Vince McMahon has been the most powerful man in professional wrestling for at least the past three decades and with good reason. The CEO of WWE has lived and breathed nothing but the industry he controls ever since his father introduced him to it from an early age. This single-minded focus has allowed Vince to achieve unmatched success and incredible wealth, but it also prevented him from living a normal, everyday life. This is probably the way Vince prefers things, even though on certain occasions living in his self-created wrestling bubble has resulted in Vince appearing embarrassingly close to losing his mind.
Wrestling fans often picture Vince as being similar to his wrestling character, and while that probably isn’t true about every aspect of his personality, in some ways the representation isn’t that far off. Because Vince cares so heavily about his own product, he doesn’t have the time to consume other popular culture, and sometimes even world news. Vince doesn’t even watch other wrestling, so he can’t even learn residual bits of information through their more current or up-to-date references.
Most of the evidence that Vince might not have his finger on the pulse of modern times comes from his own programming. Audiences have loudly screamed in his face they want one thing only for him to brazenly give them the opposite while having JBL mock the crowd. It is in that same spirit we implore you to keep reading and discover 15 bizarre instances where Vince McMahon completely lost touch with reality.
15. He Forgot Luke Gallows Was Festus
The WWE debuts of Bullet Club members A.J. Styles, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson were such big deals most wrestling fans forgot about Gallows first several stints in the company. With gimmicks like Festus and The Fake Kane, Gallows probably considers this a good thing. He definitely thinks it’s a good thing one person in particular forgot about those gimmicks, even going so far as to joke he might not have been hired if they remembered. Obviously, we’re talking about Vince, who apparently didn’t remember anything about Gallows or his prior characters when he brought him back as part of the deal with A.J. and Anderson. Gallows explained as much during an interview with Sam Roberts not long after his return, claiming the fact has since become a running joke between him and other WWE executives. Producer Mark Carrano in particular regularly threatens he’ll remind Vince about Festus as a rib to throw Gallows off moments before he heads to the ring, and yet apparently McMahon still hasn’t had his memory jogged.
14. He Doesn’t Get The Big Deal About Cesaro
The word underrated has strong connotations, though this hasn’t stopped people from overusing it to an extent it lost its power. However, it still holds some weight when virtually the entire wrestling community is in agreement WWE is making a mistake on a particular wrestler, which has pretty much happened with Cesaro. The Swiss Superstar has been voted the Most Underrated Wrestler by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter three years in a row, and almost every WWE legend who cared to voice their opinion on the matter agreed with the assessment. Even so, when “Stone Cold” Steve Austin presented McMahon with this opinion on his podcast in December of 2014, McMahon flat out said he just didn’t think Cesaro had “it.” Citing a lack of charisma and microphone skills, McMahon argued Cesaro’s reliance on his European style was holding him back, when in fact that same unique style is what makes him stand out in the first place. It’s one thing for McMahon to feel out of touch with reality at large, and yet cases like this show the most frustrating instances on this list are typically the ones where Vince doesn’t understand his own product.
13. He Wanted A Dead Person To Host Raw
Depending on how one feels about the concept, Vince McMahon’s decision to have Raw hosted by celebrity guests in the middle of 2009 might in and of itself be enough to convince a person he doesn’t understand what his fans want. Especially given the celebrities chosen, certain fans thought the guest hosts didn’t have anything to do with wrestling and tended to distract from the product at hand. It isn’t fair to generalize the whole angle because some hosts definitely gave it their all, although a couple also deserved all the criticism they got. Of the many hosts selected, the most questionable choice was one that never actually made the air, namely Ray Combs. Combs was the host of Family Feud from 1988 to 1994, and he previously collaborated with WWE at WrestleMania VIII and Survivor Series 1993. He also sadly committed suicide in 1996, a fact that Vince McMahon was apparently unaware of in 2010 when he told his staff to contact Combs about a guest hosting stint. To be fair, Combs was never a huge star and his death was hardly national news, but the story nonetheless reflects how little attention Vince pays to the realities of life.
