Over the course of wrestling history, there have been countless great heels, but none of them have measured up to Vince McMahon. The WWE chairman helped revolutionize the business during the Attitude Era, and because of that, he has earned the title of best heel of all time.
McMahon may not have wrestled often, although he wasn't shy about mixing it up, but as an authority figure, he was among the most hated men in wrestling history. It is very difficult to pinpoint one aspect of McMahon's character that made him such a fantastic heel, rather it was a combination of many things that helped him excel.
As much as people like to give credit to "Stone Cold" Steve Austin for the company's explosion in the late 1990s, McMahon was an equally big part of it. Without McMahon, the WWE, as we know it, wouldn't exist today, and without his contributions during the Attitude Era, perhaps, there wouldn't even be a WWE, period.
Here are the top 10 reasons why Mr. McMahon is unquestionably the greatest heel in the long-and-decorated history of professional wrestling.
Every great hero needs a great villain, and McMahon had no issue when it came to playing the yin to "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's yang.
I could probably name a thousand great professional wrestling feuds, but I don't believe that any of them ever reached the level that Austin vs. McMahon did. It surpassed everything that came before it and I don't think that anything will ever top it.
Austin was wildly popular during the Attitude Era, and for good reason, but Mr. McMahon's devilish ways certainly helped when it came to Austin getting over with the fans. Austin feuded with all the top stars of the time period. However, his rivalry with McMahon was constant and never really subsided over the course of the Attitude Era.
Top faces can very easily expose the weaknesses of those that they feud with, but McMahon was always at the same level as Austin in terms of entertainment value. Austin will always be considered a bigger star than Vince since he was an actual wrestler, but McMahon more than held his own and was paramount in the rise of Austin 3:16 and the WWE for a while during the Attitude Era.
The only thing more helpful in getting a heel over than a dastardly storyline act is a dastardly real-life act. Almost everything that happens in professional wrestling is scripted, but there are rare occasions where the original plans are ignored.
Perhaps, the prime example of that is the Montreal Screwjob, which took place at Survivor Series in 1997 and involved McMahon screwing Bret Hart out of the WWE Championship.
Hart was about to move on to WCW, and McMahon wanted him to drop the title to Shawn Michaels at Survivor Series, but Hart declined. Hart's issues with Michaels back then have been well-documented, and he had no interest in putting him over.
In the interest of protecting himself from Hart taking the title with him to WCW a la Madusa, McMahon organized a ruse that involved him calling for the bell when Michaels had Hart in the sharpshooter.
Hart realized immediately that he had been tricked, and he proceeded to spit in McMahon's face and then later assaulted him in the locker room. This was essentially the birth of the Mr. McMahon character, and it was a big reason for his success. McMahon and Hart ultimately made up years later, but many consider the Montreal Screwjob to be the start of the Attitude Era.
Wrestling fans tend to react well to things that they can relate to in their real lives, and the Mr. McMahon character certainly delivered in that way. I'm sure that many of us have had terrible bosses in the past, and that is precisely what McMahon represented. He had a ton of power, and he abused for the sole purpose of making people's lives miserable.
Professional wrestling has always been filled with larger-than-life characters, many of whom didn't translate to the real world. Everything about Mr. McMahon seemed real, though, and the fact that he could get himself over as a heel in that manner is what made him so great. Nobody likes a corrupt authority figure, and that made McMahon the perfect bad guy during that time period.
As mentioned before, McMahon being the evil boss made Steve Austin an even more sympathetic character as far as the viewers were concerned. Austin was essentially the common man who was doing something that many wished they could do: getting back at his boss.
McMahon represented something that most people have experienced and that everyone hated.
Most of the top heels in professional wrestling history have naturally been in-ring competitors, but there are a select few who have gotten over in other manners.
Managers like Bobby "The Brain" Heenan and Jimmy Hart come to mind, but McMahon trumps both of them in that regard. McMahon had his fair share of matches against Steve Austin and others, but he largely became the hottest heel in wrestling based solely on his character.
Heels usually get heat based on what they do in the squared circle, but essentially, all of McMahon's heat was the result of his promos and his abuse of power. In fact, since McMahon wasn't an actual wrestler, he was even more hated when he did step into the ring because fans wanted to see Austin, The Rock, Mick Foley or whoever else beat him to a pulp.
There have been wrestlers who have been able to get over with the crowd with only their wrestling skills over the years, but McMahon didn't have that luxury. He had to nail it with his character, or else, he was essentially useless.
If McMahon failed to get the crowd to hate him as a person, then he would have fallen flat, but McMahon elicits a hugely negative response, despite his limitations as a wrestler.
As much as many current wrestling fans like to see heels go over, the tried-and-true method for success in the business is ultimately putting over the top faces.
McMahon has always subscribed to this theory, and it rang true during his run as the top heel in the business. While McMahon often got his licks in against Austin and pretty much every other top star, he would almost always come out with the short end of the stick.
Look no further than the Chairman's WrestleMania record for proof as he is 0-5 overall with losses to his son, Shane, Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, Donald Trump in a hair vs. hair match involving Umaga and Bobby Lashley and Bret Hart.
McMahon may have a big ego, but he has never let pride get in the way of making the right creative decision with regard to himself. He knows that putting over guys like Austin, Hogan and Michaels is good business, and that is what he has always done.
It is the job of a great heel to be selfish from a storyline perspective, but they must also be selfless when it comes to booking. McMahon was never worried about embarrassing himself, and he was fully committed to sacrificing himself for the greater good of the WWE.
One thing that often prevents a heel from getting over is the fact that their gimmick simply isn't believable.
There are many such examples over the years, but that was never an issue for McMahon. As soon as the Mr. McMahon character was created, it was made very clear that he was basically the head honcho of the WWE and that he could do pretty much anything he wanted.
Many authority figures over the years have been lame since it was obvious that they didn't have any real power.
It dates back to Jack Tunney as WWE president, and it continues to this day with A.J. Lee and Booker T acting as general managers for Raw and SmackDown, respectively. All of them have storyline power, but it is well-known that the real power belongs to McMahon.
That is why McMahon was so easy to buy into his role as the corrupt owner of WWE. He truly was the main man, and it wasn't a stretch to believe that he was actually a terrible person who let the power go to his head. Realism is a tough thing to achieve in wrestling, but McMahon's heel character had it from the start.
As if it wasn't already apparent that Mr. McMahon was a terrible person, it was further solidified in 2001 when he began cheating on his wife, Linda, with Trish Stratus. This led to McMahon asking for a divorce, which caused Linda to enter a catatonic state. During this time, McMahon would wheel Linda around and often make out with Trish in front of her.
McMahon's evil ways didn't end there, however, as he eventually turned on Trish as well and told her that she was a toy that he had grown tired of. He continued to abuse his power by forcing Trish to get on her hands and knees and bark like a dog while in her underwear. Not only was McMahon a jerk to guys like Steve Austin, now he was demeaning women as well.
The hallmark of a truly great heel is finding ways to make people hate you even more than they already do, and McMahon always managed to one-up himself somehow. Many consider McMahon's storyline with Trish and Linda to be offensive to this day, and that goes to show you that he knew exactly what he was doing.
I believe that fitting theme music has always been an underrated aspect of a great character in professional wrestling, but McMahon's music was definitely perfect for what he was trying to portray.
McMahon often seemed like an impossible hurdle for Steve Austin and all the other top faces during the Attitude Era, and his "No Chance In Hell" theme song blaring over the loudspeakers further emphasized his supreme power.
Theme music can set the tone for a great match or promo, and it was always obvious what McMahon was setting out to do when he walked down the ramp with his signature, cocky strut.
He was looking to screw someone over at every turn. When you really think about it, there haven't been many more perfect combination of character and theme song over the course of wrestling history.
McMahon's theme song allowed him to get immediate heat as soon as the first chord was played, and I believe it was a big part of why he was so successful as a heel. Some may consider a theme song to be an auxiliary factor with no real bearing on a person's character, but it's tough to argue against the impact that "No Chance In Hell" made on McMahon.
It may have been one of the Attitude Era's lamer storylines, but the higher-power angle definitely helped McMahon get over as a heel.
After a long-running feud with Steve Austin, McMahon's Corporation stable began to get involved with Undertaker's Ministry of Darkness in 1999. Taker kidnapped McMahon's daughter, Stephanie, on a couple occasions, and it eventually led to McMahon turning face.
McMahon went at it with Undertaker for a couple months before it was finally revealed who was directing Undertaker and his Ministry. He revealed himself to be the ring leader, and while it disappointed a lot of fans, it definitely made him seem even more dastardly.
Not only did he put his own daughter in harm's way, but he pulled the wool over the fans' eyes as they were sympathetic toward him for a time.
McMahon is known as one of the most deceptive villains in WWE history, and the higher-power storyline is probably one of his signature moments in that regard. There aren't many heels who could have made something out of a disappointing conclusion to an angle like that, but McMahon managed to make it work.
One of the most impressive things about McMahon's instant heat as a heel was the fact that he served as a well-liked commentator for many years prior to becoming Mr. McMahon.
Most fans didn't really have any idea that he was running the show, and they just thought that he was a random announcer. McMahon went from being a fairly anonymous person behind the announce table to the most hated person in WWE with the flip of a switch essentially.
It usually takes months or even years to develop an effective heel persona, but McMahon did it quicker than anyone with the possible exception of Hulk Hogan becoming Hollywood Hogan. It was easier for Hogan, though, because he was the biggest face in the industry, so doing one heel-like thing naturally made him the top bad guy.
McMahon wasn't really even on the radar prior to his turn, but the Montreal Screwjob helped launch him and the WWE to new heights. It takes somebody very special to elicit such an overwhelming response from the crowd so quickly, but McMahon was able to, and that is why he is the best heel of all time.