Vince McMahon was in some trouble in the late 1990s, with WCW Nitro beating WWE Raw in the ratings for 83 weeks consecutively, very much due to the popularity and success of the nWo.
With his back against the wall, Vince McMahon called upon the services of boxing icon Mike Tyson, who is argued by many to have “saved” WWE.
At the time, Tyson was banned from boxing after biting Evander Holyfield’s ear off, and supposedly down to his last $150,000, Vince McMahon saw a fantastic opportunity.
You’d think that Tyson’s behaviour in boxing would have turned fans off, but in truth, the boxer’s drawing power increased greatly after the Holyfield incident, making this a great decision by WWE.
Vince McMahon, with his back against the wall, offered Mike Tyson a staggering $3.5 million to appear as the special guest referee for the WWE Championship match at WrestleMania XIV.
The deal, which Tyson accepted, also saw the boxer appear on several episodes of Monday Night Raw in the lead-up to WWE’s biggest pay-per-view of 1998.
WWE made the decision to have Tyson involved with Stone Cold Steve Austin, who was the biggest star in wrestling at the time, which only helped WWE in the ratings war with WCW.
At WrestleMania XIV, Mike Tyson turned on Shawn Michaels, hitting HBK with a devastating knockout punch before celebrating with Austin, which was a key turning point for WWE.
The same month as WrestleMania XIV, WWE Raw ended up beating WCW Nitro in the ratings wars for the first time in 84 weeks, and Vince McMahon never looked back.
Just three years later, WWE ended up buying out WCW, and many fans have attributed WWE’s victory over WCW to have been down to the involvement of Mike Tyson with the company.
That wasn’t the last of the work that WWE wanted to do with Tyson, who was eventually inducted into the Hall of Fame after making sporadic appearances for the company in the early 2000s.
During his time with WWE, Tyson turned on Shawn Michaels, as noted, and WWE wanted this to spin off into a feud and eventual match between Tyson and Triple H.
WWE wanted the match to be a special attraction boxing exhibition, but plans fell through as Tyson was able to return to boxing and was demanding a lot of money for the spot, as Triple H said:
“We were going to do six rounds. I don’t remember if it was going to be full boxing rules, or whether I was wearing gloves, but it ended up being a deal where the whole thing just would have been a ludicrous amount of money, and it got pushed off.”
While bringing Mike Tyson into the company may have cost Vince McMahon a lot of money, there’s no doubt that the decision paid off and the boxer was a key part of WWE defeating WCW.