For many in the WWE locker room, particularly the young guys, Vince McMahon is someone who should be avoided at all costs. Over the past couple of decades, he has built up a reputation as a raging egomaniac, infuriated by the slightest difference of opinion, misunderstanding, or bodily function. For some, however, the Chairman of WWE is a cuddly teddy bear whom you can snuggle up with whenever you’re feeling down. Okay, maybe not, but some superstars certainly find him a lot more approachable than others.
Mr. McMahon has grown close to a number of WWE superstars over the years. While those superstars admittedly exist in small quantity, they are proof that the boss has a human side and needs companionship just as much as anybody else. Some, if not most, have benefitted from forging a relationship with Vince, while others have seen their careers falter but have stayed close to the boss simply because they enjoy his company. Yes, working relationships rule all else in WWE and everybody in the back views Vince McMahon as the ultimate authority figure, but he is also a father figure, a drinking buddy, and a lover (if you believe the internet wrestling community and disgruntled former employees).
Here are 15 WWE superstars you didn’t know were close friends with Vince McMahon.
15 The Brooklyn Brawler
Steve Lombardie, known to WWE fans as The Brooklyn Brawler, never had a great in-ring career with WWE. He was the ultimate jobber and reared his leathery head only to be handily defeated by more popular superstars. However, he spent more than 30 years working behind the scenes.
Owing to his close friendship with Vince McMahon, Lombardie was kept on the payroll and given odd jobs for three decades to ensure he always had a steady source of income. Some even say that McMahon would go out of his way to protect Lombardie from various sexual assault lawsuits, brought on by his inability to control himself around WWE divas and other female employees.
At the end of the day, however, business is business and The Brooklyn Brawler was quietly let go earlier this year. According to backstage reports, Vince had been growing unhappy with Lombardie’s work, which he felt had been decreasing in quality for several years. The last straw came when Brawler called into The Taz Show, a podcast hosted by the former SmackDown announcer in which he frequently criticizes the WWE product. Vince saw this as an act of betrayal by somebody he had looked out for and sent Lombardie packing.
14 André The Giant
André The Giant was a favorite of Vince McMahon Sr. as he helped establish the WWWF as the number one professional wrestling promotion in the United States. Vince Sr. passed his love of the giant down to his son, who used André to launch Hulk Hogan into superstardom.
At WrestleMania 3, McMahon, like everybody else in the back, was unsure if André would go through with what was requested of him (allowing Hogan to slam him). The gargantuan Frenchman went along with the plan, cementing WrestleMania as the show of shows and Hulk Hogan as the most popular entertainer in the world. Vince was eternally grateful.
André was also close friends with Vince’s family and frequently pops up in the McMahon family photo album, where he’ll live forever as a gentle giant. The other side of André, the ferocious in-ring competitor who tore through his opponents like a hurricane or oversized kidney stone, lives on in the WWE Hall of Fame, of which he was the first inductee.
13 Bruno Sammartino
Like André the Giant, Bruno Sammartino was close friends with Vince’s father, who, as everybody knows, kept the WWE World Championship on Bruno for almost eight years straight.
However, Bruno’s relationship with Vince Jr. has been a strained one. The pair had a falling out during the 1980s when Bruno decided Vince was taking the product away from what it was supposed to be. Steroids, nudity, and swearing drove Sammartino out of WWE and he refused to have anything to do with McMahon and his company for almost three decades.
In 2013, with Triple H playing peacemaker, Bruno and Vince Jr. managed to patch things up and The Living Legend finally accepted an induction into the WWE Hall of Fame. Since then, Vince has honored Bruno with multiple “Bruno appreciation nights”, perhaps trying to makeup for all the years he pretended the longest reigning WWE World Champion in history didn’t exist.
12 Roman Reigns
A lot of the younger guys on the WWE roster find it hard to interact with the bossman, choosing instead to bring their problems to his son-in-law, Triple H. Roman Reigns, however, has been able to get pretty close to Vince, possibly due to the fact he has the kind of look Vince is crazy about.
Since the moment Roman Reigns showed up for his first day in WWE developmental, Vince is said to have been enamored with him. He made sure his wonder-kid was protected in NXT and during his early days with The Shield, and even took to personally writing Roman’s promos when he broke out on his own.
Vince is so dedicated to making his buddy a success that he even considered covering up Reigns’ failed drug test earlier this year, though he eventually accepted that it would cause more problems than it solved.
