All is fair, they say, in love and war.
Over the past few decades, the WWE’s ascent from a territorial promotion into a global powerhouse has been met with equal measures of both. Love from an unyielding fan base, most of whom still found it within themselves to stick on with the product even through the stodginess of the PG era.
And on the other hand, he underwent a no-holds-barred, vicious ratings war with their now-defunct rivals-in-chief, WCW.
But through it all, Vince McMahon has soldiered on unwaveringly. He neither let obstacles discourage him nor success get to his head; after all, as the WWE’s motto reads, the show must always go on.
Along the way, however, he’s had to make innumerable sacrifices, take countless career-defining decisions, concoct numerous cover-ups and even lie blatantly through his teeth in the best interests of the company. And sometimes that also involved manipulating his own employees to get them to dance to his tune.
As a result, some Superstars in his employ were aggrieved to the point of no return, severing ties with Vince and the company. Others, however, understood that the cut-throat style of functioning was just how the industry rolls.
But whichever side of the fence they fell on, the fallout from such incidents between Vince his employees always provided absorbing topics of discussion for us as fans. Agree with him for his ruthless business acumen or decry him for his nefarious approach, these incidents went down as noteworthy moments in WWE history, some of which we shall comb through today.
Here then, are the 15 biggest lies Vince McMahon told the wrestlers he has employed.
When Hulk Hogan returned to the WWE in 2002, it would seem that much had changed. Hogan’s notorious reputation for backstage politicking and putting himself over had seemingly worn off with age and he was quite happy to stare at the lights for the likes of The Rock and Brock Lesnar.
But old habits, as it would turn out, would indeed die hard.
When Hogan was booked in a feud with Shawn Michaels in 2005, the Hulkster used the creative control clause in his contract to put himself over the Heartbreak Kid.
Only, Vince McMahon had sold the idea to Shawn Michaels like it was more than a one match deal. Shawn may eat a pin, but Hogan would also put him over at a later date.
Predictably, Hogan reneged on the deal and Vince, eager to make money off the high-profile legend vs legend narrative, sanctioned it anyway.
The feud was reduced to a one-off encounter at SummerSlam 2005 and an extremely displeased Michaels would make his chagrin be known by ludicrously overselling Hogan’s offense throughout the match.
Ever since the Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak was broken, rumours keep floating around that this would finally be the year that The Deadman calls it a day.
Nearly four years on, and seemingly after he left everything in the middle of the ring for the final time at WrestleMania 33, we’re still none the wiser as to when his actual retirement would be.
And much of this has to do with Vince McMahon.
For his part, The Undertaker has reportedly expressed his desire to hang up his boots after WrestleMania in each of the past few years. Unwilling to lose one of his greatest creations and money-spinners though, McMahon has agreed to it on face value, only to reel him back in when the Road to WrestleMania swings by the next year.
On some level, you can appreciate the shrewd business sense behind his actions...but given the lifetime of service that the Undertaker has rendered the WWE, perhaps it’s time Vince shoots straight with him on this issue after all.
The Big Guy should have made it in the WWE.
He certainly had the ‘look’ that Vince McMahon was partial to but a combination of ill-fated injuries and his issues with the brass eventually derailed his career in the company.
In one of his public diatribes against the company, which has really become quite common nowadays, he alluded to how Vince McMahon once promised him that he will never give up on him and that he greatly values him for his ability to get over.
True enough to his words, McMahon then promoted Ryback up the card and The Big Guy ended up making the kind of money that he always wanted.
Then, with guard lowered, McMahon struck. Ryback was involved in a medical malpractice suit against the WWE’s doctors then, after accusing them of negligence in treating his injuries. That was when he apparently received a call from the WWE higher-ups, telling him to drop the lawsuit if he wanted his push to continue. Naturally, quite content with his spot in the company, Ryback acceded. Once the lawsuit was out of the way, however, McMahon backtracked big time on his promise.
Ryback started losing all his momentum (and matches) and was soon cut from the WWE roster too.
Back when the internet wrestling community wasn’t really a thing and only Title changes that aired on television were valid, The Rockers once won the Tag Titles from the Hart Foundation in a ridiculous match on Saturday Night Main Event.
Apparently, the match tanked because the top rope came unfastened, forcing the teams to improvise on the fly.
Some say the title change was only booked in the first place because Jim Neidhart (who comprised one-half of the Heart Foundation, along with Bret Hart) was planning to leave around Thanksgiving that year. But what the WWE didn’t expect was that Demolition, another popular tag team tandem, also wanted to leave around the same time, forcing Vince to retain the services of Neidhart.
So Vince used the ropes coming undone as an excuse and practically stripped the Rockers of their titles (who were also considered largely untrustworthy due to their party-going habits) after telling them to their face that Jack Tunney wished it so.
For those of you who remember, Jack Tunney was the on-screen authority figure on WWE who had as much creative control as Kurt Angle or Daniel Bryan do on Raw or SmackDown Live...which is practically zero.
Of course, the Rockers saw right through the lie...but there really isn't much one can do about it when their boss lies with so much conviction, is there?
