Celebrating the 10 Greatest WWE Moments of Stephanie McMahon on 43rd Birthday
Stephanie McMahon recently celebrated two decades as an on-screen fixture in WWE. During that course of time, she has screwed over the most popular performers of all-time, engaged in familial chicanery with her loved ones, fought through adversity and over any good guy who stood before her.
She has been responsible for some memorable moments that enraged fans and cemented herself as one of the greatest heels of hers or any generation.
Stephanie has also shown great toughness and determination, becoming an unexpectedly inspirational babyface when necessary.
On her 43rd birthday, celebrate the 20-year career of Daddy's Little Girl and the WWE chief branding officer with these 10 most unforgettable moments.
10. The Kiss
The summer of 2000 brought with it a love triangle that saw Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley married to Triple H but clearly smitten and infatuated with Kurt Angle.
Tensions built through every passing week, with The Game becoming increasingly annoyed (and slightly paranoid) by the so-called "friendship" his wife shared with the Olympic gold medalist.
That paranoia and annoyance proved credible when, on the August 24 episode of SmackDown, Angle checked on a dazed Stephanie and proceeded to passionately kiss her.
The look on Triple H's blushing bride said it all and fanned the flames of those who believed she was not quite as pure and proper as she played.
It also enhanced and intensified the rivalry between Triple H and Angle, which ended with an unfortunate flub the following month at Unforgiven, when Stephanie chose to side with her husband rather than the red, white and blue rookie.
9. Return to the Squared Circle
It had been 11 years since Stephanie competed in a WWE ring when the 2014 SummerSlam pay-per-view rolled around.
The Billion Dollar Princess had started a family, assumed greater responsibilities within the company and appeared very happy to be an on-screen authority figure and little else. That was until the opportunity presented itself to re-enter the squared circle for a high-profile match with Total Divas star Brie Bella.
Born of The Authority's mistreatment of Bella's husband, Daniel Bryan, and animosity between the two, the match was one of the highest-profile bouts on that year's card.
It did not disappoint.
Knocking off the ring rust early, Stephanie impressed, turning in a performance that relied as much on her ability to generate heat through crowd manipulation as it did on her limited skill set between the ropes.
The shocking betrayal by Nikki Bella on her twin sister set up her victory, capping off an improbable return to ring action for the one member of the McMahon family whose in-ring exploits had always been secondary to her promo skills.
8. Father vs. Daughter
There are some who denounce the Father vs. Daughter "I Quit" match from No Mercy 2003 as a despicable and unnecessary example of male-on-female violence that accomplished little more than promoting the McMahon family above all.
Those critics would not necessarily be wrong, but they may be missing the excellence on display by both Stephanie and her dad, Vince.
Mounting tensions between the two, stemming from Stephanie's desire to be her own woman and run her own show without the heavy influence of her egomaniacal father, would culminate in the announcement of a surreal match with one huge stipulation: If Stephanie lost, she would resign as SmackDown general manager, but Vince would step down as WWE chairman if he lost.
The high stakes led to a masterclass in generating heat.
Vince was the evil bastard whose physical assault of his own daughter incited thunderous boos from the Baltimore fans; Stephanie was the resilient and underdog babyface, inspiring fans to cheer her with every shot she got in on her dad.
The emotion, storytelling, psychology and crowd manipulation helped make the match one of the greatest examples of why wrestling is, at its very best, live-action theater.
Vince ultimately utilized a lead pipe to choke his daughter out, forcing wife Linda to throw in the towel to protect her baby girl's health, but Stephanie proved in that one match she could be something no one ever pictured her as: a sympathetic heroine who fights for what's right, no matter who the villain is.
7. Extreme Owner
To say there had always been issues permeating throughout the McMahon family would be an understatement of massive proportions. Yet, through all the in-fighting and familial drama, Stephanie had always remained steadfastly loyal to her father.
That is, until the summer of 2001, when she stunned the sport by revealing she had purchased the remnants of Extreme Championship Wrestling from Paul Heyman and joined him and her brother, Shane, in an unholy alliance aimed at destroying the very company that afforded them the privileged life they lived.
That revelation and Stephanie's re-emergence from a two-month hiatus on the July 9 episode of Raw, remains the highlight of a feud that was ultimately botched beyond recognition.
It was also further proof of her ability to generate heat as the third-generation businesswoman who took an underground, cult-favorite promotion like ECW and made it disdained by the end of the evening.
6. SmackDown General Manager
Fans had not seen Stephanie since the night after the 2001 Survivor Series, when she was dragged kicking and screaming from the squared circle just 24 hours after her and brother Shane's WCW/ECW Alliance lost to WWE, by the time the summer of 2002 rolled around.
When her father announced the Raw and SmackDown brands would have general managers put in place to oversee the weekly running of the shows, it only made sense she would re-emerge as one of the candidates for the job.
The July 18 episode of SmackDown saw the return of The Billion Dollar Princess to television as the authority on the blue brand. Though she was last seen as a villainess and had thrived in that role for the majority of her on-screen life, she was presented as a GM who would conduct business fairly, a steep contrast from the crooked Eric Bischoff.
And she thrived in the role.
