World Wrestling Entertainment has been a global operation for three decades. With the company so prominent in the public eye, Chairman Vincent Kennedy McMahon has been at the center of every professional wrestling conversation for the duration; he’s simultaneously blamed and thanked for everything the sport has ever accomplished. Even the most cynical of wrestling fans knows that McMahon is the one to thank for even having the pleasure of being a wrestling fan, despite the fact that the same fan might be endlessly critical of how Vince does business.
Vince is certainly the most scrutinized man in the world of wrestling even though he has plenty of potential scapegoats in the form of on air personalities. As a business man who has had to make thirty years of difficult decisions, he’s developed a reputation for being cold and at times out of touch with what the wrestling fan base wants to see. Time after time Vince has been forced to swallow his pride or leave his feelings completely out of the scenario in order to do what’s right for business, and it leads to the sense that he’s a ruthless boss.
But there’s something to be said for the fact that so many of WWE’s former employees describe Vince McMahon as a mentor. Despite rumors of the Chairman’s lack of approachability backstage, in the grand scheme of things few wrestlers have ever had much of a bad word for him. In fact, McMahon seems to have grown quite fond of many of his wrestlers over the years. Let’s take a look at fifteen current and former WWE Superstars who Vince McMahon genuinely loved.
15 Razor Ramon
Razor Ramon was one of the greatest Intercontinental Champions of all time, taking that title to great heights across his four separate reigns. Scott Hall has told the story of how the character came to be, referencing a discussion he had with Vince McMahon about creating a gimmick based on Al Pacino’s Tony Montana in the movie Scarface.
The story of just how much Vince McMahon loved Razor Ramon is one that is less about his deep affection for the man and more about just how proud Vince was of how successful the Razor character turned out to be. Apparently, in conceptualizing Ramon, Scott Hall had Vince laughing so hard they just had to move forward with it. Before Hall left WWE for WCW in the ‘90s Razor Ramon was on track to become the WWE World Champion. Nonetheless, McMahon’s fondness for that character is evident in the fact that Scott Hall was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame under the Razor Ramon name instead of his own.
14 Chris Jericho
If you’ve read Chris Jericho’s autobiographies, you know how rocky the wrestling legend’s start in WWE was. There were many scenarios where Jericho was unhappy with his performance in matches and various storylines, but there was always a recurring situation where he could talk it out with the boss. With all of Jericho’s myriad successes, such as his multiple Intercontinental Championship runs and the fact that he defeated The Rock and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin in the same night for his first WWE World Championship, it’s not hard to see just how fond Vince McMahon was of Y2J.
Over the years Chris Jericho has essentially had the freedom to come and go as he’s pleased in WWE and he’s been making the most of his active time by being one of the most consistent performers in the company’s history and helping to build younger talent into the stars of tomorrow. In recent years Jericho has had plenty to say about his great working relationship with Vince McMahon, noting that it is one based on “mutual respect.”
13 Hulk Hogan
Of all Vince McMahon’s relationships with his employees, there has probably never been another to ever come close to being the roller coaster ride that is his relationship with Hulk Hogan. Hogan is probably the biggest wrestling star there will ever be because he came along with a larger than life presence and personality at a time when pro wrestling was ready to explode onto the worldwide stage. Hogan’s undeniable charisma and marketability made it so that no one cared if he was a great wrestler or not, although, for the times, he was really not half bad.
He was everything Vince McMahon wanted in a guy he could mold into the face of his sensational wrestling company, but through the 1990s steroid scandal and various other disagreements the two have certainly had their share of drama. Hogan has gone on record many times, though, as saying that he has a great personal relationship with Vince and that McMahon would “give you the shirt off his back.”
In the mid 1990s, a wrestler named Glenn Jacobs was portraying one of WWE’s worst characters in history, Isaac Yankem, DDS. When that failed miserably, Vince McMahon gave him the opportunity of a lifetime, which was to portray the demonic younger brother of the iconic WWE Superstar known as The Undertaker. Jacobs ran with the role and Kane was a total hit. The Big Red Machine has seen a plethora of reinventions over the course of his nearly twenty year run and has managed to stay consistent on the active roster.
Kane has proven to be one of WWE’s most versatile acts and is one of the company’s longest tenured employees. It’s obvious that Vince McMahon became invested in Glenn Jacobs long ago as Kane continues to be one of the only holdouts from The Attitude Era. No doubt, Kane will go down as one of the most recognizable WWE staples and Vince McMahon will be eternally grateful.
