REAL NAME: Vince McMahon
BORN: August 24th, 1945 in Pinehurst, NC
6'2", 220 pounds
ALIASES/ NICKNAMES: Mr. McMahon
Beyond all the Hogans and Flairs and Austins and Rocks, there is one man whose influence on the sport of pro wrestling, good or bad, has been greater than any of the wrestlers that he has employed: Vincent Kennedy McMahon, Jr.
Born in Pinehurst, NC, Vince McMahon came from very modest means, living for a time in a trailer, and being raised by his mother and a variety of step-fathers. Vince, Jr. didn't meet his biological father until he was 12 years old. As it turned out, his father was Vince McMahon, Sr, himself a second generation wrestling promoter and the head of Capitol Sports and, by extension, the Worldwide Wrestling Federation (WWWF). Both Vince Sr. and Jr. loved the wrestling business, but having his son involved in wrestling was something that Vince Sr. vehemently disapproved of. Vince, Sr. wanted his son to go into law or business, and sent his son to military school.
While enrolled at Fishborne Military School in Waynesboro, Virginia, Vince, Jr. made history by becoming the first cadet to be court-martialed (unsuccessfully). In 1964, McMahon would go on to graduate from East Carolina College with a degree in Marketing. Two years later, he married fellow East Carolina College graduate, the former Linda Edwards who gave birth to their first-born, son Shane, in 1970. A daughter, Stephanie, would be born in 1976.
His time in school had done little to dissuade McMahon from entering the wrestling business. In 1971, Vince promoted his first wrestling show for his father in Bangor, Maine. A year later, with the dismissal of one of his announcers, the elder McMahon had little choice but to give Vince a job as an on-screen commentator for the WWF.
In 1979, McMahon began promoting, not wrestling but hockey, out of the Cape Cod Arena in Massachusetts. Meanwhile, he was helping his father's company grow, expanding the WWWF's syndication from nine stations to 30.
By 1982, Vince McMahon, Sr., aware that he was dying of cancer, decided to leave the wrestling business behind. Vince Jr. bought Capitol Sports and turned the company into Titan Sports, and began to transform the WWWF into WWE as we know it today.
While continuing to act as lead announcer on his own broadcasts, McMahon began to bring the WWF, or the World Wrestling Federation, as he renamed it, out of its regional boundaries with the thoughts of taking it national and, in time, international. Prior to this, wrestling was a very regionalized business with each promoter having his own territory. The WWWF had been limited the Northeastern United States. McMahon decided to change that by initially sending videotapes of his programs to be broadcast in other regions of the country and then, later, promoting wrestling shows in this other territories.
McMahon didn't meet with complete success, however. When he purchased controlling interest in Georgia Championship Wrestling from Jack and Jerry Brisco, he immediately closed the promotion down and on July 14th, 1984, (dubbed Black Saturday by some fans) began to broadcast WWF matches during GCW's timeslot on Ted Turner's TBS. The backlash that followed was so overwhelming that TBS gave airtime to Ole Anderson's Championship Wrestling from Georgia promotion. McMahon, angered by this, simply sent TBS tapes of his syndicated show, instead of new, original programming. Turner responded by giving Bill Watts' Mid-South Wrestling a timeslot on his network that quickly drew better ratings than McMahon's WWF show.
Realizing that, for once, he was in over his head, Vince sold his TBS timeslot to Jim Crockett, Jr. for $1 million. Vince and the WWF was off TBS but the war between McMahon and Turner that would one day evolve into the WWF vs. WCW Monday Night Wars had begun.
With Hulk Hogan installed as the WWF World Champion, McMahon began to step up his campaign to introduce pro wrestling, and the WWF in particular, to the mainstream. He began involving celebrities such as Mr. T and Cyndi Lauper in his wrestling angles, leading to the very first Wrestlemania in 1985. In addition to Lauper and T, other celebrities such as Muhammad Ali and Liberace played a part in one of the early "super cards" broadcast not on pay-per-view (yet) but closed circuit television.
