WWE's brand of sports entertainment has always existed on its own, sometimes downright exotic and other times, like our own brutal opportunity, cropping up. This is a world where one can be in two places at once, especially someone like Vince McMahon. He had the final say in the company for four decades and also played Lynch's bad boss character, "Mr. McMahon," whose on-screen appeal was based on McMahon's real-life reputation as bad boss Lynch. He lied about the wrestler's match. He was embroiled in a small business dispute and accused of abusing power behind the scenes. Faced with allegations of sexual harassment last summer, he tweeted his resignation in July but returned to the presidency in January. But despite all of this, we still know very little about the real Vince: his youth, his personal struggles.
For his new book, Ringmaster. Vince McMahon and The Annihilation of America Abraham Josephine Raisman spent the past three years in the North Carolina area where the young McMahon lived and interviewed his childhood friends (many of whom did not know they were "Vinny." "Lupton"). I also interviewed dozens of people who knew him in WWE and compiled a comprehensive history of how "Mr. McMahon" operated. Entrepreneur Raisman McMahon, WWE Rights Roles, and American Democracy in an Edited Interview. in length and clarity. He spoke to The Times about the role he could play in the Trump-era threat.
You mentioned in the book that you didn't watch WWE until you started doing it about 20 years ago. Is there any news that inspired you to review it?
The origin of this book was a conversation with my wife about what I should do with the second book. "Vince McMahon," one of us said, and that was a really good idea. A lot of it is just instinct, and then figure out why you have that instinct. When I came up with this idea in 2020, Vince wasn't in the news. As soon as I started digging, I realized that no one actually does this. I don't have to dig too hard to find out that Vince has a lot of interesting stories in his life. There is no shortage of controversy.
I've been in touch with a lot of people since Vince's first day. Has anyone called them before?
No. No one has ever asked about Vince, and certainly no one has seen Vince recently. Vince left North Carolina and never looked back. He decided that his childhood was something he wanted to bury, except for this brief period at the end of the millennium when he talked about it. But it turns out that all this has been distorted. It must serve a purpose. He wanted to create the image of Mr. McMahon, which was one of his top priorities at the time. He revealed this alter ego to be a complete ass from day one. But everyone I spoke to who knew Vince from sixth grade through high school said he was a sweet kid. Friendly, excels in school. He said that he was the first member of his military academy to appear before a court-martial. I can't find confirmation of this.
This is a very good dichotomy. his professional wrestling career started in military school. He is very proud of his professional wrestling career and the reason he hides it is because he cares about his professional wrestling career. He wanted people to believe that he fought at a young age and never stopped instead presenting the fight as a "stage fight".
I've studied mainstream WWE coverage for decades. Have you noticed any changes in his corporate presentation?
However, he delivers his communications in different ways at different times. The surprising thing is that the mass media speculated about it. Wrestling's problem is that because the end result is deemed "silly", people assume the process itself must be funny. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The wrestling training process is so brutal and unfair that no one wants to learn this part. There were times when the media turned on WWE, but it didn't last long.
Vince has fed them many different dishes over the years. In the early 1990s, when faced with doping and other scandals, his response was not very helpful. Today was very different with Vince. But in 1995, after he [the Justice Department] lost a federal case over steroids, there was real change because he described WWF as a brave and proud organization that would no longer be criticized. He began to "spear propaganda" in the media, saying that they were "corrupt" and "want to throw us out", and this changed public opinion somewhat.
At the turn of the millennium, WWE popularized the concept of "we don't care, we do something." It was when that conflict occurred, that was when they became even more famous. Vince, as a wrestler, has repeatedly turned his company's moral parity upside down and usually succeeded.
Were you surprised when Vince returned as a hairstylist in January?
I'm not surprised, no. I thought something like that would happen. In my book it's not at all clear that "it's never coming back". In the Vince McMahon era, Vince still had a very long healthy life left; his mother lived to be 101 years old. But he is the highest authority there. I know he'll be back.
The two interviews in your book really struck me, one with 1980s WWF Women's Champion Wendy Richter and the other with WWF Gulf War era villain (and true friend of Saddam Hussein) General Adnan . In the book, their feelings for Vince are much warmer than anyone could imagine. Kayfabe – Is it difficult for you to separate reality from staged wrestling ?
Of course. This is a fight. I do everything. If anything, it's helpful to have a basic knowledge of what everyone is trying to "work" with you in wrestling. I hope that people will take my research version and expand on it. I am a journalist, I give my best and I have good intelligence when I work hard. I try to avoid everything that is not mentioned. It's a unique environment where lies are baked into simple shapes.
It's also surprising to see how many politicians appear in the book. We know about Vince's longtime friendship with Donald Trump, as well as Ron DeSantis and Rick Santorum. It reminds me of the parallels between modern WWE and modern politics. Does the struggle influence modern politics or is it a reflection of it?
This is a good question. I'm not trying to say "wrestling makes politics like that". It was "Vince McMahon didn't build America" but "Vince McMahon didn't build America". His experience with Vince has taught Trump to talk about rallies, and he has alternate reality techniques. But I'm not trying to say the so-called political struggle. What I'm trying to say is that the model Vince used to seize power is the same model used to seize power in politics and business. The point of this book is that you can't understand today's politics if you don't understand kayfabe.
I don't think anyone can argue after reading this book that struggle is not a useful model for understanding what happens to other societies. When you say, "I am a liar and a bad person," today's society doesn't have the means to punish that person. I wish these people would stop, but it's a lot harder than just checking the facts and saying: Unfortunately, this is still a hoax for a lot of people. I think understanding how Vince succeeded is one of the first steps to understanding how those who want to reform this society can address the challenge.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.