Old age can pay quite the toll on a person, and yet many people eventually come to agree with Mark Twain’s famous quote, “of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” Ozzy Osbourne later reappropriated that sentiment in the 1980s, and nowadays it seems like WWE CEO Vince McMahon is becoming a walking embodiment of the expression. Once considered the most brilliant and successful mind in sports entertainment, McMahon’s public image has shifted from a mastermind who repeatedly revolutionized wrestling for over three or four decades to being so out of touch some fans jokingly (or not) speculate the septuagenarian executive may be going senile.
Years before Vince showed any signs of slipping, most industry insiders were already assuming he would never step down from his post as the man in charge of the WWE Universe. While Vince previously strived to satisfy and entertain his audience in unique and exciting ways, more recently he’s been resorting to storytelling that would be considered painfully cliché if not for utterly baffling minor details that manage to make things significantly worse than merely bland.
Despite his company freefalling in a downward spiral, as evidenced by record low TV ratings, crowds that reject every second of the show, and WWE Network subscriptions fluctuating with each passing event, it looks like McMahon is too set in his ways to ever turn things around. It’s not like WWE is going to go out of business any time soon, and there’s always the chance he’ll have another million dollar idea, but until he does, fans are going to keep wondering whether or not something—or anything—is going on upstairs. Keep reading to take note of 15 terrifying signals Vince McMahon is losing his goddamned mind.
15. Hiring Dozens Of Writers With Incredible Turnaround
Thanks to a ridiculous production schedule responsible for no less than 10 hours of originally television programming each week, plus countless shows on the WWE Network, the incredible number of writers hired by the company have their hands full in spite of their numbers. It would be one thing if they were writing Network Specials or something, or if each writer was assigned to a handful of wrestlers, but that isn’t exactly how it works. According to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and firsthand interviews with people who quit the company, the writers are basically instructed solely to come up with ideas for John Cena and other top stars. What’s worse, Vince typically ignores their ideas and uses his own last minute alternatives with such frequency it makes you wonder why he bothers hiring writers at all. Another reason fans might have that question is that historically wrestling companies, no matter how big, have been booked by a small team of no more than three people, the wrestlers themselves filling in the pieces with their unique personalities.
14. The Undying Bigger Is Better Mentality
For everything the introduction said about Vince McMahon being old, in all fairness, he’s forever been a child at heart. That isn’t necessarily a good thing, as children sometimes have trouble understanding simple concepts, such as the fact there most definitely can be too much of a good thing. Look no further to how quick he was to boast about more than 101,000 people being in attendance during WrestleMania 32, despite how none of them seemed to enjoy what they were seeing, and in fact loudly booed the entire night. Three hour episodes of Raw, plus two hours of SmackDown, an hour each for 205 Live and NXT, then Main Event and other minor recap shows also adds up to way more TV than the average human can follow, not to mention that the numerous writers and wrestlers don’t know how to fill it all.
13. No More Blood, Except When He Says So
Using blood in professional wrestling has always been a controversial subject for all the obvious reasons. While sports entertainment is inherently violent, unless it’s done properly, there’s little danger of anyone getting seriously hurt. That said, biology can complicate things, and whenever the bloodstream gets involved wrestlers run the risk of serious infections. Nine times out of ten, nothing goes wrong, but it’s dangerous and violent looking enough that WWE has mostly banned blood from television in recent years. Health conscious or not, fans who prefer their wrestling gritty and bloodstained have complained about the decision, notably chanting “F— PG” and “Let Joe Bleed” when medics tried to tend to Samoa Joe’s wounds at NXT TakeOver: Dallas. Though it would’ve been easy for WWE to silence these fans if they stuck with the program, Vince decided to changed his mind on the subject not six months later at SummerSlam, in the main event no less. Brock Lesnar didn’t just make Randy Orton bleed, he made him gush, and at Vince’s command, a 180° turn on the previous company stance on the topic. That blood has been gone again since means Vince rapidly changed his mind back, too, and this inability to hold decisions isn’t a good sign about his mental stability.
12. Never Understanding More McMahons Means More Problems
Pretty much from the very moment he learned how his real father made a living, Vince McMahon wanted to be a huge part of what he later renamed the WWE Universe. Vince, Sr. talked Junior out of becoming a wrestler himself, though he was unable to stop his son from weaseling his way onto television as an announcer in 1969, and he’s only increased his screen presence from there. Things were low key enough for the first three decades, Vince rarely leaving the announce desk, but it quickly spilled to the ring in the Attitude Era and has only gotten worse since his children joined him in hogging the spotlight. Granted, there’s a certain section of the audience that loves watching the McMahons get their occasional comeuppance, but it’s been so long since that happened the sole remaining reason for Shane and Stephanie’s overwhelming airtime is a combination of nepotism and egomania.
11. He Wanted A Dead Guy To Host Raw
Although the worst examples of Vince McMahon slowly unraveling have been exceptionally recent, the man has been exhibiting extremely odd behavior most of his adult life. Most of it is due to McMahon’s seclusion and single-minded focus on his own business, and yet occasionally there have been deeper ramifications to his eccentricities that make him seem downright insane. The guest host era of Raw was a crash course in how outdated his reference base was getting, but the worst example didn’t get to happen. Of course, that’s because it would have been impossible, for one of the people Vince had hoped could fill the role had died nearly 14 years earlier. Ray Combs was the second host of Family Feud from 1988 to 1994, twice appearing in the WWE Universe while he filled the role at WrestleMania VIII and Survivor Series 1993. Tragically, Combs was never a happy man and he felt wasted as a game show host, leading to serious depression and his suicide in 1996. It was 2010 when Vince told his staff to seek Combs out, undeterred by the fact no less than four new hosts have taken the role since his death.
10. Pushing All The Wrong People
Fans have long debated whether Vince is responsible for his wrestlers success or vice versa, with most rational conclusions realizing the answer lies somewhere in the middle ground. As it would turn out, Vince just may have been most responsible after all, based on how he’s been able to completely shut down anybody that manages to get themselves over outside of his system. Any time a WWE superstar gets cheered or respected for reasons Vince himself didn’t manufacture, it doubles as a death knell for their career, with Vince inevitably pushing them down the card in favor of part-timers or his old favorites. Zack Ryder was one of the first examples of this trend, and he’s now been joined by almost everyone on the roster under the age 35, with one Big Dog as an exception. We’ll get to The Guy in just a second, but for now the focus is how Vince is stubbornly refusing to push anybody who fans actually want to see. The reasons will continue to become clear as the list goes on and only get worse from here.
9. Thinking Roman Reigns Is The Answer
Alright, so, Roman Reigns. For whatever reason, Reigns has been preordained as the future face of WWE from the moment he made his debut, at least insofar as Vince McMahon is concerned. The WWE audience seems to feel the polar opposite, in that Reigns is the most overrated and untalented babyface superstar to get shoved down their throats in some decades. No matter how loudly fans boo Roman’s every move, destroying no small number of the biggest WWE events in recent history, McMahon still appears convinced the answer lies in Roman’s suffering succotash. Fans and critics alike are in agreement the WWE talent roster is wider and more diverse than ever before, with a plethora of potential main event superstars all over every show, and putting Roman above them all is leaving everyone seriously bitter. Initially, Vince’s impulse could’ve been defended as taking a chance on a new star, and no one would have faulted him if he gave up when it was already looking grim in early 2015, if not sooner. The longer he refuses to accept this reality the crazier people will be convinced he really is.
8. Repeating The Past Instead Of Creating The Future
Outside of Roman Reigns, the only wrestlers Vince and WWE have pushed as genuine main event stars have either been around for decades or should have been retired for that long. In Goldberg’s case, he was, until he made his in-ring return to main event Survivor Series, Fastlane, and now presumably WrestleMania 33 all despite being unable to last more than a full minute in the ring without becoming a sweaty, winded mess. In doing so, Kevin Owens, Rusev, and anyone else to interact with Goldberg has been sacrificed in the process. That said, Goldberg at least gets good crowd reactions half the time, so he’s really just the tip of the iceberg in this respect. This can only work as a business strategy if Vince has completely stopped thinking about the future, which may well have been the case. Losing semblance of all time except the immediate present is a pretty blatant sign that things might not be working right in McMahon’s head, as simply pretending the future won’t exist isn’t healthy for anyone.
7. Micromanaging Announcers Without Saying Anything Important
Truth be told, outside of Jim Ross and a handful of color commentators, the WWE Universe announce desk has always been flawed in one way or another. For many years, the problem was Vince McMahon himself not knowing what moves were called, and more recently that’s been replaced by him screaming in his already hugely overstaffed team’s ears informing them exactly what to say. The entire point of hiring three or four people to constantly talk during a WWE event should be that they have the funniest, smartest, or most interesting things to say, not that they’re the best at regurgitating verbatim what a senior citizen is yelling at them. Footage has leaked to YouTube of Michael Cole responding to Vince chewing him out over some minor issue, making it clear the best adjective to describe him isn’t one of those earlier positive ones, but rather sycophantic. JBL is arguably even worse, hired because he’s entirely willing to say whatever Vince wants without once expressing a true opinion of his own. The rare times Cole and others are allowed to be themselves, the commentary is vastly better and the shows are more enjoyable across the board, one more bit of proof Vince is sabotaging his own product.
6. Forcing Everyone To Follow A Script
It’s bad enough there are countless writers in the double digits with nothing to do except heavily over think things until Vince ignores them. Were these people only employed to help with big picture ideas and to fine tune some verbiage, it might not even be an issue, but instead they heavily script every sentence that gets said on Raw, SmackDown, and PPVs down to the last word. Even the older legends who Vince has been bringing back on a weekly basis are being forced to forget about the natural charisma that made them stars and read whatever clichéd drivel Vince would rather they say. Only the absolute biggest, top stars like The Rock or John Cena are given any freedom at all, and when they choose to take advantage of that artistic license, they nonetheless get chewed out for doing so. What this means is Vince is terrified about losing control, thinking that as long as his writing is very specific about everything, the wrestlers and fans will have to do exactly what he wants. That the exact opposite has happened still hasn’t dissuaded him from believing this.
