Vincent Kennedy McMahon assumed control of the WWF from his ailing father at the age of 37 in 1982. Upon becoming the federation’s owner, chairman and CEO, McMahon ditched decades of tradition and invaded other wrestling promoters’ territories to expand his company. McMahon formally withdrew from the National Wrestling Alliance in 1983 in an effort to firmly establish his promotion as the world’s premier rasslin' brand. Ultimately, McMahon’s brazen coup worked and he’s essentially monopolized the industry since the demise of World Championship Wrestling (WCW) on March 26, 2001. However, prior to becoming wrestling’s unrivaled bigwig, McMahon’s contemporaries doggedly defended their enterprises.
“(Vince McMahon) was invading their territories, and getting better television coverage,” recalled McMahon’s daughter, WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon.
“He thought he had the better product, and ultimately, he did, and they didn't take to kindly to that. He told me a great story about a threat from a notorious gangster and being in this room, this old hotel, with the dark wooden panel walls and this big oversized man with a very unattractive face. He was threatening my Dad's life and my Dad was willing to stand up to him and all these different people to make his dreams come true.”
Largely thanks to his tireless work ethic and keen business sense, McMahon reached his goals and Forbes first reported in 2000 that he had become a billionaire. Nonetheless, like with the “notorious gangster” with “a very unattractive face,” countless underreported backstage incidents have occurred since McMahon first attempted to seize dominance during Ronald Reagan's first term as president. With that noted, if you don’t know all 15 of these obscure facts, than you are not a genuine wrestling fan.
15 JESSE VENTURA WAS SUED FOR APPEARING AT SUMMERSLAM 1999
Jesse “The Body” Ventura, a 2004 WWE Hall of Fame inductee, became the 38th Governor of Minnesota in January 1999. Approximately eight months after taking office, Ventura refereed a triple threat championship bout among Mankind, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Triple H at SummerSlam 1999 at the Target Center in Minneapolis. Prior to the show, several of “The Body’s” political foes criticized the governor’s gig and they filed a conflict of interest complaint against him.
“The governor repeatedly tries to say this is a class issue or anti-wrestling issue,” said David Schultz, the former president of Common Cause Minnesota. “It’s a conflict of interest. If (Bill) Bradley were in office, if he were (paid) to ref a basketball game, he would have the same conflict Ventura does with wrestling.”
Ultimately, Mankind emerged victorious in the squared circle and Ventura pinned Schultz in a courtroom. Ventura earned roughly $100,000 plus royalties for his in-ring role.
14 WRESTLEMANIA II TOOK PLACE AT THREE VENUES ON A MONDAY
The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, Rosemont Horizon Arena in Rosemont, Illinois, and Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena in Los Angeles all hosted WrestleMania 2 on Monday, April 7, 1986. The marquee attraction at the Nassau Coliseum pitted “Rowdy” Roddy Piper against Mr. T in a scripted boxing match. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Piper, a Golden Gloves champion, controlled the 5-foot-10, 230-pound Mr. T from the outset. In the fourth round, Piper fatigued and got disqualified after he body slammed Mr. T.
In The Windy City, the featured bout saw The British Bulldogs trump The Dream Team of Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine for the WWE tag-team titles. It also featured a 20-man battle royal featuring several Chicago Bears players and was ultimately won by Andre the Giant.
Lastly, from the City of Angeles, Hulk Hogan successfully defended the WWE Title by conquering King Kong Bundy in a steel cage match. In stark contrast to the original extravaganza and unforgettable WrestleMania III, both fans and scribes roundly bashed WWE’s three-city affair.
13 TONY SCHIAVONE ACCIDENTALLY BURIES WCW
According to WWE.com, “At the height of the Monday Night War, veteran broadcaster Tony Schiavone's voice was as vital to the onscreen product of World Championship Wrestling as Jim Ross' Oklahoma growl was to WWE.”
Ironically, and somewhat sadly, Schiavone's infamous mishap in January 1999 may have helped WWE triumph in the Monday Night Wars. Mankind was slated to face The Rock for the WWE title on that winter evening. Former WCW president Eric Bischoff was informed of the storyline in advance and he told Schiavone to spoil the contest’s outcome on the air. Schiavone listened to Bischoff, told viewers that Mankind was booked to clinch the belt, and mockingly stated "that'll put a lot of butts in seats.”
Bischoff’s devious instructions backfired and, almost immediately following Schiavone’s announcement, nearly 600,000 households abandoned WCW’s airing to witness Mankind collect WWE gold. From a ratings standpoint, Nitro never recovered and WWE further strengthened its hold over Ted Turner’s now-defunct promotion.