12. He Thought People Would Love Bodybuilding
Although professional bodybuilding has a small amount in common with professional wrestling, the similarities are nowhere near strong enough to assume there would be any amount of crossover between the two audiences. WWE had already proven they don’t every time two wrestlers had a pose down, never getting crowds to react even when big stars like Triple H or Rick Rude get involved. Vince McMahon nevertheless firmly believed his fans would watch in droves when he announced he was forming the World Bodybuilding Federation in 1990. The first WBF Pay-Per-View event followed in June of ’91, receiving mostly negative reviews from critics, even those who liked bodybuilding competitions in general. The WBF instantly went back on its promise not to make things showy over-the-top as WWE, turning off fans and making many assume the bodybuilding was as scripted as wrestling. A second event was held the next year, earning even less fans and causing McMahon to disband the WBF and leave the failed experiment behind.
11. What He Saw When Kane Saw No Evil
Films produced by WWE Studios have generally been hit or miss, with the first major release See No Evil falling firmly within the miss category. While a few hardcore slasher fans might appreciate the cliché pseudo-horror of Gregory Dark’s film, most critics found it predictable and even worse, not particularly scary. If things went Vince McMahon’s way, it also could have been absolutely bizarre thanks to the addition of one small additional scene that thankfully never got filmed, or even fully scripted. According to former WWE writer Dan Madigan, who also wrote the film script, McMahon strongly pitched for a scene to depict Kane’s character Jacob Goodnight pleasuring himself and revealing an inhuman three foot long penis. Madigan refused to put the idea in his script feeling it served absolutely no purpose and would have simply been weird, with McMahon’s only justification that it would make Goodnight appear more monstrous. There’s no doubt it would serve that purpose in one way or another, although most viewers probably would be too distracted by how insane what they were watching was to care about the point.
10. He Wanted To Be Stephanie’s Baby Daddy
Despite what we see on TV, the McMahon family are by all accounts a tight-knit unit filled with genuine affection and love for one another. Idyllically normal as this sounds, with a patriarch like Vince McMahon, sometimes that affection and love can present itself in ways that can only be described as emotionally disturbing. The worst such example came in 2006, when Vince McMahon wanted to run a storyline where the paternity of his daughter Stephanie’s first child would be uncertain, with the ultimate reveal Vince had sired his own grandson. Stephanie outright refused the idea, and went on to do the same when Vince counter-suggested Shane be the father instead. The Billion Dollar Princess herself revealed the story on the WWE released “McMahon” DVD, instantly freaking out everyone in the WWE Universe. Vince allegedly felt incest was the ultimate taboo that television would never touch, and thus hoped to feel more cutting-edge by running a related angle with such high profile players. Thankfully, Stephanie realized he was playing things way to close to home and most fans wouldn’t be able to disconnect to reality like he had, letting the idea fall to the cutting room floor where it belonged.
9. He Micromanages His Announcers To Make Them Unlistenable
Every armchair wrestling booker has been repeating ad nauseam that a serious problem exists amongst the current WWE broadcast team (present company included). The blame lies squarely on Vince McMahon’s shoulders, thanks to his constant micromanaging of his announcers, as outlined on a leaked Raw script that appeared online in the summer of 2015. The notes made it clear Vince believed his announcers should focus more on catchphrases, branding, and bylines rather than anything related to the wrestlers or their storylines and matches. The worst part is McMahon has been doing this so long he obviously believes it’s a good idea that somehow enhances his product rather than destroy it. The more vocal fans have been about his announce teams sucking, the more McMahon instructs them to chuckle and smile about how much fun they’re having, a huge part of why fans can’t stand them in the first place. If anything, Vince and company are doubling down on their most annoying impulses, creating their own reality rather than acknowledging the outside world.
