MUST-READ – Vince McMahon On Why He Hates The ‘Dirtsheets’, Triple H, Injuries, More

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Vince McMahon did a rare interview with Brian Fritz of The Orlando Sentinel following the press conference announcing WrestleMania 33 in Orlando. Check out the highlights:

On John Cena missing WrestleMania 32: “John Cena has been on the sidelines for a while. It’s so difficult for him. Obviously, he’s one of our premier performers. Watching on the sidelines, it’s brutal. When your passion is to be in the ring and performing, it’s killing him that he’s not going to be in one of the main events this year. It’s really killing him. I felt so badly for him…John is Babe Ruth, he’s everything to us. And a real warrior. I don’t know how long he’s going to pursue this … I don’t know if it’s going to be 70 like me, but he’ll try. It’s just in him and he loves it so much, even when he was a little kid. I don’t know if you’ve seen some of the videos where he’d have a mini-championship belt made out of cardboard and all that kind of stuff. And on top of it, he’s a hell of a guy.”

On why they picked Orlando for WrestleMania 33: “I must say that we’re welcome here and that’s part of the reason and it’s the first time we’re repeating [the same arena]. There have been a lot of improvements. We would not have come back had there not been a lot of improvements to the Citrus Bowl. We just can’t now. And playing at these stadium shows is, for us, our big deal. We try not to play stadium shows during the year; we’re trying to keep this just for WrestleMania. Orlando is special. When you think about family-friendly events and attractions, here in Orlando there’s no brand that fits that better than we do on a global basis. Maybe some of the brands are here in America but in Orlando, ours dwarfs all of that in terms of everything with YouTube. We had eight billion views last year on YouTube alone and a lot of that is international. Again, just that stat alone and social media one day might be our primary vehicle for Raw and SmackDown as we know it. Now, in terms of distribution, it’s growing so fast, it’s a land grab. We have our share of the land, maybe a little more than some people would like. But we’ll continue to grab that land. You have to do that. The amount of impressions that we do make every day, and [we will] make even more by the time we come back here, is really hard for someone to really wrap their arms around. Orlando is going to be really, really good for us and we’re going to be really, really good for Orlando.”

On the possibility of WrestleMania coming back every five years or so: “It could be. It’s so competitive for WrestleMania to come to cities. It’s second to the Super Bowl and it’s basically a weeklong series of events. It’s a huge attraction so whether or not we come back here, I would hope that we do. It requires cities, states to sharpen their pencil and go win the Super Bowl. Thus far, all of that’s been done here and again, with a big smile.”

On cities lobbying to host the event: “It’s been some time now when they started reaching out to us, actually. It’s been good. They come up and do the presentation and it’s very competitive. And you have to match it as well which is difficult for some cities. You have to match not just the stadium, but then you combine that same week that the arena has to be available for the Hall of Fame and, hopefully the same one, for NXT in terms of their presentation. And then, of course, you have Raw and you’ve got SmackDown. In addition to all of that, you’ve got a convention center hopefully or something close by where you can have fan Axxess. It’s all of these other attractions that we create. It’s important to have all of that coordinated and that’s a very difficult thing. As much as a city would want that … for instance, Boston and Providence. We couldn’t quite get there with all of that, because it’s two locations, yet one big media center. It’s difficult to have all of those things aligned for a city. The farther out you go, naturally, the easier it is to line all that up. But that’s part of it as well. It’s the logistics, not just the money, so to speak.”

On always thinking ahead: “You have to. I never look back except to learn from my mistakes. Obviously, I’ve made a number of those but cover them up pretty quick or everybody else covers them up for me. I’m not good at all at looking back. I’m not good at that at all. I just don’t do that. It’s what’s tomorrow, what’s next year. How am I going to leave this to the next generation, although I don’t plan to die. It may take a while for that. I don’t know. I could have a heart attack right here.”

On the growth of the Performance Center: “That, quite frankly, was pretty much my son-in-law Paul [Levesque], his vision. He’s done an unbelievable job. Years ago, there were all these fiefdoms, these territories and what-have-you throughout the United States. It was easy for us then to reach out and grab some of those seasoned talents and introduce them to WWE. That was a golden era as far as talent acquisition is concerned. That was then. So where do you get your talent today? There is none of that now so you start, in essence, a farm league so to speak and you grow that. It takes a while. You can’t just walk in, an athlete, no matter how good they really are, you can’t walk in and do what we do. There are a lot of athletes from a pro standpoint that come in and they just can’t do it. it takes a special person. And it’s not just the athleticism; it’s the personality projection, it’s the charisma, and that you either have or you don’t. You can create an aura somewhat but you can’t create charisma.”

On Triple H’s work with the PC: “What Paul has done, he’s done an extraordinary job and because of the welcome here in Florida, because of the Performance Center, its world-class qualities, we are able to attract so many more athletes now. You saw the NXT talent that was here. I was talking to John Cena who was there [at the Performance Center] this week giving a pep talk and he said these talents are really, really good. And he says, ‘I’ve got to tell you, watching the new talents in there, the looks that they certainly have, you can see that they’re very different and they’re gifted athletically.’ He said this is going to be a huge crop of new talent coming up. Again, it’s the concept of the big wheel keeps on turning. In our world, that’s because of NXT, that’s what happens in that big wheel with all of the distribution and all of our developers now, it just gets bigger and bigger and the momentum continues on.”