12 RICKY STEAMBOAT's Family Priorities Cost Him The Intercontinental Title
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat overcame Randy Savage to win the WWE Intercontinental championship at WrestleMania III in March 1987 at the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan. A few weeks following the legendary dustup, the 5-foot-10, 235-pound Steamboat asked Vince McMahon if he could use vacation time to be with his wife while she gave birth to their son. McMahon envisioned Steamboat’s character as a lasting babyface with a long title reign and he was livid at his request. To punish “The Dragon,” The Honky Tonk Man prevailed over Steamboat to take the strap a couple of months later on June 13.
“Of course, if you have a championship belt, you don't go home and spend time with your wife and children,” said The Honky Tonk Man.
“You have to be on the road and [Vince] said, ‘This guy wants to go and do this and I got to have the belt in a town.’ I said, ‘Listen, if you give me that belt, I don't want a day off.’ And I ran with that belt for 64 weeks.”
The extremely gifted and beloved Steamboat never again received a meaningful push in the WWE.
11 HULK HOGAN GOT FIRED FOR APPEARING IN ROCKY III
Portraying Thunderlips, Hulk Hogan fought Rocky Balboa in an exhibition charity event in Sylvester Stallone's 1982 movie “Rocky III.” Unfortunately for the 6-foot-7, 300-pound Hogan, Vincent J. McMahon had emphatically denied his request to appear in Stallone's film. McMahon was seething at Hogan’s insubordination and he swiftly fired him. The owner of Minneapolis-based American Wrestling Association (AWA), Verne Gagne, heard about the muscleman’s termination and offered him a contract. Shortly after Hogan departed for the AWA, Vincent Kennedy McMahon took over the WWE from his sickly father in 1982. The younger McMahon sought a charismatic, herculean-like figure to elevate his organization to prominence. Consequently, McMahon began to aggressively lure Hogan away from Gagne’s outfit. The rasslin’ bigwig’s ingenious maneuvering worked and Hogan deserted the AWA and rejoined the WWE in December 1983.
10 KERRY VON ERICH WRESTLED WITH A PROSTHETIC LEG
“The Modern Day Warrior” Kerry Von Erich was arguably the brightest star in his iconic wrestling family. The 6-foot-2, 255-pound Von Erich had a flawless physique and solid grappling abilities. Moreover, the handsome Von Erich oozed charisma and became the face of Texas' World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW). When WCCW folded, Von Erich signed with the WWE and premiered against Buddy Rose on July 28, 1990. Exactly one month later at SummerSlam, “The Modern Day Warrior” manhandled Mr. Perfect to seize the Intercontinental title. Due to an array of legal problems and substance abuse issues, Von Erich was demoted to mid-card status before he left the company in August 1992. Von Erich, who was facing a lengthy prison sentence for violating his probation, committed suicide in February 1993. After taking his life, it became public knowledge that “The Modern Day Warrior” had been working with a prosthetic leg since he lost his right foot in a June 1986 motorcycle accident. Von Erich went to drastic lengths to ensure that his amputated foot remained a secret.
“Rather than exploit the story of his miraculous comeback from such an injury, the situation was hidden in false shame that he was ‘handicapped,’” reported Wade Keller. “Kerry showered with his boots on and denied that he lost his foot even to other wrestlers.”
9 THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR TRIED TO TAKE SUMMERSLAM 1991 HOSTAGE
The Ultimate Warrior teamed with Hulk Hogan to outclass Sergeant Slaughter, Colonel Mustafa and General Adnan in the main event at SummerSlam 1991. Mind-bogglingly, less than 24 hours prior to the contest, The Ultimate Warrior told Vince McMahon that he wouldn’t appear at Madison Square Garden in New York City unless he received an additional $500,000 in cash. McMahon agreed to The Warrior’s ultimatum and then axed him following the fight’s conclusion.
“Frankly, you have become impossible to work with, and have completely forgotten your obligations to Titan and WWE fans, both ethically, professionally, and contractually.” McMahon wrote to The Ultimate Warrior in his termination notice.
McMahon also said in the letter it was ludicrous for Warrior to ask for the same amount as Hogan when Hulk was the more established, and still more popular star.
The Ultimate Warrior and McMahon made peace before the WWE Hall of Famer passed away at the age of 54 on April 8, 2014.
