An article by Mike Mooneyham
On camera, in front of millions of World Wrestling Federation fans each week, she plays a sassy, spoiled siren who loves playing games with her men. Outside the ring, Stephanie McMahon, the daughter of WWF owners Vince and Linda McMahon, is bright, warm and funny, a bona fide member of professional wrestling’s most infamous family.
At the tender age of 24, the Boston University graduate already loves the business with a passion, having worked for the company in a variety of capacities since the age of 12. And, like her older brother Shane, she’s a natural who loves taking bumps as well as cutting promos.
” I love this business. I really love being a part of it. I think you have to, especially the WWF, because with the schedule everybody keeps and with the pace we go, you couldn’t do it without having that passion. It would be miserable otherwise. That’s what we’re about. We’re about fun and entertainment. That’s all it is.”
[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]Over the past year the ” sweet and innocent “Stephanie McMahon has smoothly made the transformation into the “conniving and devious” Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley, and no one has enjoyed the change more than Steph.
” It’s so much more fun. I love being the heel.” It’s all in the genes, she laughs.
Stephanie came on board full-time after graduating from college two years ago, and the brown-haired beauty has taken to her new responsibilities like a duck to water. She had always hoped for a spot in the company, but she had never considered herself for an on-air role. During summers off from school, she had worked as a receptionist, taking fan calls and company calls, and moved to other departments while learning the family business. Immersing herself in all facets of the WWF, she eventually worked her way up to a position as account executive at the company’s New York sales office.
Today Stephanie is one of the most intriguing characters in a company loaded with intriguing characters. She’s also helping create some of those characters, as she has taken on the duty of helping manage the writing team. ” That’s my job at the moment. I love it. It’s a tremendous challenge.”
The buck still stops, however, with boss Vince, who Stephanie occasionally has to corral for a meeting or creative session. ” Ultimately the head creative is Vince,”Steph acknowledges. ” But that’s the real challenge also, getting Vince’s ear and being able to sit him down for a period of time and pitch ideas. He’s extraordinarily busy. I’m guess I’m lucky because I’m his daughter.”
So how does it feel to be the daughter of the most powerful man in the wrestling industry?
” I guess you could say one of the most powerful men in the world,”she says. ” It’s an honor to be working with my father, and my mother and my brother as well.”Mom Linda is the CEO of the company, while brother Shane, 30, heads up the New Media division as well as portraying his role on WWF television. Over the past year Shane has developed into an accomplished in-ring performer as well. ” He’s a hell of a bumper,”boasts his sister. ” He has improved 100 percent.”
Stephanie, a fourth-generation member of the McMahon family to be involved in the wrestling business, also notes that she thinks Shane, like her dad, has always wanted to get into the ring. ” Shane has always been a tremendous athlete. He and I always wrestled around. I don’t know this for a fact, but I think Shane must have always wanted to get in there.”” He’s a little nut,”she jokes. ” That 70-foot-fall from the scaffolding at Wrestlemania was definitely a breath-taker. I knew Shane would do it as safely as he could, but anything can go wrong. You’re sweaty, you’re oily and you’ve been in the ring. That grate can get slippery. ” It was the first time that I had ever prayed before someone was going to take a bump. I saw him climbing, and it was the first time I had ever prayed for a bump. I was really scared.”
Shane took the bump without injury, but the visual was enough to make everyone backstage cringe.
” I ran back and saw that he was OK,”says Stephanie. ” His adrenaline was pretty high, and he was floating around for a little while. I was just so happy to know that he was OK.”
Stephanie, who briefly held the WWF women’s title earlier this year, has taken a few bumps herself although she’s willing to leave the high drama to her brother. ” Personally I love bumping around, but I’m not falling off scaffolding or anything like that. I wouldn’t mind taking a big bump.”
Stephanie has thrown herself completely into the role of current WWF champ Kurt Angle’s ” business adviser,”while also portraying the wife of former titleholder Hunter Hearst Helmsley. They just happen to be two of her favorites.[ad#MikeMooneyham-468×15]
” Kurt has been one of the fastest learners in the business. He brags about it in his promos, but it’s true. It is true. From what I understand, it’s not all that common for an amateur wrestler to come into our world and be able to learn and adapt as quickly as Kurt has. ” Hunter and I get along very well. He has a tremendous passion for the business and a very good head for the business. He looks at the business as a whole, not just from one side or the other. He’s taught me a lot. Hunter’s a great guy, and he’s so incredibly talented. I’ve said this to him, but to me, it’s quite an honor to work with him.”