5. Relying Far Too Heavily On Rhetoric
No more than twenty years ago, were a wrestler to run to the ring and demand a WWF title shot because they wanted the belt, every single wrestling fan alive understood exactly what they meant. The same is true today, yet it could never happen, at least in those words. Instead, Vince would be the one demanding his superstars make an elaborate entrance and then politely ask Shane or Stephanie for a WWE Championship match, feeling no one deserves the WWE Championship like they do. The repetition is annoying, and the rhetoric is soul crushing from an artistic standpoint. According to Mick Foley, the boss recently screamed at Braun Strowman for daring to cut a promo where he mentioned a “title shot,” yelling about how such a thing doesn’t exist, and how Strowman should’ve said “championship match.” Any rational person would realize there’s absolutely no difference between the two, and different performers using the different terms can be a subtle touch that speaks volumes about their personality and character. Of course, Vince hates personality he didn’t create, so the rhetoric, like everything else on this list, will only get worse from here.
4. Ignoring His Most Loyal Fans
For a long time, criticisms against WWE were cast aside as a minority on the Internet complaining about something loved by tens of thousands of paying customers filling arenas on a weekly basis. Nowadays, the live crowds are spewing vitriol that would impress trolls, uniformly rejecting whatever McMahon gives them and chanting for almost literally anyone else on the roster. Instead of listening to the people who shell out their hard earned money in a desperate attempt to get as close to the show as possible, hoping desperately for their voices to be heard, McMahon turns a deaf ear to sell out crowds and keeps on doing whatever he wants. It seems Vince truly believes that he knows what’s best for his audience whether they like it or not, and every time he’s told he’s wrong emboldens his decision to never give up on proving he’s right. Unfortunately for WWE, it’s reached a point where fans are realizing Vince won’t change, and rather than accepting him for his bizarre choices, they’ve stopped watching. That not even this has stopped Vince from doing whatever he wants is one of the most terrifying signs of all.
3. Editing Crowds To Serve His Misguided Vision
Despite a popular misconception, a majority of wrestling fans are aware that what happens inside the ring isn’t entirely on the up and up, hence the harshly negative crowd reactions when the wrong people win matches. However, because Vince McMahon is increasingly requiring complete and total control over his product, the autonomy of his audience is apparently starting to upset him, so he’s editing people to react differently when Raw and SmackDown segments are re-aired through video packages. The most blatant example saw fans clearly celebrating Roman Reigns losing getting edited to appear distraught and shocked over the same incident. Eagle-eyed fans noticed the discrepancy right away, causing loud public outcry from fans who now feel their voices are being very literally silenced. For all the negative things this list has argued about Vince wanting to control his employees, product, and company, one also has to admit that he’s allowed to do that, because he’s the boss. However, he’s not the crowd’s boss, nor their father figure, nor at this point is he even a respected authority figure.
2. Telling His Past Stars They’re Wrong
Accepting the fact that Vince McMahon simply doesn’t care if people like his product anymore, the question then has to become who he’s making it for. The obvious answer would be himself, and we can’t even extend that to include his friends, because practically everyone of note who used to work for WWE but no longer relies on Vince to sign their weekly paycheck has been telling him how terrible the product has become for years. In certain cases, bold superstars like Steve Austin or Ric Flair have done so in a very public manner, Austin even going so far as to tell Vince to his face that he was making huge mistakes when he appeared on The Stone Cold Podcast in late 2014. All Vince did in response was brush criticism off, coming up with weak excuses and changing the subject when he couldn’t form an actual answer. One of Austin’s examples was that Vince should be pushing Cesaro, causing Vince to outright lie and say Cesaro didn’t have “it” when millions of fans, and the biggest superstar ever, were telling him the exact opposite.
1. The Definition Of Insanity
Perhaps the most overused cliché in the English language suggests that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” Though mental illness is obviously much more complicated than that, when using insane as a euphemism for someone who simply doesn’t know what they’re doing anymore, this simple explanation works pretty perfectly, and Vince McMahon is a textbook example of how and why. Take away the many specifics mentioned on this list and look at WWE from the bigger picture. Ratings are down, top stars are leaving without a care, fans are furious, and the harshest critics have even been saying that from a creative standpoint, WWE is the worst it has ever been in its 50+ year history. And as the man in charge, what is Vince McMahon doing? Doubling down on everything that insiders point to as the reason these trends are happening. The only question is whether or not Vince is expecting a different result at this point, or if he’s simply accepted that it doesn’t matter if people like his product to him anymore. Either way, wrestling fans everywhere will continue to suffer until he finally comes to his senses.