With the success of Wrestlemania, McMahon, with the help of NBC executive Dick Ebersol, brought pro wrestling back to network television with a bi-monthly replacement to Saturday Night Live called Saturday Night's Main Event. Premiering on May 10th, 1985, the show, taped the night before at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, would pull an 8.8 rating and feature Hogan vs. Cowboy Bob Orton. Later that same year, McMahon would bring the WWF to pay-per-view with The Wrestling Classic, a one-night tournament won by the Junk Yard Dog and featuring a WWF title match between Hulk Hogan and Rowdy Roddy Piper.
Meanwhile, McMahon began to ruthlessly raid other territories and promotions, signing the top talent in order to not only strengthen his own company but weaken the competition. The AWA lost Mean Gene Okerlund, Bobby Heenan, Curt Hennig, the Midnight Rockers and, most notably, Hulk Hogan. The NWA would lose Dusty Rhodes, the Road Warriors, Ricky Steamboat and even, eventually, Ric Flair.
McMahon would promote another Wrestlemania in 1986, featuring three seperate events (in Chicago, Long Island and Los Angeles) all brought together in one pay-per-view broadcast. Meanwhile, the WWF's promotional machine was in full gear. The WWF's Superstars were being marketed like never before, appearing on trading cards, lunch boxes, posters and even recreated in plastic as action figures.
In 1987, McMahon and the WWF would reach one of its benchmark achievements when the Pontiac Silverdome hosted Wrestlemania III. With an "worked" attendance record of 93,173, (it was actually closer to 78,000), McMahon promoted, as the main event, Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant, two of the biggest icons in wrestling, for the WWF World Championship.
Deciding that one pay-per-view a year was not enough, and deciding to put the screws to his competition (namely Jim Crockett Promotions), McMahon promoted the first annual Survivor Series on Thanksgiving Day, November 26th, 1987. Thanksgiving had been for the last four years the traditional date of the NWA's biggest card of the year, Starrcade. This year, however, McMahon decided to give them some competition. Since both would be on pay-per-view, McMahon played his trump card, invoking a clause where none of the cable companies could carry another wrestling event within 30 days of his. In other words, the companies could either carry Starrcade or the Survivor Series, but not both. With McMahon's strong promotion of the WWF, few cable outlets risked carrying the lesser known NWA product over the WWF's.
McMahon would reprise Hogan and Andre (with Andre temporarily taking the title from Hogan) on February 5th, 1988 as pro wrestling returned to prime time television for the first time since 1955 with the Main Event. Although the wrestling craze of the mid-1980s would eventually cool off, leading to a general dip in interest in pro wrestling, McMahon continued to tinker with his promotion, signing new talent, letting stale characters go. Randy Savage was made the WWF's champion for a time, only to put the title back on Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania V at Trump Plaza in March, 1989.
In between all of that, McMahon even began to expand his empire into the non-wrestling world, handling the pay-per-view for the Sugar Ray Leonard-Donny Lalonde boxing match and helped to produce Hulk Hogan's first vehicle No Holds Barred (later using the movie storyline as in-ring fodder).
In 1989, Vince McMahon confessed, once and for all, before the New Jersey State Senate that professional wrestling matches were staged events. It was an effort on McMahon's part, successful as it turned out, to get around taxation on his house shows and pay-per-view events.
Even after selling out the SkyDome for 1990's Wrestlemania VI, Vince wasn't teflon-coated. His World Bodybuilding Federation (begun in January 1991 and closed down in July 1992) never really took off the way McMahon was hoping it would, despite almost non-stop promotion on WWF telecasts. The WBF held two major events on pay-per-view (the first in June 1991 at the Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City) before closing down, with McMahon and his company losing a reported 15 million dollars and introducing the world to ICOPRO and the WWF debut of Lex Luger.
With the pending departure of Hulk Hogan to WCW, McMahon also found himself in hot water with the U.S. government. During the 1991 trial of Dr. George Zahorian, he testified that he had sold steroids to Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, and McMahon himself as well as sending over three dozen packages of steroids to Titan Towers. With the Federal government breathing down his neck, in November, 1991, McMahon instituted a drug policy within the WWF.