CM Punk’s fallout with the WWE has been extremely well documented.
Starting off with the infamous pipebomb promo and capped off by an unceremonious exit, it’s pretty well known that Punk could never really see eye to eye with Vince McMahon in the latter stages of his WWE tenure.
But only when he spoke out on Colt Cabana’s podcast about the details surrounding his departure from the company, did we truly come to realize the extent of bad blood that existed between them.
Not only was Punk’s termination papers sent to him on his wedding day (which in itself was an utterly d**k move on Vince’s part), but when quizzed about it, he completely feigned ignorance and brushed off the mishap as an unfortunate coincidence.
Only, Punk had been in touch with Triple H only two days prior to discuss the terms of his termination and made Hunter fully aware of the timeline of his marriage and honeymoon.
Was it an instance of gross miscommunication within the WWE itself? Or - more likely - did Vince McMahon dish out a parting blow to a man who challenged his authority and just lie to squirm his way out of culpability?
Quite a no-brainer, really.
Everything about the way Chyna’s life spiralled out of control once she left the WWE is deeply saddening. But the rut had already begun when she finally caught wind of Triple H’s relationship with Stephanie McMahon.
When she confronted Vince McMahon about it, however, the WWE Supremo had nothing but words of comfort, assuring her of her standing in the company and sugar coating his real intentions behind words such as “That’s why you’re Chyna…”, “We love you…” and “I’ll get in touch with you this week.”
Hurt by the whole deal but assuaged that they were going to get in touch for a contract extension (her WWE contract was up around the same time), Chyna relented.
What followed, however, would be nothing short of treacherous.
Vince wasted no time in faxing her termination papers to her (at a restaurant in which she was eating, no less) and then proceeded to black ball other pursuits that were lined up for her as well.
Blindsided, booted out of a job abruptly and backed into a corner, was it really any surprise that Chyna harboured ill-will against Vince McMahon right up till her untimely passing?
Ultimate Warrior’s WWE career promised much, but didn’t quite live up to its potential.
While he was most definitely a draw and possessed all the qualities to assume the mantle of top babyface from Hulk Hogan on paper, the presence of The Hulkster in the company constantly undermined him and his push.
It certainly didn’t help that Warrior also felt that he needed parity with Hogan on payouts, even going as far as to script a personal letter to Vince McMahon threatening to walk out unless his monetary demands be met.
And as he’d already been announced as Hogan’s tag partner in SummerSlam 91’s main event, Vince had little choice but to acquiesce to them.
Content that he was being paid what he deserved, Warrior showed up for the event...but, still hurting that he’d been held to ransom, Vince McMahon went back on all his promises and indefinitely suspended him once it was over.
As it would turn out, that incident created a rift between Vince and Ultimate Warrior that spawned more than two decades.
The only silver lining was that at least it was bridged just in time for Warrior to be recognized in the WWE Hall of Fame, before his tragic demise.
Daniel Bryan’s retirement speech was easily one of the most emotionally charged segments in recent WWE history.
The fan favorite, however, didn’t want to call it quits at all. While the WWE doctors strongly advised him to hang up his boots due to a long history of concussions, Bryan consulted his own doctors - all of whom gave him the green light to compete.
So, as rumour has it, he conveniently pointed to Bryan’s long history with head trauma and vetoed any attempt on his part to wrestle again.
Now, this could just as easily have been done because the WWE was also in a little bit of a pickle then with the concussion lawsuit and purely wanted to ensure that they didn’t end up with another serious concussion-related injury on their hands.
But the fact that Daniel Bryan is still teasing wrestling elsewhere once his current WWE contract runs down in 2018, probably indicates that Vince’s intentions probably weren’t that noble, after all. Well played Vince.
Till date, Roman Reigns’ match against Brock Lesnar (and Seth Rollins, technically) at WrestleMania 31 remains one of his best in-ring showings in WWE.
It was intended to be Reigns’ grand coronation as well, slaying the Beast Incarnate and capturing the WWE Championship, all in one go.
Obviously informed by Vince that he was penciled in to win that night, Reigns had reportedly asked his family to stay tuned till the end to watch his victory.
Only, either because the crowd was vociferously anti-Reigns or because McMahon just had a change of heart at the last minute, the finish of the match was altered in the 11th hour and Rollins was asked to cash in his MITB briefcase instead.
Now, while last minute booking changes do happen now and then, this particular one had severe ramifications as Reigns’ entire family (which is quite voluminous, by the way) had been misinformed that he was going to win based on Vince McMahon’s say-so.
And while this wasn’t an instance of the Boss lying to further his own ends, it was nonetheless another situation where he displayed no bones about going back on his word.
Goldberg came back to the WWE in 2016 to much aplomb and a good measure of shock value as he ran over Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series in a little over a minute.
And his next two matches, against Kevin Owens and a rematch against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania, were along the same vein - short, impactful and crisp.
In hindsight, it was one of the most explosive returns by a retired Superstar and the whole run was such a success because the WWE knew exactly how to book him.
