-view?

The Judges

When it was time for the WWE Girls Gone Wild show to go on, the audience at home was brought to South Padre Island, Texas, in an establishment called Tequila Frogs.

The hosts for the evening were introduced: Stacy Kiebler and Jonathon "Coach" Coachman.

This gruesome twosome stood before a crowd of roughly two hundred drunk youths, serving as the audience’s Pain and Panic for the night while Joe Francis was cast as Hades.

Speak of the Devil; the judges began to file out with drinks placed firmly in their hands. The judges were wrestler Torrie Wilson, model Kylie Max, wrestler Test, rapper Snoop Dogg and, of course, Joe Francis.

Snoop Dogg, a year earlier, hosted a Girls Gone Wild event that ended in a lawsuit because he and Francis were caught filming underage women.

Snoop Dogg and Joe Francis as judges on the WWE Girls Gone Wild pay-per-view.
Snoop Dogg and Joe Francis as judges on the WWE Girls Gone Wild pay-per-view.

Sporadically throughout the pay-per-view, the camera would cut to another location, Spring Break in Panama City Beach, Florida.

Initially, the event had announced it would take place at the Floridian beaches instead of Tequila Frogs. That was until the city’s mayor released a statement stating that those who engaged in encouraging girls to go wild would be taking a "trip to jail."

Even though they were barred from the city, Coach and Stacy caught up with correspondents there throughout the pay-per-view, where they asked the women to get stripped down to nothing in jacuzzies and make out with each other.

The Contestants

After the judges found their way to their seats, the plan for the WWE Girls Gone Wild pay-per-view was laid out.

On the docket is a contest of sorts. Twelve young women, selected from the audience, will compete in a bikini and beauty contest for a grand prize of $25,000.

As the women are introduced onto the stage one by one, host Stacy reveals a sex fact about each of them. That is until one contestant walks out, prompting Francis to jeer from the judges’ panel, "How old were you when you lost your virginity?"

When the contestant responds that she has never had sex, Francis and Snoop Dogg lead the crowd to rain down boos until she walks off stage.

While the girls kept filing out, one of the judges, Test, revealed to the crowd his "TESTicle Camera," a small video camera placed near his junk, intended to capture a peak underneath the girls’ dresses as they walked by.

The contestants and the audience are generally white, a reflection of the WWE Girls Gone Wild. Both heavily featured thin, white, blonde, feminine women and used them as tools for economic growth.

As is being asked of them, some of the girls flashed their breasts to the audience as they were introduced, but by the third or fourth set, the audience became borderline desensitized.

After the round ended, the next round was introduced as an evening wear category, where the contestants graced the stage in lingerie.

Body Contest: Nidia vs. Torrie Wilson

After the lingerie segment was complete, the supposed "body contest" between Torrie Wilson and Nidia was on.

A graphic promoting the Nidia and Torrie Wilson "Body Challenge" at the WWE Girls Gone Wild pay-per-view.
A graphic promoting the Nidia and Torrie Wilson “Body Challenge” at the WWE Girls Gone Wild pay-per-view.

The first of the women to the stage was Nidia, and while she seductively began to take her shirt off, she pulled down her bra ever so slowly until she yanked her clothes back on, gesturing a big "f*** you" to the audience.

In the face of a hungry audience, Nidia became their villain, leaving them to chant, "Show your tits! Show your tits!"

Alas, she storms off stage. But not all hope is lost for the treacherously drunk crowd and the viewers at home.

After that disappointing display or lack thereof, Torrie Wilson finds her way to the stage featuring a shot in her hands.

She walked across to Stacy and handed her the shot, and after Stacy shot it back, she licked salt or lime out of Wilson’s cleavage.

This received the loudest applause of the night, hands down.

Torrie Wilson and Stacy Keibler put on a show for the crowd at the WWE Girls Gone Wild pay-per-view.
Torrie Wilson and Stacy Keibler put on a show for the crowd at the WWE Girls Gone Wild pay-per-view.

