The famous story goes that Vince McMahon mortgaged the future of the WWF on the first WrestleMania show. This is pro wrestling. You can never really be sure - but this was the company's first attempt to broadcast a pro wrestling show via closed circuit TV on a national scale. It was without precedent, and was thus a risky proposition in and of itself.
Even McMahon, a man so averse to weakness that he allegedly cannot stomach sneezing in his presence, knows enough about storytelling to realise the power of an underdog tale. 'Mania wasn't quite do or die - the WWF could have survived in some form, with financial assistance - but the complexion of pro wrestling would look entirely different today, had the show failed. The national expansion wouldn't have happened, and the domino effect of that alternative timeline is impossible to parse.
The WWF was in debt before 'Mania, and emerged from it in the black. The show was a crucial smash success, and that success was born from both careful strategy and serendipity. McMahon stockpiled a wealth of celebrities to appear on the show and frogmarched his actual wrestling stars onto mainstream platforms prior to it, with Hulk Hogan grabbing much-needed headlines through knocking TV personality Richard Belzer out with a reluctant, impromptu guillotine choke.
And pity the fool who doesn't recognise the importance of Mr. T. His contribution to the main event was famously dire, but it didn't matter. He could barely wrestle, but he was insanely popular.
On that evidence, McMahon's subsequent business model is easy enough to fathom.