There are some people who simply become a personification of an organisation. Be it Steve Jobs and Apple, Bill Gates and Microsoft, UFC and Dana White or Elon Musk and Tesla, these people define the personality of the company and its perception in the minds of the masses. In the same way, there isn’t a better fit than Vince McMahon and WWE.
Vincent Kennedy McMahon has been at the helm of the biggest sports entertainment company for almost four decades and his name and character has become synonymous with the WWE. Mr McMahon is an aggressive, ruthless, creative and uncompromising winner and these are the very traits that he has inculcated into the fabric of his company. Success is the most used word in Vince McMahons’ dictionary. He truly is the quintessential boss-man.
Vinnie Lupton, as he was named in the initial stages of his life, owes his childhood for making him the meanest man in the business. He spent a majority of his childhood living with his mother Vicki Lupton and went through a series of stepfathers. One of his stepfathers, Leo Lupton used to beat his mother up and Vince once risked his safety while trying to defend his mother. His biological father was a man named Vincent James McMahon who left him when he was very young and only returned when he was 12. Suffering from dyslexia, it wasn’t difficult for him to get into fights.
Though he inherited the same name as his father, there was no silver spoon in Vince’s mouth as a youngster. His biological father had laid the foundations for what we today know as the WWE. His father started the WWWF (worldwide wrestling federation) and Vince McMahon was eager to assume a managerial role in the promotion. In contrast to his expectations, Vince’s father was not fascinated by this idea and did not believe he had the ability to take it forward. Being the man he is, Vince was not going to be taking a no for an answer. In 1980, He went on and bought out WWWF from his father a short while before he died. The boss gets what he wants.
To profile the brilliance of Vince McMahon we must go through 3 characteristics that make him the man he is:
When McMahon took over from his father they had a humble viewership of around three hundred thousand predominantly from the United States and fast forward to present times the WWE enjoys a viewership of 30 million across 170 countries during Monday night RAW. The earliest and most definitive example of his genius was that he as mentioned earlier bought out WWWF from his father. He was confident about his vision and believed he could take the promotion where nobody has even dared to venture.
To succeed in such an unforgiving business like sports entertainment you have to be a bulldozer. And Vince McMahon was a full- fledged war tank. Nothing came in his way of achieving a particular goal and constantly demolished boundaries both creatively and in terms of business expansion. During the early 1980s, the professional wrestling business was governed by territorial restrictions. There were about a dozen wrestling promotions and each one had their specific area or a state in which they operated. So it was nearly impossible for a rival promotion to hold events in their area and therefore the potential for expansion was quite limited. Additionally, wrestlers were exclusively affiliated with a particular promotion and wrestling for wrestling for multiple promotions and jumping ship was almost prohibited.
Vince’s ruthless streak
Vince McMahon changed all that. He muscled his way into rival territories and held successful events while acquiring top talent from across the country and eventually from across the world to represent his company. This made sure his audience was constantly growing and the wealth of talent on his roster was expanding rapidly.
During the early days after his takeover, pro-wrestling had a very minute imprint on the minds of viewers. If you were a man in the early 1980s the first thing you would do on a Monday after a coming home from a long day of work would be to turn on your television set and tune into Monday Night football. Monday night RAW was nowhere close to the extraordinary viewership that Monday night football had. People had this perception that why would anyone want to watch juiced up wrestlers putting up an act when they can watch a real High octane sport. Wrestling was considered to be for the dull-witted who were amused by the simplest of things. In present times, Monday night RAW is the most watched program on television enjoyed by different age groups while Monday night football ratings continue to fall exponentially.
Mr McMahon was also an extremely quick learner. He adapted to situations and found out new ways to succeed much earlier than his competition and that is the reason WWE almost holds a monopoly in the industry. McMahon observed boxing and how promoters earn money through pay per views and immediately applied it to his business plan. He realized that no doubt his audience will increase at a steady rate and his television viewership will increase, but to make some real money he needed something extra.
Imagine a tree which has the sweetest mangoes in the whole wide world and in order to get to the tree you have to cross a huge river which is full of dangerous creatures and a deadly current which can drown you in an instant. By the time you start thinking about building a boat Vince McMahon would have already figured out a plan to cross the river, get the mangoes, plant multiple trees with the seeds of the mangoes, sell those mangoes, use that money to build a bridge across the river and then charge people to use that bridge. That is how much of a visionary he was.
He introduced monthly events that were only available on pay per views. He then produced his finest creation, the grandest stage of them all – Wrestlemania. He produced these insane super cards and had already visualized back then that Wrestlemania would become the super bowl of the pro wrestling world.
The phrase ‘born winner’ is used rather casually in today’s world but McMahon was a born winner in the literal sense. He just didn’t lose. He may get criticized for his decision making but it all made sense in the long term. When Ted Turners’ WCW (world championship wrestling) was gaining popularity and emerging as the front runner in terms of the quality of the wrestling, the competitive streak inside Vince kicked in. He introduced his revolutionary creative campaign termed as the ‘Attitude era’ that gave birth to the term “sports entertainment”. Ratings skyrocketed, the WWE attracted top talent from WCW and eventually, WWE took over WCW as it ended up bankrupt within a few years. Second place was just not an option for the boss.
McMahon, now 72 years old, may not be a regular face in the WWE programming but is still coming up with revolutionary ways to expand his brand. He introduced the WWE network which has completely changed how much access people have to WWE programming. While multi-billion dollar brands like amazon are trying to figure out the streaming business, McMahon has already made WWE extremely accessible while giving them an opportunity to revisit the past. He has come up with exciting brand extensions such as the NXT and the 205 live that caters to its ever expanding roster.
The WWE attracts talent from every corner of the world and has truly become a global phenomenon that transcends age groups, religion and boundaries and Vince McMahon is the pioneer behind this humongous expansion.