Mr. McMahon will see you now: 7 Superstars on their first meeting with The Chairman
It is the meeting of a lifetime — career-changing and nerve-racking all at once. And for the few that have had the privilege, they never forget the first time they met the one and only Mr. McMahon. Whether it's a brief conversation backstage at an arena or a formal sit-down in The Chairman's top floor suite in Stamford's Titan Tower, the interaction is one that all prospective Superstars dream of. It is a make-or-break moment that determines whether an individual becomes a part of WWE history or remains an ordinary man.
We’ve all seen him on our television screens, but what is Mr. McMahon really like? WWE.com spoke with seven of WWE's top performers to hear their incredible true stories of meeting The Boss. You’ll never believe how Mr. McMahon shocked JBL, impressed Big Show or left Daniel Bryan completely speechless. These men entered the most important of their careers, and left with the job of a lifetime.
John Cena: "He was disgusted to look at me."
“I didn’t have time to be nervous. It was in Chicago, Ill., on the day I had my debut match against Kurt Angle. I wasn’t supposed to have a match that night, but in the final moments, it was decided that I would debut on television against an Olympic Gold Medalist. Higher-ups said, ‘If we’re going to put the kid on TV, he’s gotta meet Vince!'
“They literally dragged me by the arm to Vince’s office, threw me in and asked him, ‘What do you think?’ I had ridiculously ugly, long, super-dyed blond hair that was shaved bald on the sides. He turned around and with a disgusted look on his face, he said, ‘Cut his hair,’ and I was whisked away from Vince like an assembly line.
“That was the first time I met Vince McMahon and he was disgusted to look at me. They shipped me out and I immediately got a haircut, which was not dyed blond, but equally as horrible."
Daniel Bryan: "It was very awkward and very uncomfortable."
“Vince called me in 2008 when I was at a Ring of Honor show. It was a blocked number, but I answered it and he said, ‘Hi, this is Vince McMahon.’ I thought, ‘What? Come on. This is a joke.’ But I didn’t say that. Instead I said, ‘Oh, hello, sir.’ He said, ‘I talked to Shawn Michaels. He speaks very highly of you and I’d like to bring you in to have a meeting with you.’ I specifically remember being in Hartford at this Ring of Honor show, so I told him I could come to Stamford. But he said to come to Oakland where they were filming Raw.
“I’d heard from William Regal and other people that Vince is impressed by the way people dress, so I flew home, spent big money on a suit and went to the building the next day. I waited and waited and waited and waited and was finally told that I might not have a chance to meet with Vince. But I wrestled Lance Cade in an untelevised match and got a tremendous reaction from the Ring of Honor fans in Oakland. The match went really well, then I had the meeting with Vince.
“I didn’t even know how to sit in a suit. He asked me things like, ‘What would you like to see happen?’ I told him that I’d like to come in and be a top guy, but I had concerns about not being very big. I have a very self-deprecating sense of humor and think of myself as a humble person, so it’s hard for me to say that I’m good at something. Vince said, ‘Shawn tells me you’re very good.’ And I just said, ‘Well, I’m okay.’ And I could tell instantly he disliked that.
“It was very awkward and very uncomfortable. Vince takes these very long pauses after he asks you a question and you answer him. He’ll just look at you. Some will start talking, which I think he likes because it shows they’re uncomfortable. I was uncomfortable, but I just looked at him. I was waiting for him to talk and he was waiting for me to talk. It was surreal. I was very nervous and even in in my $500 suit — which I thought was the most expensive suit in the world — I knew I was inadequately dressed. This guy has the power to control your destiny.”
JBL: "He said, ‘We’re going to make you a bad guy ballerina.’"
“I’d been in Europe for a couple years and I’d come back to have a tryout match with WWE, but I was supposed to go to WCW the next day. They had offered me a tentative contract. I did a tryout match with Savio Vega and right afterwards, Gerald Brisco and JJ Dillon pulled me aside and said, ‘We want to offer you a contract, but we know you’re going to WCW.’ I told them, ‘Well, that’s the plan, but I want to come here.’ They said, ‘You have our word. Do we have your word that you’re not going to WCW?’ I said ‘Yup, deal.’ I shook hands with Jerry Brisco and that’s how I got hired.
“I had to go up to Stamford to meet Vince for the first time. I walked in the room and it was JJ Dillon, [Human Resources executive] Lisa Wolfe and Vince. He sat me down, and with a complete straight face he said, ‘We’re going to make you a bad guy ballerina.’ I’d always been a cowboy and I’d already told WCW I wasn’t coming. I looked at him and thought, ‘Oh god, I’ve made the worst decision of my life.’ I said to him, ‘Really?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, it’ll be great. You’re going to be a ballerina that’s a real bad guy.’ Then he started laughing and said, ‘No, I like the cowboy. We’ll do that. That sounds good.’
“He threw this contract out there for virtually no guaranteed money and said to me, ‘That contract’s not worth the paper it’s written on. All I can guarantee you is the handshake behind it.’ And that’s all I needed. I could live with that.
“He’s charismatic. No doubt about it. I don’t think anybody’s that ever met him will say any different.”
Goldust: "I want Vince’s approval."
“I did some stuff in WWE in 1990 and ’91, but I didn’t talk to Vince all that much. The first time I actually met him was after WCW. I had been sitting at home for six or seven months, and he just called out of the blue. Him and Bruce Prichard were on the phone. He said, ‘Dustin! It’s McMahon!’ I said, ‘Oh, hey, Vince!’ He said, ‘Are you sitting down? We have this idea we want to run by you.’ When Caesar talks, everybody listens, so I sat down. I knew it was my chance to step out of my dad’s shoes and do something on my own.
