The two biggest corporate faces running the modern wrestling industry are Vince McMahon and Triple H. As the Chairman of the WWE, Vince McMahon has bulldozed his competition out of the water to not only craft the #1 wrestling product in sports entertainment, but also become a billionaire himself. As heir apparent to the WWE once Vince steps down from his position, Triple H has managed to create a sleeper hit for the wrestling business with NXT that has not only changed the main WWE product for the better, but has simultaneously shifted wrestling as a whole. He has gradually snatched up indie talents and brought them into WWE when some were thought never to make it into the company (i.e. Samoa Joe and AJ Styles). In many ways, NXT is the closest to an alternative to the weekly main WWE product that we’ve had since WCW or TNA Impact at its height. Triple H is slowly finding a way to dominate the wrestling business as a backstage influence in the same way that he’s dominated in front of the camera as a former 14-time World Champion. Both men have innovated wrestling for the better. These two are currently, without a shadow of a doubt, the two biggest superpowers within the wrestling industry. However, with great power comes great responsibility, and both men have abused their power in some way or another.
As Eric Bischoff loosely put it, one does not make cash without stirring a little bit of controversy. As two powerful and rich men, Vince McMahon and Triple H are no strangers to controversy. Damning allegations and questionable business decisions have made them both two polarizing figures within the wrestling world. In fact, much of the controversy that both men have created has been considered disrespectful to the WWE and, in the eyes of some wrestling purists, the wrestling industry as a whole. Here are some examples.
15. Running Shane Out of The Company
When power and money are on the line, they can divide the tightest of relationships, even those between family. Such power struggles were key to why Shane McMahon left the WWE. For years, it had always been speculated that Vince’s favoritism toward Triple H, rather than his own son — as well as backstage clashes with Trips and his sister Stephanie — is what ran Shane McMahon out of the company. Shane somewhat alluded to this in a 2016 interview on Mick Foley‘s live podcast, where Shane stated that his disdain for the company had been building for a while, especially due to Vince not being open to his ideas. That especially made things less fun for Shane, and he decided to leave WWE to pursue his own endeavors. He ended up rebuilding broken bridges upon his 2016 return, also stating that he’s happy with Triple H as long as Trips makes his sister happy.
14. Allegations of Infidelity
It’s been well documented that Triple H cheated on Chyna with Stephanie McMahon before marrying the boss’s daughter. What has been kept as more of a secret is the allegations that Triple H cheated on Stephanie in 2005 with Christy Hemme. In her short time with WWE, Hemme claimed numerous accolades within the company, including winning the Diva Search competition, becoming a Playboy centerfold, and wrestling Trish Stratus for the Women’s Championship at WrestleMania 21. Despite all of her success making her a top Diva in WWE, Hemme was released seemingly out of the blue by the end of the year. Though the company would later claim that Hemme was released due to budget cuts, a big rumor that made the rounds at the time was that Hemme was released because company heads learned she was having an affair with Triple H. Vince McMahon has had his own infidelity allegations, although he has admitted to cheating on Linda numerous times in the past, most notably in an interview on Howard Stern‘s talk show. In that 2002 interview, he claimed he hadn’t cheated on Linda in 6 years.
13. Abuse Allegations
Both Vince McMahon and Triple H have been accused of abuse — physical abuse in Triple H’s case and sexual abuse in Vince’s case. During a 2015 interview on the Opie with Jim Norton radio show, Chyna claimed that Triple H had once struck her in the face during an argument when the two were still in a relationship. Triple H was quick to make a retort that these were “false statements and reckless allegations” by Chyna. To save his own skin and simultaneously invalidate Chyna’s comments, he also reminded everyone that Chyna should not be believed due to her “significant struggles in life.” For Vince, the WWE’s first female referee, Rita Chatterton, had gone on an episode of Geraldo Rivera‘s Now It Can Be Told to accuse Vince McMahon of sexually harassing her and then being paid by Vince and wife Linda $5 million in “hush” money to keep quiet. Vince then sued Rivera for conspiring with Chatterton to make false allegations against Vince, and in 2010, Vince’s attorney threatened legal action against anyone who published these accusations.
