There is perhaps no figure in professional wrestling history, inside or outside the ring, more controversial than Vince McMahon. Vince is a polarizing figure who either ruined the wrestling business or expanded the industry; a demon of destruction or the sport’s savior. Because of that, few in the business have been the targets of more allegations, rumors, and conspiracy theories.
So, when attempting to narrow down the top 15 most shocking accusations, one must define terms. An accusation seems to be an “on the record” allegation with credible evidence. But Vince’s been target of a whirlwind of rumors, backstage gossip repeated enough that it becomes fact even if there are no real facts behind whispers. For example, a Google search of Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels pops up more than one wrestling site alleging a homosexual relationship between the two. There are no eyewitnesses, no evidence, just speculation. These allegations often come from people reading tea leaves or ex-WWE talent chewing on sour grapes.
Allegations against Vince also go behind the personal to the professional. He’s “accused” of ruining the business, yet the wrestling business (not that he wants to admit that’s the business he is in) has never been more successful or mainstream, at least for his wrestlers/ company/family. In the territory days, more wrestlers had jobs, more arenas ran shows, and fans had more choices. That’s gone and perhaps was inevitable as others (Verne Gagne, Ole Anderson, etc.) tried for national platform. Vince didn’t get there first, but with NYC media behind him, he made the biggest splash and tidal waved over his competitors.
Then there’s conspiracy theory like “The Montreal Screw Job” becoming the JFK assassination of pro wrestling with lots of conjecture, even its own Zapruder film (Wrestling with Shadows), but no smoking gun. So, moving behind baseless allegations, rumors, and conspiracy craziness, here are the top 15 most shocking (yet believable) accusations against Mr., McMahon.
15. Covering Up Evidence in Snuka Murder
This is first listed here only because it is so new with few details. A grand jury in Allentown indicted Jimmy Snuka for murder related to the death of his girlfriend in 1983, when he was perhaps the WWE’s biggest star. The swaying evidence to the grand jury appeared to be the differences in Snuka’s testimonies on the case, and what he wrote about it his autobiography. There he writes that Vince was not only with him during his police interrogation but did most of the talking.
But did money talk as well? Did McMahon use his influence to keep a lid on the case? Some think so, but the WWE in a recent statement denies it: “The insinuation that a group of medical examiners, detectives and prosecutors – including two who became judges – could have their integrity compromised and participate in improper activity during the course of a meeting is absurd, categorically false and insulting to all parties.” But then again the WWE/McMahon has denied (most of) the following accusations as well, for what that is worth.
14. Firing Chyna To Protect Stephanie & Triple H’s Relationship
After Chyna was aware that Triple H and Stephanie had been in a relationship behind her back, things between her and the company deteriorated. There’s debate as to whether Chyna chose to leave for ‘personal reasons’ or if she was fired from the company to get her away from Triple H and the boss’s daughter. Chyna stated in an interview with Vince Russo that after meeting with Vince about the situation, she was sent home and received a fax, telling her she was not needed anymore.
13. Cheating on His Wife Linda
Anyone new to wrestling during the attitude era would know two things about Vince: he’s got huge grapefruits and he’s a “genetic jack hammer.” There were few Divas during that era that didn’t have a story line romance/affair with “The Boss.” All of these occurring under the watchful eyes of viewers, and Vince’s wife Linda. It became natural for non-fans new to the genre, and reporters covering Linda’s Senate campaign to accuse Vince of real infidelity. And they were right, as McMahon admitted in a 2001 interview with Playboy noting, “it’s not something I’m proud of. I just didn’t realize the impact of messing with other people’s lives.”
12. Heavy Cocaine Use
In the same interview, Vince makes a passing reference to Ritalin as the “the one drug I’ve never been on” but the reporter lets that comment go. In WWE exposes, such as Sex, Lies, and Headlocks, the authors discuss a cocaine laden culture at Titan Towers in the 80s, similar to what was found at 30Rock during the Belushi SNL hey days.
According to one insider, Vince not only did tremendous amounts of cocaine, but bragged about it. Vince is quoted as saying, “I can snort as much of that stuff as anyone can put in front of me and never get hooked.” In Ring of Hell, others insiders describe how Vince’s “energy” was WWE euphemism for his cocaine habit. There’s no hard evidence, but enough circumstantial evidence to think there might be a line (or two) of truth to the accusations.
