Vince McMahon opened “SmackDown Live” on Friday night with a brief appearance in the ring.
McMahon strutted to the ring with a smile on his face as his theme music — “No Chance in Hell” — played over the speakers. He kept his remarks brief, saying, “It is a privilege as always to stand before you here tonight, the WWE universe…I’m here simply to remind you of the four words we just saw in what we call our WWE signature. Those four words are: then, now, forever, and the most important word is together. Welcome to ‘SmackDown!’”
With that, he left the ring.
The segment on “SmackDown” came just hours after WWE announced that McMahon was stepping back from his responsibilities as chairman and CEO of the sports entertainment giant. McMahon is currently under investigation by WWE’s board of directors after a Wall Street Journal report on allegations that McMahon agreed to pay a company employee a $3 million settlement to keep quiet about an affair. McMahon’s daughter and WWE executive Stephanie McMahon has been named interim CEO and chairwoman while the investigation is underway.
Vince McMahon will retain his role and responsibilities related to WWE’s creative content during the investigation and remains “committed to cooperating with the review underway,” the company said Friday. The board also is investigating alleged misconduct by John Laurinaitis, WWE’s head of talent relations.
The board’s investigation uncovered other settlement agreements involving McMahon and Laurinaitis, the Journal reported. A WWE spokesman told the Journal that McMahon’s relationship with the woman, who was hired as a paralegal in 2019, was consensual and that the executive used his personal funds to pay the settlements, including those involving Laurinaitis.
WWE is the world’s most prominent professional wrestling brand. The publicly traded company reported a record $1.1 billion in revenue last year, which encompassed a five-year exclusive streaming agreement with NBCUniversal’s Peacock in the U.S. “SmackDown Live” began airing on Fox in 2018 under a five-year, $1 billion deal.