When Marc Mero had his first meeting with Vince McMahon, the Chairman of the company was completely blown away. Unfortunately for Marc, it was his wife, Rena, who left the greatest impression on McMahon. According to Jim Cornette, Vince and Kevin Dunn didn’t say a word about Mero after the meeting had ended, instead choosing to discuss how amazing his wife was.
Vince persuaded Sable to sign with the company and spent the next couple of years making sure everything was just right for her. He turned her from a model with zero personality or in-ring experience to the WWE Women’s Champion and Playboy covergirl. The boss is said to have been totally dedicated to making sure Sable didn’t want for anything during her time with the company, even presenting her with occasional gifts.
Although Sable is no longer with WWE, it is likely that her relationship with Vince McMahon has played a part in the way Brock Lesnar, her current husband, has been booked in recent years.
10 Shawn Michaels
Although he fired Shawn Michaels for unprofessional behavior during the 1980s, Vince McMahon has always had a soft spot for The Heartbreak Kid. After bringing Michaels back to the company, Vince immediately began to work towards a singles run for him. He split up The Rockers, HBK’s tag team with Marty Jannetty, gave Michaels the Intercontinental Championship, and eventually had him take the WWE World Championship from Bret Hart at WrestleMania XII.
Michaels and Vince grew so close during the 90s that rumors began to circulate that they were involved in a secret homosexual relationship. Although that probably isn’t true, the stories of the true extent of their bromance persist to this day, though they are usually spread by guys who have been let go from WWE under acrimonious circumstances.
9 Hardcore Holly
Hardcore Holly was never a major star in WWE, but he was a guy the company could go to when they needed somebody to put over a new guy in a decent match. Although Holly never progressed beyond the mid-card, he remained with WWE for over a decade, in large part due to his friendship with Vince McMahon.
After signing Holly to the then World Wrestling Federation in 90s, McMahon took it upon himself to get to know his new signee personally, something which he liked to do at the time. After a number of lengthy conversations with Holly, Vince learned that he had a passion for NASCAR, and so the Spark Plug gimmick was born.
While performing as Spark Plug, Bob Holly would regularly appear in vignettes alongside a custom made, fully functional race car, which had been commissioned by the company. After the gimmick was abandoned and Holly was repackaged, McMahon gifted him the car, ensuring years of loyal duty from the perpetual mid-carder.
8 The Big Show
During his WWE Network interview with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin earlier this year, multi-time world champion The Big Show discussed his continued success in WWE. Show put his longevity down to the fact he went out of his way to build a friendship with the boss.
The Big Show encouraged the younger superstars to make friends with Vince and find a way to make their relationship unique. But getting into McMahon’s good books might not be so easy today. Show came on board in the late 1990s when Vince was still very much involved with his superstars. He was on TV every week and worked with everyone on the roster, which gave each performer a chance to get close to him. Things are different today and the boss is said to be a lot more professional behind the scenes than he was in the past. Nevertheless, Vince McMahon remains extremely fond of his modern day André and seems to have ensured him a job for life.
7 Triple H
Not everybody has a great relationship with their father-in-law (a fact which I, sadly, can attest to). And Triple H certainly had the odds stacked against him when he married Vince’s daughter, considering young Stephanie McMahon had been instructed to never become romantically involved with a wrestler. However, Hunter has managed to win over the boss through gifts, dinners, and an unwavering dedication to his work. That last one is a surefire way to the boss’ black heart.
Vince’s relationship with Triple H really went to the next level after Shane McMahon left the company in 2009. With his only biological son gone and his daughter occupied raising her children, Vince turned to Hunter. His son-in-law gave him somebody to mentor, to prepare for a high position in the company. Vince gave Trips the gift of a very particular kind of knowledge; knowledge which made the WWE a global phenomena. In return, Triple H gave Vince the gift of a fossilized dinosaur head, which hangs in his office to this day as a symbol of his ferocious appetite for life.
6 The Undertaker
Few superstars have been as loyal to Vince McMahon as The Undertaker. Mark Calaway signed with the company in 1990 and was presented with a gimmick which a lot of other guys would have taken as an insult. However, Calaway embraced the somewhat cartoonish Undertaker gimmick and made it his own, quickly rising through the ranks and becoming one of the biggest stars in the company.
During the Monday Night Wars, The Undertaker could have very easily jumped ship to WCW, which must have been pretty tempting during WWE’s darkest hour. However, The Deadman stayed and helped WWE regain its position as the top wrestling promotion in the world by putting on stellar matches against the likes of Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and Steve Austin. Taker’s unwavering loyalty to Vince McMahon and his willingness to do whatever is asked of him has made him one of McMahon’s closest friends in the business.