“I met with Vince in Stamford. It was a great big meeting. I remember sitting outside waiting for the king to arrive. It was very nerve-racking. I was still very young. There were secretaries everywhere, ushering me here and there, showing me the gym and then I was sitting there for Vince. I sat down, I was nervous as hell and then we just started talking about Goldust.
“There were more meetings. I had to fly up a few more times until I was in the office in full makeup and full gear. I remember walking into the boardroom with everybody at the table, and I was standing there looking like Goldust — in the suit, flamboyant as hell. They were loving it, but I was thinking, ‘This is so weird for me. I’m a redneck from Texas. A country boy.’ They stood behind it, so I guess it was a pretty good meeting.
“Vince has an aura about him. He’s very intimidating. He reminds me a lot of my father. They have that stature. That’s why he’s the king of the world and The Boss. What he wants, he gets. And we try to put on the best show we can for the fans and for him. We always want that fatherly figure to be pleased with our work. I want Vince’s approval. I don’t necessarily want anybody else in the company’s approval, but I do want Vince’s.”
Big Show: "Vince is one of those types of people that inspire you."
“The first time I met Vince McMahon was in 1997 at the Consumer Electronics Show in New Orleans. I went by the WWE booth and he was standing out in front with a suit on, shaking hands. I was The Giant in WCW and I walked by and introduced myself, but Vince knew who I was already. I said, ‘It’s a pleasure to meet you.’ I remember he had a firm handshake, a big smile on his face and looked me in the eye.
“A little more than a year later, I met with him at his house in Boca [Raton, Fla.], and worked out a deal to come to WWE. The meeting was awesome. He had great energy and welcomed me into his home. We sat down, ate and talked about some plans of what I could do in WWE. If it’s Vince, I’m pretty sure we ate steak and some kind of starch. It’s man food. I’m okay with that.
“Vince is one of those types of people that inspire you. As intimidating of a reputation he has, Vince wouldn’t be as successful as he is if he wasn’t able to inspire people and find the little things that motivate people to be the best they can be. Whether it’s [ticking] people off or making them feel special, it motivates them either way and everybody wins.
“That [first] meeting in Boca was all about maximizing my potential as an athletic giant who could talk on the microphone and as an all-around asset to WWE and having a long-term career here. Seventeen years later, he’s true to his word.”
Cody Rhodes: "When I think about it, I almost get emotional."
“It was at the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony the night before WrestleMania 23 in Detroit. I had seen Vince and shook Vince’s hand before, but I had never met Vince. At the Hall of Fame, after we inducted my dad, Bruce Prichard told me, ‘Hey, Vince wants to see you.’
“I went into Vince’s office and that’s when I knew I had a place here. He said, ‘For your age, the amount of composure you had was just wonderful and I enjoyed watching it. I hope to enjoy watching it more in the future.’ I was uncomfortable, so I ended the conversation even though it was his job to end the conversation. Instead, I shook his hand, slapped him on the shoulder really hard and said, ‘You sure will!’ and walked out of the room.
“I instantly thought, ‘What the hell was I thinking?’ because I didn’t mean it. I just wanted out of the conversation. I treated it like he was one of my friends. I’m sure after I walked away, he must’ve said something like, ‘Arrogant [jerk].’ It was funny, because I was so young. I was 20. When I think about it, I almost get emotional. So much pressure was put on me. Not just by Vince, but by the Rhodes name and having so many opportunities.
“I’ve always wanted to be Vince’s star player, and I think he knows that. One of the things I’m so proud of with my career is when I get to where I want to be, it’ll be a hell of a man who takes me away from it. I have spent so long climbing the ladder that it’ll make it all worth it. Vince was a second-generation man in this business, too — third generation, even. He knows that you have to work harder than everybody else in the locker room, so I think he’s giving me the opportunity to do that.”
Mark Henry: "Nobody loves wrestling more than Vince."
“Through his people, Vince heard I was a big wrestling fan. I’d been asked, ‘What do you like to do in your spare time?’ And I said, ‘I like video games and wrestling. Saturday through Monday, don’t bother me. Those are the days I watch wrestling.’ That got back to Vince and he actually called my manager at the time, Terry Todd, and he gave Vince my number, so Vince called me himself.
“I picked up the phone and he said, ‘I heard you like wrestling. This is Vince McMahon.’ I hung up on him because I thought it was one of my wrestling buddies playing a joke on me. I got another call from Terry Todd and he asked me, ‘Did you hang up on Vince McMahon?’ And I said, ‘That was Vince McMahon for real?’ Vince called me back and we got a laugh out of it.
“When I went to Stamford, Vince asked me about my future and what I was thinking about doing after the Olympics. I told him I had a couple of invitations to NFL camps. I was a pretty decent offensive guard and defensive tackle. And he said, ‘Well I want you to think about pro wrestling.’ I was just in shock. I didn’t think it was even possible. I didn’t know how it worked. That’s when we created the first developmental system. It was me and The Rock.
“He was a great salesman. Anybody that’s met him knows he has a presence. You automatically step back and say, ‘Wow, this dude is somebody.’ When you hear him speak, he’s passionate about the business. There’s nobody that loves wrestling more than Vince. There are a lot of people that think they know more about wrestling than he does, but they don’t.”