3 WWE Superstars who took years to win Vince McMahon over and 3 who didn't
Mick Foley once said that to get pushed in WWE, Vince McMahon needs to be a big fan of yours. It's not easy to win over the biggest name in professional wrestling - a man who has been in the industry for five decades and has seen generations of the greatest wrestlers come and go.
Every generation of superstars has had to do their best to win Vince McMahon over. There are cases of superstars who won Vince McMahon over at first sight, while some have had to scratch and claw for years before getting the recognition they deserve.
This list looks at superstars on both sides of the spectrum - those who took years to win over Vince McMahon, and those who didn't:
#3. Took years to win Vince McMahon over: Kofi Kingston
This case is a bit different from some of the other names on this list since Kofi Kingston was already a highly accomplished WWE superstar before 2019. He's now a 21-time Champion in WWE, and before 2019, that number was 16.
Naturally, that many Championships should indicate trust from Vince McMahon, but in this case, it was about trusting Kofi Kingston to become a main event superstar and WWE Champion.
It all came together on a single night when it was revealed that Kofi Kingston replaced Mustafa Ali in the Elimination Chamber main event for the WWE championship. What followed was perhaps among the greatest performances in a gauntlet match, instantly skyrocketing his popularity.
It was only then, 11 years after his WWE debut, that Vince McMahon saw the potential in Kofi Kingston as a World Champion. It resulted in an incredible Elimination Chamber performance where Kofi Kingston came the closest he had ever been to achieving the industry's greatest prize.
In the build-up to WrestleMania 35, Vince McMahon appeared on-screen as a foil to Kofi Kingston - thwarting every attempt for him to win a WWE Championship match at WrestleMania. Kevin Owens was rumored to be returning to challenge Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania, but the reaction from the WWE audience towards Kofi Kingston made Vince McMahon change his mind.
KofiMania remains one of the most incredible stories of the past decade, and it was the true culmination of a 11-year journey in WWE for Kofi Kingston. He won Vince McMahon over and went on to become the first African-born WWE champion in history.
While many thought it would be a similar reign to Rey Mysterio's disastrous world title run in 2006, Kofi Kingston held the title for half a year and was presented as a strong, legitimate champion. The end of his reign raised some questions, but it shouldn't overshadow the incredible year that Kofi Kingston had in 2019.
#3. Didn't take years to win over Vince McMahon: Brock Lesnar
For Vince McMahon, it was love at first sight for Brock Lesnar. Jim Ross was once the head of talent relations from WWE, and in 1999, Brock Lesnar was the company's #1 target to sign.
Brock Lesnar was backstage at SummerSlam in 1999, and it was believed he had never been to a pro wrestling event in his life. Jim Ross recalled making Vince McMahon go out of his way to meet Brock Lesnar,
"So, I said, 'he's standing out here' and when Vince walked by, he gave him a little wave. He saw, 'wait a minute, is that what I think it is? Is that 6'3", 280 [lbs.]? Is that blonde hair? Looks like an angry Viking or a heifer bull.' So Vince made a little detour, shook Brock's hand, the rest, as they say, is history."
He was signed to WWE in 2000 and debuted on the main roster two years later. He was an instant Vince McMahon favorite, getting pushed right off the bat and becoming the youngest WWE Champion in history at the age of 25. He has only won World Championships in WWE, and Vince McMahon has felt the need to only sign him to part-time contracts to use him as a special attraction.
Vince McMahon continues to value him, as UFC President Dana White once said Brock Lesnar had the vault thrown at him by the WWE Chairman.
#2. Took years to win over Vince McMahon: Shawn Michaels
Shawn Michaels is perhaps one of Vince McMahon's favorite wrestlers of all time. While WWE has consistently dubbed him the greatest in-ring performer in history, it's likely coming straight from Vince McMahon.
For more than a decade since his retirement, Shawn Michaels has been the gold standard of in-ring performers for the generations after him to look up to. But many forget that it took Shawn Michaels 8 years from his WWE re-debut to win his first World title.
Shawn Michaels didn't fit the billing of a world champion in WWE's golden era, but as they started to shift perceptions, stars like The Heartbreak Kid and Bret Hart were the biggest beneficiaries.
