By Jason Powell
The following are the highlights of Mick Foley’s interview with Shane McMahon that was broadcast on the WWE Network on Monday, May 23. ATTENTION APP USERS: If you are reading this on the Prowrestling.net app, our mobile website will refresh more frequently than the latest updates than the app will. CLICK HERE to see the very latest updates to this article throughout the show.
-Mick Foley told Shane McMahon that he had nothing to be nervous about. Foley said he contacted Steve Austin before agreeing to take the interview assignment. He noted that Austin had shoulder surgery and gave his blessing.
-Foley asked if Shane was going to tell all. Shane said he was ready. Foley asked Shane about returning to WWE television for the first time in years. Shane spoke about how great the experience was for him.
-Foley asked what it was like to grow up the son of Vince McMahon. Shane spoke about how his father was gone a lot and said that he missed him a lot when he was on the road. Shane went on to say that he’s accustomed to his father being a larger than life personality.
-Shane was asked what the maddest his father was at him while he was growing up. Shane said he was wild and he’s a bit of an adrenaline junkie. He spoke about how his friend had a motorcycle and his dad told him not to ever get on the bike. “Your dad was being the voice of reason?” Foley said. Shane did and “exceeded the speed limit a lot.” Shane didn’t realize his father was home. Shane said he was imposing and pissed.
-Shane spoke about how his father and Pat Patterson worked on booking around the family pool. Shane said Patterson always set up someone and that person always ended up being pushed into the pool. Shane said it was an ongoing gag. Shane said he decided that it needed to be Vince. Shane recalled pushing Vince into the pool. Shane said Vince was throwing a temper tantrum in the air. Shane said Vince would have killed him, so he got in his car and drove away, then called his mom to see how Vince was handling it. “I embarrassed him,” Shane said.
-Foley asked if Shane was bulled. Shane said no. He said he never started a fight, but he could handle himself well.
-Shane spoke about being proud of how the company has gone from an armory to what it is today. He spoke about wanting to be Andre the Giant’s tag partner, and how much he loved Superstar Billy Graham’s act. He also spoke about the ribs that the guys in the locker room did to him as a kid “were brutal.” He recalled Don Muraco putting him in a trashcan and rolling it down a few steps. He said it was all in fun, and spoke about being stretched.
-Shane said he picked up a lot of things from his father almost through osmosis. He said he learned the business backwards in that he learned psychology first. Foley said Shane didn’t start at the top. Shane spoke about setting up the ring, and Foley said he takes pride in starting the same way. Shane spoke about working as a referee and having Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard taught him about where to be and when.
-Foley asked if Shane always knew he wanted to be a wrestler. Shane said no, but he did want to be a wrestler as a kid. He figured he would play football and become a wrestler. He said he always knew he wanted to be involved in the business. He spoke about spending holidays at his grandfather’s home, and how his grandfather could push his father’s buttons better than anybody. He spoke about them playing pool and it was always competitive, and his grandfather would tell Shane in front of Vince that his father couldn’t handle the pressure when he’d miss a big shot. Shane said they had some hellacious pool games. He said Stephanie beat Vince once, he told her she should retire, and she did.
-Foley asked Shane why he wanted to wrestle when he started around age 25. Shane said he wanted to play college football, but a knee injury came up and his father talked him out of it, so he never got to show off his athleticism like he wanted to. Shane recalled being in the ring with Tom Prichard and credited him with teaching him so much. Shane also mentioned Al Snow. Foley said he makes light of Snow a lot, but he’s one of the great teachers. Shane agreed that he learned a lot from him.
-Shane was asked if the trainers went easy on him because he was Vince McMahon’s son. “Oh, definitely not,” Shane said. He also spoke about going to Tommy Dreamer when he has to get ready for a match. Shane recalled meeting Foley in his first match and tasting Mr. Socko. Shane spoke about how Foley talked him through the match and how he took a stiff knee and said it was probably his fault in that he probably moved when Foley told him not to. He said Mr. Socko tastes horrible.