11 “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
If Hulk Hogan helped build the house that is WWE, then “Stone Cold” Steve Austin helped build an empire. While Hogan may always be the biggest name professional wrestling has ever known, Steve Austin is the only man who can give him a run for his money and might be the man most responsible for WWE still surviving today as an active organization. Plenty of men and women helped make The Attitude Era what it was, but Stone Cold was the face of the time and his on-screen war with his boss helped boost WWE back into its status as the dominant leader in the world of wrestling.
Austin and Vince McMahon were at the center of the most famous wrestling rivalry of all time, but in real life there is a deep bond between the two which will never be broken. They’ve faced a few rocky times, such as when Austin briefly left the company because of a creative disagreement, but Steve’s interviews in recent years reveal that the two are still very close and he considers Vince a father figure.
10 Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
As “The Rock,” Dwayne Johnson probably did as much for WWE as anyone else, including “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan. The Rock, who comes from a great family full of Samoan wrestlers who have contributed to building WWE into a worldwide phenomenon, was the flipside of Steve Austin during The Attitude Era. Austin was the roughhousing redneck while The Rock liked nice things and often aligned himself with the establishment. Each of those men was the greatest enemy of the other, with the two having met three times at WrestleMania.
Then, The Rock went on to Hollywood, mostly leaving wrestling behind him as he became one of the most famous movie stars in the world. Vince McMahon could have grown bitter, but he welcomed The Rock back into the company with open arms after many years away, allowing him to once again headline WrestleMania and hold the WWE Championship, despite only making a handful of appearances. The Rock and Vince McMahon have always had a strong relationship and it lasts to this day.
9 Big Show
When Paul Wight started off in WCW as The Giant, few could imagine that same monster would be fighting in WWE twenty years later, still refusing to retire. After a dominant run in WCW, Vince McMahon brought Wight over to his side and named him the Big Show. Big Show would play a sizeable role in The Attitude Era and for many years to come, serving as a mountain sized obstacle to anyone who needed a quick boost to their character. However, Show also has plenty of respectable achievements in his own right as one of the most decorated big men in the wrestling business.
Over the course of Big Show’s career, he has become very close with Vince McMahon. The multiple time World Champion has said in interviews, notably the one he did on the WWE Network when he was interviewed by Steve Austin on the Stone Cold Podcast, that Vince is like a father to him; it’s a line used by many other wrestlers who have worked with McMahon for extended periods of time.
8 John “Bradshaw” Layfield
John “Bradshaw” Layfield, or JBL as he’s more commonly known, is mostly famous these days as the southern guy on commentary who likes to shout his every thought with anger and insult everyone who dares to open their mouth. He’s belligerent and often offensive, and is generally considered a hindrance to the enjoyment of any wrestling match and the worst thing about WWE commentary. The fact that he’s kept that role for so very long despite all the criticism makes it evident that Vince McMahon is very much into the JBL character.
JBL was the longest reigning WWE Champion in the history of the SmackDown brand, proving to be a very popular heel during his in-ring days after he received a gimmick makeover in the early 2000s. Before that he was an accomplished tag team wrestler, teaming with Ron “Faarooq” Simmons among others. JBL has been with WWE for a very long time and Vince McMahon has apparently always been close with him.
7 John Cena
The closest WWE has ever gotten to managing to replicate the name value of Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin or The Rock has been John Cena. Cena has been on top of the main event scene as a dominant force for over a decade and is now zoning in on breaking “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair’s historic record of sixteen World Championships. Few Superstars in the history of WWE can say they’ve ever come close to reaching John Cena levels of merchandise sales, as Cena connects with children in such a way that WWE has refused to allow him to play a villain ever since his early days in the company.
There’s just no overselling how big of a star John Cena is and has consistently been for so many years. To this day, he’s the man to beat for any Superstars looking to make names for themselves. Naturally, the relationship between Cena and Vince McMahon has grown close over the years, with Cena always having nothing but kind words for his boss.
6 Andre the Giant
If the respect commanded by Andre the Giant isn’t clear to someone, he or she must not be a wrestling fan. The legendary wrestler was the first inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame just a couple of months after he passed away in 1993 and is now immortalized with the annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal which takes place at WrestleMania, with the winner receiving a trophy modeled after Andre himself. Andre has always been spoken of fondly by WWE thanks to his contributions to the company and is very frequently included in WWE video games, even today.
