One of the internet’s biggest claims whenever one of their favourite smaller wrestlers don’t get the push in the WWE is that Vince McMahon hates “small guys”. Vince McMahon loves the bodybuilder types, he loves the giant Big Men. Vince hates the small guys and never sees any money in them. To quote Celine Dion, “it’s a tale as old as time”. The evil pro wrestling conquering despot is ruining wrestling by ignoring the small man in favour of his brainless ogres. But is it actually true?
Of course, the regular dirtsheets will always stir the pot, citing “sources” that Vince doesn’t like so and so because he’s too small, that they don’t have “the look” required to be a WWE World Champion, thereby becoming the face of the company. But if you actually look at every World Champion that Vince has booked for the WWE since he has had exclusive control of the company, the stats show an entirely different story. For someone who doesn’t like the “smaller guys”, they’ve sure been at the top an awful lot.
JUNIOR TAKES OVER
Vincent Kennedy McMahon began working for his father, Vincent James McMahon, in 1969, at the age of 24. By then, his father’s Capitol Wrestling was the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) and Bruno Sammartino was six years into his incredible eight year reign as WWWF World Champion. Starting out as a play-by-play announcer on WWWF All-Star Wrestling, Vince Jr. Would slowly cut his teeth under his dad’s tutelage, helping the senior integrate and take the lead in the innovations of television throughout the 1970s. By 1982, with his health in decline, Vince Sr. sold the company to his son, Vince Jr. Now branded the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). By 1984, Vincent James McMahon was dead and the territories weren’t far behind him. Vince Kennedy McMahon was ready to change the world of pro wrestling forever.
THE IDEAL BIG MAN
While Bruno Sammartino was the World Champion best associated with Vince Sr.’s legacy in the WWE, the first era of wrestling under Vince Jr’s leadership was the “Incredible” Hulk Hogan. An imposing 6’7” 300+ lbs. bodybuilder with blonde hair, Hogan was an imposing superhero of a man who captured the hearts and imaginations of the young and old alike throughout the 1980s Rock N’ Wrestling Era. When he launched his ill-fated World Bodybuilding Federation in 1990, Vince only perpetuated the stereotype of his love for the big muscled superhero types, highlighted by the acquisition of his prized free agent from WCW, Lex Luger, as both a WWF Superstar and WBF spokesperson. With big guys like Hulk Hogan, Andre The Giant, Ultimate Warrior and Sgt. Slaughter holding the top title, Vince seemed destined to run the WWF as the Land of the Giants.
THE STEROID SCANDAL
In 1993, the WWF seemed poised on the verge of collapse, as the WBF had closed shop in 1992, and Vince McMahon became the focal point of a controversy regarding the use of steroids in the pro wrestling industry. With his own megastar Hulk Hogan scheduled to testify against him, McMahon looked doomed by his own creations. Fortunately for McMahon, Hogan balked on crucifying his boss and the other star witness, the wrestler known as Nailz, lost credibility on the stand, and McMahon was eventually acquitted by the grand jury. But the die was cast. McMahon had to turn to his non-traditional archetypes to lead his company and thus, the Next Generation emerged to grab the brass ring.
THE NEXT GENERATION
With the WWF and Vince McMahon now under a national microscope following the steroid implications, McMahon turned to two of his mid-card champions to take over the top: “ The Excellence of Execution” Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart and “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels. With an emphasis on more technical and high flying ability, the WWF began to attract new fans who were drawn more by the athleticism of the smaller, more normal sized wrestlers as opposed to the spectacle of seeing two giants collide in the ring. And while The Undertaker came through unscathed as one of the few big men to emerge from the Rock N’ Wrestling Era, Taker’s lanky physique was hardly on part with the chiseled frames of Hogan or Warrior.
DAVID vs. GOLIATH
So what constitutes the Big Man? Using Hulk Hogan and Lex Luger as prototypes for Vince McMahon’s early “money guys” (despite Luger never winning the title), let’s set the bar at 6’4” or 265 lbs. Most people seem to regard guys that size or bigger as the Bodybuilder types. Also, anyone over 6’5” or 300 lbs are also considered Big Men. Yokozuna may not have had the height, but there’s no denying his sheer size made him a monster to Vinnie Mac. So now let’s look at all the men that Vince has crowned to be his champion since he assumed full creative control in 1982. These are the men who held the WWF/WWE World Heavyweight Championship, the WWE versions of the World Heavyweight Championship, the WCW World Heavyweight Championship, and the ECW Heavyweight Championship. These were all men that Vince himself gave the thumbs up to creative (in most cases handpicking them himself) to be the face of said respective brand: for much of the WHC run, it was the Smackdown brand exclusive title.
