411’s Wrestling Hall of Fame Class of 2006: Vince McMahon Jr.
Vincent Kennedy McMahon (August 24, 1945-Present): Although he was born Vincent Kennedy McMahon, throughout his early childhood, he was known as Vinnie Lupton (the last name of his stepfather). His mom and a series of abusive stepfathers raised Vince in a trailer park in North Carolina. At the age of 12, Vince met his biological father for the first time.
In 1966, Vince married his high school sweetheart Linda Edwards. They had their first child in 1970, whom they named Shane Brandon. Their second child, Stephanie, was born in 1976. Vince McMahon graduated from East Carolina University in 1968 with a degree in Business Administration/Marketing. Vince Junior started his post college career as a traveling salesman. Seeing his son struggling, the senior McMahon let Junior run the Bangor, Maine region of Capitol Wrestling Corporation’s northeast territory.
Vince Junior’s first wrestling card was held in 1971. By 1972, he added play by play duties for the World Wide Wrestling Federation’s television broadcasts in addition to his promotion responsibilities. Vince Junior’s power in the company grew as the decade of the 70s was coming to a close. He helped his father’s promotion triple their syndicated television package. He also helped to push the company to drop the “Wide” from the World Wide Wrestling Federation.
In 1980, Vince McMahon Jr. created Titan Sports. By 1982, Titan Sports would purchase the World Wrestling Federation and Capitol Wrestling Corporation. In 1983, Vince took over complete control from all of the minority owners of the WWF. During this time, Vince decided to break the traditional regional boundaries of the territorial wrestling promotions. The WWF was changing from the country’s premier northeastern promotion to becoming the predominant national wrestling company.
In 1984, Vince ushered in his vision of what wrestling should be. Gone were days of his father’s World Wrestling Federation. Junior changed wrestling from the smoke filled gymnasiums where out of shape workers battled each other in pseudo-athletic contests. Instead, he packed arenas with huge muscular bodybuilder type wrestlers, cartoon style superheroes, and the best wrestlers that Vinnie Mac’s money could buy. Vince McMahon combined wrestling with the rock music via Lou Albano’s friendship with pop star Cyndi Lauper to create the “rock and wrestling” storyline. The “Rock and Wrestling Connection” captured not only the fans’ attention, but celebrities and the media as well.
The “Rock and Wrestling Connection” climaxed at Vince’s first supercard called WrestleMania. The show, which was a huge financial risk for Vince, featured a main event of Hulk Hogan and Mr. T over Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff. WrestleMania went from a risky venture to become THE wrestling event of the year due to the third edition, which took place in 1987. WrestleMania III was held inside the Pontiac Silverdome in front of a debated crowd of 93,173 fans. The main event saw WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan beat Andre the Giant.
In 1989, Vince McMahon admitted to the NJ State Legislature that professional wrestling was predetermined. While the WWF did this in order to get out of paying a tax that is charged to athletic contests, the announcement had a greater impact on the industry then anyone would have realized. Most of the old school promoter cried that the announcement would kill the industry. What they didn’t realize is that it would give them more freedom to do hat they wanted. After “letting the cat out of the bag,” professional wrestling officially became “sports entertainment.”
While the WWF’s business was booming, Vince’s world was about to come crashing down. In 1994, Vince McMahon indited on charges of steroid distribution. Although Vince would later be cleared of these charges, the impact of the accusations would be felt in the WWF for years to come. Vince McMahon started a very strict steroid drug testing policy. Gone from the WWF were huge muscle men like the Ultimate Warrior, Hulk Hogan, and Sid. Inserted into the main events were lighter, more athletic workers, like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels.
Due to the steroid scandal taking up most of Vince’s time, the WWF’s product began to suffer. Despite having Shawn and Bret, the WWF lacked the depth on their roster that they had in the mid to late eighties. World Championship Wrestling started to acquire some of the WWF’s top talent. WCW’s “Monday Nitro” started to beat the WWF’s “Monday Night RAW” in the ratings on a weekly basis. With his back against the wall, Vince was forced to change his product and create new stars. The Monday Night Wrestling Wars were on.
In the late-nineties, Vince created new stars like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock, Mankind, and DeGeneration X. It was around this time that Vince would make a decision that would change the wrestling war forever. In September 1997, Vince told Bret that he needed to release him from his contract. Bret signed a deal to compete for World Championship Wrestling. Bret’s final appearance would be in Montreal at that year’s Survivor Series. While Bret was led to believe the ending of the match would be a disqualification, Vince had other plans. When Shawn Michaels placed Bret in the Sharpshooter submission hold, Vince screamed to the time keeper to ring the bell, and give the belt to Michaels. The 1997 Survivor Series would forever be known as the “Survivor Series Screwjob.”
The incident with Bret led to Vince being the most hated man in the industry. He used that hatred to his advantage. Vince turned himself into the evil “Mr. McMahon” character, where he feuded with Steve Austin. Their feud was the cornerstone, along with the WWF adopting ECW’s adult oriented programming, of overtaking WCW in the ratings. Riding on the wave of their success, in 1999 the WWF created a new show called SmackDown to air opposite of WCW’s Thunder on Thursday nights.
During the same year, Vince McMahon made turned the WWF into a publicly traded company. In 2001, Vince joined forces with NBC-TV to create a renegade football league called the XFL. The football league was Vince’s latest non-wrestling venture to failure. In March 2001, Vince purchased his greatest acquisition when he bought World Championship Wrestling. Along with WCW, Vince later purchased the video tape collection of ECW. Vince was suddenly the ONLY major wrestling game in town.
In 2002, the WWF was forced to change its name to World Wrestling Entertainment due to a lawsuit brought by the World Wildlife Foundation.
With an overabundance of wrestling talent, Vince McMahon decided to separate his roster into two groups. One group of wrestlers ply their trade only on RAW. The other group wrestles only on SmackDown.
In 2001, Vince signed a deal with The Nashville Network to air RAW on their network. After a four year relationship, the WWE moved “Monday Night RAW” back to the USA Network.