-Foley said Shane did a great job of playing a coward, yet he grew to think that Shane was fearless. Foley asked him about wanting to impress the boys, yet playing a coward even though he was fearless. Shane said he was playing a role. Shane spoke about winning “the coveted European Title.” Foley noted that line. Foley asked how important it was to have the respect of the boys in the locker room. Shane said it was extremely important back then and it still exists today.
-Foley said Shane became a fearless competitor “and a great in-ring wrestler.” Foley said people slowly took notice of Shane’s work, and said people felt Shane had arrived as a world class performer by the time he faced Kurt Angle. Foley asked why Shane felt the need to become that good when it wasn’t necessary. Shane said being the boss’s kid makes you want to stand on your own and go the extra mile. Shane spoke about pride and always wanting to do better than you did the last time and wanting to steal the show.
-Shane was asked to name his favorite match. Foley said the match with Undertaker is off the table. Shane said he was going to say that match. He thought about it and listed the match against Kurt Angle. “It was an immense amount of fun and pride,” he said. He spoke about getting a standing ovation. Shane said it was amazing to both he and Kurt, who was fairly new at the time. Shane said the greatest compliment you can get.
-Foley brought up how Shane was there the night of the Montreal Screwjob. Shane said it was a really big buildup and he doesn’t know how much has been told. Shane said that in the buildup to it, his father was distraught and heartbroken. Shane said Vince didn’t want things to go down and was literally begging Bret. He said it’s not healthy for the business to go about it the way Bret wanted to. Shane said it built throughout the week and Vince made the call. “And by the way, a very ballsy call,” Shane said before adding that it was to protect the business.
-Foley recalled leaving the company for all of one day in protest until his wife got involved. Foley said Vince shook his hand and welcomed him back.
-Shane spoke about the locker room scene. Shane said he asked his father if he wanted to walk in the locker room and approach Bret to take it like a man. Shane recalled telling Vince that Bret was going to hit him. Shane said Vince told him that Bret would get one shot. “Bret cold cocked him right in the jaw,” Shane recalled. Shane said Vince stumbled a bit and “took it like a man, like he should have.” Shane added, “Kudos to my pops for that.”
-Foley brought up the end of the Monday Night War and Shane appearing at the final WCW Nitro and whether he had any trepidation. Shane said of course. He said he knew some of the guys who were in WWE at one point, but he also didn’t know what everyone would be like. Shane said he walked into the locker room where then WCW employee John Laurinaitis had gathered everyone. Shane said he spoke to them about how they had bought the company and there would be some opportunities. He said there were some looks of happiness and “if looks could kill” looks from others.
-Foley recalled that Jim Norton was the comic and Shane’s river cruise bachelor party. He said Norton felt he bombed badly, but the thing that stood out to him was the father and son bond that Vince and Shane had. Foley said that despite that, he had always heard that Vince could be tough on him behind the scenes. Shane said he asked Vince to be his best man because he felt he was the best man for the job. Shane said they could come up with more creative words than toughness to describe his father. “Brutal is another one,” Shane said. Shane added that his father’s explanations of him were high.
-Foley recalled having trouble with Vince when he worked as a color commentator. He asked if Shane thinks Vince was tough on him because he’s his son. Shane said definitely. He said it made him better to a point, but he spoke about how he didn’t get that pat on the shoulder from his father, which surprised Foley, who said he got those from Vince at times. “He’s a great dad, don’t get me wrong there,” Shane said of his father.
-Foley asked about Shane’s departure from the company. Shane said his father had different ideas. He said Vince’s and his father went through the same thing. He said his grandfather objected to brining in Hulk Hogan to be the champion. Shane said that with any parent and child relationship, it’s tough for the old guard to let the new guard try their ideas because they are guarded.
-Foley asked Shane to sum up the reasons he left. “It stopped being a collaboration and it stopped being gun,” Shane said. “WWE defines my father and I wasn’t going to allow the deteriorating business relationship to affect our relationship.” Shane said he also got to prove that he could stand on his own two feet. He said being away gave him an amazing look at the business because he was away from it. Shane said sometimes people in the business can’t see the forrest through the trees. Shane said it needed a little boost.
