They turn wrestling into family affair

October 16, 2003|By Kevin Eck | Kevin Eck,SUN STAFF

Vince McMahon contorted his face and writhed in faux agony on the wrestling ring canvas as the raucous crowd howled in approval.

Standing over the 58-year-old chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment was his smirking daughter, Stephanie, 27, reveling in a takedown of her father with a well-placed kick to his groin.

Although he outwardly emoted intense pain, inside Vince had to be swelling with pride. That's because his daughter, like her brother, Shane, has followed him into the family business of professional wrestling, and this scene had played out just as it was scripted.

In such an unusual business, a daughter kicking her father below the belt - which took place on a recent episode of UPN's SmackDown! - is actually just business as usual.

In fact, on Sunday at 1st Mariner Arena, Vince and Stephanie will again wrestle each other in a father vs. daughter match as part of the No Mercy pay-per-view broadcast.

Like their famous father and their mother, Linda, the CEO of the company, Shane and Stephanie McMahon are integral figures in WWE both on camera and behind the scenes.

When he's not performing daredevil stunts in the ring, Shane, 33, heads a division of the company that includes Internet media, publishing, international television and merchandising. Stephanie, who plays the on-air role of SmackDown! general manager, is in charge of the writing teams for that show and Spike TV's Raw.

"One of the greatest things that can happen for a father is that a daughter or son would want to follow in their footsteps in the same business," says Vince McMahon, a third-generation wrestling promoter. "Although I know this sounds very trite, I would have been extremely supportive whatever it was they chose as a profession.

"But they both have a tremendous passion for this business, which is extremely important to me, because it was handed down in terms of legacy from my dad and my grandfather."

The McMahons' passion for what they do is evident by the lengths they are willing to go to entertain their audience.

Pro wrestling often is referred to as a soap opera for men, and one of the staples of any traditional soap opera is a powerful, often dysfunctional, family. On WWE programming, the McMahons portray a family so dysfunctional, they make Ozzy Osbourne's brood look like Ozzie Nelson's.

For example, in Sunday's match, Linda, who has been married to Vince for 37 years, will be in her daughter's corner, while blond bombshell Sable, who is having an on-screen affair with Vince, will be in his corner.

Past story lines include Vince keeping his wife medicated in a sanitorium while he was having another of his affairs, and Shane and Stephanie conspiring against their father to pull a hostile takeover of the company. Shane and Vince have wrestled each other on several occasions, and Stephanie once slapped her mother across the face as part of the show. In the current scenario, Vince and Stephanie are at odds because he feels she is defying him.

"Mr. McMahon is salivating for this opportunity," Vince McMahon says of his television character. "If making an example out of his very own daughter is what it takes for Mr. McMahon to make his point to the world, then he's only too happy to oblige."

In reality, the McMahons are a close-knit family.

"Fans might find this difficult to believe, but my dad is one of the most loving, caring individuals I've ever met, and I love him very much," Stephanie McMahon told The Free Lance-Star of Fredericksburg, Va., last week.

Because they are so close, the McMahons' on-screen conflicts take an emotional toll.

"I'll never forget when I made the first match against Shane," Vince McMahon says. "Tears welled up in his eyes. He said, `Dad, I'm going to have to hit you.' I said, `Yeah, I know. Lay it in.' He said, `But Dad, you don't understand.' He did his job, and he did it well, but it was difficult. It was the same when Stephanie had to slap Linda. Stephanie broke down right after that scene was over."

With WWE always looking to push the envelope, a father-daughter match was probably inevitable. "Shane said something about doing a father-daughter match about three months ago, and I laughed it off," Vince McMahon says. "I said, `That'll be a cold day in hell.' And here comes the cold day.

"It will be difficult for me," he adds. "I want to make [the match] look good, but at the same time I don't want to hurt her."

If wrestling against his daughter on pay-per-view isn't unsettling enough for Vince McMahon, consider that the match takes place just six days before Stephanie's real-life wedding to WWE superstar Triple H.

"If she gets a black eye or anything at all like that, oh, my God, can you imagine how rotten I'm going to feel?" he says. "Linda has said to me, `Vince, if Stephanie gets hurt or if she doesn't look beautiful walking down that aisle ... ' I said, `I know, Linda. Don't say it. I know.' I mean the pressure is on."

In addition to gaining an in-law next week, the McMahon clan is set to add another member to the family in February. That's when Shane's wife, Marissa, who used to work for the company as a publicist, is scheduled to give birth to the couple's first child.

"I'm thrilled to be a grandfather. I can't wait," Vince McMahon says. "Linda and I love kids. We've often said to each other that we should have had a dozen instead of two.

"With Shane and Marissa having a baby, hopefully there will be a fifth generation of McMahons in this business."

We already can see where this one's going. Coming to pay-per-view in 2025, WWE proudly presents the first-ever grandfather vs. grandchild match.

WWE

When: 7:45 p.m. Sunday

Where: 1st Mariner Arena, 201 W. Baltimore St.

Tickets: $200, $75, $60, $40, $30 and $20, available through Ticketmaster.

Call: 410-481-SEAT or visit www.ticketmaster.com.

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