Vince McMahon has always had a tremendous respect and admiration for the man known as the “eighth wonder of the world,” dating all the way back to their early days doing business together. In fact, Vince’s daughter Stephanie McMahon has said she looked up to Andre the Giant as a little girl and that he has always been her favorite wrestler.
5 Mae Young
Mae Young, along with her longtime friend The Fabulous Moolah, were two of the most beloved wrestlers in history. They were known as pioneers for women’s wrestling, though to younger audiences both women were known more for their comedic roles during WWE’s Attitude Era and sporadic appearances after. After Moolah passed away, Mae continued to keep close to the company until her own passing and both women have since been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Mae Young was always very, very close with the McMahon family, often seen in backstage videos where she would embrace Vince or Stephanie as if they were her own family. Mae had a free spirit and a soft heart, and she had a huge fan following and was remembered fondly by everyone she worked with during her experiences with WWE. She may never have held a title for the company, but she has been referred to as “forever the Divas Champion.”
4 Shawn Michaels
Shawn Michaels has always been one of those well respected pro wrestlers who were more known for the mechanical side of the business, having never been what could be considered a household name. Michaels was great in the ring – one of the best, in fact – and that’s all that mattered. The Heartbreak Kid could have a good match with just about anyone and became an icon at least in wrestling circles for his ability to wrestle five-star classics.
Michaels has had plenty of personal ups and downs and has probably made more enemies than friends in the wrestling industry. He’s famous for being good friends with Vince McMahon’s son-in-law Triple H, but he’s also always had a close personal relationship with The Chairman himself. Michaels has spoken of their relationship in interviews and said that he always had a very open business relationship with Vince, stating that they butted heads a lot but that it always came from a place of respect.
3 Pat Patterson
The younger generation – or newer wrestling fans – probably wouldn’t know the name Pat Patterson without doing some research on the WWE Network. Even then, one might walk away thinking he was only ever a lackey for Vince McMahon during The Attitude Era alongside his partner Gerald Brisco. Together, those two were known as McMahon’s “stooges” and would get into all sorts of trouble; that’s probably what each of them is best known for today.
But both of them are legends in the wrestling industry. Pat Patterson, specifically, was the first ever Intercontinental Champion and is widely recognized as the first openly gay professional wrestler. Patterson’s on-screen role alongside Vince McMahon was no coincidence, though, because he’s been very close to Vince and the rest of the McMahon family for many years. He still works closely with WWE, utilizing his tremendous knowledge of the wrestling industry to help the company along.
2 The Undertaker
In 1990, a tall man dressed in a trench coat would make his debut for the company as a sort of undead mortician. That silly character was named “The Undertaker” and no one thought it would last. It probably shouldn’t have, but it did, and some quarter of a century later, The Undertaker is going strong, still competing on a yearly basis. It’s been over twenty-five years of dominance for The Deadman and he’s one of the very few WWE Superstars in an elite class of wrestlers who started at the top of the main event scene and has never moved from that spot during his entire career.
To say that The Undertaker and Vince McMahon had grown close over so many years of having worked together would be a bit of an understatement. It’s obvious that Vince has protected The Undertaker’s legacy by making sure he never looked weak, even in the rare case of defeat. A viral photo made the rounds following WrestleMania XXX which showed Vince and The Undertaker embracing backstage just before Undertaker’s WrestleMania undefeated streak was broken, and it’s also known that Vince rode with The Undertaker to the hospital following an injury later that night.
1 Triple H
There’s no denying it: Triple H won over Vince McMahon’s heart years ago. In fact, Triple H’s wife and Vince McMahon’s daughter, Stephanie, has said in interviews that she believes her father fell in love with her husband before she did. Indeed, early in Triple H’s career he was being groomed by McMahon to be a big star. Known in the early 1990s as Hunter Hearst Helmsley, the man who became known as The Game quickly started racking up the accolades such as the European and Intercontinental Championships. In 1999, he won the first of a slew of WWE World Championships and now two decades later, he’s married to the boss’ daughter and set to inherit the business with her.
There have been plenty of WWE Superstars to step through the ropes and eventually grow close to Vince McMahon himself, but Triple H is certainly in a class of his own. After all, he’s literally family.