MTV's Video Music Awards in 1989 fueled Axl Rose's anti-media rant/hissy fit in "Get in the Ring" on 1991's Use Your Illusion set. At the event, Motley Crue handed the award for Best Metal Video to Guns N' Roses for their video for "Sweet Child O' Mine."
This was not the case with Motley Crue leader Vince Neil. As it turned out, only weeks before the VMAs, the singer had heard rumours that GNR guitarist Izzy Stradlin had abused his wife at the Cathouse nightclub in Los Angeles. After Neil and Rose completed singing "Free Fallin'" with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, he stayed to confront Stradlin. Motley Crue's 2001 biography, The Dirt, quotes Neil as saying, "When Izzy walked offstage, looking like a cross between Eric Stoltz in Mask and Neil Young, I was waiting for him," "His wife had been assaulted, and he was furious. In one swift motion, I had him down on his back. I slammed him in the face with a savage blow. It looked like he had been pushed over by a bull." While leaving the theatre, Neil said Rose "came snarling after us like an overdressed Doberman," saying, "Come on, motherfucker; I'm going to fucking kill you!" at his back. While the fight was just a few seconds long, it would lead to an ongoing battle of words that would have disastrous consequences for those who covered it.
Anger intensified when Neil told Kerrang's Jon Hotten that he "punched that dick [Stradlin] and broke his fucking nose" in an interview for the magazine's Nov. 4, 1989 edition, and claimed that "Izzy hit my wife a year before I hit him." It wasn't until two months later, in early 1990, that Rose went into the apartment of Kerrang! journalist and early GNR champion Mick Wall launched into a tantrum about the tale. Rose ordered that Neil apologise to the press for supposedly lying in his interview; if not, they would have to resolve the matter by punching one other. "I don't believe he has the courage to accomplish this. The gauntlet, however, is mine to bear, and I intend to accept it, "Rose informed Wall. "Any way you wanna go, guns or knives, motherfucker."
Wall decided to call Rose to double-check his remarks after writing up the interview and seeing how grave Rose's threats were. The lead singer remained unfazed: "Man, you're wrong. Everything I said, I still stand by!" However, when Kerrang! published Rose's interview as its April 1990 cover story, Wall began receiving calls from various Guns N' Roses members requesting access to the writer's interview recordings. In a 2017 Classic Rock essay revisiting the topic, Wall stated one employee feebly claimed GNR intended to run the audio on a separate telephone line. According to one of Rose's publicists, he "just [couldn't] believe he said some of those things," "Nobody would expect him to speak in such an obnoxious manner. As a matter of fact, he finds it really amusing."
As soon as the band requested Wall's tapes, he flatly refused, shattering his once-strong bonds with Guns N' Roses members such as Axl Rose, Slash, and Duff. When Wall covered Guns' performance at Rock in Rio II in January 1991, he was given the silent treatment. Rose scheduled a meeting with Wall after the festival but before publishing the story. It has been reported that Rose is writing a book on the band, and if that is the case, she wants to let you know that she will find you down. (In fact, Wall had intended to produce an anthology of the band's interviews he conducted.) The words "I will track you down and kill you." mean just that. The following day, Rose called his friend-turned-enemy again after the Rio article had been published: "Axl: Hello, Mick. Let me just say, while I sit here reading the latest issue of Kerrang!, that I'll see you in court, friend." Angry after being bullied by Rose, Wall continued with his Guns N' Roses book, adding numerous previously unseen interviews for good measure. Back in 1991, just as the band was gearing up to release their highly anticipated Use Your Illusion albums, which included "Get in the Ring." Guns N' Roses: The Most Dangerous Band in the World hit the stores. Despite a thorough investigation by Wall, Rose's rage in the midst of "Get in the Ring" reveals more about him than any book ever could about Guns N' Roses and its temperamental vocalist.
When compared to Use Your Illusion's towering art-rock epics like "November Rain," "Coma", and "Estranged", "Get in the Ring" was pretty mediocre. "Why Do You Look at Me When You Hate Me?" was the title of McKagan's sneering, blues-punk rave-up, which he wrote as a tribute to Johnny Thunders. With a ring announcer to introduce them and the crowd shouting "Get in the fight!" during their set on June 10, 1991 at New York City's Saratoga Arts Center, it was your usual "us versus the world" concert experience that was now bordering on Tap-esque cliche.
If it hadn't been for Rose's furious spoken-word interlude against reporters who he believed had mistreated the band, "Get in the Ring" might have been sent to history's trash of forgotten songs.
Rose continued, "That goes for all of you punks in the press that want to cause crap by printin' bullshit instead of the stuff we stated. This includes you, Andy Secher at Hit Parader, Circus magazine, and Mick Wall at Kerrang! It was Spin founder Bob Guccione Jr., the son of Penthouse founder Bob Guccione, who he reserved his most colourful insult for. Guccione Jr. had angered GNR by printing a copy of their draconian new media contract that granted them full control and copyright ownership of pieces and allowed them to impose $100,000 fines on violations: "Bob Guccione Jr. at Spin, what, you pissed off 'cause your dad gets more pussy than you? Fuck you! Suck my fuckin' dick!
Rose had a lot more to give: "You be rippin' off the fuckin' kids while they be payin' their hard-earned money to read about the bands they wanna know about, printin' lies, startin' controversy. You wanna antagonize me? Antagonize me, motherfucker! Get in the ring, motherfucker, and I'll kick your bitchy little ass! Punk!" Rose's warnings, despite their loudness, proved to be empty. As a result of Guccione accepting Rose's offer, the two exchanged letters in which the former urged the latter to choose a date and location for their fight in order to boost magazine sales. The fact that Rose didn't answer suggests that she learned of Guccione's nine-year battle preparation before responding. (Even after Neil issued a challenge of his own on MTV News).
It wasn't long after the "Get in the Ring" disaster that Wall's name was removed off Kerrang's masthead in an attempt to salvage face with the GNR camp. He has since written other books about rock royalty, including Last of the Giants: The True Story of Guns N' Roses, which was released in 2016. Despite the fact that Wall and Rose have yet to mend their fences, he appears to have recovered from his public admonishment. Classic Rock published a 2017 letter from Wall in which he said, "If you're reading this, Axl, I'd love to get in the ring with you again," The only difference is that this time, instead of punches, I'll be throwing embraces.