Stephanie says she wouldn’t mind seeing her role change or expand. ” I think we’re going to have to wait and see what opportunities present themselves. Certainly wherever the fans want me to go. I wouldn’t mind getting a little more evil,”she says with a devilish laugh.
Stephanie, who has a degree in communications, dismissed rumors that she was up for a leading romantic role in a movie that will be filmed next year. ” I keep reading about that, but I haven’t heard anything else about it. I swear I don’t know where that rumor started. I’ve even had friends call me. Nobody has contacted me about anything like that. I didn’t read for the part, but I’ve read about someone thinking that I was cast in this role.”
Stephanie, though, says she wouldn’t rule out a possible film feature, as long as it didn’t interfere with the WWF. ” I certainly wouldn’t object to it. I think it would definitely be a fun thing to try. But my number one passion will always be the WWF.”
One of Stephanie’s immediate goals is enhancing the WWF women’s division. ” I’m continually impressed with them and looking at ways to expand their characters and be able to use them in the ring where it’s entertaining to our male audience as well as growing our female audience.”
Stephanie and her brother grew up in Cape Cod, Mass., and Greenwich, Conn., where she moved when she was 8 years old. Her childhood favorite was Andre The Giant, and she has many fond memories. ” Andre was really sort of my friend, too,”she says. ” I first met Andre when I was 3. I actually don’t even remember this, but my mother, who had been watching from a window, told me the story. “Andre pulled up to our house in his van, and I guess I was jumping on a trampoline. I had a baby sitter who started rolling up all the windows and locking all the doors. She didn’t know who Andre was. Andre came over to the trampoline and stuck his hand out. I stepped into his hand, and he lifted me up to his cheek and I gave him a kiss on his cheek and he put me back down. My mother was so amazed by it because I wasn’t afraid. He was sort of magical to me.”
Andre, Stephanie notes, was a gentle giant
unless you pissed him off,”she jokes.
” I saw one side of that once when I went to visit Andre at the hospital in Greenwich. He had a staph infection and another problem with his back. I hadn’t seen him for a couple of years, I guess between the ages of 12 and 14, and girls do a lot of changing in that time. I walked into his room, and Andre made eye contact with me, and put the fear of God in me. I’m not kidding. The way he looked at he, I thought he was going to get up out the bed and kill me on the spot. I’ve never felt anything like that – ever. He did it with one look. Oh my God, you have no clue, how intimidating he could be. I stood there for a second and said, `Andre, Andre. It’s me … It’s Stephanie.’ ” He then said, `Oh, Stephanie,’ and his whole face changed. He just didn’t recognize me.”
Stephanie notes the irony in the fact that while Andre was in great pain the last few years of his life, he passed in his sleep, dying in his native France at the age of 46.
” He really loved life.”
Stephanie says her dad will continue to help the company grow in a variety of innovative ways.
” I think Vince is truly a visionary and will follow his heart no matter where it leads him. But definitely his first love and his baby is the WWF. That doesn’t stop him from wanting to try other things and wanting to grow the WWF as a whole, as an entertainment entity.”
She says it was a turning point when Vince decided to leave the USA network earlier this year.
” I think that Vince saw opportunity with Viacom. You have to go where opportunity leads you. We wanted to be on a station that didn’t preempt us for tennis that delivered hash mark for ratings.”
That’s not to say it wasn’t a difficult decision to make, she adds.
” Absolutely. Vince is a very good businessman, but he’s also very loyal. He wouldn’t have left USA had he not felt that it was absolutely the right thing to do for the company as a whole … Being on UPN for Smackdown, we really got to see how that network partnered with us, really listened and wanted to re-brand our network. When Viacom wanted to purchase our programming, we felt it was much better to have partners who understood who we are and could really get behind us and promote us on their network. USA never really promoted anything we did.”
Since the move, USA’s ratings have dropped considerably, due largely to the departure of its top-rated wrestling programming.
” USA was No. 1 because of us,”says Stephanie. ” We really enjoyed our home on USA. But times change I suppose.”
And although ratings have declined slightly for Raw since the move to TNN, Smackdown’s numbers remain strong.
” Some cable systems still don’t get TNN. The ratings have dipped slightly for Raw, but for Smackdown they continue to increase. TNN on my dial is like 79. You have to hunt for it.”