It’s a happy 71st birthday to promoter, commentator, announcer, film producer, actor, and retired professional wrestler Vincent Kennedy McMahon. Or Vince McMahon for short.
Born in Pinehurst, North Carolina, Vince had a tough childhood. Vince spent the majority of his childhood living with a string of stepfathers and his mother, as his biological father, Vincent Jess and Vince Jr. didn't meet until age 12 when his father was promoting for Capitol Wrestling Corporation. In a 2001 interview, Vince claimed one of his stepfathers beat his mother and would beat on him too while trying to protect her, saying he wished he could have killed him. He overcame dyslexia and graduated from a military school in Virginia in 1964 and from East Carolina University with a business degree in 1968.
Though Vince Sr. was not thrilled with his son getting into the wrestling business, Vince Jr. got into the wrestling business in 1969 as an in-ring announcer for WWWF All-Star Wrestling. He promoted his first card in Maine in 1971, and later in the year becoming the regular play-by-play announcer for the WWF, a role he would regularly serve until November 1997. Vince McMahon would play an integral part in promotion within and outside of the company in the 1970s, including promoting the boxer-wrestler bout between Muhammad Ali and Antonio Inoki in 1976, changing the WWWF to the WWF, expanding their television reach through syndication, and buying the Cape Cod Coliseum.
By 1980, Vince had become chairman of the WWF, and two years later, as part of Titan Sports Inc., he would buy Capitol Wrestling Corporation from his father. From there, McMahon would eschew decades of common practice and understanding that no promoter would invade the territory of another. He expanded from the Northeastern territory to a true national promotion, acquiring top talent from other territories, use pop music stars in pro wrestling storylines (known loosely as the Rock ‘n Wrestling Connection), rebrand and market wrestling to a family audience (many of whom had never seen wrestling before), and promote some of his biggest shows on closed circuit television and later pay-per-view. His biggest acquisition, Hulk Hogan in late 1983, would be the face of the late-1980s pro wrestling boom, highlighted by a record (yet disputed) crowd of over 93,000 at the Pontiac Silverdome for Wrestlemania III.
The treading into other territories would not go unnoticed, but often went unchallenged, as only a few promoters the financial backing to put up a fight. One of the few was the popular Georgia Championship Wrestling. The infamous Black Saturday of 1984 drew the ire of GCW fans (WWF’s over-the-top cartoonish style was in direct contrast to GCW’s gritty and athletic style), and promotions that had presented a similar style to GCW often outrated the WWF’s Saturday night program.
With the situation hopeless, McMahon sold the timeslot to Jim Crockett Promotions; Crockett would in turn sell his promotion to media mogul Ted Turner, who would rebrand it World Championship Wrestling. Turner's WCW fought tooth and nail with Vince's WWF for years, driving the WWF to the brink of bankruptcy. He also driven to near ruin in a much publicized trial when he was accused of distributing steroids to his performers in 1994, but despite admitting to taking steroids in the 1980s, McMahon was acquitted on all charges.
Things began to turn for the WWF ironically in late 1997 when McMahon manipulated Bret Hart out of the WWF Championship on his last night with the company in an incident dubbed "The Montreal Screwjob". From real-life drama, the Mr. McMahon character was born. Around this time, it was revealed Vince McMahon had owned the company he did the announcing for. His feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin was the focal point of the Attitude Era that resulted in a second wrestling boom in the late 1990s and early 2000s, a boom that would ultimately result in the WWF purchasing WCW and its assets for just $5 million in 2001 (though the final purchase price changes depending on who's telling the story). McMahon would also acquire the defunct ECW in 2003, leaving the renamed WWE as the only major wrestling promotion in North America for years.
Wrestling-wise, McMahon, believe it or not, is a former WWF and ECW world champion, having won them in 1999 and 2007 respectively. He also won the 1999 Royal Rumble match. McMahon would expand his ventures outside of professional wrestling on multiple occasions, often failing spectacularly, most notably the World Bodybuilding Federation in the early 1990s and the XFL in 2001.
Vince McMahon has two children with his wife of nearly 40 years Linda, as well as six grandchildren. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and is a member of the first Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame class in 1996.