12. Stealing Talent
In the earliest days of professional wrestling, there was a sacred and unwritten rule among the territories that no promotions would steal from each other. Vince McMahon Sr. held this rule as gospel, but as soon as he sold his company to his son, all cards were off the table. As heir to the WWE, Vince McMahon had a very specific vision for the future of wrestling that he wasn’t willing to compromise for any rules. Vince didn’t hesitate to make a grab for talent that belonged to other companies, notoriously snagging guys like Roddy Piper and Hulk Hogan to establish his empire. As the current Executive Vice President of Talent Relations, Triple H is no stranger to this as well, stealing indie guys like Finn Balor, AJ Styles, and Samoa Joe when they still had commitments to other companies. Triple H raiding indie talent has gotten so hectic that Ring of Honor reportedly sent Trips and WWE a cease and desist on making contract negotiations with their talent while still signed to the company. It seems like both Vince and Triple H prefer to steal big stars from other companies instead of building their own homegrown stars. And just as Vince’s backlot dealings were criticized for hurting the overall business, Triple H’s own thievery has put a damper on the indie circuit.
11. Stealing Ideas
There is a cliche coined by T.S. Eliot stating that real geniuses steal the creations of others and make it better. If that’s true, Vince McMahon may be a mastermind as he has stolen plenty from other wrestling promotions. We’re not just talking about other wrestlers but full-blown ideas for moments and angles. When the gritty realism and hardcore brutality of ECW became all the rage, Vince first tried to duplicate the show’s atmosphere with Shotgun Saturday. Then, he used that same realism and brutality to create the Attitude Era. When WCW became highlighted by the Cruiserweight division, Vince brought his own Cruiserweight division to WWE. Vince McMahon is easily the biggest genius and the biggest thief this sport has ever known. Triple H isn’t too far off as he has used NXT as a springboard to bring in ideas that worked on the indie scene onto a major stage, such as bringing Sami Zayn/El Generico and Kevin Owens/Steen’s huge feud from the indies into WWE, as well as giving women proper time in the ring after promotions like Shimmer proved that women could have more than bathroom break matches.
10. Alleged Racism
Both Triple H and Vince McMahon have been accused of being racist. Triple H’s more infamous accusations came during his 2003 on-screen angle with Booker T. In one segment, Triple H looked his title’s #1 contender up and down and told Booker “somebody like you doesn’t get to be a World Champion champion… you’re here to make people like me laugh and you’re very good at it. With your nappy hair and your ‘Suckas’ .” This was meant to lead to a rags-to-riches tale at WrestleMania XIX with Booker coming out on top, but Triple H nixed that idea, beating Booker in embarrassing fashion. A more recent allegation comes from Alberto Del Rio, who was fired from WWE in 2014 for defending himself against a co-worker’s racist comments. Del Rio later revealed that comments like that get encouraged by guys like Triple H in a “monkey-see monkey-do” type fashion. In Vince McMahon’s case, fans find it suspicious that there has never been an African American WWE Champion (not including half-Samoans like The Rock) in the company’s long history. Also, there was an infamous segment from 2005 — ironically featuring Booker T — where Vince says the N-word on live TV for the sake of comedy.
9. The Katie Vick Angle
Ah, the infamous Katie Vick storyline. What more needs to be said about this? An angle which was in such ill taste and inspired such controversy that it was dropped in a matter of weeks. An angle which WWE is so embarrassed about that WWE tries not to even acknowledge it or call back to it on their programming. An angle which is highlighted by a RAW segment where Triple H impersonated Kane in a funeral home and pretended — at least we hope he was pretending — to have sex with a mannequin that represented Kane’s high school sweetheart, whom he had killed in a drunk-driving accident. The explicit nature of the angle was obviously unacceptable, and to make matters worse, the idea for the angle came from none other than the mind of Vincent Kennedy McMahon. McMahon hoped to provide nuance and character development for Kane by revealing a more human side to the Big Red Machine, but all this angle did was make him out to be a joke while retconning the character’s prior history. If there was ever a time when Trips should have used his backstage politics to stop an angle from happening, it was here.