11. Sexual Assault/Favors With Talent
During a confrontation between Nailz and McMahon about a pay dispute , police were called. Upon arrival, Nailz accused McMahon of sexually assaulting him, although many witnesses attest that Nailz was the aggressor and attacked McMahon.
That didn’t go anywhere, except sending Nailz except to the unemployment line. He would later testify against McMahon during the WWE kingpin’s steroid trial (see no.6) blurting out his hatred of McMahon. This led jurors, according to some reports, to believe that a lot of what Nailz and other disgruntled wrestlers said was revenge, not evidence ensuring Vince never became a convict himself.
Speaking of disgruntle former wrestlers…James “Kamala” Harris stated that“If you get along with Vince, do him sexual favors, you’ll get along good with him.”
As if McMahon didn’t have enough problems in 1992, out of the history bin and into the accusation fire stepped one Rita Chatterton, the first WWE female referee. Chatterton accused McMahon of raping her in 1986 after she refused to perform oral sex on him. This allegation didn’t come out in a court room, but on an episode of Geraldo Rivera’s “Now it Can Be Told” TV shows. Her story lacked some credibility as she was fired for cause, but she didn’t fire off a police report or a lawsuit until six years later when everybody was jumping off the top rope with both feet on Vince. To Vince and his legal team, Chatterton’s claims were not an accusation, but extortion, so they counter-sued.
10. Sexual Assault on Tanning Salon Employee
Having exhausted accusations from his employees (sorry, independent contractors), the McMahon sexual assault net got cast wider in 2006. The same year Vince was battling God, he was also battling a sexual assault accusation from a tanning salon attendant in Boca Raton Florida. According to the criminal complaint (dismissed), McMahon showed the attendant nude photos of himself (well, it was Florida so they should be used to huge grapefruits. When she didn’t bite (or whatever he was interested in), Vince was accused of forcing himself on her. A witness said McMahon was “”nothing but a gentleman”, so obviously a person who has never seen the Mr. McMahon character in action. Like the other sexual assaults complaints, the accusation resulted in no arrests, just more bad press.
9. Being a Racist and/or Hypocrite
Sure enough Hulk Hogan’s racist remarks were leaked (recorded years earlier), it didn’t take long for a three count. One, Hogan gets erased from WWE history (not a full Benoit, but close). Two, every example of WWE storylines (which Vince always has final approval) get reviewed for racist content. Three, Vince is accused, revealed and reviled as a hypocrite.
It wasn’t hard for reporters to find examples, from Vince using the ‘N’ word in a skit with Booker T to Michael Hayes keeping his job after using the same word against Mark Henry. Oh, go back to such characters as Akeem the African Dream or Tony “Samba Simba” Atlas to locate Vince swimming in the deep end of the stereotype pool. But imagine a company built on storyline violence while sponsoring an anti-bully campaign being accused of hypocritical behavior. Just shocking.
8. Being Blasphemous
So while the United States has made great progress in civil rights to the point of electing a black president, not so much in the area of religious tolerance for those without a religion. Some polls show that the public would rather have an ex-con as president before a non-believer. Given the strength of wrestling’s popularity in the south, then it was amazing that Vince went there with a storyline where he called out “God.” Playing on Shawn Michaels’ (seemingly) sincere lifesaving switch to Christianity, McMahon not only ran skit after skit of blasphemy with a capital “FU GOD” but then even had God no-show a main event match (does that mean Nash is God?)
7. Distributing Steroids to Talent
The only one of these accusations that made the New York Times as opposed to the National Enquirer. In 1993, McMahon was accused of distributing steroids, a controlled substance, by the United States Government in litigation related to the arrest of WWE George “Dr. Feelgood” Zahoriana year earlier. The case went to trial in 1994 – with babyface McMahon wearing a neck brace to garner sympathy for the jury – but Vince kicked out at two and was found not guilty. If guilty, that might have been the end of the company, but instead the company stayed afloat implementing “stringent” drug testing that seemed to vanish around the time of the Monday Night Wars , and then again, when a show of strength (or muscles were needed), such as:
6. Taking Steroids
While McMahon admitted at his 1994 to personal steroid use, that wasn’t the charge, so he got off. And got off the gas if you believe that everyone had to, all talent of which McMahon still pays himself to be on occasion. So when McMahon appeared on the March 2015 cover of Muscle and Fitness magazine looking like a 20-year-old bodybuilder rather than a nearing 70 business tycoon, eyebrows, along with accusations, popped like the bulging muscles in the photo. Some claimed Photoshop rather than anabolics, but McMahon said it was all natural, tweeting “still a meathead.” Although even business friendly FOX News said he was “ridiculously jacked” seemingly to imply that HGH as opposed to the WWE gym might be behind the muscle mass.
