At the time of his purchase of the World Wrestling Federation, professional wrestling was a business run by regional offices. The various promoters shared an understanding that they would not invade each other’s territories, as this practice had gone on undeterred for decades. McMahon had a different vision of what the industry could become. In 1963, the WWWF split from the National Wrestling Alliance, which was the governing body for all the regional territories across the country and as far away as Japan. McMahon also preferred a shift in the business from one of perceived violence to exaggerated storylines that attracted mainstream audiences, and he coined the term “sports entertainment” as a way to separate his product from his more traditional counterparts.
He began expanding the company nationally by promoting in areas outside of the company's Northeast U.S. stomping grounds and by signing talent from other companies, such as the American Wrestling Association (AWA). In 1984, he recruited Hulk Hogan to be the WWF’s charismatic new megastar, and the two quickly drew the ire of industry peers as the promotion began traveling and broadcasting into rival territories. Nevertheless, McMahon (who still also fronted as the WWF’s squeaky clean babyface announcer) created The Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection by incorporating pop music stars into wrestling storylines. As a result, the WWF was able to expand its fanbase into a national mainstream audience as the promotion was featured heavily on MTV programming. On March 31, 1985, he promoted the first WrestleMania to be held at Madison Square Garden while airing on closed circuit TV throughout the U.S. McMahon poured most of his funds into marketing the event, thus risking everything in an attempt for unbridled dominance; in spite of several sabotage efforts by rivals, WrestleMania was an undisputed success. As a result, the WWF thus stood head and shoulders above all its competition, and Hulk Hogan soon became a full-fledged pop-culture icon and child role model.
This led to what has been considered a "Golden Age of Wrestling" with WWF seeing increased mainstream exposure, TV ratings, and house show gates all throughout the rest of the decade. During the late 1980s, McMahon shaped the WWF into a unique sports entertainment brand that reached out to family audiences while attracting fans who had never before paid attention to pro wrestling. By directing his storylines towards highly-publicized supercards, McMahon initiated a brand-new revenue stream by promoting these events live on PPV television, a concept that would completely revolutionize event programming for all sports while catapulting the WWF into a multi-million dollar empire. Before long, WWF's Saturday Night's Main Event even occasionally supplanted Saturday Night Live in several highly-rated NBC broadcasts. In 1987, McMahon reportedly drew 93,173 fans to the Pontiac Silverdome (which was called the "biggest crowd in Sports entertainment history") for WrestleMania III, which featured the blockbuster main event of Hulk Hogan versus André the Giant. The actual attendance number, however, is debatable.
After several years struggling behind Ted Turner's World Championship Wrestling (WCW), McMahon cemented his place as the industry’s preeminent promoter in the late 1990s, when he initiated an entirely new brand strategy that would eventually return the WWF to prominence. Sensing a public shift towards a more hardened and cynical fan base, McMahon redirected storylines towards a more adult-oriented model. The concept became known as WWF Attitude, and McMahon personally commenced the new era when he manipulated the WWF Championship away from Bret Hart at Survivor Series in what is now known as the "Montreal Screwjob." From then on, McMahon, who for years had downplayed his ownership of the WWF and was thus better known as merely an affable announcer and foil to heel color commentators, immersed himself into WWF storylines as the evil “Mr. McMahon,” who later began a feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin, who challenged the boss’ authority. As a result, the WWF suddenly found itself back in the midst of national pop-culture, drawing millions of viewers for its weekly Monday Night Raw broadcasts, which ranked among the highest-rated shows on cable television.
McMahon ordered the WWF Championship to be defended in a 14-man tournament named Deadly Games at Survivor Series in 1998. McMahon made sure that Mankind reached the finals because Mankind had visited McMahon in hospital after McMahon was sent to the hospital by the Undertaker and Kane. He also awarded Mankind the WWF Hardcore Championship due to his status as a hardcore wrestling legend. During the main event, he was at the ringside during Mankind's tournament final match with The Rock for the WWF Championship. Originally, McMahon acted as he would help out Mankind during the match. At one point, The Rock turned his attention over McMahon. McMahon turned on Mankind after a screwjob, however, as The Rock had caught Mankind in the Sharpshooter. Mankind had not submitted but McMahon ordered the referee to ring the bell, thus giving The Rock the WWF Championship. This was an homage to the "Montreal Screwjob" that occurred one year earlier. McMahon referred to The Rock as the "Corporate Champion" thus forming the Corporation with his son Shane and The Rock. At Rock Bottom: In Your House, Mankind defeated The Rock to win the WWF Championship after The Rock was forced submit to the Mandible claw. McMahon, however, screwed Mankind once again by reversing the decision and returning the belt to his chosen champion, The Rock. McMahon went on to participate in a "Corporate Rumble" on the January 11, 1999 edition of Raw as an unscheduled participant, but he was eliminated by Chyna.
