Athletes & Celebrities

Vince McMahon: The WWE's Ringmaster (WWE)

WWE founder Vince McMahon has walked the bodybuilding and fitness walk virtually all his life.


You can’t script this stuff. Mr. McMahon firing someone in front of millions of viewers from the dozens of cities the WWE will visit this year for RAW Smackdown and live pay-per-view broadcasts? That you can script. But not Vince growing up with a father and grandfather involved in professional wrestling, exposing him to some of the world’s greatest physiques, then passing the business on to him. Or Vince picking up a weight at a very young age and never setting it down, not even when he reached 60 and very easily could have, what with traveling every week and tearing the occasional quad or two (more on that in a moment).

By the time Vince was 16 and being shipped off to military school in Virginia, he had already earned the nickname “Flex” for his physical prowess. He played baseball, football and basketball, and wrestled, so he was always engaged in some type of training. With a select few role models to emulate, he latched onto the likes of Steve Reeves and whatever pro wrestlers possessed the type of physique he strived for. “Back in my day [the ’50s], there was no Arnold [Schwarzenegger],” says Vince. “We had no one guy to look up to unless it was a strongman at a circus or a professional wrestler. Today it’s easier for someone to emulate Ronnie Coleman or someone like him. But I didn’t really have that growing up.”


As the photo shoot proceeds, it’s clear he’s “Vince” today, not “Mr. McMahon.” And he’s not your typical 60-year-old man, either. How many 60-year-olds are 6'2", 240 pounds and ripped? How many can weight-train with Triple H and actually keep up, even out-lift him on back day, using 200-pound dumbbells on the one-arm row? (“He doesn’t like to admit that I’m stronger than him on certain lifts,” Vince laughs.) How many can use 1,200 pounds on the leg press—for reps?

Vince is far from looking, or acting, his age (he’ll be 61 in August). Last year, he and Triple H trained together three or four days a week. And when he trains, he trains hard and heavy: no gimmicks, very few machines, like his mentors of yesteryear. Heavy benching, bent-over rows and squats are his staples. “

Vince is old-school,” says his training partner Steve Stone, a former competitive bodybuilder and current NPC vice chairman of bodybuilding under Steve Weinberger in New York. “He doesn’t look for any shortcuts. It upsets him when people give 80%. If you don’t add up to something but you’re giving 110%, that’s admirable to him. But if you’re great at 80% and he knows you could do more, he wants you to because that’s what he would do. He doesn’t expect anything out of his wrestlers that he wouldn’t do himself.”

“When you’re younger, it’s tough to appreciate your health and to appreciate physical culture,” explains Vince. “I always did, but not to the extent that I do now. The older you get, the more you appreciate the training and the results you get. I can do anything at 60 that I could do at 30. I just can’t do it as often.”

Talk about a model baby boomer. While many men his age will give you a laundry list of reasons why they can’t go to the gym—family, work, chronic laziness—Vince’s schedule is as jam-packed as anyone’s, but that’s no excuse.

“I love training with Vince because he works his ass off,” says Triple H.

Vince just wishes others would follow his lead.

“What’s disconcerting to me is that while we’re smarter as a species in every respect—from an intellectual standpoint and all that—it doesn’t seem that the populace as a whole today is any more physically fit than it was yesteryear,” he says. “I just don’t understand. Because, think about it—everything’s better when you’re in shape. Food tastes better. Sex is better. Even breathing is easier.”

So is he a bodybuilder? His son-in-law says yes. But Vince? “I’ve been building my body all my life, but I don’t consider myself a bodybuilder. Bodybuilders go onstage and pose. I have the utmost respect for anyone who can do that, but that’s not me [laughs]. I have a different stage. In our business, you have to be larger than life, but not just physically—it’s the psychology of it, too.”

The music’s too loud in the gym. You can’t even make out what AC/DC is screaming. You can hardly hear what orders the photographer is barking at Vince or what area of his form Triple H is coaching him on. A bystander goes to turn it down. Too loud? Says who? “If it’s too loud, you’re too old!” Vince shouts across the gym.