Vince McMahon has spent decades crafting his legend more carefully than any WWE storyline, but before he became the genius billionaire with boxer-bursting grapefruits, he saw his share of struggle and strife. McMahon was 37 years old when he bought the WWF, and the story of his life up until that point is, in many ways, more interesting than what came after.
Beneath the swaggering Mr. McMahon persona is a man from humble beginnings, who spent years courting trouble and generally just f*cking up until he got his big break. Here are a few things you really ought to know about the turbulent first half of Vince McMahon’s life…
1. Vince McMahon comes from humble, trailer park beginnings. Vincent Kennedy McMahon was born in 1945 to second generation wrestling promoter Vincent James McMahon and Vickie Askew. Despite being the son of a man who’d become one of the most successful pro wrestling promoters in the country, Vince, Jr. wasn’t exactly born with a silver spoon in his mouth.
Vince, Jr.’s mom and dad split soon after his birth, and he grew up without contact with his real father. Vince spent most of his childhood in a trailer park in Havelock, N.C., a small town that existed to service a nearby Marine Corps airbase. It may have been a far cry from Stamford, Conn., but it sounds like lil’ Vince didn’t particularly mind the modest surroundings.
“[We had] a New Moon trailer, eight feet wide. Trailer park isn’t poverty. You don’t have much privacy, but there are nice things about it. Everything is compact. And it beats some other places.”
From the trailer park, to sniffing money like a weirdo. Living the American dream.
What Vince wasn’t so fond of, were the beatings handed out by his stepfather, Leo Lupton, an electrician at the airbase. Lupton would hit Vince’s mother, and when Vince defended her, he’d also catch a beating. In an interview, Vince didn’t mince words about his stepdad…
“It’s unfortunate that he died before I could kill him. I would have enjoyed that.”
2. He struggled with dyslexia and ADD as a kid. McMahon may be lauded as a genius on WWE TV, but he was no prize student. He almost flunked out of high school, only making it through when his father paid to have him sent to an exclusive military academy, and he barely dragged his ass through a basic business degree over the course of five years. Vince’s academic struggles weren’t entirely his fault, though.
Not even military school could tame the Vince McMahon pompadour.
Vince suffered from dyslexia and attention deficit disorder as a kid. While he’s presumably learned to manage it, dyslexia doesn’t just go away, so Vince is still dealing with it to this day. It’s almost enough to make you feel bad about hating those promos Vince wrote for Roman Reigns. Almost.
3. He didn’t meet his wrestling promoting father until he was 12. After 12 years in the trailer park, Vince McMahon, Jr. finally met Vince McMahon, Sr. Vince had never set eyes on his father before (at least not that he could remember), and he instantly formed a powerful bond with his real dad…
“When I met my dad, I fell in love with him. We got very, very close, but we both knew we could never go back. There would always be something missing between us, but there was no reason to discuss it. I was grateful for the chance to spend time with him.”
Vince would also fall in love with his dad’s line of work. From that moment on, Vince, Jr. had the wrestling bug.