But wait, you cry. Those titles were not all equal! That’s another fable that the internet loves to bring up to help prove their points, most notably when they discuss the absence of a black World Champion in the WWE. Because the WHC or ECW titles were considered lesser titles, Booker T, Mark Henry, Bobby Lashley and Ezekiel Jackson‘s runs with their brands main titles are not considered valid apparently. But considering the WWE is a fictional show who kayfabe recognizes all the titles as equal, so too are we considering them equal. After all, when they refer to John Cena as a 15-time World Champion, that includes both his WWE and WHC titles. The same for 14-time World Champion Triple H. They are all counted equally in the WWE’s record books.
THE WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
While WWE canon says that all the belts were equal in the grand storylines, obviously the internet and purists consider the WWE World Heavyweight Championship the company’s top prize. So how do the Davids fair versus the Goliaths?
Big Men Champions (6’4”, 265 lbs minimum)
21: Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Ultimate Warrior, Sgt. Slaughter, The Undertaker, Yokozuna, Diesel, Psycho Sid, Kane, The Rock, Triple H, The Big Show, Brock Lesnar, JBL, John Cena, Edge, Randy Orton, Batista, Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, Roman Reigns
The Smaller Guys (below minimum)
18: The Iron Sheik, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Ric Flair, Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart, Bob Backlund, Shawn Michaels, ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, Mick Foley, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Rob Van Dam, Jeff Hardy, The Miz, CM Punk, Rey Mysterio Jr., Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins
Out of 39 total WWE World Champions since 1982 under Vince McMahon’s watch, only 53.8% of them have been the “Big Man” that Vince apparently chose more regularly than the smaller stature stars. Hardly the bias that the internet would have you believe.
THE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
The co-main event belt of the early 2000’s, the WHC symbolized the re-introduction of the Big Gold belt that had been WCW’s World Heavyweight Championship. With the brand split, it guaranteed that each brand had it’s own reigning champion. How did the WHC get booked in comparison?
Big Men Champions
15: Triple H, Goldberg, Randy Orton, Batista, Booker T, The Undertaker, Edge, The Great Khali, John Cena, Jack Swagger, Kane, Mark Henry, The Big Show, Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio
The Smaller Guys
10: Shawn Michaels, Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle, Rey Mysterio Jr., CM Punk, Chris Jericho, Jeff Hardy, Dolph Ziggler, Christian, Daniel Bryan
In total, 25 different men held the WHC title, with 60% of them being Big Men. Considerably more lopsided, that the WWE’s “primary” World title, but not as lopsided as one would expect from someone who apparently heavily favours the larger men.
THE “OTHER” TITLES
The WWE has had other World titles for brief spells, including a short run with the WCW World Heavyweight Championship before Unifying it, as well as a run with their own ECW Championship when they rebooted the brand from 2006 to 2010.
WCW World Heavyweight Championship
Big Guys. 2: Booker T, The Rock
Smaller Guys. 2: Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho
ECW World Heavyweight Championship
Big Guys. 6: The Big Show, Lashley, Kane, Mark Henry, Jack Swagger, Ezekiel Jackson
Smaller Guys. 7: Rob Van Dam, John Morrison, CM Punk, Chavo Guerrero Jr., Matt Hardy, Christian, Tommy Dreamer
Out of these titles, the WCW title was booked 50/50, while in ECW, the smaller guys actually lead the pack with 53.8% of the Champions.
SO WHO WINS?
As you can see, there have been some men who have claimed gold with various belts. Eliminating crossover names, there have been 55 individual World Champions of some sort crowned by Vince McMahon since 1982. And once you break them down, it looks like this.
The Bigger Guys
28: Hulk Hogan, Andre The Giant, Ultimate Warrior, Sgt. Slaughter, Yokozuna, Diesel, Psycho Sid, The Undertaker, Kane, The Rock, Triple H, The Big Show, Brock Lesnar, JBL, John Cena, Edge, Randy Orton, Batista, Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, Roman Reigns, Goldberg, Booker T, The Great Khali, Jack Swagger, Mark Henry, Bobby Lashley, Ezekiel Jackson
The Smaller Guys
27: The Iron Sheik, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Ric Flair, Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart, Bob Backlund, Shawn Michaels, ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, Mick Foley, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Rob Van Dam, Jeff Hardy, The Miz, CM Punk, Rey Mysterio Jr., Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, Chris Benoit, Rey Mysterio Jr., CM Punk, Dolph Ziggler, Christian, John Morrison, Chavo Guerrero, Matt Hardy, Tommy Dreamer
That’s 28-27. Out of 55 champions, the so-called Big Men – the bodybuilders and monsters that Vince McMahon apparently chooses as champion the most – only make up 50.9% of the amount of men that Vince has put on the top of the pedestal. Practically 50/50.
And with the majority of the stars coming through the system being significantly less than the Big Men criteria – whether it’s Dean Ambrose, AJ Styles, Sami Zayn or Finn Balor – it’s safe to say that that the Smaller Men will surpass that.
So next time someone tells you that there’s no way your favourite smaller wrestler is going to win the WWE World title because Vince just doesn’t like “smaller guys”, now you can tell them that he he’s wrong. Your guy is at least 50/50. Just like his.