8. Trips’s Affair with Stephanie
When Triple H started dating Stephanie McMahon (on and off camera), he was already in the midst of a long-term relationship with Chyna. Not only were Triple H and Stephanie sneaking around on the Ninth Wonder of the World, but the corporate duo also got Vince to keep their secret for the longest time. The three kept up the charade for at least a year, and Chyna was none the wiser. As Chyna explained in an interview with WrestlingInc.com, she had her suspicions but never had any proof that Triple H couldn’t deny until she came across a love letter that Trips had written to Stephanie. The letter was dated back to the previous year, letting Chyna know the affair had gone on at least a year. Within five minutes, she called Vince McMahon to figure out what was going on. Vince admitted, “Okay, well, the jig is up.” An angry and emotional Chyna confronted Stephanie the following Monday at a RAW taping, only for Vince to send Chyna home to calm down, promising to discuss a new contract. By time Chyna got home, she received a fax stating her services in WWE were no longer needed. After all the hard work that Chyna dedicated to WWE for four years, Vince fired her for the sake of Trips and Steph’s love affair.
7. Burying Talent
Triple H is no stranger to burying talent on-screen. He’s been accused of burying countless stars ranging from RVD, Booker T, Goldberg, Sting, etc. The list seems endless. He’s even been accused by creative writers Alex Greenfield and Court Bauer of burying the in-ring abilities of talents (like Bobby Lashley and CM Punk) backstage. Vince McMahon has also buried a handful of stars as well, which is strange considering he’s supposed to use his high company position to build stars that will make him money, not hinder them. Most publicly, he buried Swiss superstar Cesaro in a podcast interview with Stone Cold Steve Austin for failing to grab the proverbial brass ring. Ironically enough, Vince stating that Cesaro was charisma-less and failed to connect with audiences inspired Cesaro’s fans to be even more vocal about their love for the Swiss Superman, even creating Cesaro Sections in every arena.
6. Killing the Competition
One of the worst things that Vince McMahon could’ve done on behalf of WWE was to buy out WCW. Taking out the competition is both a blessing and a curse: a blessing because by getting WCW out of the way, Vince doesn’t have to worry about their biggest rival taking them out of business first, but a curse because taking out their competition turned WWE into a complacent conglomerate. The product has no reason to up the ante or go out of their way to satisfy fans, so the WWE stopped trying. It has led to some dire, dull, and uneventful programming over the last decade as well as a never-ending push for Roman Reigns. If Reigns failed to connect with fans during the Attitude Era as he does now, his push as the top babyface would have been killed immediately as not to risk viewers being swayed over to WCW. Without any competition to sway over the fans, Vince just keeps trying with Roman Reigns despite making no progress whatsoever. Plus, because WWE is without proper competition, several wrestlers have been left without a stable alternative to WWE to make some good money in the business elsewhere. Triple H isn’t far off from doing the same by taking away so many of the top indie stars from their promotions in drones.
5. The Self Destruction of The Ultimate Warrior
Of all the childish and petty things that Vince has done in his career, releasing and producing The Self Destruction of The Ultimate Warrior has to rank up there with his pettiest. Vince used the documentary to paint his former top star, Ultimate Warrior, in a terrible light, deliberately getting his employees to either talk about the worst of Warrior or make him out to be the worst wrestler ever by exaggerating some unfortunate matches/incidents/moments. Triple H, especially, was harsh on Warrior, recalling how Warrior squashed the former Connecticut Blue-blood within minutes of their WrestleMania 12 bout. To be fair, it was never a secret that Warrior was difficult to work with even before the documentary was released, but airing all of the Warrior’s dirty laundry for the sake of a documentary years after Warrior and the company had already cut their ties was a petty move. All it did was give Warrior reason to sue Vince and his company.