-Shane spoke about leaving “a boat-load of cash” when he left WWE. Foley asked how his dad responded. Shane said it was emotional when he thanked his father for everything he taught him and told him he was leaving. Shane said Vince was shocked. Shane said it was bittersweet. He said thinks Vince was “hurt, shocked, proud.” Shane said he can’t speak for Vince, but that’s what he feels. Shane said some people looked at it as an insane decision, and he looked at it as growth.
-Foley asked about Shane’s relationship with Stephanie. Shane said it’s fine. He said he’s proud of her accomplishments. Foley asked if it changed at all before he left. Shane said it never did. Foley asked about his relationship with Triple H. Shane said he makes his sister happy. Shane said it’s not adversarial. Foley said he would accept that. Shane sad it’s the truth and Foley can either accept it or not.
-Shane said the thing that didn’t sit well with him is that the relationship between Hunter and Stephanie was kept for him, but he got over that. He said it’s great that they are happy and they have great little girls. Foley asked if he has had any jealousy toward Stephanie as she progressed through the business. “Zero,” Shane said.
-Foley asked why he returned. Shane said it was one phone call from his father, and another from Undertaker. Shane said he always knew he wanted to return, but it would have to be under the right circumstances. He spoke about his children never seeing him wrestle live as well. Foley said he wanted that one last match for his kids too. He said he wanted to be in the Royal Rumble match and his pitch was, “No one man can ruin the Rumble.”
-Shane said he got the call about returning three weeks before he did in Detroit. He said he and Taker had been friendly. Foley brought up all the injuries at WrestleMania time. “Hence the phone call from my dad,” Shane said. He added that he was flattered that Undertaker had the confidence in him and wanted to do the match with him. Shane said he told his wife that it was the right circumstances and it was time to go back.
-Foley asked about Shane’s entrance at WrestleMania with his children. Shane said he thought of it and asked his kids about seven minutes before the entrance if they would give him the honor of coming out with him. “They said absolutely,” Shane recalled. Shane said that when his boys came out with him it was one of the proudest moments of his life. Shane said he was giggling to himself too because his boys were not intimidated and were having a great time. Shane spoke about how proud he was to be out there. He said he mentions 100,000 fans being in attendance, and one of his son corrects him and says 101,000 fans.
-Shane said wrestling has started to get that buzz again and it needs it. Foley spoke about moments that make great matches that fans hold onto for decades. Foley brought up Shane’s leap off the top of the cell. Foley spoke about how he didn’t know what he was getting into. Foley said that if he could have found a graceful way to climb back down the cell he would have done it because he was terrified. He also recalled Chris Jericho saying he considered it, but the people looked like ants.
-Foley said Shane knew what he was getting into and he did it and then questioned why. Foley said the cell Shane leapt from is “considerably higher” than the one he leapt off. Foley asked if Shane “wanted to or needed to” leap off the cell. Shane said he wanted to do it. Shane pondered the question of whether he needed to do it. “Probably,” Shane said. Shane said he’s an adrenaline guy and he needs to feel. Foley said it was important to him to be the first guy that Shane saw when he walked through the curtain that night and a photo of the two of them was shown. Foley said Shane told him, “You set the bar.” A photo was shown of a teary-eyed and red-faced Vince hugging Shane backstage.
-Foley and Shane spoke about going long with the interview, and Foley made a crack about how Shane has no idea that he was being told to ask about the current product.
-Shane spoke more about working with Undertaker at WrestleMania. He noted that Vince and Taker both asked him to do the match. Shane said he is very proud of the entire match. Shane spoke of Taker being “one of my longest and truest friends.” He said there are a bunch of moments in the match that “are only special to us.” Shane said that it won’t be replicated from his standpoint because everything with his kids being there as well lined up so perfectly.
-Shane said that once the match was over, he hugged his father and he broke down. “I was kind of a sobbing mess,” Shane said. He spoke how all of the emotions of the situation came flooding through and they both cried. Shane said it was the greatest moment ever because his entire family was there. “By the way, I got one of my first pats on the back that night,” Shane said in regards to his father.
