Vincent K. McManiac
Written by Godrey Hayworth.
No matter what you may think of Vince McMahon, the reality is he’s the billionaire CEO of an amazingly successful company and basically the godfather of wrestling as we know it today. A strong argument could be made that he’s a genius. A stronger argument could be made that he’s also insane. I’m not saying he writes RAW’s programming on the wall with shit or thinks Rey Misterio is secretly a lizard wearing Rey Misterio’s skin, but you only have to take a cursory glance at some of his eccentricities to see something’s up. This is a man who has forced people, his own employees and friends and even his son, to stick their faces against his bare ass on national television. If you don’t think that’s just a little fucked up then thanks for reading this from prison.
Never known as a bastion of ethical business practices, Vince turned his father’s World Wide Wrestling Federation, a relatively small time territory promotion, into the WWE, a globally recognised multi-media corporation. He did this by being an asshole. Back in the day, promotions kept to their areas of operation, not just in touring but with their television deals and rosters. Nothing was official, it was just an understanding perpetuated by the NWA, an unwritten rule of good sportsmanship. The first thing Vince did after buying the company from his father was to decide, “Fuck rules. Also, everyone who isn’t me.” He broke the code, toured wherever he wanted, and stole wrestlers from other promotions, most notably Hulk Hogan. Everyone was understandably pissed off but were essentially powerless as Vince took over. Perhaps it was foolish to expect rival businesses to get by on the honour system, but the reality is Vince saw a soft underbelly exposed and tore into it. You wouldn’t fault a wolf for killing a deer.
After establishing himself as the prominent wrestling company, Vince made one gamble after another. Some paid off: Wrestlemania, monthly pay-per-views, Fonzie hairdo. Yet every time he stepped out of his element he wound up with shit on his shoe. The World Bodybuilding Federation was a disaster only eclipsed a decade later by the XFL, a blunder exemplified by crashing promotional blimps and jerseys that read He Hate Me. And these days, WWE Films continues to thrill empty theatres (Triple H’s The Chaperone made back a whole $43,795 of its estimated 3 million budget). And while the wrestling business has wavered from time to time, it still draws huge crowds year round and continues to show profits. Some make the argument that it’s the very association with wrestling that dooms these projects. As much as you or I may love it, wrestling still carries a stigma, a holdover from the carney era when wrestling was a con run at fares. Wrestling’s pre-scripted nature leads people to distrust it. Others reject it out of hand for being low-class or uncerebral. Why this would affect your opinion of football or action movies is anyone’s guess. It didn’t help the products themselves weren’t of the highest quality, but this is a world where Scary Movies are still being made so the bar is not exactly too low for limbo.
So why does Vince do it? Why invest millions in failed ventures instead of being satisfied with a near monopoly on mainstream wrestling in North America? Narcissism maybe. Or megalomania. Could be as simple as greed. Something drives him like a man possessed to expand beyond his element. Perhaps it’s to do with his upbringing. His real father walked out on him only to be replaced by a series of stepfathers, some abusive to him and his mother. Victims of such circumstances can sometimes grow up to be overtly aggressive delinquents. Others have an intrinsic need for control. Stories of Vince blowing up backstage over seemingly innocuous things are unsubstantiated but commonplace enough that some of them have to be true. Rumours fly about performers being punished for simple things like taking a nap or not greeting a VIP with due respect. The line between running a tight ship and becoming Captain Bligh is incredibly thin and Vince sails over it without thought.
According to the most accurate of sources, the internet, Aristotle once said, “No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.” In the world of business, this can be easily backed up. Aside from Vince, there’s Donald “Birther Movement” Trump, Howard “Urine Bottles” Hughes, and Richard “Waterskiing With A Naked Model Strapped To My Back” Branson. Would wrestling be what it is today without him? Maybe. Perhaps Eric Bischoff or Paul Heyman or Verne Gagne would’ve figured out the magic formula given enough time. Or perhaps wrestling would’ve died out by now, returned to the circus sideshow it evolved from. In the end, it doesn’t matter if it is brilliance or insanity. Vince gave us wrestling, and we should be thankful.