It’s not often that I’m speechless, but less than an hour ago, the great Pat MacLaughlin sent me a link to an article about the announcement that WWE kingpin, Vince McMahon planned his retirement from his position within the company that he bought from his father before a national expansion almost forty years ago. The announcement wasn’t necessarily too surprising so to speak, given the recent allegations against the emperor of sports entertainment, but somehow it’s still shocking to consider that there will be a WWE without him.
I have a degree in Corporate Communications from PSUGA and have done work in a variety of roles within the field, including a radio division before the pandemic, but still as I write this, I’m almost speechless about McMahon’s exit. I assumed Vince would “die in the chair” before he would retire to civilian life outside of the sports entertainment bubble. You can hear countless interviews from former and even some current McMahon employees on Youtube clips that confirm that all Vince does is work on his product. Many have commented that the WWE is Vince’s entire life. If that’s healthy or not is a different discussion, but the past month or so has definitely been a wild course of events as the organization that McMahon dedicated his life to build eventually saw him as a liability with the revelations made in a series of Wall Street Journal stories.
I discussed this at the time when the claims against Vince were made public, if it was a consensual relationship and Vince paid the female with his personal cash not to talk about it then there wasn’t much that would affect his status in the company, other than the public embarrassment of his infidelity. The second round of allegations were much more serious because it was suggested that the boss of the company implied that an affair with him would impact a former wrestler’s career.
The timing of all this makes you wonder if more claims will be uncovered, especially because there’s speculation that The Wall Street Journal could publish another story within the next few weeks. Still, it all remains rather muddy because the former wrestler from the 2005 claim was paid a reported $7.5 million to sign a nondisclosure agreement so there wouldn’t be any definitive public statements from those that were involved.
Obviously, the safety of the women in these stories are what’s most important, but the secondary question is, what happens to WWE without McMahon?
From purely a pro wrestling prospective, this is uncharted water because for the first time in several decades, Vince McMahon isn’t a key player in the industry in America. For all of his faults, Vince kept the industry stable in the United States, even though the rocky periods. During the steroid scandal of the early-90s, Vince refused to do the job for Uncle Sam. He survived the lean years of the down turn of the industry and then won a bitter wrestling war against Ted Turner. The WWE weathered the storm of the negative publicity of the business in the aftermath of the Benoit tragedy.
To put it in perspective, every major pro wrestling promoter in the history of the United States eventually went out of business, except Vince McMahon. McMahon himself was the one constant throughout everything. The scandals, the walkouts, and the recessions of the industry, he was there to lead much of the business. In some ways, Vince is the reason that sports entertainment didn’t go the way of roller ball after it was confirmed to audiences that the action was scripted.
Some misguided fans will jump for joy and assume that with Vince out of the way that the product will immediately be everything they’ve wanted for years. If Triple H’s version of NXT was going to get over on a main stream level then All Elite Wrestling would’ve never got off the ground. That said, the combination of Stephanie, Triple H, and Nick Khan will take over the major duties of the organization. While I don’t think that less Vince will automatically translate to a better product, it’s possible that there will be some fresh dynamics brought to the programming, which would definitely be an improvement.
As I mentioned in a recent article about the second round of accusations, now would actually be the time for Vince to step away because aside from the hit the stock price will take, the company itself is completely stable and on autopilot in many ways. The organization will tout record-setting profits for the next few years, based on the TV contracts and the Peacock deal. At the end of the day, the shareholders only care about making a profit so the dip to the stock will be minimal in the long run. Ticket sales, merchandise, and ad revenue are all extra profit for the promotion that will already have the biggest profitability during the next few years so the company is fine.
How all of this evolves over time and the ripple effect it will have during the next decade might be a different story.
When you take into account the track record of corporate executives that attempt to run a wrestling company, let’s hope that Stephanie and Triple H retain their positions in the promotion for the next few decades. At the same time, prehaps without Vince at the top, the rumors of the eventual sale will materialize, which might truly be the time for concern. As much as the WWE tried for decades to reshape the nature of the genre, pro wrestling is a unique commodity that needs “wrestling people” to run it in an effective manner, not a corporate suit that assumes sports entertainment is interchangeable with any other television show.
Ironically, as I’m writing this, The Wrestling Observer’s Bryan Alvarez just tweeted that Brock Lesnar left Smackdown because Vince isn’t there. This is where the cache that McMahon has built as a promoter is important because there are certain talents that would only want to work for him. This news makes the whole story that much more unpredictable because management will want to avoid a situation where the house of cards collapses in terms of the perception of the company. More than anything, it’s ironic that taking the WWE public and thus getting a board of directors is what made Vince a billionaire, but it also led to his exit from the company.
What do you think? Share your thoughts, opinions, feedback, and anything else that was raised on Twitter @PWMania and Facebook.com/PWMania.
Until next week
E mail firstname.lastname@example.org | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta