Proving that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Stephanie McMahon has transformed herself into one of the most powerful personalities in sports-entertainment. With an intoxicating combination of beauty and brains, she demands nothing short of excellence. If she doesn’t get it from others, Stephanie isn’t afraid to step in the ring and beat it out of somebody.
Now 38-years-old, Stephanie Marie McMahon entered the world with the proverbial silver spoon lodged firmly in mouth on September 20, 1976. The second child of Vince and Linda McMahon, Stephanie was born into one of the most powerful wrestling families in the world in Hartford, Connecticut. Love Life Put To The Test ▸ | The McMahon-Helmsley Era ▸ | Back In Power ▸
Before Stephanie celebrated her tenth birthday, her father was officially the czar of United States professional wrestling. No longer a regional organization, the World Wrestling Federation had gone national, leaving every other group, with the exception of Jim Crockett Promotions, fighting for survival.
Stephanie completed her studies in 1998 when she graduated from Boston University, where she earned a degree in Communications. Then, ignoring her peers’ advice that she pursue a career outside of sports-entertainment, Stephanie began working for the family business. Starting off as a member of the advertising sales team, ‘The Billion Dollar Princess’ had to pay her dues, like many others in the World Wrestling Federation.
Seeing her brother Shane as an on-screen character, Stephanie wanted to get in on the act. Her first television appearance was on the November 30, 1998 episode of Raw: filmed backstage, she was approached by “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, who was on the lookout for The Undertaker.
Stephanie’s first proper appearance took place on the post-WrestleMania XV edition of Raw on March 29, 1999 at the age of twenty-two. Occurring at the height of the hideous Ministry angle, The Undertaker, who was then feuding with Mr. McMahon, set his sights on “Daddy’s Little Girl.” On the program, ‘Taker supposedly kidnapped Stephanie and held her hostage, until Ken Shamrock discovered the distraught belle in a boiler room.
A few more weeks of Scream-inspired nonsense followed, before Stephanie was abducted by the fiendish “Phenom” at Backlash on April 25, 1999. With the innocent Stephanie firmly in his possession, the “Deadman” arranged for a ceremony the following night on Raw that would forever lock the two in unholy matrimony. Luckily for Stephanie, an unlikely hero made the save when McMahon nemesis “Stone Cold” Steve Austin ran to the ring and attacked Undertaker to reunite her with father.
“I loved every part of that storyline, from the burning teddy bear to the ransacking of my supposed bedroom to being found in the gutter under the building, although maybe that part wasn’t so great,” McMahon says recalling the storyline in WWE 50. “When I was actually strapped down to the Undertaker’s symbol, being carried to the ring, I was almost decapitated by the APA, little known fact. They were shoving the symbol under the bottom rope and thank God for John “Bradshaw” Layfield, because he actually stopped it.”
Following the horrifying incident with The Undertaker, Stephanie discovered love in the form of WWE Superstar, Test. The relationship helped put a smile back on her face, but also managed to infuriate her protective brother, Shane. Looking out for what he believed were his sister’s best interests, Shane attempted to put an end to the fiery love affair when he battled Test in a Love Her or Leave Her Match at SummerSlam 1999. In the end, Test won the match and the right to continue his romance with Stephanie. He celebrated his victory by proposing to Vince’s daughter the next night on Raw. Taken aback, Stephanie needed “time to think about it” – twenty-four hours to be precise. Answering in the affirmative at the following night’s SmackDown taping, Stephanie and Test’s impending nuptials sent the props department off on a search for the old “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth wedding set.
The tale was going so well that WWE’s creative department decided to delay the ceremony for a few more weeks by having Stephanie contract amnesia after British Bulldog hurled a trash can at her head during the Rebellion pay-per-view event. The only drawback to this was that it required Stephanie to reign memory loss. Nicole Kidman, she wasn’t. Indeed, her acting in some of these skits was staggeringly bad.
Once Miss McMahon remembered who everyone was, the wedding was back on; November 29, 1999, live on Raw at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California, would be the big day. By this point, all the McMahons were getting along, so Vince, Linda and Shane were all present for the ceremony. But, just before they could exchange vows, one WWF Superstar made a very revealing objection. Armed with video evidence, Triple H exposed the shocking truth that Stephanie was already a married woman. “The Game” informed the wedding party that he had married and drugged Stephanie the previous evening in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ridiculous as it was, this twist thrust Vince’s daughter into the top-line mix.