After the tonguing, music hits, and Torrie begins to find her way out of a floral bathing suit she changed into while the crowd continues bubbling up and up.

When she turns around and is about to unclip her bathing suit top, Nidia appears stage right and hits her to the ground with a chair (more like a bar stool).

The two go on to have what can only be described as a catfight, leaving Torrie incapacitated and dragged off stage by three crew members.

Stacy Kiebler stumbled over Coach as they both tried to expound on what just happened, but she got out first.

"Okay, Nidia and Torrie are done for tonight, but the show goes on!"

Clumsily, the event refocuses back to the twelve contestants. Oh, you forgot about them? They return with a swimsuit competition.

There was only one segment left, the talent portion.

The twelve women from earlier are called out one last time for the Talent Contest.

An intoxicated Test spins a wheel with various sexually suggestive activities.

Test spins the contest wheel on the WWE Girls Gone Wild pay-per-view.
Test spins the contest wheel on the WWE Girls Gone Wild pay-per-view.

If the wheel landed on ‘Balls in the mouth’: How many marshmallows can you fit in your mouth?

‘Fake an orgasm’: Moan unconvincingly until Coach gets scared.

‘Be GGW’: Take your top off.

Calling that a talent contest is like saying The Price is Right is an economics class.

The judges fell deeper and deeper into inebriation, which in turn made them louder.

Snoop and Francis continued through the show yelping at the girls, "Show your tits! Show your a**! Get naked!"

Some unsung hero gradually lowered their microphones while the competition continuously devolved into more and more debauchery.

The pay-per-view darkly revealed how Girls Gone Wild inevitably sought out vulnerable women because of how drunk they were.

Feeding the Male Fantasy

The air changes even further when the "virgin" contestant emerges again.

After she spins the wheel of nightmares, she is ordered to fake an orgasm. Everyone had a good time screaming that she wouldn’t know how to because she was a virgin! Get it?

After an unconvincing moan, Snoop and Joe Francis started ordering her to take off her relatively modest, baby-pink dress.

When she refused, Snoop screamed at her over his somehow turned-up microphone: "You’re bull***, you’re bulls***!"

While Stacy Keibler laughed at the virgin, she taunted, "She must not need $25,000."

Simultaneously, another contestant made her way to the stage.

The next few minutes of the pay-per-view are packed to the brim with women shoving phallic foods into their mouths, into other contestants’ mouths, and between their mouths as they make out.

Such a large subsection of capitalism feeds the straight male fantasy. When feminine women are involved, the story usually becomes a faux queer experience between two women for a man’s pleasure, and this was no exception.

This all takes place in the last ten minutes of the event, just before the winner is announced.

Contestant Donna Sun is crowned Miss Girls Gone Wild 2003, a title all her own as she never passed on her crown.

Her win was not a surprise, as when she entered the stage in her introduction, Joe Francis said, "Should we just name the winner now?"

WWE Girls Gone Wild winner Donna Sun on Howard Stern after her win on pay-per-view.
WWE Girls Gone Wild winner Donna Sun on Howard Stern after her win on pay-per-view.

As the pay-per-view came to a close, the judges and hosts invited women from the audience to participate in "the world’s biggest flash."

While women crowded the stage, bodies and bodies cramming themselves like sardines, the show’s last five minutes are used. In that final moment, they all took off their tops, and Coach finally bid all adieu.

WWE Girls Gone Wild Venture Turns into a Failure

The WWE Girls Gone Wild pay-per-view event was anticipated to perform well amongst the target audience of young men but ‘twas not the case.

Initially, WWE predicted 300,000 purchases, but only an estimated 70,000 tuned in.

Joe Francis getting involved in the WWE was not an isolated event; he wanted to ingratiate himself into every corner of the entertainment industry.

Reporter Claire Hoffman wrote of this in a Los Angeles Times piece:

"In short, Francis wants to insinuate himself and his view of the world into the food you eat, the clothes you wear, the vacations you take, and the entertainment—filmed and glossy—that you consume.

“He sees ‘Girls Gone Wild’ as the ultimate lifestyle brand. ‘Sex sells everything,’ he says. ‘It drives every buying decision…."

And she continues that while he sexually exploited the women around him, he also exploited the labor of the young men working behind the scenes.

Only one month after this pay-per-view, Joe Francis was arrested.

In the forbidden Panama City Beach, he continued to film lurid videos of girls only 16 and 17.

But that wasn’t all; it opened a door for further charges of tax evasion, racketeering, and twenty other criminal offenses.

That LA Times article was published in 2006. The reporter divulges that during her interview with Francis, he assaulted her while screaming about that arrest three years earlier in Panama City Beach, a month after the pay-per-view.

The fallout was not in a vacuum, not a fragment of something unrelated, but all sewn together.

The above source stated that by 2006, more than a dozen women had sued him for assault or using footage of them without their consent.

Although Girls Gone Wild went out of business and defunct in 2013, Francis remains frightening in many victims’ lives.

To make matters even more complicated, he skipped out on his charges and fled to Mexico with his then-wife and daughters while he was officially being brought to justice. As a result, there is still an active warrant for his arrest in the United States.

WWE Girls Gone Wild: Forgetting It Ever Happened

After the disaster, WWE immediately began pushing for fans to forget it ever happened, with no mention of the pay-per-view, no additional storylines, nothing.

Burying the pay-per-view body was quite successful, and WWE smacked the back of the shovel on top of the firm soil.

But, when Linda McMahon attempted to run for the senate in 2010, Politico published an article about the debaucherous event, drudging up details from the grave.

Although McMahon’s run was unsuccessful, her luck changed in 2016 when Trump brought her to his White House cabinet.

Politico and articles like this are like the ghoul in the movie I Know What You Did Last Summer, reminding Linda McMahon and the WWE of the Girls Gone Wild body they buried.

Egregious in a different way, the pay-per-view featured no wrestling. The closest it got was a catfight that began and ended with that chair shot.

Women wrestling has never been WWE’s priority, definitely not in 2003. With events like the Raw 30th anniversary in January 2023, where fans were disappointed after the advertised steel cage match between Becky Lynch and Bayley was cut from the show at the very last moment, it seems not in 2023, either.

The Aftermath

Wrestling seeks to shock, awe, scare, soothe, tense, and release. It hits all senses at once and captivates crowds of thousands through soap-operatic, stunt-filled, bloody, and sweaty theatre. Its presence is unique, so it, culturally, finds a weird place to land. It has just as much in common with avant-garde art as it does with Jackass.

This beautifully silly, wrenching, passionate industry is only made so much more interesting by its feminine representations in whatever form that may take.

But the powers that be did not value the women athletes in their company in 2003 and teaming up with Joe Francis for the WWE Girls Gone Wild pay-per-view proved that.

These moments, which seem inconsequential and ridiculous, can reflect society’s values and expose a very weird microcosm one feels compelled to forget. All connected, the political and economic landscape serve as a funnel for everything, whether it be colossal events like war or minuscule pay-per-views like this.

When society looks in its rearview mirror, we often see glimpses of a problematic past we try to bury deep in the ground. But burying those bodies does not help; it only fertilizes more seeds for other Girls Gone Wild to be born.

Originally considered lost media, you can watch the WWE Girls Gone Wild pay-per-view in full here.

Listen to author Alexa Pruett dive further into the ill-fated WWE Girls Gone Wild collaboration on her podcast, “That Wrestling Wench”:

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https://that-wrestling-wench.simplecast.com/

A wrestling fan since childhood, Alexa Pruett used to be body-slammed onto her family's couch by her brother. Now, she writes and produces a podcast called That Wrestling Wench. The podcast focuses on the women wrestlers who, although vital pieces of this industry, do not get the same praise as their male counterparts. Alexa is a recent graduate from California State University, Northridge, with a focus on psychology and human sexuality studies, where she reveled in any opportunity to study and write about wrestling.