Why Vince McMahon is Not a Wrestling Genius
Welcome back, dear reader. You’ve stumbled across this article with the possible assumption that I don’t think Vince McMahon has contributed anything worthwhile to the wrestling industry.
Not at all. McMahon is a great businessman. When his father handed him a northeast territory in the late 70s, McMahon tripled that business. He was behind the WWWF Inoki/Ali match in 1976, and generally speaking, helped his father’s promotion grow immensely.
Vincent Kennedy McMahon is often hailed as the most important figure in professional wresting history. Without him, the wrestling business simply wouldn’t be at the heights it’s at now, right? He is a visionary businessman and a legendary promoter.
Perhaps even a genius?
Well, unfortunately, no. Not if we truly examine wrestling history. There is a truth to Vince McMahon that often goes unsaid, and perhaps, unnoticed. Vince is no wrestling genius. In fact, it’s even worse than that, and we need to be honest about it:
Vince McMahon. Steals. Everything.
From creative ideas to the promotion and execution of said ideas, Vince McMahon is historically good at ripping off content for his own personal gain. Perhaps this is just smart business.
Now before going off in the comments section of whatever social media or forum you read this from — do me this one favor:
Prove me wrong. Should be easy, right? I’m going to lay out many of McMahon’s alleged successes, and point out just how much has has swiped for himself. I’ll ask this question after we’re done, here:
Is a legend still legendary when they’ve stolen all the tools for their success?
The 1980s WWF Roster
There is a hypocrisy that exists with fans who “hate” independent wrestling. Because every talent they recognize in WWF’s “Golden Era” were mostly swiped right from the territories. McMahon never “made” any of these guys — he simply bought them out.
The large majority of talent from this era was already a top star within their own territory. McMahon simply gave them the exposure.
-Hulk Hogan (AWA/CWF)
-Jake Roberts (WCCW)
-Bret Hart (Stampede)
-Davey Boy Smith (Stampede)
-Iron Sheik (AWA/Mid-South/JCP)
-Ultimate Warrior (WCCW)
-Randy Savage (CWA/Memphis)
-Roddy Piper (GCW)
-Ted DiBiase (Mid-South)
-Shawn Michaels (AWA)
-Scott Hall (CWF/AWA)
…and this list goes on and on…
Aside from Andre the Giant, it’s hard to find even one wrestler from that era that weren’t already established elsewhere prior.
This wasn’t a roster that McMahon built and cultivated from the ground up. He essentially just threw money at the best names across the territories to work for him; effectively killing many promotions throughout the 80s and 90s in the process.
His Father’s Trust
In past interviews, McMahon himself stated that his father would have likely never sold to him had he known his full intent with the future WWF product. Vince Sr. never wanted a monopoly, nor did he want the territories to diminish.
In fact, one of the terms of the sale to Vince was that he kept payments to CWC’s original partners in Gorilla Monsoon, Phil Zacko, and Arnold Skaaland. The original intent wasn’t to kill the territories by taking out their talent, as names like Gagne, Crockett, and Von Erich were open to working with Vince Jr. early on.
But what was made clear was the true intention McMahon had for the WWF. Buy out the competition, and monopolize into a global phenomenon. The move paid off, but would leave nearly a dozen well-known territories out of business.
Vince Sr. never envisioned his son becoming the catalyst for so many promotions to go out of business. He handed the keys over to Vince Jr. in a move of pure nepotism.
Do you think Vince Sr. would have offered the same deal to anyone else at that time? Not a chance. He trusted his son to carry on his legacy in a way that didn’t hurt others.
Unfortunately, Vince Jr. didn’t seem to care.
Wrestlemania/Royal Rumble/Summerslam/Survivor Series
Billed now as the “showcase of the immortals”, this annual event wasn’t entirety McMahon’s idea in spirit. A special wrestling event aired on closed-circuit television? Genius!
Only that Jim Crockett promotions already did it two years earlier with Starrcade in 1983. This idea was nothing new in the wrestling world when it comes to setting the standard for the modern PPV. No matter what McMahon would tell you, Wrestlemania was created in direct response to Starrcade. There was no innovation here.
This is similar to McMahon creating Survivor Series on Thanksgiving of 1987 — not because he needed to — but to compete directly with Jim Crockett’s Chi-Town Heat on PPV booked beforehand on that very same day.
And same goes for the Royal Rumble. While WWE acknowledges that this was the creation of Pat Patterson, it wasn’t McMahon’s idea.
And is it any coincidence that the first year Jim Crockett Promotions held The Great American Bash in July of 1988 that suddenly McMahon debuts Summerslam in August of that same year? Think about it: Three of WWE’s four major shows per year were created out of spite to compete with Jim Crockett; a promotion that was already the #2 of the wrestling world at that point.
It goes to show that McMahon really didn’t have much of an innovative bone in his body. Just a lot of competitive spite.
The Attitude Era
I don’t think it’s any secret that WWF’s “Attitude Era” was essentially lifted right from Extreme Championship Wrestling.
Head writers Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara all but admitted as much in prior interviews. The violence, chaos, storytelling, and unfortunate misogyny, were all a product of the ECW brand. Russo took inspiration from this growing cult product and made it his own in WWF.
