Real Name: Vincent K. McMahon Jr. Position: Owner/Operator of the WWF
In 1963, Vince McMahon Sr. debuted a new wrestling organization that he deemed the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF). McMahon crowned "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers as the company's first world champion, but it was Rogers' successor, Bruno Sammartino, that would propel the company into the spotlight. Years later, a new commentator appeared on the scene. His name was Vince McMahon Jr., the son of promoter (and owner) McMahon Sr. In 1979 the WWWF became the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and around the same time, McMahon Jr. took over the company for his ailing father. McMahon Jr.'s place within the company was kept secret for many years, as he attempted to portray the role of a regular commentator, even going so far as to appear like he took orders from the President of the WWF.
In 1984, McMahon came up with an idea. He was looking to bolt his company to the top of the pack, ahead of rival organizations the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and the American Wrestling Association (AWA). McMahon created the "Rock 'n Wrestling Connection". He took on the services of pop star Cyndi Lauper, who became manager for women's champion Wendi Richter. Wrestlers started coming to the ring with entrance music, fancy costumes, gimmicks. McMahon's ultimate accomplishment however, came when he re-hired a man by the name of Hulk Hogan. Hogan had wrestled in the WWF in the late 70s-early 80s in a heelish role, and left for the AWA where he became a wildly popular face. McMahon brought Hogan back in 1984, put him into the ring against the Iron Sheik for the WWF title, and with a Hogan victory, "Hulkamania" was born. With it, the popularity of the WWF sky rocketed. Certain aspects such as pay-per-view, merchandising, licensing, publishing, and commercial endorsements were unheard of in the wrestling industry, but became a regular thing in the WWF, and subsequently the rest of the business. Wrestlers' salaries were in the six and seven figure range. And McMahon was the main reason for all of it.
The year 1985 saw the biggest wrestling event ever take place, as the WWF presented Wrestlemania. The event drew massive mainstream publicity, as it involved television star Mr. T in a wrestling role, as well as boxing great Mohammed Ali, pianist Liberace, baseball's Billy Martin and others. Soon the WWF was putting on performances regularly in large arenas. Television ratings were through the roof. Merchandise sales were incredible. Wrestlers were appearing regularly on the late night talk show scene. 1986 saw over 60,000 people fill the CNE Stadium in Toronto, Ontario, an attendance record for any wrestling event. One year later, over 93.000 people packed the Pontiac Silverdome for Wrestlemania 3, an indoor attendance record that still stands. They were the booming years for the WWF, and for Vince McMahon, who continued to portray the role of a regular broadcast journalist.
As the 80's came to a close and the 90's began, the WWF became entangled in a weave of scandals. There were rumours of homosexual activities occuring behind the scenes involving former WWF wrestler-turned-corporate suit Pat Patterson among others. There were rumours of sexual assault involving McMahon and a female referee. There were also rumours of massive steroid use among wrestlers, distributed by McMahon. Vince would be brought up on charges for this crime, but was never convicted. It became difficult for McMahon to hide his true position within the company, and in the early 1990's it became common knowledge that he owned the WWF.
By 1993 things started to change for the WWF. McMahon, the sole owner of the company, became challenged after the NWA was sold to billionaire Ted Turner and transformed into World Championship Wrestling (WCW). WCW was able to entice the WWF's biggest star, Hogan, to sign a multi-year deal. The WWF's roster became depleted as their booming stars of the 80's became aging stars of the 90's. Then in 1996 WCW used illegal practices to negotiate with two of the WWF's brightest young stars, Kevin "Diesel" Nash and Scott "Razor Ramon" Hall. These negotiations led to the subsequent WCW signing of both Nash and Hall, as well as over a dozen other WWF wrestlers. The WWF saw their television ratings and house show attendance figures slide, and with it, the company's profit did as well.
Whether you like Vince McMahon or not, you have to respect him for the intelligent businessman that he is. As 1997 rolled around, McMahon decided it was time for a change. It was time for the WWF to lose its 80's reputation for being a circus. Out went the gimmicks, the mascots, even the "good guy" and "bad guy" distinctions. The WWF opted for a more realistic standpoint. They decided to focus their attentions on a more adult audience as opposed to the G-rated childrens shows they'd put on a decade earlier. The company took on a more "extreme" style. And it paid off. 1997 saw attendance figures rise once again. Television ratings improved. The WWF was successful in topping rival WCW in every major category with the single exception being television ratings. And once again, it was the decisions of McMahon that made it possible. Then at Wrestlemania XIV, McMahon signed boxing and PPV star "Iron" Mike Tyson to be special guest referee in the main event, a move that brought incredible mainstream exposure to the WWF.