Vince McMahon: Media's Fearless Leader

Aug 29 18:29 2010 Nick DAlleva Print This Article

Vince McMahon, now CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), built his career to become a very powerful figure in the media and wrestling industry.

Many CEOs and business owners truly care about the dignity and worth of their companies. Despite recent events such as ENRON's debacle and the national problems caused by the severe money mismanagement skills of Bernard Madoff,Guest Posting most business related advisors genuinely mean well, if only on a small scale. Many CEO's are hands on and often spend many sleepless nights strategizing over new business plans. Although most CEO's are hands on, none are as ruthless, media savvy and proactive as WWE CEO, Vince McMahon.

Growing up around wrestling, Vince McMahon understands what it takes to keep an entertainment organization as such afloat for long existing periods of time. After taking control of the World Wrestling Federation in 1982 from his father, Vincent J. McMahon, McMahon expanded the company nationally. He had the forethought to break away from the strict North American audience that the former wrestling federation formerly considered a safe and steady market. After expanding he recognized success in the global market especially in the Japanese wrestling circuit. McMahon gained considerably success for the WWF after marketing wrestling legend, Mick Foley in Japan. McMahon realized that if Foley was a hit overseas, then many other wrestlers would do well in that market as well. The crossover appeal turned many Japanese and European viewers to follow American wrestlers back in North America. McMahon still uses this tactic today to draw in an international audience. On wrestler Dave Batista's DVD, “I Walk Alone”, McMahon explains Batista's appeal to the foreign audience in the Philippines due to the wrestler's heritage (WWE Batista). McMahon manages to gain viewers from across the world through the shrewd manipulation of wrestlers to appropriate foreign markets. Many wrestlers adopted McMahon's Japanese Wrestling market idea after they retired from American wrestling. Older legends such as Jake “The Snake” Roberts still manage to find money in Japanese wrestling entertainment. Aside from centering the media around himself due to his content, McMahon also uses himself as an important asset to keep his company straight ahead in the media market.

McMahon first appeared as a ringside announcer, commenting on the happenings inside the ring. It wasn't until long before McMahon fulfilled both his childhood dreams of wrestling and accomplished an entertainment first. The idea came from an incident in the 1997 survivor series were McMahon abruptly broke his calm demeanor as a ringside announcer and forced the outcome of a championship match due to business related reasons (WWE TV Shows). McMahon's decision  prevented fan favorite, Brett “The Hitman” Hart from winning the World Wrestling Federation Championship. McMahon interfered in this match because Hart's contract would soon expire and the wrestler signed with rival company, World Championship Wrestling. McMahon did not want his company's most coveted title to go a wrestler who was to soon leave. Many wrestling fans continue to refer to this incident as “The Montreal Screwjob”. McMahon decided to harness the audiences hate for his poor decision and give them a physical effigy for them to express their discontent. Vince transformed himself both physically and mentally to appear in the ring and wrestle as a villain character known as Mr.McMahon. McMahon sacrificed his public image in the business world, his own personal safety and his formerly hands off approach to “in ring” happenings to seemingly repent for his outburst and to satiate his own desire to be in the spotlight even though he was universally loathed by WWE fans. While McMahon was bashing heads in the ring and reversely getting his bashed in, he was reportedly making millions. He's the first CEO with such a hands on approach to create his own content using himself as part of the medium. Currently McMahon is on the Forbes 400 list as one of the richest men in America, his net worth weighs in at over a billion dollars (DiCarlo). McMahon wrestled for a number of years and continues to make appearances as his big, cocky boss man character that fans love to hate. Aside from injecting himself into his own show's storyline, McMahon decided to use the WWE's superstars to fuel future film vehicles.

In 2002, McMahon launched WWE Productions and they coproduced many his movies such as “The Scorpion King”, “The Rundown” and “Walking Tall”. All three films starred Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson which is probably why McMahon could snag a deal with some Hollywood Studios to see how he would venture in the film industry. In late 2006, WWE Productions launched two films. The first, “See No Evil” starred WWE Wrestler, Kane as a murderous pyscho who hunts down sexual active teenagers with a chained meat hook. It released around Halloween. The second film, titled, “The Marine” starred the WWE's most charismatic hero, John Cena as John Triton, a former United States  marine on a bullet riddled chase mission to retrieve his wife from the clutches of diamond thieves. Both films did well on the DVD market and opened the floodgates for WWE Productions to release a torrent of similar action themed films starring other notable wrestlers such as Ted DiBiase Jr, and Randy Orton. In 2006, McMahon also announced that the WWE's new action film, “The Condemned” starring “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Vinnie Jones was under production (World Wrestling Entertainment). “The Condemned” went on to have a large theatrical release in 2007. Most of the WWE films garner negative reviews from movie critics but McMahon continues to release every show with the same zeal and generous promotion fees.