-Foley thanked Shane for having him as the interviewer. Shane asked if they were getting the wrap. Foley said they could have done more on the current product, but he felt there was no better place to end than with the story of Shane getting his pat on the back from his father.
Powell’s POV: A very good interview with some very truthful moments from Shane about his relationship with his father. Shane was always very respectful of his father, yet he also was honest about the things he was looking for in the relationship that he did not get. He got a little tense when discussing Triple H and Stephanie. He kept his answers short and got a little defensive at one point when Foley said he would accept his answer. Foley did a good job. I’m sure he’ll catch some hell over his endorsement of Shane’s ring work, but it seemed very sincere and not a case of him kissing ass. Foley performed some huge stunts during his career, so I don’t think it’s that illogical to think that he would have an appreciation for some of the big stunts that Shane has performed. Foley got a lot out of Shane they really crammed a lot into the roughly 70 minutes. Shane had a line about saving something for part two when they were talking about wrapping up the interview. I would enjoy that. Shane come off as guarded about his relationship with his sister and brother-in-law (and perhaps it’s even storyline driven), but he’s much more of an open book than his father or sister have been in the same setting.
Topicsmick foleyshane mcmahonstephanie mcmahontriple hvince mcmahonwwe
Stephanie McMahon attends the WrestleMania 30 press conference at the Hard Rock Cafe New York on April 1, 2014 in New York City.Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images
You couldn't get a marketer that's more of an embodiment of the brand they look after than Stephanie McMahon.
McMahon is WWE's chief brand officer, who has worked for the company since she was a teenager, in a variety of roles from selling merchandise to jumping into the ring as a professional wrestler herself.
McMahon is also married to one of the franchise's biggest-ever superstars, Triple H. She is also the daughter of WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon and its former CEO, Linda McMahon, who retired to run for US Senate in 2009. The McMahon family first entered the wrestling world back in 1953, with the Capitol Wrestling Corporation, which subsequently became the World Wrestling Federation, and later WWE, which generated $658.8 million in revenue last year.
We caught up with McMahon at the Cannes Lions advertising festival last week, discussing a range of topics from her unusual upbringing, to being a woman in business, the qualities she looks for in budding wrestling superstars, and her favorite WWE star of all time.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Lara O'Reilly: You had a storied career before you became WWE's chief brand officer. Tell me about the progression.
Stephanie McMahon: Absolutely, so I really first started when I was about eight years old and I was modeling merchandise in our catalog. But then I basically interned in our company in various different positions, since I was about 15. I worked the switchboard, I interned in human resources, I was responsible for collating, and stapling, and distributing our newsletter — at that time there was no digital — I interned in television production, putting together comp rails and things of that nature. I interned for our live events marketing team and digital media, which at that time was really in its infancy and we had a website that functioned much like the old Coleco "Donkey Kong" game.
World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. CEO Linda McMahon and her husband, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon, appear in the ring during Vince McMahon's 64th birthday celebration at the WWE Monday Night Raw show at the Thomas & Mack Center August 24, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada.Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Once I graduated college I did a couple of different sort of unique internship positions, if you will, I spent three months in my mother's office, who was then the CEO of our company and I really got to just sit in every meeting that she had and I would write down questions on a yellow legal pad. And after the meetings were over I would just pepper her with questions and she would take the time to answer them. And then I spent six months in my father's office, who is the chairman and head of all the creative — my father is obviously now the chairman and the CEO, my mom resigned to run for US senate — and under my father's tutelage I had the opportunity to really be exposed to the creative process and how all of that worked.
Then I went to our sales office, and I was an account executive and at that time I also started as a character on TV. I think I was about 22.
Then I went to join the creative writing team and I was told: "Steph, you will be a part of the creative writing team and ultimately if you prove yourself in a few years you'll rise up the ranks." Well, within two weeks the head writer quit and I was told: "Congratulations, trial by fire, you're now going to head up the creative writing team."