To make matters worse, the WWF was also operating under a cloud of sexual scandal that stemmed from the 1992 claims of sexual harassment from former ring attendant Tony Cole, enhancement talent Barry O and announcer Murray Hodgekins directed toward executives Pat Patterson and Terry Garvin. The case was quickly settled out of court, with Garvin and Patterson both fired (although Patterson was eventually rehired).
In addition, McMahon found himself at the centre of a sexual harrassment suit. WWF employee Rita Chatterson claimed that McMahon had demanded sexual favours while she was riding in his limo and when she refused, she was denied work. The limo driver attempted to corroborate her story, but the case was dismissed due to a lack of evidence.
On November 18th, 1993, McMahon was indicted on charges of possession of steroids and conspiracy to distribute steroids. Between November 1993 and May 1994, the government altered the number of charges and the possible consequences if McMahon was found guilty. At any given moment during these months, he might be threatened with fines up to $2 million, jail time up to eleven years and face the seizure of the $9 million Titan Towers building. By the time that trial began on July 5th, 1994, all the charges save conspiracy to defraud the Food and Drug Administration had been withdrawn.
McMahon admitted to taking steroids in 1989 when they were still legal for personal use and with a doctor's prescription. Meanwhile, Hulk Hogan, expected to be a star witness for the government, helped to clear McMahon by stating that he had believed the steroids were legal because a doctor had prescribed them. (Despite this, McMahon would later bash Hogan in the press.) The jury deliberated for 16 hours and, on July 22nd, delivered a not guilty verdict. Vince was a free man, but the trial did much to further the already negative view that most non-wrestling fans had of the sport in general and the WWF in particular.
Amid the turmoil of the trial, McMahon had premiered a new wrestling show for his company: Monday Night Raw. Premiering on the USA Network on January 11th, 1993, Raw was broadcast from the Manhattan Centre in New York. Sporadically broadcast live, the show quickly won acclaim for its gritty, cutting edge style and its presentation of top-calibre matches, a far cry from the preliminary bouts shown on syndicated shows such as "Superstars of Wrestling".
Just in case McMahon was getting lax, World Championship Wrestling, under the guidance of Eric Bischoff, decided to take the fight to their long-time rival, snatching up many of the WWF's top stars, including Hogan, Savage, Hacksaw Jim Duggan and the Nasty Boys. Then WCW took it one step further and premiered its own Monday night wrestling show, Monday Nitro, opposite Raw on Ted Turner's TNT station, premiering on September 4th, 1995. Nitro delivered a devastating blow to Raw on its first night, with former WWF star Lex Luger showing up, one night after appearing on a WWF pay-per-view.
The Monday Night Wars had begun.
Aggressive and often-times ruthless tactics by Bischoff soon had Nitro not only being competitive with Raw in terms of ratings but soon, defeating the WWF's show. With the arrival of former WWF stars Kevin "Diesel" Nash and Scott "Razor Ramon" Hall and the birth of the New World Order, WCW would take a commanding lead in the ratings war, leading to a span of 80 straight weeks where Nitro would defeat Raw. McMahon would have to regroup.
He took a page from the Philadelphia-based Extreme Championship Wrestling and began to make his show more edgy, with racier undertones and increased violence. The formation of the DeGeneration X group and the introduction of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin helped to give the WWF some momentum in its fight to stay alive against the onslaught of WCW.
However, McMahon was still facing financial difficulties and was forced to ask one of his biggest stars, Bret "Hitman" Hart to seek employment with rival World Championship Wrestling. Hart soon came to terms with a lucrative three-year deal with WCW but was still the WWF Champion. Plans were made for Hart's match against Shawn Michaels, set for the 1997 Survivor Series in Montreal, to end indecisively, so that Hart could retain the title until the next night, where Hart would surrender the title and say "Farewell". Instead Hart was defeated by Shawn Michaels when referee Earl Hebner called for the bell while Hart was in a sharpshooter applied by Michaels. Hart, infuriated at what would be known as "the Montreal Screwjob", spit in McMahon's face at ringside
and later, caught up to McMahon after the match and punched his former boss in a physical altercation backstage.
The following night, McMahon appeared on Raw to address the situation, stating that "Bret screwed Bret." With his involvement in the Montreal incident, McMahon was setting the groundwork to become the biggest heel in his own company.
