What exactly is going on with WWE?


Author: Tony CavalloPublished: 01/13/23
Vince

If you're like me, you remember the good ol' times of the WWF/WWE; when the sound of glass smashing meant immediate excitement, when it was cool to move one eyebrow higher than the other, or when your mother was worried you were saying the word "puppies" a touch too excitedly. Those were the days.

Unsurprisingly, World Wrestling Entertainment is still chugging along, producing weekly television shows in Raw and Smackdown alongside monthly specials that we all remember like the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania.

While the Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin have given way to names like Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins, there is one name that has been synonymous with the WWE from the Attitude Era until today.

Vince McMahon

At the beginning of 2022, Vince McMahon was still the chairman and CEO of the WWE. A company that he took over from his father and carried to prominence on the backs of Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant.

He had held this role, alongside being in charge of creative (writing the storylines for both Raw and Smackdown), since 1982. While there have been calls from some fans for new blood in leadership, Vince had stayed atop the pyramid he built and wasn't going to get off until he decided it was time for him to go.

Then came June of 2022.

Sexual Misconduct and Infidelity

In June of 2022, the Wall Street Journal released a report stating that the board of directors at WWE was investigating a secret $3 million settlement that Vince McMahon paid to a former employee with whom he allegedly had an affair.

Now, as harrowing as that story was, Vince McMahon's private affairs have relatively nothing to do with the WWE. This would be the case, had Vince not used WWE funding to pay off the settlement.

WWE is a publicly-traded company and thus has many shareholders to answer to. Using the budget allotted to the company to pay off an affair with a former employee is, to steal a phrase from Carlito, not cool.

The board at WWE decided to conduct an internal investigation into the alleged misconduct and misappropriation of funds. The Wall Street Journal later reported that this investigation revealed that McMahon had paid more than $12 million dollars over the past two decades to four women formerly associated with the WWE. These payments and agreements were made to, "suppress allegations of sexual misconduct and infidelity."

Vince McMahon Steps Down

After "stepping aside" during the June investigation, the WWE announced Vince McMahon would retire from his position as chairman and CEO. He would also rescind his duties as Head of Creative and promised his shareholders he would not resume any of these roles.

Nick Khan and Stephanie McMahon (Vince's daughter) were promoted to Co-CEOs and Stephanie became the chairwoman of the WWE. Her husband, Paul Levesque, otherwise known as HHH, became the Head of Creative.

The New Era

The changes to the WWE product were immediate, as many wrestlers and executives that Vince McMahon had fired previously were brought back by HHH and given major storylines to take part in.

There were many rumors that former WWE castoffs that now wrestled for other companies, primarily at direct rival All Elite Wrestling, were looking to get out of their current deals and come back to WWE now that HHH was in charge of booking the shows.

Lastly, the WWE board was getting set to make a giant decision. Like the NFL and the NBA, the WWE makes its money primarily on television rights, and the current television contracts for RAW and Smackdown were set to be negotiated in 2023. This would mark the first time a WWF or WWE television deal was negotiated by someone other than Vince McMahon since the 1970s.

However, as the world turned, Vince would not stay far away for long.

McMahon Returns

In December of 2022, amidst new allegations of sexual assault from former employees, Vince McMahon plotted a comeback to the WWE. According to the Wall Street Journal, McMahon believed he was given bad advice to walk away and had he stayed the whole situation would have blown over.

This return by McMahon was unanimously disapproved by the current board of directors at WWE.

Yet still, McMahon, who even in retirement had maintained voting power amongst the WWE board, voted himself and two others back onto the board of directors at WWE. That same day two board members resigned. Vince still needed one more board seat vacated in order to establish himself as Chairman and CEO.

With the resignation of his daughter as Co-CEO and Chairwoman, Vince won a unanimous vote to reclaim his position in the WWE.

According to Vince, this comeback bid has been about guiding the WWE into a future sale of the company. Whether it be television rights or a full-scale buyout, Vince fought to be back at the table when these negotiations take place. Shareholders have been reportedly readying to sue, as they were promised change, only to be shocked upon Vince's return, leaving the road to take the company private seemingly the only safe haven for Vince McMahon.

Saudi Arabia

In 2018, the WWE made a 10-year commitment to host multiple events in Saudi Arabia. The first of which was the Greatest Royal Rumble and every year since 2018 (except for 2020 due to Covid concerns) the WWE has hosted the WWE Crown Jewel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The first Crown Jewel was set to be held November 2nd of 2018. WWE faced immense backlash leading up to the event due to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Arabian Consulate exactly one month prior. The event went on as advertised although some of the higher profile WWE superstars were pulled from the card. Vince McMahon's wife, who was Donald Trump's Head of the Small Business Administration at the time, distanced herself from the event as well.

Since then, it's safe to say, the yearly events held in Saudi Arabia have drawn the ire of the internet wrestling community. For instance, at the first event, women were not allowed to participate. In 2019, the WWE had their first ever televised women's match in Saudi Arabia at Crown Jewel.

It is well known that Saudi Arabia has deemed any LGBTQ lifestyle as illegal, and represses homosexuality within its borders. There is also the religious persecution and the Saudi Arabian conflict with Syria. WWE superstar Sami Zayn, a Canadian of Syrian descent, has been prohibited from performing in Saudi Arabia despite being involved in the highest-profile storyline currently going in WWE.

So when the rumor began that Vince had returned to WWE, ousted board members (including his own daughter) from their positions, and intended to sell the WWE to Saudi Arabia, wrestling Twitter blew the hell up.

So, has WWE been sold?

The rumors of WWE being sold to Saudi Arabia as of now are just that — rumors. No sale has been made, but also no denials of the potential sale have been scribed. It's important to note that the most respected and veteran of pro wrestling journalists had this to say on the subject.

If WWE is sold to Saudi Arabia, it saves Vince from shareholder's legal claims, but it does put many of his employees in a precarious position. Many of these wrestlers hold non-compete clauses in their contracts, so the task of "getting a new job" is not entirely a walk in the park.

It also puts immense pressure on those that were awarded new positions in the months without McMahon. Would the wrestlers recently rehired quickly be fired again? Does the new management coming from a sale make changes to staff? Are more shows performed in the Middle East instead of in North America? Will certain performers be allowed to participate?

While rival AEW is clamoring to snap up disgruntled WWE talent, a sale to Saudi Arabia could spell the end of WWE as we know it.

Maybe that's what Vince wants.

I don't know about you, but I'm sick of old, rich, white men with a history of deplorable behavior getting what they want.