Vince McMahon is the chairman of the World Wrestling Federation and he represents the third generation of McMahons in the business. He was born on August 24, 1945 in Pinehurst, North Carolina. His grandfather, Jess McMahon, worked as a boxing and wrestling promoter while his father, Vince McMahon, Sr. founding the Capitol Wrestling Corporation.
Capitol dominated in the professional wrestling industry in the Northeastern United States during the mid-20th century, when the sport was divided into strictly regional enterprises.
As a teenager, Vince, who was raised by his mother and met his father for the first time when he was 12 years old, was excited to get into the family business. He graduated from East Carolina University in 1968 with a degree in business administration. His father introduced him into the family business in 1971, which made him the head of Capitol’s operations in Bangor, Maine.
After he had achieved success in Bangor, Vince was responsible for all New England-based operations. In 1982, the bought Capitol Wrestling form his father, and started an expansion process that would alter the face of professional wrestling in America.
The World Wrestling Federation
McMahon got to work recruiting brand new talent and bought out competition across the United Sates. He formed a national conglomerate that he called the World Wrestling Federation or WWF, and a parent company known as TitanSports, Inc.
Professional wrestling had long hovered in an uncertain position, and was not considered by many to be a legitimate sport. It was also looked down upon as an unappealing, lowbrow form of entertainment.
McMahon admitted that WWF wrestling was technically not a real sport, as the outcome of each match was known in advance. Instead, he played up its entertainment value and introduced wrestlers with theatrical personae and flashy costumes along with elaborate displays for the benefit of the arena crowds and cable audiences. And it worked.
In 1987, the WWF sold $80 million in tickets to live events, according to Forbes magazine the federation was also drawing record numbers of viewers of events on pay-per-view, closed circuit television.
Legal Issues with the WWF
During the early 1990s, McMahon and the WWF had various legal issues to deal with. The 1993 accusation by the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn, New York concerned the belief that McMahon and Titan Sports had supplied the wrestlers with anabolic steroids from 1985 to 1991. During a trial, several former WWF wrestlers, including ex-federation star Hulk Hogan, admitted to using steroids during their careers and testified that the WWF had encouraged the abuse of these drugs, which were declared Illegal in 1988. McMahon was acquitted of most of the charges, although he was found guilty of conspiring to defraud the Food and Drug Administration.
The company faced a completely different type of legal issue in 1988 with the launch of World Championship Wrestling (WCW) by media titan Ted Turner. In the years after McMahon’s trial, the rivalry between the WWF and WCW only increased, even though the WWF remained solid. The competition only intensified the popularity of professional wrestling in the late 1990s. WWF events consistently were ranked as some of the highest among cable and PPV programs. And the company’s revenue increased over 45% from 1996 to 1999.
Facing Ongoing Controversy
Aside from the feuding between the WWF and the WCW, the rise in popularity has been attributed to a change in attitude of the popular wrestling stars today. While they were once portrayed as patriotic and relatively wholesome, as the years went by the top performers were the ones who were aggressive and rebellious. McMahon has done a lot to encourage this change, flamboyantly playing the evil corporate foil to the wrestler’s bad-boy heroes. He has been accused of bringing the outrageous nature of professional wrestling to an extreme and possibly dangerous level, especially after the accidental death of the WWF’s Owen Hart during a pre-match publicity stunt in May of 1999. His controversial decision to continue the PPV event at Kansas City’s Kemper Arena after Hart’s fata; fall earned McMahon few friends and prompted a pending lawsuit from the late wrestler’s family members.
In October 1999, McMahon saw World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc., through its initial public offering on the Nasdaq. The company’s stock price closed at nearly double its opening price for 10 million shares. As chairman, McMahon controls 98 percent of the voting shares in the WWF. His wife, Linda, serves as the WWF’s president and chief executive; both his children, Stephanie and Shane, also work in the company, which is headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut.