Top 10 Biggest Vince McMahon Controversies



Top 10 Biggest Vince McMahon Controversies

VOICE OVER: Ashley Bowman WRITTEN BY: George Pacheco
Controversy seems to follow Vince McMahon wherever he goes. For this list, we'll be ranking the instances where the chairman and CEO of the WWE has faced backlash as a result of his in-character or real-life actions. Our countdown includes Mocking Jim Ross, The Owen Hart Incident, Allegations of Assault and Harassment, and more!

Top 10 Vince McMahon Controversies

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Vince McMahon Controversies.

For this list, we’ll be ranking the instances where the chairman and CEO of the WWE has faced backlash as a result of his in-character or real-life actions.

Do you know of any we missed? Let us know in the comments!

#10: A Poor Choice of Words

One of the most tone-deaf moments of Vince McMahon’s on-camera career occurred during a backstage segment with John Cena from “Survivor Series” 2005. Vince’s fictional character of “Mr. McMahon '' was asking Cena what was “good in the hood” before ending the exchange with a racial slur that we won’t repeat in this video. It should be said that the entire segment was obviously pre-planned and agreed upon by all parties, including Booker T, who’s reactionary exclamation of “tell me he didn’t just say that '' is clearly played up for laughs. However, the segment just doesn’t play the same way in the present day.

#9: Mocking Jim Ross

Jim Ross is a legend in the professional wrestling industry, a once-in-a-lifetime announcer who’s also been instrumental behind the scenes. His tenure with the WWE has seen some shaky moments, however, such as the instance where Vince McMahon would openly mock Ross’ diagnosis of Bell’s Palsy live on the air. This was horrifically nothing new, as the WCW character “Oklahoma” was also a direct parody of Ross, but Vince didn’t stop there, unfortunately. McMahon also poked fun at Ross’ real-life colon surgery in a WWE skit alongside a character named, ahem, “Dr. Heiney,” and even made the celebrated announcer join Vince’s not-so-esteemed “kiss my ass club.”

#8: The Montreal Screwjob

It’s one of the most discussed incidents in pro wrestling history, a debated-to-death affair that still deserves mention as the moment where the on-screen Vince McMahon and the decision-making Vince McMahon began to blur. Here, Bret “Hit Man” Hart was conspired against by McMahon and others in the WWE to drop the company’s World Championship in his hometown, without his knowledge. The match was called against Bret, despite the fact that the “Hit Man” hadn’t submitted, nor was pinned, and the fallout was almost immediate. The acrimonious aftermath led to a physical altercation between Hart and McMahon, while the industry would continue to debate the ins and outs of The Montreal Screwjob to this very day.

#7: Poaching the Territories

There’s no denying the vision and fortitude that went into Vince McMahon’s decision to move into professional wrestling’s old school territory system, and systematically lure away all of their top talent. The idea that wrestling could (and should) be widely broadcast and crossover-commercialized was something that helped make the WWF and WWE the global juggernaut it is today. However, it also made Vince McMahon one of the most controversial men in the business, thanks to his brazen line-stepping and fearless breaking of wrestling’s unspoken, yet defining rules. The once fertile map of small-time wrestling promotions with top guy talent was eventually whittled away, to the point where Vince McMahon became the best game in town for wrestlers seeking to reach the top of their trade.

#6: The Owen Hart Incident

The VICE series “Dark Side of the Ring” has been a wellspring of fascinating information and revelatory interviews regarding some of pro wrestling’s most controversial stories. One particular episode dealt with the events leading up to, and following, the tragic demise of Owen Hart at a live WWF/WWE pay-per-view event back in 1999. There are some, including members of Hart’s immediate family, that criticized Vince McMahon and his company for not stopping the show after Owen fell to his death during a ring entrance. Further controversy was also brought to the table regarding exactly how safe the rigging was that Hart was wearing during the fall. Owen’s widow would later settle with the company for eighteen million in damages.

#5: From Wrestling to Sports Entertainment

There’s a clear line of distinction between “Mr. McMahon” the fictional character and the actual practices of Vince McMahon the businessman. The landscape of pro wrestling was a very different one in the eighties and nineties, and things were about to change with regards to how McMahon’s company was going to operate. It was back in 1989 when Vince testified to the New Jersey Senate about how professional wrestling should be deregulated, and thus exempt from rules that apply to other sports operating under state athletic commissions. The decision was viewed very differently at the time and today, with some arguing that it removed the WWE from dealing with certain corrupt behavior from commission officials, while others saw it as dangerous to the health and well-being of performers.

#4: Superstars and Healthcare

Speaking of health, the classification of pro wrestlers has always been in contention, but today a light is shined upon that area of “the business” more than ever. “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” released an in-depth discussion on the topic back in 2019, criticizing the company’s policy of treating its superstars as independent contractors, rather than employees. Although the WWE wheel is made up of many important cogs, the influence of Vince McMahon is massive upon everyday decisions, including the fact that superstars must pay for healthcare out of pocket. The company, for their part, responded to the Oliver piece, and stressed the importance of their Talent Wellness Program. Still, the issue remains a controversial and hotly debated one today.

#3: Allegations of Assault and Harassment

Vince McMahon may have recently stepped down (for the moment) as WWE CEO, but this isn’t the first-time allegations of sexual assault and harassment have come up in the news. One-time WWF referee Rita Chatterton alleged that McMahon forced himself upon her in a limousine back on July 16th, 1986. Former WWF Diva Sable also sued the company in 1999 for harboring a culture of sexual harassment, while the current accusations against McMahon allege that the CEO has made out hush money payments to an employee with whom he had an affair. The allegations go on to reference older misconduct accusations and nondisclosure agreements involving both McMahon and WWE Head of Talent Relations, John Laurinaitis.

#2: The Saudi Deal

We mentioned John Oliver’s show earlier in our list, and this wasn’t the only time the HBO host lent his name to those who criticize some of WWE’s decisions. “Last Week Tonight” also joined others who have criticized the WWE (and, by default, Vince McMahon’s) “strategic partnership” with The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Deal has been in effect since 2014, and is currently slated to continue through 2027, a partnership that has thrived financially, despite criticism against the KSA’s human rights policies, as well as its alleged involvement with the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Although the company has made history by presenting women’s wrestling in Saudi Arabia for the first time, the partnership continues to be heavily debated.

#1: The Steroid Trial

It could’ve easily been the day that everything came crumbling down for the WWF, but instead The United States of America v. McMahon, et al saw the company emerge from one of their toughest fights: The Steroid Trial. It was alleged that Vince McMahon personally oversaw the distribution of illegal anabolic steroids to wrestlers on his company’s roster. The allegations stemmed from the testimony of convicted doctor George Zahorian, who had previously been employed by the company as a ringside physician. It was argued that Zahorian’s steroid distribution went all the way up the WWF’s corporate chain to McMahon himself, but the distribution charges were ultimately dropped, and McMahon was found not guilty on the count of conspiracy.