8 CHRIS JERICHO CONFRONTED BROCK LESNAR AFTER HE BLOODIED RANDY ORTON
Brock Lesnar and Randy Orton headlined SummerSlam 2016 at the Barclays Center in New York City. In extremely gruesome fashion, Lesnar bludgeoned Orton with a series of ferocious elbow shots to the head. Lesnar was declared the bloodbath’s winner via TKO and Orton suffered a concussion and needed several staples to close the deep laceration on his head. The lopsided affair confused onlookers and left many wondering if Lesnar ignored the storyline and legitimately pummelled Orton. In fact, respected veteran Chris Jericho confronted Lesnar to get answers as soon as the former UFC heavyweight king returned to the backstage area. Vince McMahon and Triple H rushed to intervene before the two got into a brawl.
“I just thought the finish of that match was very brutal and very violent, and I just didn’t know if Randy was OK,” said Jericho. “Basically, there was a face-to-face confrontation and I’ll leave the rest between the two of us.”
McMahon and his flunkies swear that the ending between Orton and Lesnar was choreographed. Interestingly, Orton publicly disputed their accounts.
“The fact that I had a concussion and was out for three weeks and wasn’t able to do anything pissed me off,” Orton, told USA Today.
7 BOB BACKLUND REFUSED TO LOSE THE TITLE TO HULK HOGAN
As previously noted, Vince K. McMahon specifically recruited Hulk Hogan in December 1983 to lead his company. However, as a favorite of Vincent J. McMahon, Bob Backlund continuously held the federation's title from 1978 through 1983. Backlund, a phenomenally powerful man who excelled as an amateur wrestler at North Dakota State University, was informed by the younger McMahon that he was going to lose the strap to Hogan. Because Hogan lacked a "legitimate wrestling background," Backlund flatly refused to surrender the title to a lumbering giant. McMahon countered and, under the ruse of an impending rematch, told Backlund he’d instead fall to The Iron Sheik. Four weeks after Backlund lost to The Iron Sheik, Hogan pinned the Iranian badass to collect the WWE Championship on January 23, 1984.
“As far as I know, the plan was for me to get the championship back from the Iron Sheik,” recalled Backlund, 68.
“Two weeks before the rematch, I was taken out and Hogan was put in. There’s not much I could do about it. But it was an eye-opener for me.“
6 THE 1992 SUMMERSLAM WASN’T AIRED LIVE IN THE U.S.
The WWE’s C-level executives are fortunate that the Internet hadn’t attained mainstream significance in 1992. That year’s SummerSlam occurred on Saturday, August 29, at Wembley Stadium in London. Nevertheless, “The Biggest Party of the Summer” didn’t air on pay-per-view until two days later on Monday, August 31. The card across the pond included captivating scraps like The Ultimate Warrior against “The Macho Man” Randy Savage and The British Bulldog versus Bret “The Hitman” Hart. Many fans and analysts believe that the bout between The British Bulldog and Hart is the premier SummerSlam contest in its 30-year history.
While a spectacular critical and commercial success, the annual special would have been an utter debacle if the Internet was a common household amenity in 1992.
5 SUNNY IS THE ONLY PERFORMER BANNED FROM THE WWE’S TALENT WELLNESS PROGRAM
The WWE implemented its Talent Wellness Program on February 27, 2006. Although unsubstantiated, the WWE has reportedly helped hundreds of wrestlers since establishing its program nearly 12 years ago. Of all of those in need, only WWE Hall of Famer Sunny has gotten banned from the program. Sunny, born Tammy Lynn Sytch in Matawan, New Jersey, is hailed as the promotion’s first Diva. Once an exceptionally determined woman who enrolled in a pre-medical program at the University of Tennessee, Sunny was undone by her addictions to drugs and alcohol. Sunny’s dependency became scandalous and she had sexual encounters with dozens of wrestlers in exchange for narcotics.
“There’s so many stories I could tell you about how she disrespected Chris (Candido, her late boyfriend),” said The Sandman. “We were on the roof of a club in Miami where she was b****** Raven [while] she just had her hand out for pills.”
Sunny has been charged with fraud, burglary, three DUIs, disorderly conduct, violating a protective order, a parole violation and a handful of other offenses since 2012. The 44-year-old Sunny, whose been periodically jailed for the past five years, is a gloomy soul who can’t pin her problems.
4 BOBBY ‘THE BRAIN’ HEENAN TRULY FLIPPED ON BRIAN PILLMAN
Bobby “The Brain” Heenan is frequently praised as history’s preeminent professional wrestling manager. The 6-foot, 190-pound Heenan, born Raymond Louis Heenan in Chicago, had surgery to remove two discs from his neck in 1995. Less than a year following the operation, on the January 23, 1996, episode of Clash of the Champions, Brian Pillman forcefully grabbed and shook Heenan by his neck.
"What the f*** are you doing?" Heenan angrily asked Pillman on live air.