I grew the creative writing team from about three people to about 30 people and developed a bunch of different innovations within that team. Ultimately that led to me taking over our live events, booking, and marketing function, taking over our talent relations and talent development function. Then, ultimately my husband [wrestler Triple H] came in as an executive and took over the talent and the live events piece and I went on to take over digital and, at the time, publishing.
Then creative became all encompassing of everything, which made a lot of sense. What we really wanted to do was combine all the efforts, because our creative was siloed and everybody wasn't communicating and it wasn't an efficient process. So we brought all the creative teams together, we put them on one floor, tore down the walls, opened up the whole floor so that everybody could have this free-form way of working. Actually it was such a great model and it was also pretty cost-effective so we wound up doing that throughout our office buildings.
Then I transitioned from that role into my role now as chief brand officer. It's important to note, although I've never even thought about it until someone pointed it out the other day, that I was the first woman ever in charge of all of those departments. And I'm the first chief brand officer for our company.
O'Reilly: How has that been? When you imagine WWE you imagine lots of big, beefy, testosterone-filled males, lots of masculinity ... how does that work and and how do you assert yourself?
Hulk Hogan, Randy Orton, Stephanie McMahon, Triple H, John Cena and Daniel Bryan attend the WrestleMania 30 press conference at the Hard Rock Cafe New York on April 1, 2014 in New York City.Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images
McMahon: I think anybody has, regardless of your gender, we all have equal value if you have value to bring and value to provide, you just have to be willing to use your voice. I've never felt my gender was an obstacle. There have of course been moments in my career when it has slapped me in the face but the reason I felt it slapped me in the face was because it wasn't something that I had contemplated before.
When you consider that my mother was the CEO of our company, helped my father grow our business from a north-east regional wrestling promotion into a global brand. And now my mom designs to resign so she runs for US senate, and now at 67 my mom just launched a new company called Women's Leadership Live, she is the cofounder and CEO, and it's all about empowering women to be successful in business however they define success. When you have a role model like that you really don't ever look at gender as an issue and it's about owning your place and taking charge of your role, regardless of what you look like.
O'Reilly: How much do you listen to what fans say on social media and how much does that influence what you do as a company, but also storylines?
Seth Rollins and John Cena battle it out at the WWE SummerSlam 2015 at Barclays Center of Brooklyn on August 23, 2015 in New York City.JP Yim/Getty Images
McMahon: I think it's one of the secret sauces to our success if you will is that our fans are a part of our show. They engage, they chant, they cheer, they boo. There's a problem when they don't react. So, in essence, every live event is like a focus group. So we are getting that real-time feedback from them, in the arena.
Another reason why I think social media was so successful for WWE is because of that fan engagement, because they are a part of what we do, therefore, even when they are not live in the arena, they have influence through social media. I think that it's so important. A lot of brands just push messages out on social media, but that's not what social is about. Social is about engaging, it's about a conversation, it's about listening and then responding, it's an ongoing conversation with our fan base.
So when you consider the fact that our fans influence what happens in a match — a lot of it is improv, so they can dictate the flow if something's not working, you can make an adjustment on the fly. They dictate what's being said. They can often chant or you can get a feeling they are not engaged with the content, so you have to find a way to transition around that.
O'Reilly: So even live you take signals from social media and say: "Actually we should take this in this direction?"
McMahon: Absolutely, so live, real-time is social but if you don't have a device in your hand and you're in the ring, then you're interacting with the audience. The live audience is digital and social, but even sales. All of that data and information creates more feedback that you can take in and apply. You notice themes throughout.
Brock Lesnar in action during his fight against The Undertaker at the WWE SummerSlam 2015 at Barclays Center of Brooklyn on August 23, 2015 in New York City.JP Yim/Getty Images
O'Reilly: Brock Lesnar [an NCAA wrestler, turned-WWE star, who is now rising to UFC fame] is a really interesting story right now. You've not necessarily ever done cross-brand promotions with the UFC before. Are you realizing there is a place for both UFC and WWE? Do they compete in any way? And also the fact that he's flipped from one to the other and then back again.
