You have to spend money to make money – everyone has heard that saying. It essentially equates to having to take gambles in life in order to make some extra cash and come out on top. Over the years wrestling promoters have spent a boatload of money in order to bring ticket sales and merchandise sales up. Yes sometimes the promoter is a shyster and a huckster and robs fans and wrestlers of their money, but they still needed to spend some of their own in order to do it.
We turn our attentions now to the greatest wrestling promoter of all time, third generation promotor – Vincent Kennedy McMahon. McMahon had a vision for what his father’s business could be and after learning a bit about how to promote his own shows from the first ever MMA fight, Antonio Inoki against Muhammad Ali, as well as owning his own stadium (the Cape Cod Coliseum), McMahon decided he would take on the world.
After the initial expansion of the mid–late eighties, Vince decided to push everything even farther to the limit, he needed to take chances and spend a whole lot of money in order to do it. Here are 15 times where for better or worse (mostly worse) Vince McMahon wasted some serious green – 15 Financial Mistakes Vince McMahon Made In The '90s.
The WWE is and always has been the number one product in Sports Entertainment - but what the heck does that term mean? Solely and only wrestling to most, but you can group in old shows like American Gladiators and WMAC Masters, perhaps new shows like America Ninja Warrior and The Broken Skull Competition - scripted shows or companies that feature a ton of athletes.
So when WWE was more or less the only game in town in the genre that they had created, Vince McMahon tried to expand those horizons, completely forgetting that while most WWE fans might admire the Herculean physiques of their superstars, most probably couldn't care less about watching them in posedowns (Warrior vs. Rick Rude notwithstanding).
So the almost-gone-as-fast-as-it-started WBF was born. A debacle in every sense of the word - especially when your two biggest crossover stars and seeking points - Legend Lou Ferrigno and the Total Package Lex Luger both would up having to bow out of the initial event. Not to mention the real annoyed grunt the bodybuilding community made when storylines were attempted to be injected into the competition.
14 Marc Mero
Brock Lesnar might disagree with this one since without signing The Wildman, he might never have met Sable or had the F5 (watch Mero’s TKO, pretty much the same move, Brock’s got his move and his ex!), but Mero is one of the bigger busts in WWE history (not talking about Mrs. Mero, get your heads out of the gutter).
According to Something to Wrestle With, Vince loved the Johnny B. Bad gimmick in WCW and decided to bring Mero in. Even before the bell rang, Vince and JR felt that Sable might be the better Mero, but the ink was dry on the contract and The Wildman was born. While the guy certainly wasn't as horrible as a guy like Mantaur, but the WWE wasn't giving that piece of trash a guaranteed contract!
Unfortunately though, most of Mero’s charisma was based in and on his prior character, which WCW owned.
13 Mark Henry
What is the greatest thing Mark Henry will be remembered for? Exactly, helping Mae Young give birth to a hand. The World’s Strongest Man had a few memorable moments, especially during the Attitude Era and Sexual Chocolate got over huge. But it took over 15 years for the guy to truly make an impact inside the ring.
The guy in very entertaining and has proven in any role he can exceed expectations, but he gets “Bobby Bonilla” type money where he made one million a year from ‘96-‘06 and it wasn't until several years later he was able to showcase he might have been worth that money.
That ten mil for ten years could have been used a lot better than on a guy who wasn't showing a lot of talent worth nearly anywhere near that - while memorable, did Mark Henry put any butts in seats?
12 Bringing Hogan Back In ‘93
Remember when Hulk Hogan had his retirement match in 1992 against Sycho Sid at WrestleMania VIII? In a year without Hulkamania, Ric Flair, Randy Savage, and Bret Hart were all pulling the horse. Guys like HBK, Razor, and Yoko were coming up to top guy status.
With the company cooking on all cylinders, why in the heck did Vince feel the need to curtail everything the company was working towards and on at the point to bring back the big guy? Clearly he really wasn't done yet, but he had nothing to offer in the WWE at that point, he seemingly came to nab Bret’s thunder and hightail it before the proposed SummerSlam match between the two and do the favors for the pink and black. Along with the thunder of so many others that stepped it up to fill the giant red and yellow void.
That and give Beefcake yet another brush of Hulk dust to feel what being a main eventer was like one last time.