In an attempt salvage his daughter’s good name, an irate Mr. McMahon battled Triple H at Armageddon on December 11, 1999. Unfortunately for the WWF Chairman, however, “The Game” wasn’t his only opponent that night, as his daughter shocked the sports-entertainment world when she helped Triple H defeat her father. After the match, Stephanie jumped in the arms of her husband, proving the two had been in cahoots all along.
Stephanie’s on-screen persona was originally portrayed as “Daddy’s Little Girl,” the virgin image differentiating her from the other female performers in the sports-entertainment organization. With this powerful, yet unflattering role in the ring, she subjected herself to chants of “bitch” and “slut.” Stephanie, however, maintained a positive outlook toward the fans’ vulgarity.
“I think that fan participation is one of the greatest things about our show. Our fans are proud and vocal, and they’re not afraid to let you know what they think,” remarked Stephanie in a 2000 interview with Raw Magazine. “As far as how I feel personally about being called a “slut?” To be able to elicit a reaction from all those people is pretty cool, no matter what they’re calling me.”
Stephanie’s new look included tighter clothes (often leather), shorter skirts and in 2001, large breast implants. Vince’s response to Stephanie’s promiscuous appearance on the March 16, 2000 episode of SmackDown was to compare her to the prostitutes accompanying The Godfather to the ring. He stated, “Hey, Stephanie! Who knows? You might even get lucky tonight – I mean, let’s face it – tonight, here on SmackDown! – Stephanie just may take a ride on … THE HOOOOOOOO TRRRRRRAIIIIIN!!!” To add to the drama, Shane later called Stephanie a “slut,” after which she slapped his face. He threatened to retaliate, but stopped short of slapping her back. Vince noted, “Watching you two is like watching a bad soap opera … book yourself on The Jerry Springer Show.” Vince proudly touted the McMahons as “the most dysfunctional family in America.”
Together, Stephanie and Triple H went on to become one of the most power-hungry couples ever. The husband-and-wife team began a ruthless dictatorship that controlled all of the World Wrestling Federation. Abusing their power as much as possible, they both were conveniently placed in situations that would benefit them most. As a result, it wasn’t long before Triple H regained the WWF Championship, and Stephanie claimed the WWF Women’s Championship. A few days prior to WrestleMania 2000, Stephanie defeated Jacqueline on SmackDown to capture the title. She defended the title infrequently, until the summer when she squared off against Lita, who at that point was booming in popularity as the kamikaze accomplice of Jeff and Matt Hardy. The future WWE Hall of Famer relieved Stephanie of the championship on the August 21, 2000 episode of Raw after The Rock, who was serving as the special guest referee for the match, knocked out the novice grappler off her feet with a spinebuster. She never got the title back.
For months, Stephanie had been subtly flirting with newcomer Kurt Angle – and vice versa. In June 2000, the storyline really took off: interviews between McMahon, Angle and Triple H would draw tremendous reactions from the live crowds, and were great ratings-pullers, to boot. Furthermore, this love triangle made for some darn entertaining television.
When Trish Stratus entered the story, it only added more intrigue to the tangled web of lies and deceit. With that in mind, the ending was most dissatisfying: Triple H pinned Angle at Unforgiven on September 24, 2000 and then he and Stephanie moved onto a program with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, while Angle snatched the WWF Championship from The Rock. Like that, the months of drama and double-dealing had been rendered meaningless. It was at this point that many observers noticed a significant decline in the quality of the World Wrestling Federation product. Not-so-coincidentally, Stephanie had become heavily involved in the booking process, and, following daddy’s example, kept the McMahon family in the thick of the action.
The internal disputes between the McMahon family resulted in Linda McMahon appearing in a comatose and wheel-chair bound state due to the stress of being asked for a divorce by Vince, who took the opportunity to have a public affair with Trish Stratus. The McMahon family chose this occasion to show Trish, and every other female, exactly who the organization’s top woman was, as Trish was subjected to several humiliating acts including having sewage dumped on her and being forced to strip down to her bra and panties in the ring and bark like a dog.
In the ring, meanwhile, Stephanie and Trish pulled off of a minor miracle at No Way Out when they had a really good match by non-worker standards. Of course, Stephanie won. But, behind the scenes, trouble loomed.
Stephanie was accused of having initiated the departure of Chyna from the World Wrestling Federation in 2001. Chyna, who was romantically involved with Paul “Triple H” Levesque from 1997 through 2000, alleged her departure was not due to pay, but because McMahon wanted her gone from the sports-entertainment organization. Chyna said that during her relationship with Triple H, McMahon had an affair with him and stole him away from her. In a radio interview on The Opie & Anthony Show in 2004, Triple H claimed that he began dating Stephanie after being separated from Chyna for some time.