Stephanie would go toe-to-toe with Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman, Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and anyone else who dared stand up to the latest generation of strong-willed McMahons.
While her heel work is acclaimed and memorable, it can be argued her finest performances as an authority figure came when she was the antithesis of the corrupt businessman her father rose to prominence as during the Attitude Era.
Rather than vindictive matches set up to punish someone, she let Superstars settle their differences between the ropes like grown men, something the current WWE product could learn from.
5. The Main Event
Much has been made of the historic December 4, 2004 Raw main event featuring Trish Stratus defending her WWE Women's Championship against Lita. Over time, though, it has wrongly been referred to as the first match between two women to headline the company's longest-running episodic television show.
That honor goes to another match featuring future Hall of Famer Lita, this one against the evil Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley some four years earlier on the August 21, 2000 broadcast.
The Billion Dollar Princess has wrongly retained her title over Lita on more than one occasion, with the assistance of Tori or Stratus. This time, just six days from SummerSlam, The Rock would serve as a guest referee while Triple H and Kurt Angle patrolled the ringside area in hopes of helping the evil McMahon-Helmsley retain her gold.
Rock laid the smackdown on his pay-per-view opponents and then counted the fall as Lita delivered a picture-perfect moonsault to wrap up her spoiled brat of an opponent's undeserved title run.
It was the perfect ending to an infuriating run enhanced by the genuinely unlikable heel persona Stephanie portrayed during that first year on television.
4. Wedding Interrupted
What should have been one of the feel-good moments of 1999, the wedding of Test and Stephanie, turned out to be a landmark moment in the career of the bride-to-be.
Throughout the course of the November 29 episode of Raw, viewers were treated to clips of the bride and groom's respective bachelorette and bachelor parties the night before. It was in Stephanie's that a mysterious waiter presented her with a drink that the eager and excited young woman was all too quick to accept.
Her actions would have dire consequences.
Later in the evening, as the happy couple were about to make things official and start their lives together, Triple H arrived on the scene, produced video footage of him marrying an intoxicated (and unconscious) Stephanie in Las Vegas and altered the course of wrestling history.
The storyline development, pitched by Triple H himself, according to Bruce Prichard in the Something to Wrestle With podcast, would catapult The Game to the forefront of the industry while creating a permanent television persona for Stephanie.
There are moments when you can remember where you were as a specific angle unfolded. That night's failed wedding and the revelation that Vince's daughter was now married to his latest and greatest foe sparked interest in the product and ensured a WWE without an injured Steve Austin would maintain viewers and continue its unparalleled hot streak.
3. The Dark Wedding
In the spring of 1999, Stephanie was still the innocent daughter of billionaire businessman Vince and not yet influenced by his megalomania. She was also at the center of his rivalry with The Undertaker and on the April 26 episode of Raw, she found herself moments from wedded misery with The Phenom.
Abducted the previous night at Backlash, she was strapped to the enormous Undertaker symbol and carried to the ring for a dark wedding to The Phenom.
Screaming in terror and begging for mercy, she saw life as she knew it flash before her eyes. Failed attempts at a rescue by Big Show, Ken Shamrock and Mankind looked like her last hopes of evading the misery that awaited.
Then came "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.
The Texas Rattlesnake and No. 1 badass hit the ring, fought off The Ministry of Darkness and saved his greatest foe's baby girl from despair. Elated, Stephanie embraced Austin, bridging a gap between the two sides in their war with a common enemy.
It was just the start of a run for the youngest McMahon that would see her develop into one of the centerpieces of the WWE product by year's end.
2. Women's Champion
Three days before WrestleMania 2000, a pay-per-view that would test the McMahon-Helmsley regime's stranglehold on WWE thanks to a major championship defense by Triple H, Vince and Linda McMahon thought they would get one over on their spoiled daughter.
They would be wrong, though.
Booking her against Jacqueline for the WWE Women's Championship, they expected their daughter to be taught some tough love courtesy of the badass Texan. Instead, she benefited from interference from Tori and became the unlikeliest women's champion in WWE history to that point.
A hop and a jump from wrestling's most prestigious night, Stephanie had channeled her superb work as a heel into a championship reign that would only help to create an even bigger star out of Lita when the time presented itself, which it later did.
1. A Shocking Betrayal
"I'm not daddy's little girl anymore," Stephanie told her father, with a grin on her face that denoted a vengeful daughter satisfied by the heartbreak she had just caused the one man who loved her unconditionally.
That in-ring promo segment, which established her torrid love affair with Triple H was to get back at her dad for using her as a ploy in his war with The Undertaker earlier in the year, came just 24 hours after The Billion Dollar Princess betrayed her own flesh and blood and assisted Triple H in defeating the Chairman of the Board.
It was a huge and unenviable position for the only daughter of wrestling's most powerful man to be in. She had struggled in similar spots earlier, such as generating the wrong type of heat from fans in the aftermath of her failed wedding to Test.
An unconvincing performance could have wrecked the entire storyline and left management scurrying to find something else more interesting to watch. Instead, the still-nervous Stephanie hit her performance out of the park, delivering the right words and facial expressions when needed.
In her most prominent role to that point, Stephanie delivered and the result was a years-long reign that would establish her as one of the most dominant female personas in all of sports and entertainment.