On the competitive nature of the new talent at the Performance Center: “It’s different. You have to adapt. It’s not like the talent is going to adapt to you. It’s an environment and when kids grow up in a certain environment that’s who they are, the values and the goals that their parents teach them, that’s who they are and it’s different with every generation. I don’t know if it’s better or worse; it’s just different. When I grew up, it was almost literally cutthroat competition. It’s not that now, they compete in a different way. It’s not one in which individually they want to grab that brass ring necessarily. It’s collectively they want to do it. So you have to look at talent and be able to reach them. In another expression, the first law of communication is know your audience. If you know your audience, you know the way they receive information. You have to talk to these guys and gals in a different way than you did 10 years ago, even five years ago. You have to reach them. If you use the same spiel, they’re not going to grab that one.”

What it’s been like to see Paul grow the way he has behind the scenes?: This is a guy that’s still a performer in the ring but now he’s a big part of helping run things and a guy that in the future is going to have an even bigger role running things with your daughter Stephanie.

On Triple H’s growth as a guiding force in WWE: “It’s extraordinary watching that growth. Growth is painful sometimes. Some of us really enjoy pain so it’s easy for us to grow. Most people don’t. Most people say they want to grow but more people are naturally comfortable with where they are. Paul’s not that way. Paul is very aggressive. Not outwardly so. When you meet with him and talk with him, it’s like, ‘what a nice guy.’ But inside, he has that competitive spirit and he’s always reaching for that brass ring. He’s done so well. I’m so proud of him, not just the years he’s spent in the ring and I don’t know how many more years that’s going to last. This may be his last WrestleMania. I don’t know. He’s a little long in the tooth as I say to his face and we all laugh about that now because I’m 70 years old. Nonetheless, corporately the growth over the last two years has been exponential and Stephanie’s part has been even more of a meteoric rise. What she does in terms of representing the brand, no one can represent the brand in all aspects, in all facets of our business, and she fits everywhere. Talk about an ambassador, she’s obviously beyond an ambassador and her growth corporately has been great. I’m very proud of both of them.”

On if he feels like he’s 70 years old “No. I don’t know if I feel like I’m 40. Actually, some would say I’m still a teenager as far as certain aspects of my brain. It’s like I refuse to grow up. I don’t want to grow up. Now I’m old enough to say I’m not going to grow up. So what are you going to do about that?”

On returning as a performer on TV: A: “I much prefer to produce and direct, much prefer that. This storyline allowed me that opportunity and sort of pushed me that way. I don’t know how much you’re going to see of me because I’d rather be producing and directing. Again, there are only so many bumps and so forth that anybody can take. I’m willing to take them obviously. I always said to talent that I would never ask you to do anything that I wouldn’t do, which I’ve lived up to.”

On having Shane return: “It’s been awesome. I was hoping that one day we might get back together. It’s difficult. Fathers and sons sometimes, in the same business at a certain stage, it can be very difficult. You love each other just as much but you see things a little differently. You have the old bull and the young bull and the old bull is not ready to give it up, his horns are still sharp. It’s great that Shane is back. Whether or not there’s a corporate place, we’ll wait and see. From a performer standpoint, I so enjoy performing with him. And when the three of us are out there, Stephanie and Shane and me, and throw in Paul because that has happened in the past, oh my God! We could stay out there and entertain each other, much less the audience, for an hour. It would be easy. It’s just so much fun because we can ad-lib and entertain ourselves. I think if you are entertaining yourselves and you’re having fun, that projects and the audience is having fun with you.”

On the pressure of trying to make WrestleMania bigger each year: “I can say, unequivocally, that it’s a lot of pressure. Every year you have to outdo yourself. This year was difficult because John Cena was not a part of it. We have to reach way down and try and come up with things you haven’t done before and also hold back surprises that the audience does not know. They expect that from us.”

On keeping Shane’s return quiet: “No, we kept that one very quiet. We try to keep these things quiet. It’s difficult sometimes, like you said. It’s different for a talent to know what they’re going to be performing in is a surprise. It’s going to be great, I can’t wait. It’s so difficult for them to hold that just inside. They have to share that with their family and maybe their best friend or it’s one of those things where loose lips sink ships, like back in World War II. Not that I was around then. Actually, I was.”

On maintaining surprises in the internet age: “Nonetheless, it’s difficult to hold something like that but if you can, the audience loves it. It’s one of the reasons why I’ll always be anti-some members of the media, so-called dirt sheets or whatever it is. I’ve always disliked them. Not because of their voice and certainly not because of their opinion. No one respects the First Amendment more than me. Their opinions, negative or positive, they’re entitled to. I’ve always appreciated that because, quite frankly, some of the things I’ve learned from. I learn from everybody. It’s that they want to be a spoiler. No! No! Don’t spoil this. Don’t spoil it for the public. But I know that’s a part of their job too. It’s one of those things we try, with any form of the media now, we try no, no, no. Let me surprise you. As a matter of fact, with Shane and a number of instances we’ve had, like Brock Lesnar when he first came back, we keep people on a bus in the parking lot. We won’t let our techs, we won’t let the talent, we won’t let anybody know until it’s time for them to walk out there. Shane was in a bus and he was not allowed to come out of the bus until Stephanie’s music hit and Stephanie had walked down the ramp. Shane comes out of the bus with security and goes right up to what we call Gorilla position (an area just off stage) and the guys there go, “I can’t believe it.” And all of the guys backstage, the vast majority of them, they didn’t see Shane when he walked through. They were all shocked and surprised. That’s what I try to do: totally surprise our talent. They like to be surprised just like the audience. They like to be entertained so I like to entertain our talent as well. And the talent likes to be entertained or entertain themselves as we all do. It’s one great big entertainment wheel on all fronts.”

On the challenge of putting WrestleMania 32 together due to the rash of injuries: “No doubt. Hopefully by the time we come to the Citrus Bowl, all of those guys will be healthy and it will be a bigger WrestleMania.”

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