McMahon: Brock is a unique proposition, but just to get to the broader question: UFC is not a competitor to the WWE because we are entertainment and UFC is competitive sport. It's very different. WWE is all about protagonists and antagonists where ultimately our conflicts are settled in the ring with action that is akin to Hollywood. It's incredible stunt-like action and the match itself tells a story, but our audience is engaged in the characters and their storyline. It has to be relatable to them so that they care to see the tragedy or triumph and we're at an advantage because we can script it.
UFC, they can make a big star but the second that person loses, they lose credibility, and how do you continue to make that star rise? So I think we have the best of both worlds and the opportunity to tell the stories in the way we want to tell them.
In Brock Lesnar's case it was really a special case that we are allowing him to do this fight [against Mark Hunt on July 9]. But like you said it's not really a cross-promotional opportunity, but we are allowing him to participate in that fight.
We are not supporting the fight necessarily but, again, it's not a competitor to us and the more that our superstars, that's how we refer to our talent, the more they do outside of WWE, the more awareness it generates and the broader the audience can be that is then brought back into our properties. So we recognize the value of that.
O'Reilly: I wanted to ask about WWE Network and how it's performing. What expectations did you set at the start and now where are you at?
McMahon: It is now our fastest-growing and second most-profitable business, behind television rights and licensing. For WrestleMania, we announced 1.8 million subscribers and in just two years that's not too shabby.
Our whole content proposition, it's like it functions almost exactly like Netflix, except you get a little bit more bang for your buck. So we like to say it's like Netflix only better, if you're a WWE fan, because not only do we offer the VOD content, which we currently have over 5,000, which we continue to add our library to. We create original programming. We also offer our live, monthly specials, our pay-per-view specials, for incredible value of $9.99 a month, versus $59 and up in the US.
Also, we have a linear channel, so you can turn on and watch it just like a regular, pre-programmed channel, or you can have the customized experience. It really is very unique that way and it was one of the first to market prior to HBO and a couple of the other big launches.
O'Reilly: How do you treat rights licensing when it comes to things like Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat — these are huge distribution channels that media companies are learning how to use and monetize. For example, certain sports companies like the NFL have cut deals with Twitter, are you trying to do that kind of thing as well — selling on rights as opposed to just putting your content out there for free? How do you divide it up?
McMahon: Our whole content distribution system is really a three-pronged approach. We have AVOD, which is advertising-funded video on demand, like YouTube, where we are actually consistently one of the top three most-viewed YouTube channels in the world. We are the number one sports channel on YouTube, beating FIFA and NFL, ESPN, NBA, everybody. So that's the AVOD piece
Then of course our television rights distribution, internationally, because we are in 180 countries and 25 languages.
Then the WWE network, which is our biggest focus as a company right now.
O'Reilly: So when you look at those social channels, it's about them being advertising-funded?
McMahon: We also recognize the value of the share of voice, so we utilize a content ecosystem and it doesn't matter to us where our fans enter in that ecosystem. We are platform agnostic: we want to be everywhere so our fans can consume our content any time any place anywhere and on any device. So whether it is TV or our live events, which is also an experiential opportunity, which is more and more what the millennial audience want, but also for families because families can go and it's affordable. It's not so ridiculously overpriced that you can't take your family and enjoy it. And we come to you. We have over 400 live events every year, so we are bringing our product to you.
Mike Coppola/Getty Images
Then we have digital and social, I mentioned YouTube, but also Facebook is a huge partner for us. So is Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat is absolutely a key focus for us as well. It's really important to utilize all of those different channels again to drive awareness and interest in your brand and engagement. And ultimately driving them back to the core product. And because we are a storyline-driven business and we are 52 weeks a year, with no off-season or re-runs, we keep the storylines going.
Then we have over 200 different talent IP, over 200 superstars who are in and of themselves their own brands, who are also on these social channels keeping you engaged.
We have over 650 million social media followers right now and that number grows every single day.
O'Reilly: Are there any particular geographical areas you are focusing on expanding into?