Around the time of this revival of the World Wrestling Federation in the media market, McMahon changed the name of the company to World Wrestling Entertainment. The name change signified a change in both fan base and marketing strategy.  Now that McMahon and his company were churning out films, music albums, magazines, television shows and internet content, they needed  a new identity that signified their business as a dominator of global media instead of just a wrestling industry. The WWE's main television event, Monday Night RAW, often boasts through commercial lead ins that the program is the longest running episodic television show in history. The announcers, Michael Cole and Jerry “The King”  Lawler. often brag that WWE magazine is the number one most purchased magazine at Wal-Mart.

McMahon uses the internet to guide his viewers to each of his products. is a brilliant crafted site where a wrestling fan could get lost for hours with all of the content floating around in McMahon's personal media garden. The site advertises media content for three separate television shows (RAW, Smackdown and NXT Wrestling) and features other options such as event ticket purchase and information about pay per view events. Every wrestler on the site is given an extensive personal page as well as merchandise centered around said wrestler. McMahon's attention to detail shows on the site because he can make sure that each wrestling fan feels as though they can connect with their favorite WWE Superstar through the content that he provides. McMahon also utilizes all of his media resources to promote his upcoming content so intensely that it is almost impossible for average culture consuming person to forget that profession wrestling still exists. They are beaten over the head with advertisements from every angle of media. McMahon threads WWE Magazine with content updates that can be found online and he pushes his television content through various other internet and print methods. He makes sure that every person in world knows what he's producing. Even though Vince McMahon seemed to master all that he was capable of as a single man in this realm of media, he continued to push forward by creating larger and more diverse forms of content.

In Febuary of 2010, McMahon announced the launch of the WWE Television Network in 2011 (Vince McMahon). McMahon plans to keep his two biggest shows, SmackDown and Raw, on their current respective networks and plans to use his new television network to “enhance the two brands” (Vince McMahon). Within the next few months, McMahon will have control over an entire channel. He can screen the WWE movies on weekend nights and show WWE Classic Wrestlemania matches during weekdays as well as produce a smattering of new content to keep his most dedicated and maybe some of his even lesser fans glued to both their laptops and their televisions.

McMahon's business strategy will always work and he will never spread his content too thin for enjoyment for a few reasons. One, he has more wrestlers signed than he knows what to do with and he has his fingers deep in many wrestling schools around the world, poking for talent and two; wrestling fans are die hard. Most wrestling fans follow all content and information related to wrestling with a feverish vigor that puts most junkies to shame. Wrestling fans even find ways to circumvent the timed events and get right into the writer's scripts by searching through various wrestling gossip websites such as McMahon's only competition, TNA Wrestling, has rapidly falling ratings ever since moving up against Monday Night RAW on the same time slot on the first night of the work week. Many speculate that Vince McMahon plans to buy the failing TNA and one internet writer claims that in some strange subversive way, Vince McMahon already owns TNA Wrestling (WWE's Vince McMahon). Despite the competition, McMahon found a way to grab viewers at a younger age and hold them in fandom for the rest of their lives. McMahon launched the NXT Wrestling show early in 2010 on the SyFy network (WWE: Inside WWE). The show catalogues the “next” generation of younger amateur wrestlers before they reach such superstardom to be shown on Smack Down or RAW.  By creating a new list of wrestlers along with separate media content to promote each one, McMahon can rope in eve more fans by giving them a whole other show and group of characters to identify with and root for, or against, but either way, he knows they'll be watching the show and consuming his content.

Once an outsider to professional wrestling, Vince McMahon has become synonymous with the term itself. His decisions have propelled him and his business into the forefront of the entertainment media industry. Vince could only accomplish this by seeing his company from the ground level and then slowly reworking what he thought damaged the potential of professional wrestling. As an child McMahon's father did not allow him to wrestle, so he saw everything happen in the company that would soon be his from the outside, without being able to interfere. As a rookie owner an already successful company, he took the helm and expanded their appeal on an international level. While ring side announcing McMahon spectated and commented on the people that made up the flesh and blood of his business. He knew he could not stand to be passive as an announcer and acted with rash discourse during a tender moment in wrestling history. McMahon created a character to mask his shame and accept his repentance to the fans that he tainted, this resulted in an unusual respect for the chairman in both the business and pop culture world. After serving sentence as “The World's Most Hated Boss”, Vince McMahon passed back behind the scenes to pull the necessary strings to create a film production company. After his success in the film industry, McMahon reverted back to television by creating a new show and checkering his success with an internet press hurricane. Now, a man worth a billion dollars, McMahon plans to launch an entire television network and possibly buy out his only competition in the wrestling world.

Through a stunning combination of business savvy, media awareness and constructed celebrity, Vince McMahon managed to find himself at top of the entertainment industry both personally and through the success of his company. His unique approach to media has made him sort of a modern day guru at self promotion. The results he gets cannot lie, McMahon has changed the advertising game through his use of different forms of content. Vince McMahon's ability to shun criticism and turn negative feedback into a marketable character has made him a dangerous force in all media industries and his legacy will not be forgotten soon.

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Nick DAlleva
Nick DAlleva

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