McMahon restarted a long-running feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin in 1999. He had put up $100,000 to anyone who was able to eliminate Austin in the Royal Rumble match. At Royal Rumble, with help from the Corporation members, McMahon won the match and earned a title match at WrestleMania XV against WWF Champion The Rock. He turned down his spot, however, and WWF Commissioner Shawn Michaels awarded it to Austin. Austin was forced to put his title shot on the line against McMahon at In Your House: St. Valentine's Day Massacre in a steel cage match. During the match, Big Show—a future member of the Corporation—interrupted, making his WWF debut. He threw Austin through the side of the cage thus giving him the victory.
The Corporation started a feud with The Undertaker's new faction the "Ministry of Darkness," which led to a storyline introducing Vince McMahon's daughter Stephanie McMahon. Stephanie played an "innocent sweet girl" who was kidnapped by The Ministry twice. The first time she was kidnapped, she was found by Ken Shamrock on behalf of McMahon in a basement of the stadium. The second time she was kidnapped, The Undertaker attempted to marry her whilst she was forcefully tied to the Ministry's crucifix, but she was saved by Stone Cold Steve Austin. This angle saw a brief friendship develop between McMahon and Austin, cooling their long running feud.
A previously unknown character was developed as a result called the "Higher Power", invented by Shane McMahon and The Undertaker. Vince McMahon, however, was later revealed as the "Higher Power" on the June 7 edition of Raw, reigniting his feud with WWF Champion Austin. McMahon's son Shane merged the Corporation with Undertaker's Ministry of Darkness to form the Corporate Ministry. McMahon would become a member of the stable The Union which existed for a brief time, during May 1999. As a result of McMahon being the "Higher Power", Austin was given 50% shares of the WWF by Linda and Stephanie McMahon out of their kayfabe disgust at him.
At King of the Ring, Vince and Shane McMahon defeated Austin in a handicap ladder match to regain control of the WWF. While CEO, Austin had scheduled a WWF Title match, to be shown on Raw after King Of The Ring. During the match, Austin defeated the Undertaker once again to become the WWF Champion. At Fully Loaded, Austin was again scheduled for a match against The Undertaker. If Austin lost, he would be banned from wrestling for the WWF Championship again; if he won, Vince McMahon would be banned from appearing on WWF TV. Austin defeated The Undertaker, and McMahon was banned from WWF TV.
McMahon returned as a face in the fall of 1999 and won the WWF Championship in a match against Triple H, thanks to outside interference from Austin on the September 16 episode of SmackDown!. He vacated the title during the following Monday's Raw is War. Over the next few months McMahon and Triple H feuded, with the linchpin of the feud being Triple H's storyline marriage to Stephanie McMahon. The feud culminated at Armageddon in 1999; McMahon faced Triple H in a No Holds Barred match which McMahon lost. Afterward, Stephanie turned on him.
McMahon returned to WWF television on the March 13, 2000 edition of Raw is War representing The Rock once again. Two weeks later, McMahon and The Rock defeated Shane McMahon and The Big Show in a tag team match with help from special guest referee Mankind. At WrestleMania 2000, Triple H defended the WWF Championship in a Fatal Four-Way Elimination match in which each competitor had a McMahon in his corner. Triple H had his wife Stephanie McMahon who was also the WWF Women's Champion in his corner, The Rock had Vince McMahon in his corner, Mick Foley had Linda McMahon in his corner, and Big Show had Shane in his corner. After Big Show and Foley were eliminated, Triple H and The Rock were left. Although Vince was in The Rock's corner, he turned on The Rock after hitting him with a chair, which helped Triple H win the match and retain his title. This would officially begin the McMahon-Helmsley Era.At King of the Ring, McMahon, Shane, and WWF Champion Triple H took on the Brothers of Destruction (Undertaker and Kane) and The Rock in a six-man tag team match for the WWF Championship. The stipulation of this match was that whoever made the scoring pinfall would become the WWF Champion. McMahon was pinned by The Rock which gave Rock the WWF Championship and his team, the victory. On the December 18 edition of Raw, McMahon faced Kurt Angle in a non-title match which was fought to no contest when Mick Foley interfered and attacked both men. After the match, both men beat Foley and McMahon fired him. McMahon and Stephanie then aligned together against Shane. At WrestleMania X-Seven, McMahon lost to Shane after Linda, who had been heavily sedated in the storyline, hit Vince with a low blow. On the same night, McMahon formed an alliance with Stone Cold Steve Austin, helping him defeat The Rock to gain another WWF Championship. The two, along with Triple H, formed an alliance which saw Austin and Triple H hold all three major WWF titles (Austin's WWF Championship, the Intercontinental Championship which Triple H won, and the Tag Team Championship) at the same time. The alliance was short lived, due to an injury to Triple H and a business venture by McMahon.
McMahon purchased long-time rival promotion World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in March 2001 from AOL Time Warner and signed many wrestlers from the organization. This marked the beginning of the Invasion storyline, in which the former WCW wrestlers regularly fought matches against the WWF wrestlers. On the July 9, 2001 edition of Raw, some extremists as well as several former ECW wrestlers on the WWF roster, joined with the WCW wrestlers to form The Alliance. Stone Cold Steve Austin joined the Alliance, along with Shane and Stephanie McMahon. Vince McMahon would join Team WWF. At Survivor Series, Team WWF defeated Team Alliance in a Survivor Series elimination match to pick up the victory for WWF and end the Invasion storyline.
On the December 26, 2005 edition of Raw, Vince personally reviewed Bret Hart's DVD. Shawn Michaels came out and he also started talking about Hart. McMahon replied, "I screwed Bret Hart. Shawn, don't make me screw you". At the 2006 Royal Rumble, when Michaels was among the final six remaining participants after eliminating Shelton Benjamin, McMahon's entrance theme music distracted Michaels, allowing Shane McMahon to eliminate him. On the February 27, 2006 edition of Raw, Michaels was knocked unconscious by Shane. When Michaels' former Rockers tag team partner Marty Jannetty came to the rescue of Michaels, he was forced to join McMahon's "Kiss My Ass Club". On the March 18 edition of Saturday Night's Main Event, Michaels faced Shane in a Street Fight. McMahon screwed Michaels while Shane had Michaels in the Sharpshooter. Michaels had not submitted, but McMahon ordered the referee to ring the bell, giving Shane the victory (another Montreal Screwjob reference). At WrestleMania 22, Vince McMahon faced Michaels in a No Holds Barred match. Despite interference from the Spirit Squad and Shane, McMahon was unable to beat Michaels. At Backlash, Vince McMahon and his son Shane defeated Michaels and "God" (characterized by a spotlight) in a No Holds Barred match.On the May 15, 2006 edition of Raw, Triple H hit Shane with a sledgehammer meant for Michaels. The next week on Raw, Triple H had another chance to hit Michaels with the object but he instead whacked the Spirit Squad. For a few weeks, McMahon ignored Michaels and began a rivalry with Triple H by forcing him to join "Kiss My Ass Club" (Triple H hit McMahon with a Pedigree instead of joining the club) and pitting him in a gauntlet handicap match against the Spirit Squad. Michaels, however, saved Triple H and the two reformed D-Generation X (DX). This led to a feud between the McMahons and DX, throughout the following summer. At SummerSlam in 2006, the McMahons lost to DX in a tag team match despite interference by Umaga, Big Show, Finlay, Mr. Kennedy, and William Regal. The McMahons also allied themselves with the ECW World Champion Big Show. At Unforgiven, the McMahons teamed up with The Big Show in a Hell in a Cell match to take on DX. Despite their 3-on-2 advantage, the McMahons lost again to DX thus ending the rivalry.In January 2007, McMahon started a feud with Donald Trump, which was featured on major media outlets. Originally Trump wanted to fight McMahon himself but they came to a deal: both men would pick a representative who would fight at WrestleMania 23 in a Hair vs. Hair match. The man whose representative lost the match would have his head shaved bald. After the contract signing on Raw, Trump pushed McMahon over the table in the ring onto his head after McMahon provoked Trump with several finger pokes to the shoulders. Later at a press conference, McMahon, during a photo opportunity, offered a shake of hands with Trump but retracted his hand as Trump put out his. McMahon went on to fiddle with Trump's tie and flick Trump's nose. This angered Trump as he then slapped McMahon across the face. McMahon was then restrained from retaliating by Trump's bodyguards and Bobby Lashley, Trump's representative. At WrestleMania 23, McMahon's representative (Umaga) lost the match. As a result, McMahon's hair was shaved bald by Trump and Lashley with the help of Stone Cold Steve Austin, who was the special guest referee of the "Battle of the Billionaires" match.McMahon then began a rivalry with Lashley over his ECW Championship. At Backlash, McMahon pinned Lashley in a 3-on-1 handicap match teaming up with his son Shane and Umaga to win the ECW Championship. At Judgment Day, McMahon defended his ECW Championship against Lashley again in a 3-on-1 handicap match. Lashley won the match as he pinned Shane after a Dominator but McMahon said that he was still the champion because Lashley could only be champion if he could beat him. McMahon finally lost the ECW Championship to Lashley at One Night Stand in a Street Fight despite interference by Shane and Umaga.