5. Breaking Promises Made By His Father
Vince McMahon Sr. sold his company to his son and shortly after passed away in 1984. McMahon Sr. had long held an agreement with other territories that no promotion would invade another’s territory, but his son had a vision. The accusation goes that Vince promised his father that he wouldn’t breach the agreement between all the promoters. Vince would soon sign other promotions’ top stars, including Hogan and Piper, while soon creating WrestleMania. While we know that Vince did in fact expand and put other territories out of business, what remains a mystery is if he ever actually promised not to do so.
4. Covering Up The Ringboy Scandal
Tom Cole, former ring announcer Murray Hodgson and Barry Orton all accused WWE officials Terry Garvin and Pat Patterson of sexual harassment and exchanging sexual favors for advancement in the company.
Cole also accused ring announcer Mel Phillips of sexually assaulting him, stemmed from a foot fetish. “When you’re 12 or 13 years old and you think this guy is wrestling with you, and then he grabs your foot, maybe part of you doesn’t want to believe it or part of you wants to block it out,” Cole said. “I just didn’t have an answer for it. Who would have told you at that age that some guy wants to play with your feet?”
Where does McMahon fall into all this? Well, he was accused of trying to cover up the scandal, although all guilty parties were fired, however Patterson would eventually return to the company after charged against him were dropped.
3. Not Really Caring about The Health of Talent
Almost all of the books written (or at least said to be written by) WWE talent always have sections noting how much McMahon cared about the physical well-being of his talent. Always giving them time off, always excusing injury, and always making sure they are medically cleared before stepping back in the ring. Those that come out from talent not under WWE contract (at the time) such as Roddy Piper’s memoir paint not quite the same picture.
Most recently, the accusation that McMahon forces hurt talent in the ring (if not personally, then through his chain of command) came from CM Punk in his podcast with Colt Cabana. In this podcast, Punk accused the WWE doctor and mangers (all who report to Vince, see no.2) of malpractice. Punk outlines a long list of WWE corporate wanting WWE talent in the ring, regardless of their health. The WWE doctor has counter-sued, which might end up to be a mistake if Punk’s proven right, the WWE wrong, and McMahon not a caretaker of his talent, but an undertaker.
2. Micro-Management Hurting the Company
In reading memoirs of talent who worked for both WWE and WCW, the clear message is that Vince was a hands-on manager. This might have worked as the small Titan Sports morphed into the global World Wrestling Entertainment company. But now as publicly held billion dollar company, does hands on management work? Given McMahon’s lack of success outside of anything but wrestling (see no.4) what happens when the hands-on manager is out of touch?
According to a recent article in business bible Forbes, that is exactly the problem in 2015’s WWE. Forbes contributor Blake Oestriecher noted that “an overly involved owner, who, for better worse, often finds himself prioritizing his own agenda over the good of his company.” The impetus for the article was a leaked memo from McMahon producing WWE announcing. It would be like the CEO of GM telling line workers how to install seats, so it’s a valid point and only the most recent example.
1. Defrauding Stockholders
If the US Government accusing McMahon of distributing steroids threatened the company in the 1990s, while the Chris Benoit tragedy marked the middle of the next decade, perhaps the most serious accusation against McMahon emerged in 2014 of defrauding shareholders. If these accusations turn out to be true, it could be the end of the WWE as we know it. According to a report in the Wrestling Observer newsletter, the class action suit represents “people who purchased [WWE] stock between October 31, 2013, and May 16, 2014.
The complaint alleges the company issued materially false and misleading statements regarding the company’s ability to negotiate a television contract price.” That, along with the network dramatically under-performing shareholder expectations and thus holding down the stock price, coupled with the McMahon family continuing to draw dividends and cash in stock (in particular Stephanie) could add up the “five moves of doom” for the McMahon empire.
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