11 Funneling Money Into ECW
Yes, giving money to Paul Heyman is a waste of money. Paying him to be the advocate for Brock is one thing, giving the guy money to help with his company is just a plain waste. ECW was one of the great Indy feds of all time, but whatever talent was going to make it to the WWE would have made it there with or without Heyman’s help or Vince’s money.
The working relationship the two companies had as far as money went, as far as had been revealed was the 1000K weekly, WWE signed over to ECW for the use of 2 Cold Scorpio, since Heyman was going to lose out on Def Jam advertising with Scorpio gone to play Flash Funk on WWE.
2 Cold Scorpio / Flash Funk is without argument one of the great underrated stars of the nineties and an early precursor to bigger guys who could fly, but considering the less than significant splash he made the thousands of dollars that Vince gave to ECW for rights fees (not to mention having to pay Scorpio), wound up being a waste.
10 Paying Warrior and Jarrett
Getting the advertised match in the ring is what a promoter’s goal should always be when it comes to promoting a match. It hurts an entire company’s credibility when “card subject to change” becomes an actual thing, so a guy like Vince would never allow two schmucks like The Ultimate Warrior and Jeff Jarrett disappoint his fans and hurt his credibility.
In 1991, Warrior felt he was owed a whole lot more than he was given and demanded a huge payday for Match Made In Hell at SummerSlam that year, which he got – but was subsequently fired afterwards. Jarret’s is far more nefarious than just asking for more money – he was able to extort 300,000 from Vince in order to job out to Chyna, and get stock options for the company’s impending IPO.
A lot of money just to get matches in the ring, certainly the fans would have forgiven him.
9 WWF New York
In the city that never sleeps, watching wrestling events has been part of the culture since before even Bruno Sammartino headlined Madison Square Garden, but as a major cultural force in the heart of the galaxy, aka – Times Square; Vince might have been a little more than presumptuous in thinking the company could somehow take over the restaurant business in the heart of NYC.
But other than the occasional signings, memorabilia, and PPV parties, WWE New York, later named the World was just a more upscale version of Applebee's, just with body slams. Other than adding a new local to fight in some of the WWE games of the era, WWF New York was a very expensive place to watch already expensive PPVs at.
Perhaps if they figured out ways to have matches there…
8 The Lex Express
If the internet was around in 1993, this wouldn't be seen as a humongous waste of money but since the Marks weren't around to scream loudly about Luger not getting the belt, the Lex Express makes the list. After Hogan split (re: a few entries ago), Vince decided to hedge his bets on the former Narcissist as his new American hero.
For whatever reason, the Chairman thought up a grand idea / angle for Lex vs. Yoko at SummerSlam 1993 – Lex would tour the country on a bus dubbed the Lex Express. The mega push for Lex would surely mean a big championship victory and then victory lap around the country on the bus, right? Nope, it's time to swerve again.
Luger would win the match by count out making the entire angle a dud, and the Lex Express a complete waste - seriously, how many PPV buys were gained from watching Luger every week on a bus?
7 The Gobbley Gooker
Before you simply skip ahead to the next entry, since this one is a complete no–brainer. Think of the thought, effort, man hours, and money invested in this idiocy. Think about the kernel of the idea that Vince McMahon must have had in the middle of the night since he barely sleeps.
“Hey pal, you up?”
"No Vince, its 3:36 in the morning, I'm asleep.”
“Sleep is the enemy, pal I have a great idea for Survivor Series. Wanna hear it?”
“Is it about a Deadman cause that will never work.”
“No, no pal - it's about a Gobbley Gooker.”
“A Goble what?”
“Gooker pal, Gooker. I want to see designs and ideas first thing in the morning pal.”
From that late night phone call, Vince's vision had to go through marketing, creative, product design, and several others departments before it be fully realized into Hector Guerrero jumping around in the dumbest.
6 The XFL
Thankfully, Vince convinced NBC to assume half ownership of his idea for a football league and decided to do so when it was first organized in 1999 as the Xtreme Football League. Uniforms, marketing, managers, players, stadiums, announcers, imagine if Vince had to pay for everything – he might have bankrupted the entire company (who knows how much or how little is in the coffers).