Vince Russo mirrored that to help a struggling WWF compete with the rising World Championship Wrestling during the mid-90s. It wasn’t long after that McMahon would raid ECW and swipe up other talents, much like he did over a decade before.
And one of the biggest names in the industry — “Stone Cold” Steve Austin — truly began the chapter of his new wrestling journey in ECW. View any old Austin/ECW promo and you’ll see the early beginnings of the “Texas Rattlesnake”.
Not that I blame them. Paul Heyman was struggling to pay his top stars, so when big names like Taz, The Dudley Boyz, Raven, and Shane Douglas all jumped ship — the writing was on the wall.
But make no mistake. Without ECW, there is no Attitude Era. It wasn’t McMahon that saved his company during their darkest times in the 90s, if anyone, it was Paul Heyman.
The Mr. McMahon Character
McMahon had a very short stint as a heel figure in Jerry Lawler’s Memphis promotion in 1993. Then Lawler was charged with statutory rape, thereby forcing McMahon to distance himself from Lawler and Memphis wrestling.
But the ‘Mr. McMahon’ character we know today wasn’t his creation. Credit for that character was all one Vince Russo. Much like the Attitude Era itself, McMahon had very little to do with the creative direction other than to sign the checks.
The McMahon-Austin feud, The Rock joining the Nation of Domination, and the formation of D-X — these were all ideas from the batshit crazy mind of Vince Russo.
Not Vince McMahon.
We can give McMahon credit for creating The Undertaker after learning that Percy Pringle/Paul Bearer was a real-life mortician. So that’s something, eh?
But the point being here is that McMahon needed a lot of helpful shovels to dig himself out of the hole that 1995-96 era WWF was in. Remember, WWF reportedly almost went out of business in ’96, seeing its lowest buy-rate ever for a WrestleMania ever in that year.
After names like Hogan, Savage, Hall, Luger, and others, (names he didn’t “make”) jumped ship to WCW, he was left with the crumbs of his own creation. Had it not been for ECW and Vince Russo, I doubt you’d be reading this right now.
The Best of the Rest
What else did Vince McMahon essentially rip from other people and companies? Here’s a few more nuggets of note:
-The “Heel” Authority Figure | Originally done by Eric Bischoff in WCW – 1996
–WWF Smackdown | This was created in response to WCW Thunder down to the blue color.
–Light Heavyweight Championship | Created in response to WCW’s blossoming Cruiserweight championship at the time.
–Wargames | Even if WWE owns WCW now, the Wargames concept was never his creation.
–Hulk Hogan | Hogan created the iconic “red and yellow” look. Not McMahon.
–NXT 1.0’s roster | Taken mainly from the Indies
In fact, when we think about it, who was “made” by McMahon at all in the current roster aside from Roman Reigns, Charlotte Flair and Brock Lesnar? Rollins, Zayn, Owens, Balor, Styles, McIntyre, Lashley — these were all products of Ring of Honor, TNA Impact, or New Japan. And yes, I’m aware McIntyre and Lashley were in WWE prior, but their career resurgences came from their time in Impact.
It seems that the new trend is to create a batch of new stars from the ground up without signing Indies names. This is where NXT 2.0 was initially headed, and still seems to be. Will it pay off?
…chances are low if history has anything to say about it…
Vince McMahon is no wrestling genius.
Every major boom in professional wrestling under his watch was built on the backs of other individuals. He raided talent from other territories against his dead father’s wishes to build a monopoly in the 80s. A decade later he relied heavily on Vince Russo, who primarily ripped off ECW, to avoid going out of business in the 90s to create the “Attitude Era”.
And as a decline in ratings and attendance can be measured from 2002-2019, it was only until AEW was born that things would again change for the better in WWE.
-More wrestling (in WWE’s own way)
-More “Indies Darlings” featured
-Post-PPV Press Conferences
-A sudden revival in working with other wrestling promotions
And these improvements have come at the hands of Paul Levesque, who no doubt lifted them from Tony Khan and AEW.
For as many “successes” McMahon has had over his tenure, there are just as many “gaffes”. This is the same man who wanted:
-Goldust to get breast implants
-Melina to come out as a “man in drag”
-An incest angle with Stephanie
-Packaging Hardcore Holly as “Spacecore Holly” with full astronaut garb and a pet monkey. (Okay, I would have liked to have seen that one…)
Not to mention what ideas DID make the air:
-Dropping the N-Bomb to John Cena
-Forcing Trish Stratus to bark like a dog.
-Interviewing the widow of Brian Pillman the day after his death
-The “Kiss My Ass” Club
-Nickelodeon NXT 2.0
-A feud with “God” and Shawn Michaels
-That entire Hornswoggle debacle
-Fill in the blanks…it’s not hard…
McMahon long bullied his way to the top of the wrestling industry. When he was left to his own creativity, which he is mostly devoid of, business tanked until someone else’s ideas would keep him afloat. We have seen this time and time again. Right now, Levesque has something good going with the general creative direction of the company. But as history has shown, it’s not because of Vince McMahon.
Prove me wrong.
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