Wrestling in the WWE is a dream for most aspiring wrestlers hoping to make it in the business. The term dream job is thrown around very frequently but to end up doing something you loved as a child and developed a true passion for is second to none. The WWE has been the biggest wrestling entity for decades and is the promotion everyone hopes to work due to both financial success and personal goal. While it is a tremendous job on the surface, the biggest downfall to working for WWE is dealing with the politics of getting everyone to like you.
There’s one specific person that every wrestler hopes to earn the respect of: Vince McMahon. He has been the most powerful man in the wrestling industry ever since he started putting together his vision of changing WWE from a successful wrestling company into a successful global brand. Despite growing older, McMahon is still the main person in charge of the company and his influence is second to none. History has taught us that McMahon will take an extra interest in anyone he deems to be a huge star or who has the potential to blossom into one.
Various top wrestlers have developed a beneficial relationship with McMahon. It will lead to perks both in and out of the ring. The political game is a win when McMahon is in one’s corner. The wrestlers to have McMahon backing them have been given special treatment comparative to their peers in the locker room. Money, fame and success is likely to either come or continue if a wrestler has the most powerful voice’s support. Some of these wrestlers have abused this power and have led to negative results to harm the company, but they sure made for great stories. We’ll take a look at these moments and break down the top fifteen wrestlers that Vince McMahon gave preferential treatment to.
15 Steve Austin
The biggest wrestling superstar of all time surely deserves some special treatment from management and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin received it. Austin was allowed to pick and choose what wrestlers he felt would be best to work with. There have been various rumors over the years of Austin flat out refusing to work a planned program against Jeff Jarrett due to personal animosity and getting away with it. Unlike many other stars on this list, Austin didn’t always get his way. Vince McMahon wanted him to lose to rookie Brock Lesnar in 2002 and Austin walked out on the company, but otherwise, Austin has been able to get away with doing what he wants.
14 Big Show
With a role in the company for almost 17 years now, Big Show is one of the longest tenured members of the roster. The big man has been a role player for the company and has done just about anything you can think of. Perhaps it’s the years of service for the company or Vince McMahon’s love for giants but Big Show always gets a random push when WWE is desperate for someone to fill a role. There’s a running joke about Big Show constantly turning back and forth between face and heel roles but that happens because he will make the character change to get pushed. The big man also makes enough to afford a tour bus which means he’s one of the highest paid wrestlers.
You can credit a large majority of JBL’s success to preferential treatment from Vince McMahon. Bradshaw spent most of his career as a lower-tier tag team wrestler but he served as a veteran presence. With the reputation of being a bully, he would police the other wrestlers in the locker room if they stepped out of line and McMahon appreciated it enough to give him a push in 2004. The character change of JBL saw the bizarre choice of the lifelong midcarder being granted a yearlong title reign. The plan in place was definitely a “thank you” gift from McMahon. In today’s WWE, JBL was also given the sweet job of being the lead color commentator despite many better options available.
12 Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho worked for everything he achieved but his most recent years have seen him get extra perks and special treatment. The future Hall of Famer makes “surprise” appearances pretty frequently and it’s usually involved in an important match. Jericho also gets to work on the house shows regularly upon his request. Very few wrestlers are able to get a deal like this from WWE but Jericho is an exemption. Jericho has stated numerous times that Vince McMahon has served as a wrestling father figure to him through his career, with a closer relationship now. McMahon likely would have turned down this schedule or put the wrestler in less relevant matches if pitched the idea but Jericho gets it.
11 Randy Orton
The preferential treatment of Randy Orton has been going on for years in WWE. The company likes to pride itself on being strict when it comes to dealing with character issues but that never applied to Orton. From his first few years in the WWE, Orton was viewed as a troublemaker getting into drama with others that would warrant being punished or even fired over, but he rarely was punished. Orton has also failed more drug tests to violate the wellness policy than any other wrestler but it doesn’t even hurt his standing in the company. Orton was given more opportunities than anyone else to become a top star due to Vince McMahon’s belief in his potential.
10 Kevin Nash
Kevin Nash received the special perks that came along with being a member of The Kliq. Along with Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Scott Hall and Sean Waltman, Nash controlled the WWE locker room. The other wrestlers all hated The Kliq but they were able to get away with their politics and drama because of Vince McMahon’s love for them. McMahon clearly loved Nash enough to give him an undeserving title reign that went down as one of the biggest failures in company history. Nash was even given a singles push in 2003 despite being over the hill and was somehow inserted in the CM Punk feud in 2011.
9 John Cena
As the face of the company for over a decade, John Cena is definitely loved by Vince McMahon for all the money he makes the WWE. Cena gets more opportunities than anyone else in the company. WWE has put him in studio movies, given him great media appearances to build his brand and has overall treated him like the golden boy. CM Punk referenced McMahon’s love and treatment of Cena compared to the rest of the roster in his “pipebomb promos.” Cena did earn all of those things by putting together a successful body of work for such a long time but you can’t argue he gets put in a great position to get the things he does.