You have to spend money to make money–we've all heard that one before. Vinnie Mac had always wanted to branch out from the WWE, and trying to start a new Football league was certainly a tremendous gamble, when it finally started in 2001.
Sadly, the Chairman will never be able to escape the fact that his main business is a “fake” sport, so sports journalists have never and will never take his shtick seriously. Combine the naysayers with none of the televised games being all that exciting, plus Bob Costas ridiculing the whole debacle and you have one the biggest wastes of money in sports history, let alone Vince McMahon.
5 Giving Away A House
WWE loves to put smiles on fans faces; they have during every single era no matter the content. But this one would solely put a smile on one fan’s face. In 1995, WWE started the In Your House PPV events, events that were a few dollars less and an hour less.
To promote the inaugural event, the WWE really wanted to sell the House concept by giving one away from the Hunter’s Creek area of Orlando. All you had to do was send a postcard to Stamford, which probably put on some sort of mailing list. One young boy won the house and flipped it for 175K which surely put him through college.
Add the cost of the house along with the vignettes that they filmed in the house and Vince spent a whole lot of green to put a smile on some random fan’s face. It's doubtful that Vince got a decent return on his investment here.
4 Hiring “Killer” Dogs
During the Attitude Era, Vince Russo loved his shades of gray. Heels and baby faces weren't as clear cut as they had been and are now. So the really bad guys had to be extra dastardly to get heat. Like beat a guy with a bag full of puppies…or (slightly) more realistic kill guy’s dog and feed it to him.
That's what The Boss Man did to Al Snow’s dog, Pepper in the fall of 1999. To get revenge, Snow challenged Boss Man to a Kennel from Hell match at Armageddon - which has the old blue bar Steel Cage surrounded by the Hell in a Cell, which had “vicious attack dogs” waiting for whomever came hear them.
The problem with this match that there was actually a buzz for, was the mutts surrounding the ring were more docile than a turtle. Davey Boy and Dynamite's dog was more menacing. This is one decision where Vince should have spent more money on a better dog trainer for these pups.
When you start a bodybuilding federation, you need to sign some premier Adonis-like physiques and fantastic physical specimens. If you've ever met a professional bodybuilder or even heard former ones like Alexa Bliss or Dana Brooke speak, they eat on a rigorous schedule, and they eat towards whatever goal they're trying to accomplish. So generally right before a show, a meathead is chowing down on the driest foods ever to cut out as much water from your body as possible in order to look super ripped.
But to look as good as any other hard body, “You Gotta Want It!” That was the slogan of Titan Sports’ Integrated COnditioning PROgram, ICOPRO. The brand was a line of body building supplements that the WWE tried to market with the WBF.
While the supplement lasted longer than the WWE, again all of the R&D and manpower that goes into creating a product like this seems like a big waste of money, especially when you have a pro wrestling stigma attached to a product.
2 Bringing Warrior Back In ‘92 and ‘96
The guy already had his two greatest matches at WrestleManias VI and VII and while it's hard to know that when you're in the moment but this is The Ultimate Warrior for cryin’ out loud! The guy wasn't known for his ring work then, so why when you're building a roster of great workers are you bringing back the schmuck that already held you up for a huge chunk of change less than a year ago?
Again hindsight is 20/20, but the returns you got on Warrior in 1992 (he was just a cog in feud between Savage and Flair), why do you waste more money to bring him back four years later, older and a bigger headache to put up with.
Thankfully Vince got a clue in 1996 and released the Warrior for repeatedly missing House show dates.
1 WWF Hotel And Casino
When you're riding high and dominating your competition and think you can take on the world, why not do anything and everything? How about buying a casino on the world famous Las Vegas strip in an attempt to increase your global presence?
The company purchased Debbie Reynolds’ old casino back in 1999 in hopes to turn it into a WWE playground for high rollers and little strollers alike. In theory, it was crazy but awesome idea and would have created a stronghold for the company in the West, along with Stamford and the eventual facilities in Orlando.
There's a few concept videos online of what could have looked like - acres of slot machines encapsulated with giant trons playing WWE programming and the traditional Vegas casino steakhouse spot would have been Vince's Steakhouse. Luckily, they actually made money on this one when they sold it. But how much time, effort, planning, and money was put into the development?