Vince McMahon is a strongly opinionated individual. But can you blame him for it?
You can’t exactly sit on the fence when the fates of a multi-million dollar publicly traded company and around 800 employees rest on your shoulders. You’ve to be a man of quick thought and decisive action, unafraid to make the tough calls when the appropriate situations arise.
Unfortunately, this also involves discriminating between the wrestlers that are in his employ.
It is almost unavoidable that a hierarchy exists in a talent pool as deep as the WWE. And as we have found out repeatedly over the years, only a handful of WWE Superstars actually manage to climb to its upper echelons.
Some of them do it by making it into Vince’s good books, guaranteeing themselves a cushy spot on the roster despite offering precious little by way of value addition while some others, although immensely talented, are left languishing in the mid card because they unwittingly ‘crossed the Boss’.
Whichever category a Superstar belongs to, it’s quite undeniable that his success in the WWE is directly tied into how “over” he is with Vince McMahon.
Even today, going strong at a grand age of 71, Vince’s fingers are still very much on the strings, orchestrating how the pro wrestling promotion turned global juggernaut rolls on from strength to strength.
And even today – undeterred in his push of Roman Reigns despite the vitriolic public reaction while adamantly not allowing Daniel Bryan to compete despite the wrestler declaring himself ring-ready – he is just as intense in his likes and dislikes as he ever was.
Oh, leopards and their spots...
On that note, here are 8 current WWE Superstars that the Boss loves, and 7 that he can’t stand the sight of.
15 Loves: The Miz
Honestly, can you blame Vince McMahon for putting the Intercontinental Title on the Miz for an eye-popping 7th time? (In case you didn't know, the all-time record stands at 9 IC Title reigns)
His promos are electric, his ring work is consistent and he’s been a solid and dependable hand in the WWE for the past ten or so years.
It is an immense honour for a Superstar who procured a backdoor entry into the industry to have the accumulation of titles that The Miz does today, and his ascent has betrayed no signs of abating just yet.
While it took the fans quite a while to truly appreciate his talent, the fact that he’s been steadily chipping away at becoming a better pro wrestler and earning his stripes despite falling into the industry through the cracks makes for an endearing story.
And in case you forgot, he did beat John Cena in a WrestleMania main event once. No chance in hell that’s happening unless you have the Boss’ favour.
14 Dislikes: Cesaro
Claudio Castagnoli, or Cesaro, is the perfect prototype of an indie wrestler. His superhuman athleticism allows him to pull off the no-holds-barred indie style of working and before he was reined in by the WWE, the variety he displayed in his move set was nothing short of scrape-your-jaw-off-the-ground stuff.
Alas, enter Vince McMahon.
Perhaps it is because he’s not great on the mic or because he just doesn’t possess the “it” factor (according to Vince, that is), prolonged success has been hard to come by for Cesaro in the WWE.
While he is currently one-half of the WWE Tag Team Champions on Raw, the only other title belt he’s ever held in the WWE is the US Championship. And that too, only once in a main roster career that has spanned five years now.
This, despite John Cena publicly endorsing him after an episode of Monday Night Raw. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that he’s clearly not on Vince McMahon’s “push” list, does it?
13 Loves: JBL
If you want to get a feel of the blatant partiality bestowed on JBL by the powers that be in the WWE, you only have to ask Mauro Ranallo. In fact, the talented announcer is just the latest in a long line of WWE employees that have been bullied by the burly Texan.
From hazing The Miz backstage to dishing out a brutal shoot beating on Blue Meanie, JBL's reputation as a locker room nightmare precedes him. And yet, he is still sitting pretty as one of the commentators on SmackDown Live.
Despite supporting anti-bullying campaigns like ‘Be A Star’ on one hand, the WWE repeatedly turns a blind eye to JBL’s despicable in-house behavior, with rumours even claiming that Vince McMahon is secretly supportive of the ‘tough love’ that he dishes out.
And considering that most of the people who’ve been at the receiving of it have left the company while JBL still soldiers on, we’re inclined to agree too.
12 Dislikes: Dolph Ziggler
From a member of The Spirit Squad to perennial upper mid carder, Dolph Ziggler’s WWE career has been a slow, grinding and largely stagnating affair.
He hardly ever gets a peep in the main event scene and when he does, it is incredibly short-lived anyway. One harks back to the historic night when he successfully cashed in his MITB contract against an injured Alberto Del Rio, prompting a wildly ecstatic reaction from the audience. You could almost sense that it was the turning point of Ziggler’s career, a watershed moment off which he could springboard onto greater success.
Nearly four years on though, we still look back at that day as the highest point in his middling WWE run. He’s lost the big one so often since that it’s become the butt end of the storylines he’s involved in while his career trajectory seems to have led him straight to the role of glorified gatekeeper.
And as much traction as he gathers with the fans, Vince McMahon doesn’t ever seem convinced enough with him to give him a leg-up either.
Perhaps, as Shinsuke Nakamura suggested on Talking Smack, it’s time for Dolph Ziggler to ply his trade in Japan after all.