McMahon: Yes, in China for example, we just had a big press conference where we announced a new media partnership with PPTV. We announced a live event coming to Shanghai in September, and also we signed our first ever Chinese superstar, whose name is Bin Wang. And we also conducted a whole talent recruitment and try-out for four days in Shanghai at the Mercedes Benz arena.
Out of that I believe we had seven recruits who we are vetting to potentially bring back, so it's really exciting.
China is a focus for us, India is a clear focus for us, as well as South America.
O'Reilly: You were talking about your mother earlier and the inspiration you have taken from her. She left to run for US senate. What are your thoughts on the current presidential campaign right now?
EVP and COO, U.S. Products, NYSE Group, Lawrence Leibowitz, WWE Marketing EVP Michelle Wilson, WWE CEO Linda McMahon, WWE EVP of Creative Development and Operations, Stephanie McMahon Levesque and WWE COO Donna Goldsmith ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on March 27, 2009 in New York City.Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
McMahon: I think it's interesting, I was at a breakfast earlier today, where it was mentioned not necessarily the importance of the candidates but what's happening in the culture in America right now and really in other countries as well, which is the voice of the people. The need for authenticity and the need for a real connection point.
Trump was brought up as an example only because he hasn't done the traditional marketing and advertising spend, so he is presenting himself as more of a voice of the people, leveraging and utilizing social media in a very clever and smart way, regardless of what your affiliation is, it's an interesting time in the world right now and something we should all be paying attention to.
O'Reilly: How about your own advertising spend? How much is geared towards digital now versus the traditional channels?
McMahon: I wouldn't say we are traditional in any way, but again we are really platform agnostic. What we do is we utilize and leverage a lot of our own properties to really reach our consumers more directly and it's a healthy mix of TV, digital, social, etc.
There are three key pieces to keeping audiences engaged, and the evolution of that. One is a content-first strategy because you need to provide the best possible product, no matter what your brand is, it's got to be a great, incredible product first.
The second piece is a content ecosystem, which is what we were talking about before, leveraging and utilizing as many different platforms as you possibly can to continue to drive the conversation so people have the opportunity to enter your brand from different ways.
Third, mostly importantly really, is to have a brand that has purpose and value. Our company's mission is to put smiles on people's faces the world over. Whether that's through our entertainment programming or if that's by giving back to the community.
O'Reilly: What do you mean by "giving back to the community"?
McMahon: For example, we have four key pillars of our community relations opportunities. They are: diversity and inclusion, education, hope, and military.
WWE Superstar John Cena performs during the 10th anniversary of WWE Tribute to the Troops at Norfolk Scope Arena on December 9, 2012 in Norfolk, Virginia.Kris Connor/Getty Images for WWE
For example, we visit US bases all over the world. We go to visit our troops to say thank you for their service. We'll visit hospitals. We put on a show every single year called Tribute to the Troops, which is a show that is just for our servicemen and women and their families. It's a whole big pop culture extravaganza.
We also provide free tickets to military personnel with a military ID to our live events.
For diversity and inclusion, we have partnerships with Special Olympics, we also have an anti-bullying program called Be A Star, and "star" stands for "show tolerance and respect" and I've had the opportunity to participate in a lot of these.
That's an opportunity to give back to the local community. We never want to be carpet-baggers, we never just want to come in and take your money, we want to give back. So we will speak at schools with our literacy campaign.
With our Be A Star program, we have a partnership with Boys and Girls Club of America, so we will go in and often I will ask the audience, these kids: "How many of you have been bullied?" And unfortunately almost all of them raise their hands. Then I turn to the stage of superstars and ask: "How many of you have been bullied?" And we all raise our hands. There's always a gasp in the room. The message is: "You're not alone."
We're here to give you the tools you need to stand up and end bullying in your community.
WE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon attends the Make-A-Wish celebration event for John Cena's 500th Wish Granting Milestone at Dave & Buster's Time Square on August 21, 2015 in New York City.Rob Kim/Getty Images
In the hope bucket, we've had a partnership with Make A Wish Foundation, which is similar to Starlight Foundation and others, granting wishes to terminally ill children. We've had that partnership for over 30 years and it is one of the most rewarding things we can do. John Cena has granted more wishes than any other celebrity, athlete, entertainer, singer/songwriter, etc.
