Vincent James “Vince” McMahon, better known as Vince McMahon, Sr. (July 6, 1914 – May 24, 1984) was an American professional wrestling promoter. He is best known for founding the American World Wide Wrestling Federation (now WWE) promotion.
Vincent James McMahon was born on July 6, 1914, in Harlem, New York. His father Roderick James “Jess” McMahon, an Irish American, was a successful boxing, wrestling and concert promoter who had worked with legendary Madison Square Garden promoter Tex Rickard, and his mother Rose, was a New Yorker of Irish descent. He had an older brother, Roderick Jr., and a younger sister, Dorothy. As a child Vince would often accompany his father to Madison Square Garden where he would play, and later, begin learning the family business.
McMahon saw the tremendous potential for growth that the pro wrestling industry had in the era following World War II, especially with the development of television and its insatiable need for new programming. Similar to boxing, wrestling took place primarily within a small ring and could be covered adequately by one or two cameras, and venues for it could readily be assembled in television studios, lessening production costs.
McMahon’s group, the Capitol Wrestling Corporation (he later renamed the group the WWWF World Wide Wrestling Federation) came to dominate professional wrestling in the 1950s and 1960s in what was then the nation’s most populous area, the Northeast. His control was primarily in Baltimore, New York, and New Jersey. (Despite its name, the WWWF was, like all pro wrestling promotions of its time, mostly a regional operation. It was however the one that came to dominate the most lucrative region).
In 1955, McMahon began airing his matches on television on Wednesday nights; the telecast originated from an old barn in Washington, D.C.
In her biography, wrestler The Fabulous Moolah claimed that McMahon was one of the first promoters to split gate proceeds with his wrestlers.
In 1982, McMahon sold the parent company of the then-WWF (having been rechristened the World Wrestling Federation) to his son Vincent Kennedy McMahon and his company Titan Sports, Inc. The younger Vince, much to his father’s initial concern, set out to make the WWF national and eventually worldwide in scope. “Had my father known what I was going to do,” the younger McMahon told Sports Illustrated in 1991, “he never would have sold his stock to me.” The younger McMahon’s competitive tactics were successful, and the WWF quickly became the most prominent exponents of “Sports Entertainment”. Today, it is now known simply as WWE (having previously been named World Wrestling Entertainment). McMahon, Sr.’s grandchildren Shane McMahon and Stephanie McMahon have also worked for WWE, although Shane resigned his position in January 2010.
McMahon had two sons Roderick McMahon II and a younger son, Vincent K. McMahon with his first wife Vicky H. Askew (Born 1920) in 1945. McMahon married his second wife, Juanita W. Johnston (1914–1998), and the couple lived in Fort Lauderdale in the mid-1950s.
According to many wrestlers & former employees, McMahon had the lifelong habit of carrying rolls of quarters and stacking them in his hand as a way of concentrating.
Unlike his son, McMahon, Sr. believed that the job of a promoter should be kept backstage or behind the scenes and should never interfere with the action in the ring. As a result McMahon almost never came down to the squared circle. He can however clearly be seen standing ringside during the infamous Madison Square Garden ‘Alley Fight’ between Sgt. Slaughter and Pat Patterson.
McMahon would never live to see WWE grow from a territorial promotion to what is now a worldwide organization. On May 24, 1984, McMahon died from pancreatic cancer. He was 69 years old. His death came just four months after Hulk Hogan defeated The Iron Sheik for the World Wrestling Federation Championship in Madison Square Garden on January 23, 1984, the match which launched Hulkamania and the 80s wrestling boom. He is buried in Bonnell Cemetery in Greenwich, Connecticut.