Name: Vincent Kennedy McMahon
Year Inducted: 2011
Vincent Kennedy McMahon
Mr. McMahon has the professional wrestling business in his blood. “I’ll probably live somewhere beyond 100 and, every day that I do, I’ll be in this business. I love this business,” McMahon said in 2008. “I’m third generation in this business. It really is in my soul and I love to perform. I love to entertain and that’s what all of our performers love to do. You can’t give your audience enough and they can recognize that and appreciate that, so again, it’s a love of what I do. I mean I always say I never go to work because nothing I ever do is work.”
McMahon grew up quite modestly in North Carolina and became a third-generation wrestling promoter. His father, Vincent J. McMahon, had followed in the footsteps of Jess McMahon, his own father, in promoting professional wrestling. In 1972, armed with a degree in marketing from East Carolina, “VKM” was invited to join the family business, starting with a small arena in Bangor, Maine.
Having helped his father’s World Wide Wrestling Federation grow, McMahon gambled and, with partners that included Gorilla Monsoon (Gino Marella) and Phil Zacko, bought the promotion in 1982, taking it national by boldly buying up television time to promote his product, obtaining talent and crossing traditional territorial boundary lines.
“He virtually changed the landscape of the entire industry, taking it in a whole new, different direction,” said journalist Mike Mooneyham. “Pre-Vince it had always been this shadowy world, the secret society that everyone took these oaths to protect . . . He took the business Hollywood.”
Despite numerous setbacks, the World Wrestling Federation grew and grew under his vision. Eventually it became such an international success, that the WWF changed its name to World Wrestling Entertainment as not to be confused with the World Wildlife Federation.
Riding crossover superstars such as Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock to unheard-of heights and successes, WWF went public in 1999, with McMahon remaining the primary shareholder. With the collapse of the competing ECW and WCW in 2001, McMahon truly was the most powerful man in wrestling history.
Onscreen, he went from a suit-wearing announcer to Mr. McMahon, a maniacal extension of his own personality, an evil boss that the world found easy to dislike and connect with. Wrestling in his 60s, McMahon proved that he was no wannabe either, delivering credible performances and pay-per-view buy rates.
In proper perspective, his legacy is taking professional wrestling to unprecedented heights, to the benefit of his employees, his shareholders and WWE fans in the process.
— Greg Oliver