A few weeks ago, Vince and I had a segment on our podcast about a bizarre series of photos and videos featuring the Undertaker and Michelle McCool in a pool with a tiger at a tiger day spa? in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. At the time, we weren’t sure what the purpose of this was; they talked about tigers needing us to save them and if we don’t save the tiger we won’t rest in peace and if we save the tiger we can save the world. While they didn’t touch on HOW we save the tiger or explain why they were in a pool with the tiger, the video managed to make a minor splash across the internet with the “campaign” being called one of the purest things ever, and Undertaker being celebrated for showing his softer side.
Later that week, I tried to watch Netflix’s “Tiger King” series and this is when things started making more sense. One of the facilities featured in the series is none other than Myrtle Beach Safari, which is where the McCools climbed into a pool with a tiger and blessed the internet with their plea to save the tiger in order to save ourselves. The photos and videos were posted on Undertaker’s, Michelle’s, and Myrtle Beach Safari’s instagram pages just days before Tiger King premiered on Netflix.
Doc Antle, founder of Myrtle Beach Safari, whose doctor status is questionable – he claims to have earned a doctorate in medicine while he was studying in Asia (this is straight off Myrtle Beach Safari’s website) – is not a fan of Tiger King. More specifically, he’s upset over his portrayal in the series, stating that it’s sensationalized and inaccurate and paints him in a bad light. Considering his displeasure with the series, and the fact that the Undertaker tiger photos were posted right before the series premiered, was this an attempt from Doc Antle to get ahead of the series and prove that he truly cares about saving the tiger?
Even if that is the case, that still begs the question as to how and why undertaker and Michelle McCool got involved with Myrtle Beach Safari. The McCools currently live in Texas and neither Michelle nor Undertaker are from South Carolina. If you’re going to literally go out of your way (by 1300 miles) to use your platform to promote something, why would you choose such a controversial organization?
Not only is the organization’s structure confusing and shady – there are at least three different entities at play between Myrtle Beach Safari, T.I.G.E.R.S., and Rare Species Fund – but Myrtle Beach Safari is not a sanctuary or a wildlife rescue by any means. The animal care industry as a whole is poorly regulated. If my neighbor Steve wanted to build a “sanctuary” in his basement with his leftover pizza boxes for all the neighborhood raccoons, he’s pretty much free to do so. However, the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries is an organization that provides guidance and accreditation for animal care facilities. According to their website, in order
To be eligible for GFAS Accreditation or Verification, organizations must have non-profit status and have No captive breeding, tours should be guided and conducted in a careful manner that minimizes the impact on the animals and their environment, Animals are not exhibited or taken from the sanctuary or enclosures/habitats for non-medical reasons, and The public does not have direct contact with wildlife.
Needless to say, Myrtle Beach Safari is not certified by Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.
Beyond the treatment of the animals, there’s Doc Antle himself. We already discussed his questionable status as a doctor, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The working conditions are questionable at best, with employees allegedly being forced to live on the grounds, with some reports of sharing beds with the animals. In order to qualify for employment, individuals must be single, childless, and cannot have time off for any reason. There are physical and dietary requirements, but if you meet all the demands – congratulations! You’ll be provided room and board, WiFi, and a stipend. Now you just have to lose your v-card to ol’ Doc Antle and you’ll be set for life!
That’s right, former employees turned girlfriends turned wives state that Doc preferred to be his partners’ first sexual partners, so they could bond better and he could “get them to do anything.” At one point, perhaps even still, Doc had three girlfriends/sister-wives/sexual apprentices living on his property in separate houses.
So given the workplace that’s described as a “lifestyle”, restrictions on freedom, and you know, the whole bonin’ the boss thing, it’s hard to deny that it seems very much like a cult. Of course, Doc denies this, and has been actively speaking out against his portrayal in Tiger King. Keep in mind though, that I got a lot of the information about the working conditions from a Rolling Stone article that was published in 2015.
Once again, that brings us back to Undertaker, Michelle McCool, a pool, and a tiger. The Undertaker hardly posts anything online, much less sponsored or partnership content, so he had to know that something like this would be highly noticed. It was even brought up on Monday Night Raw when AJ Styles called Undertaker a “goth Tiger King”. If you know that people are going to notice a post like this, wouldn’t you at least try to do a little research before agreeing? I could get into the ethics of celebrities using their platform responsibly, but that would be a 14 hour video focusing solely on the now infamous Imagine video.
There’s no real conclusion to all of this. I went down a rabbit hole while researching and I feel even worse than when I started.
If you’re going to get in a pool with a tiger, well – just don’t. And if you have to do it, don’t record a disturbing video because Internet shame will never REST IN PEACE.