WWE’s Stephanie McMahon discusses WrestleMania, Connor Michalek
WrestleMania, which is World Wrestling Entertainment’s biggest show every year, takes place Sunday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. On Monday, WWE was in Los Angeles for its weekly live “Monday Night Raw” television show, and Stephanie McMahon, chief brand officer and co-owner of WWE, sat down for an interview with Hannah Mitchell, 14-year-old daughter of Sports Now editor Houston Mitchell.
Connor Michalek is receiving the Warrior Award at the Hall of Fame ceremony later this week. What has Connor meant in your life and has he changed the way you look at things?
Meeting Connor was absolutely a life-changing event for me. I love kids. I’m a mom and have three daughters. They are 8, 6 and 4. Connor was the same age as my oldest daughter. And he was just so full of life and personality and love. And you would never know he was sick from his personality and the way he acted. But you could tell from his physical appearance because he had scars, and he didn’t have any hair. He looked sick, but he certainly didn’t act that way. And Connor just really had this profound impact on me and my husband, and we kept thinking, “What can we do for him? What can we give him to look forward to, to hang on for?” And we came up with the idea to invite him to WrestleMania. And at WrestleMania, his dad said that he didn’t even act sick. That he was the little boy his dad remembered. Connor’s hero, Daniel Bryan, ironically defeated my husband and went on to become WWE world champion that night. Daniel Bryan’s struggle as a character sort of paralleled Connor’s struggles, so Connor identified with him. And after Daniel won the championship, the very first person he went to was Connor, who was in the front row. And we have that moment captured forever as a part of WrestleMania. And Connor was just so strong, so heroic and so courageous that it is only fitting that he be the first recipient of the Warrior Award.
The WWE will be a promotional partner for the Special Olympics World Games this year. How did this partnership happen?
Our partnership with Special Olympics goes back over 20 years ago with my parents. I remember being your age and being at the World Games when they were at Yale University. It’s important for WWE because one of our key messages is about acceptance and inclusion. And that is the Special Olympics message. One of their major programs is unification at schools, where they have children with intellectual disabilities playing and interacting and going to school with children who don’t have intellectual disabilities. It’s amazing because it doesn’t just help the kids with disabilities, it helps the kids who don’t. Because it helps you accept and include not only those with challenges but those with any type of difference. And that’s really the broader message.
If one of your daughters came up to you and told you she wants to be a WWE Diva, how would you react?
That has already happened! My oldest daughter would love to be a WWE Diva. She actually wrote a book that said, “I want to be a WWE Diva.” We are telling her what we would tell any girl or boy, that school comes first. Get your education and then if you want to pursue becoming a WWE Diva or Superstar, absolutely. But a huge part of it too is your health and your fitness. You have to be sure you are active, eat right and exercise every single day.
You have done a lot in your WWE career but never wrestled at WrestleMania. Don’t you think it’s time you wrestle for the women’s title and call yourself Mrs. WrestleMania?
I would love to wrestle at WrestleMania! And who knows, if the time is ever right and the moment calls for it, it would be a dream come true for me.
If you could travel back in time to when you were 14 and give yourself some advice, what would you say?
I would tell myself to believe in myself and to be more accepting of who I am. To focus on the people who make me feel good about myself. And those people who make me feel sad, or make me feel bad about myself, take those people out of my life, because they don’t belong there. And appreciate and recognize my value, because I mean something in this world and so does everybody else.
You are chief brand officer of WWE. You appear on live TV every week. You have your own workout video and you have three kids. Are you actually a robot and do you ever sleep?
No, I am not robot, and, no, I do not sleep! I would prefer to get more sleep, quite frankly, because I think I would be more productive at everything. But the key to success for me is just making sure that I am all in, that I am 100% present and aware in whatever moment I am in. When I am with my kids, I don’t have my phone on me. If I am doing an interview, I’m not on my phone checking to see what is going on elsewhere. It is being 100% dedicated to whatever I am doing.
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