Ever since David Wolff gave him the idea for the Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection and hooked him up with MTV, Vincent Kennedy McMahon has been obsessed with going mainstream - and back then he’d only just started going national.
The irony is that despite his ambition and his desperation to leave rasslin’ behind, McMahon isn’t very good at being a mainstream corporate business fella. The only ideas of his own - the WBF, the XFL, grafting Linda into the Senate - were extravagant failures, getting off the ground through chutzpah alone (and an investment of umpteen millions of dollars) only to crash and burn.
No, there’s one thing that Vince McMahon is better at than anyone else in the world - and it’s the one thing he doesn’t want to be. An old school wrestling promoter.
You know, long hours and loud suits, starring in his own product, pushing his favourites despite the vocal urging of his audience. Playing dirty tricks and holding vicious grudges; surrounding himself with talent and nurturing a reputation for genius based on exploiting that talent.
He’s wrestling’s original horrible boss, the carny king of the screwjob. We’re skating past the 22nd anniversary of the most infamous screwjob the business has ever seen... but is that the only time Vince McMahon has screwed his own talent?
No chance. No chance in hell.
10. The Montreal Screwjob
Let's get the most notorious example out of the way first.
Briefly, WWF Champion Bret Hart was leaving for WCW but was ambivalent about dropping the title to real life nemesis Shawn Michaels; Vince McMahon changed the finish of their title match without telling him, calling for the bell while Hart was in the Sharpshooter, even though he hadn't tapped out.
There's been a lot of he-said-she-said over Montreal over the last two decades. Some people even think it was a work, but do you really think that Bret 'the Hitman' Hart would prioritise kayfabe over his own ego? The man says grace to himself at every meal.
Vince went on a PR offensive after the Screwjob, claiming that "Bret screwed Bret". Of course, the only reason that Vince was so paranoid about Hart dropping the title before he left was because Madusa had dropped the WWF Women's Championship in the trash on Nitro when she jumped ship two years earlier... and he'd persuaded Ric Flair to bring the Big Gold Belt over to the WWF when the Nature Boy was fired by WCW in 1991
Crapping on the opposition was part of the dirty tricks playbook in 1997, largely because Vince put it there. The key issue was that, despite the unwavering loyalty Hart had showed him (he was only leaving because Vince couldn't afford to pay him the raise he'd promised), McMahon didn't trust him to keep his word and drop the title on his terms. That's not on Bret... that's on Vince.