This Was Vince McMahon's Childhood Idol

Vince McMahon didn't meet his father until he was 12 years old. According to The Ringer, which pieced together several interviews McMahon has done over the years to compile a rather complete unauthorized autobiography of the WWE CEO, Vince told Esquire in 2005, "I fell in love with him the moment I met him." He told NBC's Matt Lauer in 2001 that "[t]here was just an instant attraction that my dad felt and that I felt. He was just a wonderful, caring, bright man." Although both Vince and his dad knew that they weren't going to be able to make up for lost time, Vince was grateful for the opportunity to finally be with his dad. McMahon Sr. was running the Capitol Wrestling Corporation, which McMahon Jr. would end up buying in 1982. His dad took him to wrestling matches in Washington, D.C., giving Vince McMahon his first taste of the life that would bring him untold riches and infamy.

With such flowing words for the man who abandoned him until his pre-teen years, you'd think that his dad, Vince McMahon Sr., would have been junior's childhood idol. However, considering Vince McMahon has harbored rivalries with everyone from Triple H (who would go on to be his son-in-law) to Bret "The Hitman" Hart to Randy Orton — even with his own children Stephanie and Shane — his actual childhood idol makes a lot more sense.

Vince McMahon's childhood idol was a heavy-drinking, chain-smoking wild man

"I would say that I idolized, when I was a youngster growing up, a wrestler by the name of Dr. Jerry Graham," McMahon told the Wilmington Star-News in 1986. "He was a persona non grata as far as the fans were concerned and maybe that gives you some insight into my personality." Indeed, getting his very customers to loathe him has proven to be one of McMahon's best business strategies over the years.

Vince McMahon learned several things from Dr. Jerry Graham that would end up defining his character as an adult. The Ringer cites a Playboy interview McMahon did in 2001 in which he described Graham and his girlfriend arguing and pouring alcohol all over each other as "sheer entertainment." He told Cigar Aficionado in 1999 that Graham influenced him to smoke cigars while still a minor. "I'd try to smoke cigars when I was a kid, and I'd cough and sputter and spew," he said. "But it looked so cool the way Jerry handled it — something to do with his hands." He told New York Magazine in 1998 that he thought Jerry "was the coolest guy. He was a wild man, he would do anything he wanted to." But drinking, smoking, cursing, and running red lights weren't the only bad habits he got from Graham. The wrestler also influenced young McMahon to bleach his hair with peroxide, to the chagrin of his father.

Vince McMahon Sr. did not approve of his son's childhood idol

"My dad was very upset when he found out I was sneaking around town with Jerry Graham, because he didn't think he [Graham] was a very good influence on me," McMahon told New York Magazine. After young Vince talked his stepmom into helping him take a bottle of hydrogen peroxide to his hair while his dad was away, the latter reportedly "blew his stack" when he got back home.

Vince tried to emulate his idol in nearly every way possible. "I think my dad was probably a little afraid." But the wrestler's hard-partying ways were probably not the only reason Vince Sr. didn't want his son hanging out with Graham. According to Deadspin, Graham was also testifying against Vince McMahon Sr. in a federal investigation into his involvement in a supposed regional wrestling monopoly.

The more he got to know his childhood idol, however, young Vinnie began to see that Graham wasn't all he was cracked up to be. He started to catch a glimpse of the other side of the hard-drinking life of the party. "Damn, Jerry, he loved to drink. There was a time when I thought Jerry Graham walked on water, but he could be a mean drunk, and that turned me off," he said in that Playboy interview. Still, what he took away from Graham's influence was enough to carry him to the pinnacle of the pro wrestling world.