8 Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns has only been in WWE for a few years but he’s already benefited from the support of Vince McMahon. There have been very few wrestlers in the history of the company to be as protected or groomed to become the top star as much as Reigns has been. CM Punk stated in The Art of Wrestling podcast that management demanded Reigns look strong in matches from the beginning of The Shield. The singles push has seen WWE put a rocket on the back of Reigns. McMahon recently became an on-air character once again to enter a feud with Reigns. The 70-year-old billionaire taking bumps for Reigns shows just how much he does for the new WWE Champion. There’s no one else currently in the company McMahon would go that far to help.
7 Hulk Hogan
The introduction of WrestleMania and WWE becoming a massive brand with world recognition started with Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan. McMahon put his faith into Hogan being the face of the franchise and both men became wealthy because of it. The relationship has seen its ups and downs through the years due to the egos and money involved but when Hogan was on good terms, McMahon took care of him. Hogan helped get friends hired, pushed and paid. McMahon also let Hogan dictate big decisions like defeating Yokozuna at WrestleMania IX despite it making Bret Hart look weak or main eventing WrestleMania XIII with Sid over the Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair title match.
Most of the wrestlers on this list have close and personal friendships with Vince McMahon but Batista never came off as being under that umbrella. Still, “The Animal” was given more opportunity and special treatment than his peers. Despite entering wrestling a bit later than most, Batista was given a big push early in his career and placed into the main event picture for years. The bigger example of his preferential treatment came during his 2014 return. Batista came back to WWE and was treated with the Royal Rumble victory in his first match back. McMahon wanted to just hand him the WrestleMania main event but fans rejected it and forced WWE to add Daniel Bryan to the match.
5 The Undertaker
The Undertaker has to be Vince McMahon’s most trusted wrestler. From his debut in 1990, ‘Taker has given his all to the company. Most wrestlers went to WCW or retired for a few years but The Undertaker has been loyal and upfront with McMahon. The Undertaker is viewed as a leader in the WWE landscape among wrestlers and McMahon has definitely appreciated him for it. At this point in his career, McMahon allows The Undertaker to wrestle whenever he wants to. Taker has the best schedule any athlete can hope for and McMahon allows it. Whenever he retires, The Undertaker will likely be the most celebrated wrestler of all time with appreciation and fanfare orchestrated by McMahon.
4 The Rock
Another wrestler that basically gets to call his own shots is The Rock. Between his unmatched star power and role in Hollywood as one of the most successful actors in the world, The Rock makes occasional appearances for WWE. Vince McMahon has loyalty for what The Rock has done for the company and what The Rock’s family has given to the business over the years. Add in the mainstream appeal and The Rock was able to main event back-to-back WrestleMania events against John Cena, including having a short title run in 2013. It’s extremely rare for a part-time wrestler to hold the title but The Rock was granted the honor heading into WrestleMania 29. The Rock is expected to return at WrestleMania 32 and will likely be able to do whatever he desires since McMahon is loyal to him.
3 Brock Lesnar
As mentioned with The Rock, it’s extremely rare for a part-time wrestler to be given the honor of holding the WWE Championship. The house show live tour business is pivotal to WWE’s success and the champion not appearing hurts that aspect of the company. Brock Lesnar demolished John Cena to win the WWE Championship despite appearing only once in a while. Lesnar was given one of the best contracts in WWE history with limited dates and massive pay. Factor in the perks like winning the title and ending The Undertaker’s undefeated WrestleMania streak to see just how much more Lesnar is being given than anyone else in the company. You can even look at 2002 where Brock was made champion just a few months into his career. Vince McMahon has always treated him special.
2 Shawn Michaels
Shawn Michaels created controversy and drama within the WWE locker room during the late 90s. The poor attitude and arrogance displayed by Michaels was seemingly encouraged by Vince McMahon. Many wrestlers to discuss that era of WWE in shoot interviews or podcasts claimed McMahon was infatuated with Michaels becoming the top star in the company and let Michaels get away with anything. Michaels led The Kliq and made the careers of other wrestlers turn into a living hell. Bret Hart was the main target of Michaels hatred. At one point, Michaels accused Hart of cheating on his wife with Sunny during a promo on national television. McMahon never punished him and in fact sided with Michaels at the end of the day by choreographing “The Montreal Screwjob.”
1 Triple H
The wrestler to receive the most preferential treatment from Vince McMahon has to be Triple H. From his days in The Kliq to marrying Stephanie McMahon, Triple H has always had power in the WWE. The son-in-law of the owner receiving special treatment is a given but Triple H’s power was unlike any other in wrestling. The years of 2002-2005 were dominated by Triple H in the title picture and holding the main event heel spot on Raw. Various stars with momentum such as Rob Van Dam, Booker T and Goldberg fell to the reign of doom by Triple H. More recently, CM Punk believes Triple H played a role in placing a ceiling on his career and is definitely a factor in why he walked out of the company. Triple H has been given more responsibility, influence and preferential treatment by Vince McMahon than any other wrestler in WWE history.