8. He Thought Brock Lesnar’s Hometown Crowd Would Boo Him
The unexpected return of Goldberg to WWE took casual and hardcore wrestling fans alike entirely by storm, with The Man shocking the world by fast proving he’s still one of the most popular superstars in wrestling. Popular as Goldberg was and still is, he wasn’t without his detractors, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering there was always a strong anti-Goldberg contingent even when he was at his peak. People who dislike Goldberg have generally been quiet as of late, aside from one key episode of Raw on October 24. That night, the audience loudly cheered anything and everything related to Goldberg’s rival Brock Lesnar, going so far as to chant “Goldberg Sucks” when Lesnar hit the ring with his advocate, Paul Heyman. This wasn’t some simple anomaly, though—the episode was broadcast from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Lesnar’s hometown. Vince McMahon was reportedly livid Brock’s fellow Minnesotans were on his side, despite the fact decades of wrestling history made it pretty obvious fans will always support a hometown hero over just about anyone else. The Chairman was so mad he actually cut the segment short when it was live, a sign he can’t handle facing reality when it slaps him in the face.
7. He Didn’t Know What Scarface Is
Brian De Palma’s 1983 Scarface isn’t without a handful of detractors, but most fans and critics are in agreement the Al Pacino gangster flick is one of the best of its kind. Pacino’s character Tony Montana specifically is considered one of the all time greatest anti-heroes, with his deep Cuban accent and violent tenacity making him a cinematic icon. Scarface’s popularity later inspired Scott Hall to rip off Tony Montana in a pitch meeting with Vince McMahon and Pat Patterson, neither of whom had even so much as heard of the movie. Hall couldn’t have been more blatant about his imitation, using lines and phrases Montana originated, and yet Vince and Patterson were never able to catch on. Maybe it isn’t fair to expect Vince to see every movie out there, but especially with how much he cares about pop culture and mainstream acceptance, a reasonable expectation can be made that he’s at least interested in celebrity culture. Considering Scarface is one of the most iconic roles of one of Hollywood’s most iconic stars, one would think Vince heard about it at some point, and yet his obsession with wrestling still managed to entirely block it out.
6. He Thinks Eye Patches Are Exclusively For Pirates
A fairly infamous rumor that won’t be appearing on this list claims Vince McMahon had no idea what Pirates of the Caribbean was at the time Paul Burchill ran his infamous buccaneer based gimmick circa 2006. However, Burchill claimed it was Vince who came up with the idea and agreed with Burchill when he suggested he add elements of Keith Richards to the character, putting that rumor to rest. This wasn’t the only pirate gimmick in WWE, though, and the first one does indeed have an odd story behind it. Pierre Ouellet enjoyed moderately successful careers in both WWE and WCW, the peak of his fame occurring in the early ‘90s as a member of World Tag Team Championship winning team The Quebecers. His Quebecois partner Jacques Rougeau briefly retired in 1994 leading to Ouellet rebranding himself as a pirate, although that wasn’t his original idea. Ouellet, who genuinely lost an eye in a childhood accident, simply wanted to wear an eye patch when he wrestled to add an element of overcoming adversity to his character. Once he pitched the idea to Vince, though, McMahon apparently believed that the only people who wear eye patches are pirates. If a real non-pirate wearing an eye patch working for him for several years wasn’t enough to convince him that wasn’t the case, chances are nothing will.
5. He Didn’t Know What A Burrito Was Despite Eating Them Every Day
Before we get into this one, let’s be fair about something. There are probably lots of people in this world who don’t know what a burrito is. It seems weird to those of us who enjoy them on the regular, but certain places and cultures around the world simply don’t have exposure to one of Mexico’s greatest treats. Included amongst these cultures are the exceedingly wealthy, who don’t exactly hire large personal kitchen staffs merely to throw taco night. Vince McMahon proved he was one of those unlucky few never to have taken a culinary trip to the South of the Border on a 1984 episode of Tuesday Night Titans where he and Lord Alfred Hayes needed Tito Santana to explain to them what tacos, burritos, chalupas, and various other Mexican foods were. Almost 20 years later, WWE writer Dan Madigan would claim the segment was more than a bit, and in fact, Vince had apparently forgotten what Tito taught him over the ensuing two decades. In 2003, a storyline with Eddie Guerrero involved him lacing a burrito with laxatives, and when Madigan pitched this idea to McMahon, his boss argued they should try and think up a better food to use, because nobody would understand what a burrito was. The most bizarre thing about it: Vince ate a steak-wrap that looked identical to a burrito almost every day, simply never learning what it was called.