On June 11, 2007, WWE aired a segment at the end of Raw that featured McMahon entering a limousine moments before it exploded. The show went off-air shortly after, and WWE.com reported the angle within minutes as though it were a legitimate occurrence, proclaiming that McMahon was "presumed dead". Although this was the fate of the fictional "Mr. McMahon" character, no harm came to the actual person, the "presumed death" of McMahon was part of a storyline. WWE later acknowledged to CNBC that he was not truly dead.
The June 25, 2007 edition of Raw was scheduled to be a three-hour memorial to "Mr. McMahon". However, due to the actual death of Chris Benoit, the show opened with McMahon standing in an empty arena, acknowledging that his reported death was only of his character as part of a storyline. This was followed by a tribute to Benoit that filled the three-hour timeslot. His last appearance on WWE television until August 6, 2007 was the next night on ECW on Sci Fi in which after acknowledging that a tribute to Benoit had aired the previous night, he announced that there would be no further mention of Benoit due to the circumstances becoming apparent, and that the ECW show would be dedicated to those that had been affected by the Benoit murders. On the August 6 show, McMahon said that he faked his death to see what people really thought of him, with Stephanie accused of faking mourning while checking her father's last will and testament to see how it would benefit her.
The "Mr. McMahon" character officially returned on the August 6 episode of Monday Night Raw. He talked about many subjects, including an investigation by the United States Congress and owing money to the IRS. McMahon also declared a battle royal to determine a new Raw General Manager, which was won by William Regal. At the end of Raw, Jonathan Coachman informed McMahon of a (storyline) paternity suit regarding an illegitimate long-lost child, who was revealed in the following weeks as being a male member of the WWE roster. On the September 3 episode of Raw, McMahon appeared and was confronted by his family. They were interrupted by Mr. Kennedy who claimed to be McMahon's "illegitimate son", but he was also interrupted by a lawyer claiming Kennedy was not McMahon's son and that the real son would be revealed the following week on Raw. His illegitimate son was finally revealed on September 10 on Raw to be Hornswoggle. In February 2008, after months of "tough love" antics towards Hornswoggle, John "Bradshaw" Layfield revealed that Hornswoggle was not McMahon's son and that he was actually Finlay's son. It turned out that the scam was thought up by Shane, Stephanie and Linda McMahon, along with Finlay.
On the June 2 episode of Raw, McMahon announced that starting the following week, he would give away $1,000,000 live on Raw. Fans were able to register online, and each week, randomly selected fans would receive a part of the $1,000,000. McMahon's Million Dollar Mania lasted just three weeks and was suspended after the 3-hour Draft episode of Raw on June 23. After giving away $500,000, explosions tore apart the Raw stage, which fell and collapsed on top of McMahon. On June 30, Shane addressed the WWE audience before Raw, informing the fans that his family had chosen to keep his father’s condition private. In addition, he also urged the WWE to stand together during what he described as a "turbulent time". The McMahons made several requests to the wrestlers for solidarity, before finally appointing Mike Adamle as the new general manager of Raw in order to restore order to the brand.
On January 5 2009, Chris Jericho speaking to Stephanie McMahon, announced that Vince would return to Raw. The following week, Jericho was fired from WWE in a storyline. On January 19, 2009, Vince returned, as a face, and supported his daughter's decision on Jericho. Stephanie, however, rehired Jericho. Randy Orton then came out and claimed that Stephanie owed him an apology, but Vince stated that Orton owed him an apology. As Vince was about to fire Orton, Orton slapped, kicked, and punted Vince in the head, causing the return of Shane McMahon. On March 30 2009, McMahon made a surprise return on Raw with his son, Shane, and the WWE Champion Triple H to confront Orton. The night following WrestleMania, McMahon appeared on Raw to announce Orton would not be receiving another championship opportunity at Backlash but would instead team with his fellow Legacy members to face Triple H, his son Shane, and himself (this was altered, by the Raw General Manager Vickie Guerrero, later in the night to become a 6-Man Tag Team WWE Championship contest). Orton challenged McMahon to a match that night, which saw Legacy assault him, with Orton also hitting the RKO. After being assisted by Triple H, Shane and a returning Batista, McMahon announced that Batista would replace him in the Backlash 6-Man Tag Team Match; at Backlash Orton pinned Triple H to become the WWE Champion.After Placing different celebrity guest hosts each week on Raw Vince would make his main appearances on SmackDown! thus placing Theodore Long in probation for his actions on Smackdown!. On August 24, episode on Raw, Vince had a birthday bash which was later interrupted by The Legacy, and competed in a six-man tag team match with his long-time rival team DX, in which they won after the interference of John Cena.He continued to appear on Smackdown! making occasional matches and reminding Long that he is still on probation.On the November 16th edition of Raw he appeared on the show for the first time in 3 months which took place in Madison Square Garden to have an in ring segment with guest host Roddy Piper in which McMahon announced his "retirement" from in ring action.