11 Loves: Charlotte Flair
The genetically superior Charlotte Flair is the total package. She’s a wizard in the ring, can hold her own on the microphone and she’s certainly got the look that Vince McMahon is notoriously picky about.
Plus, it doesn’t hurt that she’s the offspring of one legendary Ric Flair, the only two-time WWE Hall of Famer. (soon to be three-time if he gets his wish of having Evolution inducted as well)
In the two or so years that she’s graced the main roster with her magnetic presence, Charlotte has won the WWE Raw Women’s Champions an eye-popping four times and the Divas’s Championship once. Now on SmackDown Live, it’s only a matter of time before she adds the Blue Brand’s Women’s Title to her trophy cabinet as well.
One can safely say that if she carries on in the same vein, she is well on her way to becoming the greatest ever female performer in the history of the WWE.
10 Dislikes: Apollo Crews
On first glance, Apollo Crews looks like Bobby Lashley’s reincarnate. But that’s where the similarities end.
Unlike Lashley, who won the ECW World Championship twice and was involved in a number of marquee events in the WWE – the most notable of which was the Hair vs Hair match between Vince McMahon and Donald Trump at WrestleMania 23 – Crews’ last involvement in a pay-per-view was getting beaten by Kalisto on the Extreme Rules kick-off show.
Now WWE Superstars generally lobby to cross over into SmackDown Live, also dubbed as the ‘Land of Opportunity’, when they feel under-utilized on Raw. Apollo Crews actually went the other way, having been hung out to dry even on the Blue brand.
These days, he functions as a bit part player in the ‘Titus Brand’ angle that seems destined to go nowhere, just like his WWE career so far. And if things don’t change quickly for the athletic powerhouse, it wouldn’t even be surprising if he gets cut from the company soon.
9 Loves: Randy Orton
Vince McMahon’s love affair with Randy Orton has been well documented over the years.
A third-generation Superstar, Orton has been earmarked for greatness from the time he graduated onto the main roster from that OVW class also comprising John Cena, Brock Lesnar and Batista. Since then, he has accumulated a whopping 13 World Titles to his name, only behind other stalwarts like Triple H, John Cena and Ric Flair.
He’s forever in and around the main event picture and there is even a strong case to be made that no other finisher has been put over in WWE history as much as Orton’s RKO has.
But perhaps the greatest indication that Randy Orton is in Vince McMahon’s good graces stems from the fact that the Bboss was even prepared to tweak the rules surrounding the Wellness Policy, just to ensure that he wouldn’t be forced to terminate Orton’s contract for repeated violations.
Now that’s job security for you.
8 Dislikes: Sami Zayn
Vince McMahon doesn’t generally do ‘underdogs’. Unless, of course, you’re Daniel Bryan who ended up evoking a massive fan movement to aid in his cause.
For everyone else, regardless of how dexterous a worker you are or how slick your promo-cutting skills are, there’s a comfortable bed-and-breakfast joint waiting for you in the mid card of the WWE.
Unfortunately, this has been the case for Sami Zayn as well. After a stellar run in NXT, his main roster stint has been disappointing, to say the least. While his arch-enemy-but-secret-best-friend Kevin Owens struts around with his US Championship, Zayn is yet to find his feet on SmackDown Live.
Perhaps the whole ‘Underdog from the Underground’ shtick is working against him or perhaps, he just doesn’t seem to have that edge to him that Vince values in performers. Either way, Sami Zayn’s wait for his first ever Title belt on the main roster continues.
It should tell you all you need to know about Vince’s estimation of him that even two former members of 3MB have managed to get gold strapped around their waists in the mean time.
7 Loves: John Cena
This one is a no-brainer, really.
John Cena has earned Vince McMahon’s eternal goodwill and the best part is that every bit of it is wholly deserved. He’s carried the company on his back for the past decade or so, overseeing its catalysis from edgy and borderline-offensive programming to kid-friendly and promotable television.
The marketing thrust of the company has been centered around him throughout this period too, as he crossed over successfully into the mainstream sphere giving a dashing account of both himself and the WWE in the process.
It’s no wonder that Vince is only too happy for him to traipse off to Hollywood whenever he pleases. Besides, you don’t get a segment to yourself on WrestleMania 33 just so you can propose to your girlfriend in front of the world, unless you’re in very good space with your boss.
Time and again John Cena has proven that the rules keeping other WWE Superstars in check don’t apply to him, with the news that he will return to programming as a Free Agent – unbeholden to either brand specifically – another clear indication of the same.
6 Dislikes: Bray Wyatt
The Eater of Worlds has been an ethereal force to reckon with in the WWE for some time now – his foreboding aura permeating throughout the locker room, challenging the identities and corrupting the ideals of everyone from John Cena to Roman Reigns.
His entrances are a sight to behold, with glittering ‘fireflies’ out in force and generally flanked by mountainous men who are ready to wreak destruction on his say-so. His promos drip with conviction and ill-will and his Houdini acts never fail to elicit a gasp of bewilderment from the audience.
On paper, Bray Wyatt is everything that a pro wrestler should be. In reality though, he’s a far cry from realizing the potential that his character promised. And much of this has to do with how little faith Vince McMahon seems to display in him as a legitimate title contender.
