"I love to fight," admits Mr. McMahon. "I always have."
He's not kidding. He was already a 12-year-old hellraiser "majoring in badass" when he met his father, Vincent James McMahon, a reputable boxing and wrestling promoter in charge of the Northeast region. As a teen, he'd spend summers with his dad in Connecticut, amazed by both the business and his idol, Dr. Jerry Graham, the peroxide-dyed, red-garbed ring performer who lit his cigars with hundred-dollar bills. The rest of the time he channeled his ruthless aggression at Fishburne Military School in Waynesboro, Va., where he'd graduate as the first cadet in the school's history to be court-martialed. ("Unsuccessfully," he's quick to note, citing that there was no evidence of any wrongdoing on his part other than insubordination.)
It took a degree in Business Administration/Marketing at East Carolina University, followed by several unproductive years selling adding machines and ice-cream accessories, before Mr. McMahon convinced his father to bring him into the family business. Strangely enough, he'd spend less than a year learning the ropes as a promoter when the senior McMahon "promoted" him as a match announcer, only moments before a show in Hamburg, Penn. For more than 20 years, Mr. McMahon would remain behind the mic, even after buying the World Wrestling Federation from his father in 1982 and taking it to unprecedented levels. To this day, many out-of-work regional promoters maintain that he continued doing in-ring play-by-play only to smokescreen what he was accomplishing outside the squared circle.
The truth is, the Chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment couldn't make a global multimedia juggernaut without breaking a few companies. So he broke all of them, and took great satisfaction in devouring any wrestling promotion that refused to "join" WWE. As Sgt. Slaughter puts it, "He screwed everybody. That was the part of him that wanted to be the best there is."
Mr. McMahon admits to feeling a tad remorseful after acquiring his last, and greatest, threat-World Championship Wrestling (WCW), the seemingly "unbeatable" organization bankrolled by billionaire Ted Turner-simply because he missed the struggle. So in 2002 he decided to split Raw and SmackDown into separate brands, effectively creating his own competition.
Despite his vast wealth and social status, Mr. McMahon still loves nothing more than knuckling up. And he'll do it anytime, anywhere-inside the ring (where his longtime rivalry with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin still raises hell within the WWE fan base) or from the boardroom. He tells those who don't like it that they can kiss his ass; in fact, he even founded an elite club for doing precisely that.
Raw announcer Jim Ross is convinced that his boss' constant need to fight is what fuels his success. "His competitive nature is what he carries with him every waking moment," he says.
Mr. McMahon agrees, adding that no one better than he understands what it means to be a competitor. "You've got to grab your competition by the throat," he insists, "and squeeze the life out of them."