With the involvement of former boxing champion Mike Tyson at Wrestlemania XIV in 1998, the WWF was a hot commodity once again and McMahon decided to keep the momentum by introducing a new storyline, one that would pit new WWF Champion "Stone Cold" Steve Austin against one of Vince's greatest creations, "Mr. McMahon" himself. The McMahon-Austin feud would help the WWF regain the ratings lead on WCW. McMahon would physically involve himself in his battle against Austin, entering and the 1999 Royal Rumble (which he won) and a steel cage match at the St. Valentine's Day Massacre pay-per-view.
On May 23, 1999, during the WWF's "Over the Edge" pay-per-view, wrestler Owen Hart fell from the rafters of Kansas City's Kemper Arena and died of his injuries. McMahon found himself in a torrent of criticism for continuing the pay-per-view even after the accident and the announcement of Owen's death. Owen's widow, Martha Hart would launch a wrongful death suit against McMahon and the WWF. It would be eighteen months before Hart and the WWF would come to a settlement believed to be worth $18 million US in November 2000.
McMahon and company had to forge on in the aftermath of Owen's death. Vince would once again climb into the ring for perhaps his most important in-ring battle when, on September 14th, 1999 he defeated Triple H on Smackdown to win the WWF World Championship. (He would later forfeit the title.) In his ensuing battles with Triple H and on into 2000, he began to involve the rest of his family (wife Linda, daughter Stephanie and son Shane) in the WWF's storylines.
In October 1999, McMahon decided to take the WWF public and offer to sell shares of the company to the public. On October 19th, the stock closed at $25.25. A year later, the stock moved from NASDAQ to the New York Stock Exchange. In the process, Titan Sports Inc. became World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.
By the start of 2000, McMahon seemed to be, once again, bored with simply promoting pro wrestling and, on February 3rd, 2000, announced that he would be teaming with NBC to promote a new brand of football, dubbed the XFL. A year later, with critics already condemning it, the league began play with eight teams and a ten week schedule. On April 21st, the season, and the league ended with the championship game watched by less than a quarter of those who had watched the league's inital game. The WWF's loss was about $35 million.
If McMahon's out-of-the-ring endeavours were not meeting with as much success as he had hoped, the wrestling part of his empire was . In March 2001, after a deal between the Eric Bischoff-led Fusient Media Ventures and Time Warner/AOL to sell World Championship Wrestling fell through, McMahon swooped in and, in short order, purchased his long-time competitor. The Monday Night Wars were over and McMahon could claim victory. McMahon wasted no time in turning his purchase of WCW into a major storyline in the WWF. He had his son, Shane appear on the last telecast of Monday Nitro to announce that it was really him and not Vince who had purchased WCW.
Over the coming months, Shane's contingent of WCW wrestlers would appear on Raw, normally to interfere in WWF matches although McMahon would promote Booker T vs. Buff Bagwel in a match universally panned by critics and fans. In months to come, Shane's WCW would team with Paul Heyman's veterans of ECW as part of the "Invasion" angle. It should have been the biggest storyline in WWF history. Instead, the angle fell flat.
On September 13th, 2001, in the middle of the Invasion angle and two days after the terrorist attacks in the United States, McMahon allowed the WWF superstar to step out of character, much as they had after Owen Hart's death, in order to pay tribute to the victims and the heroes of September 11th.
Soon, the WWF would undergo a drastic change. The World Wildlife Fund (the OTHER WWF) took McMahon's WWF to court over the use of the WWF initials and confusion over the wwf.com website. Despite the wrestling WWF's best efforts, a British court ruled in favour of the World Wildlife Fund, forcing McMahon to change the name of his company to World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE. Taking advantage of this seemingly negative turn of events, the WWE told fans to "Get the F Out".
With the demise of ECW and WCW, and NWA-TNA still in its infancy, McMahon had no real competition. With the failure of the Invasion angle, he realized that he needed to do something in an attempt to respark fan interest. Ric Flair's arrival in the WWE as the co-owner of the WWE (in story-line only, of course) would spark conflict between he and McMahon. After Wrestlemania XVIII, it was decided that each of the two men would assume control of one of the brands (Flair would take Raw while McMahon took Smackdown) and on March 25, 2002, they conducted a brand extension draft. The entire WWE roster was broken up into two separate camps, with some rivalry (especially between future General Managers Eric Bischoff and Stephanie McMahon) occuring.
