Monday – Part 1, Dr. George Zahorian
Tuesday – Part 2, 1992 Drug and Sex Scandals
Wednesday – Part 3, 1994 Drug Trial
Thursday – Part 4, The Defense Lawyer, the “Fixer,” and the Playboy Model
TODAY – Part 5, Aftermath
Saturday – Part 6, Waxman Committee Interview
Sunday – Part 7, Conclusion
In the mid- and late 1990s, WWF lost millions of dollars and significant pro wrestling market share in fierce competition with Ted Turner’s Atlanta-based World Championship Wrestling. Vince McMahon turned the tide of the war in his favor with a series of creative decisions that made major crossover stars out of wrestlers Steve Austin and, later, “The Rock” (now movie actor Dwayne Johnson).
In one of those decisions, McMahon turned himself from a “babyface” (good guy) to a “heel” (bad guy). Previously he had been known on camera only as a sympathetic TV announcer. Now he was pushed as “Mr. McMahon,” a greedy and manipulative corporate boss. The impetus for the big switch was McMahon’s set of dealings with his champion wrestler of the time, Bret Hart, before Hart left WWF for WCW. The scenario culminated in a November 1997 in-ring double-cross of Hart known as the “Montreal screwjob.”
In 1999 WWF broke attendance and profit records, and Vince and Linda McMahon decided to take their closely held company, TitanSports Inc., public. (World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc., was originally traded on the Nasdaq stock exchange. In the settlement of a trademark dispute with the World Wildlife Fund, the company would be renamed World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. WWE stock is now traded on the New York Stock Exchange.)
In media accounts hyping the October 1999 initial public stock offering, Vince McMahon played up both his status as a cartoon villain and the perceived link to his real-life persona. McMahon ridiculed his federal prosecution five years earlier and even added a dose of fiction, falsely stating that he had been convicted of one of the charges.
To remind himself of this last talking point, McMahon kept a note about it on the cuff of his shirt.
NEXT: Part 6, Waxman Committee Interview