But the same can’t be said of his first stint in the company. When Goldberg signed for the WWE after WCW capitulated, he was promised the moon by Vince McMahon, who undoubtedly realized the star power he had. However, perhaps due to his deep-rooted hatred of WCW or because Triple H decided that he had to be put over at all costs, Goldberg was booked as a shadow of the Superhero that he was portrayed to be in WCW.
Apart from losing to Triple H, he was also made to wrestle long-ish matches that totally betrayed his lack of ring know-how.
Made to look bad and eventually having the fans turn on him as well, Goldberg’s first WWE run ended with a Stone Cold Stunner at WrestleMania XX - a personal kick-up-the-backside goodbye, from Vince McMahon.
Hardcore Holly was a solid mid-card talent in the WWE but unfortunately for him, he never really received a leg-up onto bigger and better things despite being a company man through and through.
However, one situation when it seemed as though his fortunes would take a turn for the better was during the lead up to WrestleMania 23. Holly was working a program with Bobby Lashley and was understandably delighted when he was informed by Vince McMahon that their feud would keep ticking over until Mania.
Only, McMahon had a change of heart and introduced Umaga into the mix, asking Holly to roll over and cede his spot just a few weeks out from the event. Holly complied reluctantly but was thoroughly dejected that he was screwed out of the elusive spot on WrestleMania at the last minute.
It was yet another instance when Vince McMahon displayed no qualms about treating his employees as dispensable objects. It proved that if you’re aren’t in Vince’s inner circle or high on top of his ‘push’ list, the WWE can be a cold and unfriendly place sometimes.
Vince McMahon was big on targeting the mainstream fanbase by allowing non-wrestling personalities to compete in the ring, especially in the eighties and nineties.
And so, NFL player Lawrence Taylor was roped in for a match at WrestleMania XI, with Bam Bam Bigelow playing the heel.
However, getting a legitimate powerhouse like Bigelow to stare at the lights for a NFL star didn’t come cheap and Bigelow had Vince promise him that he would be afforded a main event push if he agreed to put Taylor over.
But once the match itself was done and dusted, Vince turned a blind eye as The Kilq proceeded to politic Bigelow out of the main event spot.
Apparently, Bigelow was one of those in a laundry list of Superstars that the nefarious gang of friends didn’t like as they would do their best to derail his push.
And with Vince in no mood to keep his word of pushing him either, Bigelow’s career with the WWE wound down pretty quickly as he would leave the company later that year.
Wendi Richter was at the forefront of Women’s wrestling gathering momentum in the 80s with her Cyndi Lauper connection fuelling the Rock’n’Wrestling era in some respects.
Fully aware of her drawing power, Richter used to demand greater pay from Vince McMahon on a regular basis, and considering that she was also the champion, the WWE was forced to give in to her demands.
Eventually, Vince McMahon had had enough and decided that Richter had to lose the Title. But instead of clearly conveying his intention to her, he had her believing that she would be successfully defending her Championship against a mysterious opponent known as Spider lady.
Only, he had planned a wicked scheme in conjunction with Spider lady (who was none other than Richter’s arch rival, Fabulous Moolah) and proceeded to screw Richter out of the title by having the referee perform a fast count for a small package.
Richter, ignorant of what was happening, kicked out of the move but was left flabbergasted when the match was called and the title changed hands.
It was said that she was so upset that she stormed out of the arena and booked a flight home, still in her ring gear.
Ted DiBiase, better known as theThe Million Dollar Man, was one of the greatest performers of the Golden Era in the WWE.
He had a gimmick of a man who was so rich that he practically thought he could buy anybody and anything - and funnily enough - a Title belt too, named the Million Dollar Belt.
Apart from being an important accessory in his gimmick, however, the origin of the belt harkens back to another instance of Vince McMahon failing to keep up his word.
When Ted DiBiase signed on with the WWE from NWA, he only did so after Vince promised him a Title run. However, Honky Tonk man’s reluctance to relinquish the IC Title and Randy Savage’s push onto the WWE Championship picture meant that - unsurprisingly - Vince couldn’t hold up his end of the bargain.
So he decided to create a new belt and gave it to DiBiase to placate him.
A lesser performer may have whined and cribbed about it to no end, but it speaks volumes about his attitude that the Million Dollar Man actually got the belt over as a legitimate prize in pro wrestling.
There’s hardly anything that I can tell you about the Montreal Screwjob that you wouldn’t have already heard, especially if you’re even in the slightest bit acquainted with pro wrestling.
It was easily Vince McMahon’s most notorious judgement call with respect to a talent and the fact that it involved top tier Superstars like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels only accentuated its legend.
After getting screwed over, Bret apparently made his way to the showers to wash off the disbelief and re-gather his thoughts, when he was informed that Vince wanted to see him in the locker room.
Contrary to many reports that he straight away attacked Vince and left in a huff, it was Vince’s repeated attempts to try and explain away the screwjob that finally had Bret acting out.
Apparently, Vince tried to stand his ground on the whole issue, which Bret perceived as highly inappropriate, and duly knocked him out with an uppercut before leaving.
Although the unsavoury incident didn’t deter Vince McMahon from screwing over his talent again in future, we can at least agree that getting laid out by Bret Hart was something that he really had coming.