4. 2002-05 Reign of Terror
The much maligned Reign of Terror refers to the timeframe when Triple H reigned supreme over WWE, specifically the Monday Night RAW brand. It all started the summer of 2002 when Triple H was awarded the World Heavyweight Championship without having to earn the newly introduced main championship of the brand. From here on out, he frequently won matches (even in times when he should have put his opponent over) and rarely lost or looked vulnerable, making for dull entertainment on the red brand. This reign saw The Game bury talent like Rob Van Dam (who was originally supposed to win the title at Unforgiven 2002, according to former creative member Steve Mates), Kane (using the sordid Katie Vick necrophilia angle) and Booker T (using racism). Trips’s close relationship to the McMahons made it easy for him to politic his way to the top of WWE. Thankfully, Batista defeating Trips at WrestleMania 21 put an end to this reign, although it’s still a shame that Vince McMahon let it go on for so long.
3. Firing CM Punk on His Wedding Day
CM Punk has made it no secret that his last couple years with WWE made him miserable. His final backstage meeting with Triple H and Vince McMahon saw the Straight Edge Superstar vent all of his pent up frustration against the corporate suits, especially Triple H, whom Punk admitted to resenting, pointing out that he didn’t need nor desire to wrestle the King of Kings at WrestleMania despite Triple H’s offer. This final interaction clearly left an impression on The Corporate Billionaire and his heir as they deliberately fired Punk on his wedding day to orchestrate their own harsh brand of payback. Personal grudges aside, even though Punk neglected to show up for work for four months, it seems a little overzealous to go out of their way to ruin Punk’s wedding day considering all of the hard work he did for the company, especially during his historic 434-day reign as WWE Champion.
2. The Curtain Call
The 1996 Curtain Call of Madison Square Garden is often considered by wrestling purists to be the night that kayfabe died. Kayfabe refers to the veil of illusion where fans look at pro wrestling as “real,” and on May 19th, 1996, Kliq brothers Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash (then Diesel), and Scott Hall (then Razor Ramon) threw that veil out the window. Following the main event cage match between Diesel and Michaels, Razor and Triple H ran down to the ring so that all four men could embrace each other for a goodbye hug, even though Trips and Diesel were bad guy characters opposing HBK’s and Razor’s good guy characters. Plus, at this point, Diesel and Razor were packing their bags for enemy territory: WCW. For all these reasons, the backstage brass grew furious and decided to punish the rookie Triple H to make a point. The sad part about all of this is that The Kliq actually asked Vince beforehand if they could hug it out one last time in the ring in front of the crowd, and he approved it, although reluctantly. It wasn’t until the four received backlash for the moment that Vince decided punishment was necessary.
1. Screwing Bret
The single moment that is considered, to this day, to be the most disrespectful travesty of the wrestling business is the infamous Montreal Screwjob. It was disrespectful to a veteran like Bret Hart, disrespectful to the fans who paid to see a proper main event finish, and disrespectful to the wrestling business as a whole. Countless wrestlers have commented on how the Montreal Screwjob is not how a promoter is supposed to do business even if Vince had his back against the wall. If Shawn Michaels is to be believed, Vince McMahon would have never had the idea to screw Bret if not for Triple H planting it in his head. As Michaels revealed in his Heartbreak and Triumph book, himself, Trips, and Vince were all in a meeting struggling to figure out how to get the title off Bret when he refused to do the job for HBK. Triple H came up with a simple solution: “F*ck him. If he doesn’t want to do business, we’ll do business for him.” This convinced Vince to take the title off Bret in the most controversial way possible. Despite what Vince McMahon may want you to think, Vince screwed Bret. And to be quite honest, so did Triple H.