Vince has made no secret about his love of The Undertaker character and Mark Calaway the person. He has even stated that Calaway is his favorite WWE superstar of all time.
5 Kurt Angle
Because Kurt Angle walked away from WWE at the height of his career, many people assume his relationship with Vince McMahon was not all that great. However, Angle’s friendship with the boss is well-documented and unlike any other.
When Angle started working with WWE in the late 1990s, he and Vince McMahon hit it off right away. McMahon had an immense level of respect for Angle, who had captured a gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games for freestyle wrestling.
He and Angle would spend much of their time backstage ribbing each other and it is said that McMahon would often sneak up behind the former Olympic wrestler and attempt to take him to the ground, showing off his grappling skills. During one such encounter, Angle managed to get on top of Vince and pin him down. Their scuffle was loud enough to wake a sleeping Undertaker, who had been dozing nearby. Unaware of their game, Taker believed Angle was legitimately attacking the boss and so sprang from his bed and choked out the freestyle wrestling legend. Another example of The Undertaker’s remarkable dedication to his employer.
4 Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho is the envy of a lot of the older superstars on the WWE roster. He is free to come and go as he pleases, performing in a couple of main event level feuds every year before taking some time away to tour with Fozzy, his inexplicably successful rock band.
Of course, Jericho has earned this sweet deal through years of hard work and sacrifice, it also doesn’t hurt that he has built up a close and long lasting relationship with Vince McMahon.
Vince and Chris are said to get on great behind the scenes and stay in contact even when Jericho isn’t working for WWE. Y2J has revealed that he has Vince’s personal phone number and frequently communicates with him over text for years. In fact, after Jericho’s infamous locker room brawl with Bill Goldberg, Vince texted him not to reprimand him for his unprofessional behavior, but to congratulate him for coming out victorious.
3 John Cena
Probably the most obvious entry on this list. Vince McMahon has done more for John Cena than he has done for any other WWE superstar over the past decade, and Cena, in return, has done more for the company than any of his peers.
Cena is probably the only guy on the planet who dedicates as much time to WWE as Vince McMahon, and he has adopted several of McMahon’s mantras about the running of the business. He has described McMahon as a genius and a father figure, which is a nice thing to hear but makes you feel bad for his actual father.
It is said that Cena is one of few people who can speak up and criticize Vince without fear of being punished. In fact, it was reported a number of years ago that Cena told McMahon WWE was going to “Hell is a hand basket” and it was all his fault.
2 Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon have had a strained relationship over the years. Together, Hogan and McMahon turned WWE into a global brand in the early 1980s and became very rich men of each other’s back. However, their relationship soured when Hogan went to WCW in the mid-90s, but they patched things up shortly after. Over the past decade, the pair have had numerous falling outs but have always managed to forgive and forget.
When Hogan returned to WWE in 2014, he described how wonderful it was to finally be back “home”, working for Vince McMahon. The boss welcomed Hogan back with open arms and acknowledged him as an integral part of the company. He even threw The Hulkster and elaborate party on Raw to celebrate his 61st birthday.
When Hogan was released from WWE in the summer of 2015 for a racist tirade dating back several years, many speculated that he would never be reinstated. However, the company has recently been reintroducing Hogan to the product through video packages and merchandise, proving once again that Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan just can’t live without each other.
1 Bret Hart
Bret Hart’s relationship with Vince McMahon is well-documented. The two were at odds for many years after the 1997 Survivor Series pay-per-view, the scene of the infamous Montreal Screwjob. Before that night, however, Hart and McMahon were pretty close.
The Hitman first joined WWE in the 1980s, when everybody in the company, the Chairman included, would spend the nighttime hours partying. Alongside The Hart Foundation, Vince consumed boatloads of cocaine and alcohol and would often attempt to wrestle Bret in his inebriated state. Hart has even recalled hitting McMahon with The Hart Attack, The Hart Foundation’s signature move, on one particularly drunk, playful night.
In recent years, Hart and Vince have managed to get back on speaking terms and Vince has honored Bret’s contributions to the company with DVDs, tribute nights, and an induction into the WWE Hall of Fame. The two have worked closely over the past couple of years to secure a Hall of Fame induction for Bret’s departed brother Owen, which has been repeatedly held up due to Owen’s widow.