If pro wrestling is simply a pumped-up soap opera, then Stephanie McMahon is the squared circle’s very own Erica Kane. The real-life heiress to the WWF dynasty, McMahon (daughter of grappling kingpin Vince) has taken the league’s series Raw Is War and Smackdown! to new comedic heights in her role as…Stephanie McMahon, the little rich girl-turned-very bad girl. ”I was supposed to be naive and easily manipulated,” says the 23-year-old McMahon. ”Then I had enough.”
While holding down real jobs in the WWF (Vince is the corporation’s chairman, mom Linda its CEO, brother Shane its director of new media), the McMahons also appear on screen in fun-house-mirror versions of themselves. Stephanie, an account executive in WWF’s New York office, was featured in 1999 in a bizarre kidnap plotline; she’s since laid waste to her damsel-in-distress role, trading sweater sets for leopard-skin minis, and morphing into a fabulously venal…”Slut,” she finishes, referring to the deafening chant fans use to greet her.
”I was born a natural ham,” says Stephanie. ”I get it honest, as my mother would say.” Although she didn’t foresee an onstage role, the Boston University graduate always wanted in on the family business. ”This has been my passion since I was a little girl,” she says. ”Being involved in any capacity — even if I’m cleaning the bathrooms — is an honor.”
Her recent plot arc is a bit more glamorous: ”Married” to her onetime captor Triple H (that’s Hunter Hearst Helmsley to you), McMahon currently holds the women’s championship belt. The couple’s power-grabbing connivances would do Boris and Natasha proud, while their backstage bickering plays like Ralph and Alice Kramden in spandex. ”Everybody came up to us and said, ‘Man, you guys have incredible chemistry,’ ” recalls Helmsley (né Paul Levesque). ”She’s got an amazing gift.”
But don’t ask Ms. McMahon if she’d ever like to break into legitimate theater. ”This is legitimate theater,” huffs Stephanie, who’s gearing up for the WWF’s Aug. 27 pay-per-view Summerslam. ”We entertain millions of people on TV. That’s something people in the ‘legitimate’ theater would kill for.” That said, she adds, ”I certainly wouldn’t turn down any opportunity I had outside this business, but the WWF is where my heart and soul is.” Spoken like a true Daddy’s girl.