Even so, Bruce Prichard stated that it took years for Shawn Michaels to reach that level, but Vince McMahon pushed him when he was undeniably the best in WWE.
Jim Ross explained the strong bond that formed between Shawn Michaels and Vince McMahon over the years:
Vince [McMahon] and Shawn [Michaels] have always had that, a strong bond, and it's bonded together with the fact that Vince saw a little bit of himself as far being defiant, attitudinal, that type of thing with Shawn. So, they were connected in that respect. Even though they had great arguments, they had significant arguments. But, I just think Vince just had a, for whatever reason, he just had a special affinity for Shawn Michaels. And it just might have been, Conrad, God forbid, this could be this, the fact that he was arguably the number 1 or number 2 worker in the world at the time. And we'd built so much around Shawn, and rightfully so
This sums up the strong bond that the two had, something that took years to build.
#2. Didn't take years to win over Vince McMahon: The Rock
The Rock seemed destined for greatness from the start and Vince McMahon was the architect of that. The Rock always attributes his time in WWE to his Hollywood success, and Vince McMahon has a big role in that.
The Rock has been open about his rough life before he became a WWE superstar, and that included being broke, depressed, and on the verge of suicide. But once he secured his WWE contract, it was an upward rise.
His debut at Survivor Series 1996 is proof enough. Vince McMahon was one of the commentators and he spent a large part of the match praising the young Rocky Maivia.
Although The Rock's road to the top wasn't as straightforward as he may have first expected, Vince McMahon had the foresight to turn him heel when the crowd rejected his somewhat cheesy babyface character.
This resulted in the birth of The Rock, and once he aligned with The Nation of Domination, his trajectory was only upward. By 1998, The Rock had won his first WWE Championship and would go on to become one of the company's greatest superstars.
#1. Took years to win over Vince McMahon: The Miz
The Miz's relationship with Vince McMahon has grown over the years. His entry into WWE and eventual rise to the top is arguably one of the most underrated stories of the past decade. He came into WWE at the age of 24 via Tough Enough - a competition that he didn't win.
Even then, he was offered a developmental contract, and two years later, he made his debut on the main roster. The Miz recalled a story where he botched a promo and thought he was going to be fired, only for Vince McMahon to assure him he wouldn't:
“I remember going backstage thinking, ‘I’m going to get fired,’” he said. “And I walk back, I went over to Vince, I go, ‘I’m so sorry, I apologize, this will never happen again. I will make sure it will not happen again.’ He goes, ‘I know it won’t happen again.’ He took me aside and he said, ‘Bullet points, kid. You need to learn bullet points, and I know you will do better next time because you will have to do it next Friday.’ So it was like, ‘Oh, I’m not fired.’”
The Miz has had to go through a lot in WWE, including getting kicked out of the locker room by Chris Benoit. Eventually, Vince McMahon recognized him enough to make him a Money in the Bank winner, a WWE champion, and subsequently, a WrestleMania main eventer.
While WrestleMania 27 might have been the pinnacle of The Miz's career, he has gone on to enjoy great success and is a WWE Grand Slam Champion. Vince McMahon's trust in The Miz has been repaid and more with an incredible 15-year tenure on the main roster.
#1. Didn't take years to win over Vince McMahon: AJ Styles
AJ Styles was signed to WWE, with Vince McMahon having little expectation. While AJ Styles was already considered among the world's five best wrestlers by that point, it was unlikely that Vince McMahon had seen his work.
It was a long journey to WWE for AJ Styles, but when he arrived and made a splash, Vince McMahon instantly knew that he had a star in his hands. By this point, AJ Styles was already the best in-ring competitor in WWE and was being treated as a top 5 star within months.
His incredible main event matches against Roman Reigns and instant classics with John Cena were all part of Vince McMahon's plan to quickly establish AJ Styles in WWE. Within just over 7 months of his debut, he would win the WWE Championship.
Though Vince McMahon likely underestimated AJ Styles when he arrived in WWE, he never made that mistake again. AJ Styles has been open about having a great relationship with Vince McMahon, and he has now been in WWE for well over five years.
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