“Pillman came up behind me for a joke and pulled my coat down over my shoulders,” remembered Heenan.
“I had neck surgery, I had broken my neck. Everybody knew not to touch me. So, when that happened, I thought a fan had jumped over the rail. That’s when I said, ‘What the F!’ It was Pillman. I went back and told Eric Bischoff, I told someone else, and David Crockett. I said, ‘I just said the F word on TV.’ Bischoff said, ‘Why?’ They didn’t even know. I could have talked out there like Andrew Dice Clay and they would not have known it.”
Fortunately, Pillman didn’t hurt Heenan while he was playing his “loose cannon” gimmick.
3 VINCE MCMAHON MOCKED THE IDEA OF A ROYAL RUMBLE
Vince McMahon scoffed at the idea of a Royal Rumble when WWE creative consultant Pat Patterson broached it.
“I sat down with Vince and I gave him the concept,” Patterson told CBS Sports.
“He goes, ‘Pat, that is stupid. It’s not gonna work!’ I said, ‘Vince, it’s going to work!'”
Although McMahon ridiculed Patterson’s vision, the duo tried the event without cameras present at the Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis on Oct. 4, 1987. Because there is no footage of the exhibition, and less than 2,000 spectators witnessed it live in The Lou, the initial Royal Rumble essentially never occurred.
“We tried it in St. Louis on a smaller scale,” Patterson confirmed.
“I was not there. I wish I would have been there. They got [the Rumble concept] all mixed up. It didn’t work. Then Vince says to me, ‘It’s not gonna work, Patrick.'”
Shortly after the scarcely seen show in St. Louis, McMahon and Patterson visited NBC Sports bigwig Dick Ebersol to discuss upcoming extravaganzas. McMahon was atypically detached and he said, “Pat, why don’t you tell Dick that stupid idea you had?”
“I said, ‘First of all, it’s not stupid.’ Then I gave the concept to Dick Ebersol about one guy comes in, then two minutes later another guy comes in. Dick Ebersol was going crazy. He says, ‘My God, this is the greatest thing for television!'”
McMahon finally supported Patterson’s concept and proclaimed that the “inaugural” Royal Rumble would occur at the Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario, on January 24, 1988.
2 BOBBY HEENAN WAS THE ONLY PERFORMER TO REFUSE VINCE MCMAHON’S MONEY AND FULFILL HIS CONTRACT WITH THE AWA
Bobby Heenan was an extremely noble and loyal man. Heenan debuted as a grappler in 1965 in the Indianapolis-based WWA promotion. However, “The Brain” became an industry legend when he shelved his wrestling attire in the late 1960s and focused on managing in-ring talents. Heenan left WWA and agreed to work for Verne Gagne’s Minneapolis-based American Wrestling Association (AWA). Following a memorable decade entertaining in the City of Lakes, Vince McMahon enticed “The Brain” to work for him. However, unlike ALL of Gagne’s other employees, Heenan wouldn’t depart for Connecticut until he honored his AWA contract. Gagne and his son, Greg Gagne, constantly raved about Heenan for fulfilling his deal. Heenan, a WWE Hall of Famer, passed away from throat cancer at the age of 72 on September 17 in Largo, Florida.
1 BRET HART LEGITIMATELY KNOCKED OUT VINCE MCMAHON AFTER THE ‘MONTREAL SCREWJOB’
Vince McMahon and his cronies conspired to ensure that Shawn Michaels would overtake Bret Hart for the heavyweight title at the November 1997 Survivor Series at the Molson Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. While the Calgary, Alberta-based Hart didn’t want to lose north of the border, McMahon couldn’t allow “The Hitman” to arrive in WCW as a champion. When Michaels locked Hart in the sharpshooter, referee Earl Hebner falsely claimed that “The Hitman” submitted. Hart subsequently spat in McMahon’s face and all perpetrators quickly fled from the ringside area. A furious Hart retreated to the dressing room to shower. While showering, Davey Boy Smith and “Ravishing” Rick Rude told Hart that McMahon demanded to speak to him. Hart unsuccessfully warned McMahon to leave. After ample jawing, the 6-foot, 235-pound Hart and 6-foot-2, 250-pound McMahon were prepared to scrap. In a lopsided tussle that was orchestrated to make McMahon look courageous, Hart rendered his boss unconscious with a single blow.
“It was the most beautiful uppercut punch you could ever imagine,” said Hart. “I actually thought it would miss and go right up the side of his head, but I popped him right up like a cork was under his jaw and lifted him right off the hand. I broke my right hand just beneath the knuckle, and knocked Vince out cold.”
Hart and McMahon have since made amends and maintain a cordial relationship.
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