We also have Connor's Cure which is a fund that my husband and I founded in honor of an 8-year-old fan named Connor Michalek who lost his life to pediatric cancer. Cancer awareness has become a huge focus for WWE and now, we were originally founded with Children's Hospital Pittsburgh Foundation, where Connor was treated and now we are amplifying that partnership with V Foundation. We are growing that opportunity, which is something that is obviously really near and dear to my heart, very personal, as is all of it, but Connor was special.
Then in terms of education, really literacy is our key pillar and we do a WrestleMania reading challenge every year. It's a digital proposition: you have the opportunity to interact and read with your favorite superstars and I can't tell you how many moms have come up to me and said: "Gosh my child hates to read but suddenly now I find them reading and engaged because their hero is reading with them online." I've even had moms say that their kids have learning difficulties like dyslexia and challenges reading and how the program is really helping inspire their kids.
That's the most important part of what we do. I think it's a responsibility for any brand, any media company especially that has such a wide reach, such a broad scale and reach across so many different platforms, it's not only a privilege to give back in those ways, but I think it's a responsibility as well.
Use your powers for good, to use an old superhero analogy.
O'Reilly: If I, overnight, wanted to change my career and quit this journalism lark and become a WWE wrestler, what would I need to do?
WE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon (L) and husband/WWE Wrestler Triple H attend the 'Scooby Doo! WrestleMania Mystery' New York Premiere at Tribeca Cinemas on March 22, 2014 in New York City.Mike Coppola/Getty Images
McMahon: You would need to try out. We do have tryouts, we hold them at the Performance Center, which is based in Orlando, Florida. This was really my husband's creation, the Performance Center, because he himself is one of our biggest stars and he looked at our performance centers and opportunity and said: "If I were just starting off, what were the things that I would need to be successful?"
He really has created an elite team of trainers, there is a medical staff there, we have a partnership with Joe DeFranco for his strength and conditioning program, so we have certified trainers under that program. We are also training commentators, we are training editors, we have a whole digital crew there as well as a television production crew, so it really is the epicenter of learning all of these different facets.
We then also have a partnership with Full Sail University, which is a for-profit university in Orlando, to shoot a show for our network called NXT, which started off as our developmental property and has now become a global brand in and of itself, utilizing only social media to promote its live event tours that sell out.
O'Reilly: What are the best qualities of your superstars? What are the qualities you look out for in these tryouts?
McMahon: The number one quality is charisma. You have to be able to connect with the audience. That is that magic "it" factor that designates a star from someone who is just never going to be a star.
You can't teach charisma. You can draw it out of people if it's there and they haven't quite figured out how to utilize it yet, but it's just one of those things, that's why they call it the "X factor".
O'Reilly: Beyond charisma, you need to be seriously athletic.
McMahon: You have to be very healthy. It's not that you have to have a particular body type but you need to be healthy because you have to be able to sustain the lifestyle. When you consider that we are live for 52 weeks a year, there is no off-season so you need to be in the best shape you possibly can physically and mentally in order to maintain that schedule, as well as the physicality and the athleticism in the ring.
You have to be an athlete and you have to be able to speak well — a lot of what we do is conveying character. While they are not necessarily actors, per se, you are playing a role and you do need to get the audience to invest in you, to want to relate in you, to care to see if you win or lose. That's the magic model, if you don't care about the match, you're not invested in it, why would you watch? You need to care about these performers to want to see them win or lose. So you have to be articulate.
O'Reilly: Over the years, your husband aside, perhaps, who has been your favorite superstar?
McMahon: My favorite superstar of all time is my friend Andre the Giant.
I grew up with Andre, he was always my friend and I think he taught me a long time ago, regardless of how people judge you for what you look like, you need to be true to yourself.
My father has this expression that you have to be able to look yourself in the eyes in the mirror, you know, and know that you're a good person. If that's true and you feel good about yourself then that's all that matters no matter what other people's perceptions are.