In the early months of 2003, McMahon, in between promoting the 10th anniversary of Raw, began to criticize Hulk Hogan on the air, leading to a feud between the promoter and the wrestler who had helped bring WWE make Wrestlemania a success. How fitting that the two should battle at Wrestlemania XIX! Despite interference from Rowdy Roddy Piper, Hogan defeated McMahon in a bloody match. The on-air feud between Hogan and McMahon didn't end there, but it would end when Hogan left the WWE in July 2003, leaving McMahon to battle one-legged wrestler Zach Gowan, who had been written in as a friend of Hogan's.
On September 18th, 2003, Vince McMahon Jr. was enshrined in the Madison Square Garden Hall of Fame, joining his father who had already been inducted.
The fall of 2003 would see Vince back in the ring, first to take on Stephanie McMahon and then to battle The Undertaker. While he might have earned criticism for those matches, especially the feud with daughter Stephanie, but his reputation would improve when he took the WWE Smackdown roster to Iraq just before Christmas to perform for the U.S. troops serving there. McMahon would take a Stone Cold stunner on that first show, courtesy of "Santa Claus" ("Stone Cold" Steve Austin in costume).
In 2004, McMahon appeared at Wrestlemania XX to thank the fans for their attendance at the event and for their continued support of the product. Approximately a month later, McMahon returned to WWE television to announce that he was kicking off the $250 000 Raw Diva Search, his own attempt to cash in on the reality TV craze that brought us shows like the Bachelor and American Idol.
Throughout 2004, McMahon would continue to appear on WWE television, such as appearing on Smackdown's 5th Anniversary show (receiving a poem by Heidenreich) and appearing on Raw just before Taboo Tuesday which lead to several wrestlers trying to gain Vince's endorsement in the fans' voting.
Not all of McMahon's appearances have gone smoothly, however. When Vince rushed to the ring at the end of the 2005 Royal Rumble, he blew his knee out and, on February 5th had to have surgery to repair torn tendons.
Even the injuries couldn't knock Vince McMahon off the perch that he created for himself at the top of the industry. With Wrestlemania XXI under his belt, McMahon continued to make appearances on WWE TV at events such as the draft lottery and on Raw's Homecoming on the USA Network, where he clashed with an old adversary in "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, getting a stunner for his troubles.
After Austin's attack, McMahon would remain on WWE television for several weeks, firing long-time announcer Jim Ross and then making fun of Ross's recent surgery in a much-panned skit.
Sadly, not all was fun and games for Vince McMahon and the WWE. With the death of Eddie Guerrero in November 2005, McMahon presided over Raw and Smackdown's tributes to Guerrero, and even appeared in one taped segment himself. Behind the scenes, the death of Guerrero and the collapse of Nick "Eugene" Dinsmore prompted McMahon to institute a new anti-drug policy among the WWE roster, banning both enhancement drugs and recreational drugs.
March 8, 2012: Mania Moments: No. 25 - McMahon's surprisingly good matches
June 3, 2008: McMahon's money madness the talk of L.A.
August 22, 2007: Anyone for tennis? Mr. McMahon!
Aug. 26, 2006: McMahon embarrassing himself and his wrestlers
Aug. 23, 2006: McMahon DVD a hit despite misses
Dec 28, 2005: New peeks into the McMahon empire
Aug. 3, 2003: Wrestling king talks about rise to the top, grapples with future
Aug. 3, 2003: Vince airs his views
Mar 18, 2002: Vince makes split decision
Mar 18, 2002: McMahon looked north before XFL
Mar 15, 2002: There was nothing staged about the McMahon-Hitman feud
Mar 15, 2002: McMahon uncommitted on past stars
Mar 16, 2002: Linda McMahon runs a tight business
Mar 15 2002: McMahon on WWF empire
- compliled by John Milner
VINCE MCMAHON STORIES