4. He Thinks Santino Is The Pinnacle Of Comedy
Don’t get us wrong: there have been countless hilarious pro wrestlers over the years, and sometimes even an unfunny wrestler has managed to be part of a gut busting scene thanks to Vince McMahon and his writers coming up with a particularly clever pairing. That said, comedy is such a wide and expansive medium that even if a wrestling company exclusively committed themselves to the genre they may not be able to come up with something for everyone. Despite this, Vince is so utterly obsessed with his own product he appears to believe otherwise, once going so far as to question one of his writers for daring watch a classic Richard Pryor performance on his laptop while riding the WWE corporate jet. That former employee happened to be Hollywood actor Freddie Prinze, Jr., who you’d think Vince would accept is someone outside the wrestling bubble. He didn’t quite realize that, however, questioning why Prinze was watching anything other than WWE. Prinze said he just wanted to laugh, making Vince reply, “We have Santino.” Santino Marella is a funny guy, but to act as though his comedy wrestling character somehow completely invalidates a man universally accepted as one of the greatest stand-up comedians of all time is such an absurd leap that it can’t be pure egomania, as some level of delusion or ignorance clearly needs to be involved.
3. He Suspended Titus O’Neil
Bad executives decisions can often get blown out of proportion, but this is in part because everything people with power do tends to be more, well, powerful to the people they do it do. In February of 2016, WWE superstar Titus O’Neil grabbed Vince McMahon’s arm during Daniel Bryan’s live retirement ceremony on Raw and earned himself a 90-day suspension from the company for unprofessional conduct. Fans harshly criticized the move, only growing stronger in fervor when it was revealed O’Neil did what he did only because he wanted Vince to let his daughter Stephanie leave the stage first in honor of “ladies first.” The blown out of proportion part came up because the event happened during Black History Month, and some critics believed Vince’s actions were racially motivated. Although they probably weren’t, it was still a huge overreaction to take away O’Neil’s livelihood for nearly three months for such an innocuous and irrelevant action. To his credit, O’Neil never complained and took his punishment in stride, even as the WWE Universe increasingly spoke out in his favor and called his boss crazy.
2. He Pushed Roman Reigns In Spite Of Fan Backlash
The never-ending push of Roman Reigns has lasted for a good three years thus far, and fans are still harshly rejecting his every move. It doesn’t matter how much Roman or anyone else proudly proclaims that he’s The Guy, fans simply don’t buy him as the top star of WWE. The worst examples of this were the 2015 and 2016 Royal Rumbles, the first of which saw Roman heavily booed upon winning. In 2016, he didn’t win, but was in the ring for approximately half of the match and only earned applause when he was eliminated. Reigns still went on to main event his second WrestleMania that year, winning the WWE Championship from Triple H. Later that year, he won the United States Championship and quickly wormed his way back into the top title scene, possibly finding himself en route to becoming a double champion with an even more impressive resume. Though crowds are slowly starting to accept Roman on a very basic level, but still boo him far more than he’s cheered. Never before has Vince so defiantly rejected his own fan base, even if he hasn’t always agreed with them.
1. He Thought He Could Take Down The NFL
The World Bodybuilding Federation was a huge misfire, but you can almost see why Vince McMahon thought there would be a crossover between wrestling and bodybuilding. Though we already said they don’t have much in common, and they don’t, there’s just enough in common that someone with Vince’s level of awareness could think big flashy muscles were enough to make them borderline identical. There is absolutely no connection, however, between pro wrestling and American football, or any other competitive sport for that matter. This didn’t stop Vince from partnering with NBC in 1999 to create the XFL, a rival football league intended to compete with the NFL. In his quest for a more cutting edge product, Vince added trash talk, scantily clad women, and hardcore violence to traditional football, all of which merely served to distract from the football and make the game feel trashier and lower class than what mainstream sports fans were used to. The only XFL season took place in 2001, and though the first episode received decent ratings, fans turned away in droves with less than half of the audience sticking around for week two. By the end, the XFL was receiving the lowest ratings in the history of major network primetime sports. WWE and NBC both lost in the neighborhood of $35 million in less than a year, a loss Vince by all accounts never saw coming in the slightest.
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