Stephanie made herself scarce when Triple H was sidelined by a devastating injury to his quadriceps. But not for long. Dashing hopes that she would stick to booking or take a low profile, McMahon made her return to television on the July 9, 2001 episode of Raw, where she elevated the rivalry with her father to new heights. After already breaking his heart two years earlier, Stephanie revealed herself as the new owner of Extreme Championship Wrestling, which she merged with her brother’s World Championship Wrestling promotion to form The Alliance. Stephanie and Shane’s goal was simple: Put their father and the World Wrestling Federation out of business forever.
The Alliance began as a very serious threat to Mr. McMahon’s empire, as many of his major Superstars jumped ship to Stephanie’s camp, including “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and William Regal. In the end, however, The Alliance was forced to disband by Team WWF at Survivor Series on November 18, 2001. With the loss, Stephanie was finally forced out of sports-entertainment, or so it seemed. Stephanie couldn’t stay away from the spotlight for long; she had by now acquired a taste for the spotlight. On the Christmas Eve Raw – just five weeks after she was banished from the World Wrestling Federation forever – she returned, looking to make amends with her father.
In reality, Stephanie returned to promote the comeback of her on-screen hubby, Triple H. Following his memorable return on the January 7, 2002 Raw, the couple sowed the seeds for WrestleMania X8 with their frequent and progressively hostile squabbles.
On February 4, 2002, Stephanie she was pregnant, and requested that she and Hunter renew their marriage vows. This set up the following week’s Raw, on which it was revealed the pregnancy was a sham. Following the emotional rollercoaster, Triple H demanded a divorce from his conniving wife.
The former couple marched down the divorce storyline path. It was used to promote the Undisputed WWF Championship Match between Triple H and Chris Jericho at WrestleMania X8 on March 17, 2002. Promoted more as Triple H vs. Stephanie than “The Game vs. “Y2J,” poor Jericho had to play stooge for Stephanie, as the former lovers took center stage.
Seeking revenge, Stephanie appointed herself the special guest referee in a match pitting Triple H against Kurt Angle at No Way Out with Triple H’s WWF Undisputed Champion shot at WrestleMania X8 on the line. Though “The Olympic Gold Medalist” won due to McMahon’s biased officiating, Triple H defeated him the following night on Raw to regain his championship opportunity. Despite interference by Stephanie, Jericho lost to Triple H at “The Grandaddy of Them All.” On the March 25, 2002 episode of Raw, Stephanie lost to Triple H in a Triple Threat match for the Undisputed WWF Championship, with the stipulation that, if she was pinned, she would be forced to leave the World Wrestling Federation; In the match, Triple H pinned Stephanie.
On July 18, 2002, Stephanie returned to prominence when she took over the reigns of SmackDown. In contrast to her McMahon-Helmsley era villain character, Stephanie became a fan favorite who favored babyface talent. She feuded with Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff throughout 2002, though the dueling enemies inexplicably shared a kiss at a Halloween party where McMahon was dressed as a cleavage-baring witch and Bischoff was disguised as her father underneath a mask. As the brand’s General Manager, she acquired some of sports-entertainment’s biggest names, including Hulk Hogan, Brock Lesnar and Undertaker. She is also credited with creating the WWE Tag Team Championship and resurrecting the prestigious United States Championship.
Meanwhile, Vince resented her daughter’s attempts to stop him from pursuing an affair with Sable: in a memorable moment, Stephanie left Sable in a topless state following a backstage brawl. Her time in office came to a painful end when she lost an “I Quit” Match to her father at No Mercy 2003. While she refused to submit to her father, the match ultimately ended when Stephanie’s mother, Linda, couldn’t bare to watch the brutality any longer. As a result, she threw in the towel, signifying the end of Stephanie’s time on the blue brand. Following the loss, Stephanie limited her public appearances in favor of assuming several executive roles behind the scenes. On occasion, however, she reappears when the situation calls for a strong leader. One of her more memorable returns to WWE programming took place during Triple H’s war with Randy Orton and Legacy.
Today Stephanie is responsible for all the creative development of WWE as it pertains to television and pay-per-view programming, print, digital and social media content. In 2009, 2011 and 2012, she was recognized as one of the “Most Powerful Women in Cable” by CableFAX magazine. She is also a proud member of the Board of Directors for both the USO Metropolitan Washington and the social media company, Tout, Inc.