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January 14, 2017

WWE chairman Vince McMahon discusses his logical rise to the top

World Wrestling Entertainment formally announced Tuesday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome that New Orleans will host WrestleMania 34 on April 8, 2018.

And just as he has been for most live shows for the past 40-plus years, WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon was there in person and in charge of the proceedings.

He didn't make an appearance at the press conference spectacle, but he didn't have to, as speaker after speaker lauded his brainchild, WrestleMania, as the promised land of sports entertainment.

McMahon is well-known for being a commanding presence in any room, and that's immediately understandable as soon as you sit next to him.

At 71 years of age, there doesn't seem to be any end in sight for McMahon, who took time after the official announcement to sit down with NOLA.com / The Times-Picayune to discuss his age, WrestleMania in New Orleans, how he used logic to take over the wrestling world, and his grandmother.

Do you ever see yourself slowing down?

No. No, never. This is not work for me. I never go to work. Ever. Every aspect of the business, whether it's working with the talent or the writing staff, even on occasion working with the legal guys, it's all a big family. I never go to work.

How do you not slow down at your age?

"I never sleep. ... I don't know that it's an age thing. I just do it because I do it. It's just something you love and have the passion for. You can't get enough of that. How can you get enough of what's really, really good? You can have steak every night and get accustomed to that, but that's not what this is. This is not work."

Could you ever imagine that WrestleMania would grow to this level?

I grew up with no barriers, which can be a bad thing and a good thing. It served me well in somewhat of a unique childhood. When people ask me about the success of the organization, I never did not think that it would get here. But it's all logical, there's nothing magical behind this. It's all based on good, solid business logic.

And a work ethic, lot of luck in there, too. I consider myself the luckiest man in the world, and without a doubt, I am. From a personal standpoint, business standpoint, spiritual standpoint, all of it. So with no ceilings, again, I never thought it wouldn't be here today.

Did you have a game plan when you decided to grow your business?

It's logical, the application of logic in terms of where you want to go. It's all logical. When you look back on it, it could have gone the other way. The other aspect of that is competition. People look at us today and say you're a billion-dollar organization, you're no longer small business. This whole business started with one guy, me, when I bought my dad out and his other stockholders on a balloon payment basis over a year. If I didn't meet all those payments on time, then my dad and his stockholders kept all the money and got the business back.

That was the first gamble before WrestleMania I was a gamble. And so many others. I call them gambles, but to me it's all logic. It's a gamble, but at the same time, it's all calculated risk. It's not risk for risk sake's. But there's risk nonetheless.

How did you beat your competition?

Every single one of them had far more greater resources than I did. It was just that we had a set of balls so to speak, and we had an extraordinary work ethic. We came at the business a different way as far as showcasing professional wrestling.

Old-time promoters tried to legitimize the sport, and I came along, and my point of view was one of, 'Wait a minute. This is entertainment, and our audience knows it's entertainment.' The only people that are **** themselves are the owners of the territories, thinking we're presenting this as a sport. I looked at it in terms of entertainment.

How did you grow your audience?

It was the lowest common denominator in terms of who those promoters were trying to appeal to. It goes all the way back to make sure your big events happen on the 15th and beginning of every month because that's when the 'welfare' checks came out. So that was their point of view. I'm going, that is really stupid. Why not appeal to a much broader spectrum across American and increase the potential of the audience, so that's why I went more in terms of the entertainment sectors.

Not taking anything away from the professionalism in the ring at all, it's just that it's a larger audience. Again, getting back to logic. So when we began to compete with all these other guys, we had a better product.

Why couldn't your competition keep up?

They all got together and had their annual convention, and they all were like don't tread on me, I won't tread on you. Then, they had some real competition when we came along. They didn't have much of a work ethic. That was another thing I was counting on. They didn't really go to work like we were going to go to work. And I knew that because of my dad. My dad worked harder than the other promoters, but two days a week, that was a lot.

My approach was very logical and very different than everybody else's. You could open up a Harvard 101, and you could just follow that and go back and look at everything's that's been done, and I think that you could just see that it's logical.

Was it a difficult decision to come back to New Orleans for WrestleMania?

The Big Easy? This was even a bigger easy for us. We came back here so quickly, that's how good it was. Let's come back there as soon as we possibly can. It was like how can we get back here as quickly as we possibly can and still service all these other cities. So we juggled, and we made it.

Is there a match that didn't happen that you wish would have at WrestleMania?

I don't think that way. There are matches that you make early on, but everything is subject to change in our business. From a creative standpoint, it's subject to change when you see something better. If I take this piece and put it here, that would really help. As opposed to what we were advertising or even the way we were going.

You listen to the audience and if the audience is catching on to this or you think they may gravitate to that, that's where you go. You have to lead. ... I don't even think that way in terms of 'what if that would have happened?' We just go do.

Do you miss being on TV?

God, no. That was a chore. I enjoyed it, but it just ate up so much time personally, and I couldn't produce and direct, which is what I love to do. I love to help create new stars and tweak this and help them grow here. I can't do that as a talent because you have to have your head wrapped around that. I've done both in the past, but it's not what I prefer to do. It takes an extraordinary amount of energy to be able to do that. Trying to both is difficult. It really is.

Is there a wrestler who you think can jump to the main-event level by the time we get to WrestleMania 34?

I don't know. If I did know, I wouldn't tell you. Because it would ruin the surprise. I'm just being honest. I don't know if there is at the moment, but I wouldn't tell you.

Talk about the talented roster the WWE has.

Our guys and gals are so passionate about what they do. They're very eager to learn. ... Hogan used to call it Titan Training because we used to be known as Titan Sports many, many years ago. You're taught respect. When one of our talent walks in here, he's going to look you in the eye, and he's going to shake your hand. He's going to be cordial, and it's the way you want to be treated.

My grandmother used to say, 'Treat people the way that you want to be treated.' That's what we try to do. By the way, that's the first time I've quoted my grandmother in an interview. She was awesome. She was 60 years old. A kite went up in the tree one time. And 60 years old back then, was 60 years old. She wouldn't let me go near it. She climbed the tree. Awesome lady.

How cool is it to always have your daughter Stephanie there as part of your work day?
I could not describe how I feel, how proud. That's all I can say.

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