13 Vince McMahon Controversies That Left Pro Wrestling Fans Outraged

WWE CEO Vince McMahon has been involved in the pro wrestling world for most of his life. With that dominance has come a number of controversies involving his personal life (accusations of bullying and assault), his wrestling "Mr. McMahon" persona (faking his own death, taking on God in a tag-team match), and his business tactics (defrauding investors, distributing steroids). 

Here are some of the controversies McMahon has been involved in since taking over his father's organization.

  • McMahon Tried To Do A Storyline Where He Impregnated His Own Daughter

    In 2018, former WWE writer Bruce Prichard went on the Opie Radio podcast to talk about one of the most disturbing potential storylines McMahon came up with to try and promote the WWE brand:

    It was during the time when [McMahon's daughter] Stephanie was pregnant and Vince was trying to figure out if he could work that into a storyline. [...] The funny thing is, we were all on the phone going over everything and it was classic Vince. "What if I was the father?" Then there’s nervous laughter because no one thinks he’s serious but then it became, "Well, what if?"

    Prichard vetoed the plotline of McMahon and his daughter having an incestuous relationship. McMahon's son and WWE executive vice president Shane McMahon told the Opie Radio podcast that while he never heard about the idea, he was glad Prichard had vetoed it. He also admitted he wasn't surprised his father had suggested the idea: "Sick. Exhaust everybody. Sometimes he just does it for his own amusement."

  • McMahon 'Died' On Air As An Intense Plot Twist
    Photo: WWE

    McMahon 'Died' On Air As An Intense Plot Twist

    On June 11, 2007, the entire episode of WWE's Monday Night Raw was billed as "Mr. McMahon Appreciation Night." Except that instead of praising him, the episode consisted of various wrestlers calling out McMahon for his poor treatment of them. At the end of the episode, a dejected McMahon leaves the building, steps into his limo, and closes the door. Boom! The car explodes into flames, and the scene fades to black.

    The WWE treated McMahon's "death" as a legitimate news story, to the point where some news outlets actually reported it as a fact. The next day, they put out a press release stating McMahon was "presumed dead" and wondering about who had planted the bomb. They even scheduled a memorial episode of Monday Night Raw for June 25. 

    But that memorial episode never occurred. The same day it was scheduled to air, police found the body of wrestler Chris Benoit, and the WWE aired a tribute to him instead, with McMahon appearing at the start of the show to admit how he had faked his death as part of a storyline so he could see what people thought of him.

    The stunt significantly boosted interest in the WWE, at least in the short term. At the time of McMahon's "death," the company's website normally averaged around 14.3 million views on a daily basis. On June 12, 2007, that total jumped to 36.8 million, and multiple media outlets produced articles about the "tragedy."

  • McMahon Used A Racial Slur In A Segment With John Cena
    Photo: Mmsnapplez / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

    McMahon Used A Racial Slur In A Segment With John Cena

    In early 2021, it was announced NBCUniversal paid more than $1 billion for the exclusive streaming rights to all content from the WWE. Among the content that was deleted before airing on NBCUniversal's Peacock streaming service was from WWE's Survivor Series 19 in 2005, where McMahon used the N-word during a conversation with John Cena. He then walks past a stunned Sharmell and Booker T. (both Black WWE wrestlers), and Booker T. says, "Tell me he didn’t just say that."

    Ten years later, when McMahon fired Hulk Hogan for using the N-word in a private video, WWE fans called McMahon a hypocrite because of the segment with Cena. But a WWE spokesman told TMZ that while Hogan had used the N-word in public, "[What McMahon did] was an outlandish and satirical skit involving fictional characters, similar to that of many scripted television shows and movies."

    The spokesman also claimed McMahon had consulted with both Sharmell and Booker T. before doing the segment.

  • McMahon Was Accused Of Giving Out Steroids To His Wrestlers 'Like Candy'

    In 1993, McMahon was indicted by the US Department of Justice on charges related to illegally possessing and distributing anabolic steroids. 

    The trial took place in 1994 and lasted 18 days. Of the multiple pro wrestlers who testified, the only one who claimed McMahon had directed him to take steroids was Nailz. Hulk Hogan testified he regularly used steroids and would pick up the drugs at the WWE headquarters, but denied the WWE boss had ever told him to take them.

    McMahon was ultimately acquitted of the charges of conspiracy to distribute steroids to his wrestlers. If he had been convicted, he would have faced a sentence of up to 11 years in jail, along with a $1.5 million fine.

    In July 2021, it was announced the WWE and Blumhouse Television were partnering to develop The United States of America vs. Vince McMahon, a scripted television series centering around this trial.

  • McMahon Has Been Plagued With Allegations Of Assault And Harassment
    Photo: Airman 1st Class Nicholas Pitch / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    McMahon Has Been Plagued With Allegations Of Assault And Harassment

    Former WWE employee and pro wrestling referee Rita Marie Chatterton went on Geraldo Rivera's show Now It Can Be Told and accused McMahon of raping her in his limo.

    In 2006, an unnamed woman who worked at a Boca Raton, FL, tanning salon accused McMahon of sexually assaulting her. In the police report, McMahon is accused of following the woman into a tanning room where he attempted to kiss and fondle her. McMahon's attorney sent a letter to the police denying his client had done anything wrong, and the WWE ended up never being formally charged.

    McMahon has also been accused of helping star wrestler Jimmy Snuka cover up the suspicious death of his girlfriend and slapping a gag order on "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's ex-wife to keep Austin's abuse from becoming public knowledge.

  • Owen Hart's Widow Still Thinks McMahon Handled Hart's Death Poorly
    Photo: MandyJC72 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

    Owen Hart's Widow Still Thinks McMahon Handled Hart's Death Poorly

    One of the biggest stars in the WWE, Owen Hart was just 34 years old when he died after a dangerous stunt went horribly wrong. As he was being lowered from the rafters, he fell more than 50 feet when his safety harness malfunctioned, and he slammed his head on the ring post. The force of the fall severed his aorta.

    Hart died on May 23, 1999, during a pay-per-view event. The crowd, production crew, and Hart's fellow wrestlers were stunned and distraught, but McMahon made the decision to finish the remainder of the event after a 15-minute break. Hart was even wheeled out on a gurney past the wrestlers who were waiting backstage. As Hart's widow, Martha Hart, stated:

    They scooped him out like a piece of garbage, and they paraded wrestlers out to wrestle in a ring that had Owen’s blood, where the boards were broken from Owen’s fall and where the guys could feel the dip in the ring from where he fell.

    His widow would later become estranged from many of her in-laws and sue the WWE. In 2020, she said she's moved on - to a point:

    At the end of it all, I’ve forgiven all of them, really. The Hart family, Vince McMahon, I don’t hold any grudges. I hope life has been kind to all of them.