In the five years spent spooking the denizens of WWE as the head honcho of the Wyatt Family, Bray’s only won the SmackDown Tag Team Championships once and the WWE Championship once.
But in spite of his terrible record in big matches, he still clings on to the final vestiges of credibility that he is a bonafide main eventer even today.
One can't help but wonder, however, for how much longer though.
If Vince McMahon doesn’t invest in his own Superstars, how will the rest of the world?
5 Loves: Brock Lesnar
When Brock Lesnar left the company after WrestleMania XX, Vince McMahon would have likely let go of any hopes he harbored that the “Next Big Thing” would fulfill his potential in the WWE.
However, the touch of irony in how he then conquered the UFC before returning to pro wrestling, a bigger star than ever, is inescapable.
Only this time, the ceaseless travelling and inordinate schedule weren’t sticking points for Brock Lesnar anymore, as Vince McMahon was only too happy to sign off on a bumper contract that required him to work limited dates while lining his pockets with obscene amounts of cash.
While a good portion of the pro wrestling fraternity (mainly fans) took exception to this, we cannot dispute the fact that Brock Lesnar is, arguably, the most legitimate athlete to have ever competed in the WWE.
And as he’s proven time and again, both in the WWE and the UFC, he’s a huge draw as well. Can you really blame Vince McMahon for wanting to drink from that well?
4 Dislikes: Titus O’Neil
Daniel Bryan’s retirement celebration, which was solely intended to commemorate the short but phenomenal WWE career he’s had, ended up being slightly marred by the unsavory incident involving Titus O’Neil and Vince McMahon.
Apparently, Vince didn’t take too kindly to Titus’ over-zealous arm-grab as he was making his way up the ramp and slapped a 90-day suspension on the former football star, that was later reduced to 60-days, causing him to miss out on WrestleMania 32.
Even otherwise, it’s quite unlikely that Titus would have featured prominently in the Show of Shows anyway.
Apart from a pseudo-push that briefly materialized when he broke free from the Prime Time Players by turning heel on Darren Young, Titus O’Neil has had precious little to celebrate in his WWE career thus far.
And his situation has only gone from bad to worse as he currently heads a motley crew of mid carders under the Titus Brand on Raw. One can sense, especially after grab-gate, that it’s going to be an uphill battle for him to reverse the tide.
3 Loves: The Undertaker
Not only is The Undertaker a true team player who stood unflinchingly by the company when WCW was doling out weekly trouncings in the ratings, but he is also Vince McMahon’s greatest creation as a pro wrestler.
Now, of course, people would have differing opinions about who takes the mantle of GOAT in the WWE, but a man whose legacy and legend has sustained over two decades has to be near the top of that list.
If that isn’t tribute enough, he’s also the locker room leader, the trustworthy veteran and the ace up Vince McMahon’s sleeve. Whenever Vince needs a spectacle to unfold, he calls upon the Undertaker.
Even in the past few years when he’s looked increasingly haggard, the Undertaker has never shied away from the call-to-arms.
Right until what appeared to be his final bow at WrestleMania 33, he’s put his body and mind on the line for the company.
Undertaker and Vince McMahon – still a better love story than Twilight!
2 Dislikes: Paige
A technicality that she is still under contract with the WWE is the only reason why Paige just about squeezes into this list.
Her future in wrestling after a serious neck injury is shrouded in uncertainty and the fact that she’s the girlfriend of one of WWE’s most vocal, high-profile detractors doesn’t help the cause either.
The WWE doesn't seem to mind the online leaks that much – given that neither Xavier Woods nor Charlotte received any sort of tangible backlash – meaning that while those videos aren’t going to be held against her, being backstage at TNA tapings along with boyfriend Alberto Del Rio most certainly could (although there have been recent rumors that the couple has broken up).
There were also rumors circulating the internet that the only reason why her WWE contract hasn’t yet been terminated is because The Rock’s company is working on a biopic movie about her.
Either way, we’ve come a long way from the time WWE viewed her as the face of the Women’s Revolution till today, where her future prospects with the company – and indeed with Vince McMahon – paints quite a grim picture.
1 Loves: Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns’ indiscriminate push has been shelved, for now at least, in the face of outright rebellion from the fans, who pretty much view booing the man as a means to exert control over the product.
Oh, and the fact that his microphone skills aren’t up to the mark gets bandied about frequently as justification for their actions too. Whether they’re right or wrong, however, isn’t for me to discuss here – everyone is entitled to their opinion after all.
But in the WWE at least, Vince McMahon’s opinion carries a tad more weight than yours or mine. And whether we like it or not, Roman Reigns was the guy who obtained the rub of retiring the Undertaker. And he will likely be the guy who finally vanquishes Brock Lesnar and claims the WWE Universal Title too.
Vince McMahon shoved John Cena down our throats through the entirety of the PG era and no amount of booing or chanting could change that. But guess what’s different with Roman Reigns? Nothing.
Roman Reigns is Vince McMahon’s handpicked golden boy and however we may feel about it, the WWE is his yard today. And the sooner we square with that simple fact, the better.