In the days since the Wall Street Journal reported on Vince McMahon’s $3 million hush-money payment to a former employee, seemingly the entirety of the WWE Universe has been thrown out of wack. Folks have debated over whether or not McMahon will ultimately lose his job, if the company will be put up for sale, and whether or not networks like NBC and Fox will either look to terminate their agreements or alter their deals one way or another.
And as for the WWE itself? Well, the changes have already started to come swift and strong.
While the wrestlers, who were reportedly also caught by surprise by this announcement, have been largely tasked with operating as normal, the WWE Board has officially accepted Vince’s decision to ‘voluntarily step back from his responsibilities as CEO and Chairman of the Board until the conclusion of the investigation.‘ In his place, Stephanie McMahon, Vince’s daughter, will take his spot as interim CEO and interim chairwoman despite taking an “extended leave of absence” as a member of the board and the company’s Cheif Brand Officer.
Seems pretty cut and dry, right? Yeah, not so much.
Attempting to understand WWE’s new corporate structure.
Despite stepping down from his role as CEO and chairman, Vince McMahon isn’t completely leaving WWE in the rearview mirror. No, despite his lack of managerial responsibilities, McMahon remains committed to retaining his “role and responsibilities related to WWE’s creative content” and will continue to book the company’s weekly shows.
Vince is so committed to maintaining what he feels is the creative direction of the company that he will be appearing on this week’s edition of SmackDown, which should be an absolute event capable of popping one heck of a rating from curious parties both die-hard and casual who might have watched Dave Meltzer break down the situation on CNN.
Full CNN segment about Vince McMahon stepping down as CEO of WWE, with an appearance by Dave Meltzer. (Part 1 of 2) pic.twitter.com/iUcvTGgLhy
— 𝙿𝚊𝚝𝚌𝚑𝚎𝚜 𝙲𝚑𝚊𝚗𝚌𝚎 🏴☠️ (@patcheschance) June 17, 2022
John Laurinaitis, the head of talent relations who was also included in many of the allegations thrown McMahon’s way remains currently employed by the company, but many, including Meltzer, believe that he is a likely out whenever the current investigation comes to an end. Despite having a longstanding relationship with the company going back to his time as Johnny Ace, his lack of familial relationship with the company makes his eventual release much easier to justify.
And as for Stephanie McMahon, the interim CEO and interim chairwoman of the company? Well, she announced her leave of absence on May 19th and was weirdly dragged for her job performances internally, but according to Meltzer, that was done largely to save face and the company’s standings in the stock market. Though she likely won’t be organizing any massive undertakings over the next few weeks while she holds the interim spot, her presence should at least steady the ship, as most seem to genuinely like Shane’s sister.
Now, diehard fans of WWE and their behind the scenes antics will undoubtedly know the name Nick Khan. Khan, no relation to AEW owner Tony Khan, is the current President & Chief Revenue Officer, rising to a very prominent position in the company when it comes to decision-making. Interestingly enough, it was reported, again by Brandon Thurston, that Khan would be taking over Stephanie’s original duties when she took that surprise leave of absence. However, Meltzer reported that Khan is not believed to be involved in these investigations, and ‘business as usual’ will perhaps apply to him as well until any big changes actually happen.
Despite the shakeup, and an apparent unamicable relationship between Stephanie and Executive Producer & Chief, Global Television Distribution, Kevin Dunn, Brandon Thurston of Wrestlenomics believes that business will be the same for Vince himself, and with no official word as to how long this investigation will last, or if Stephanie will be the permanent replacement should Vince be permanently ousted from the company, the degree to which these investigations affect WWE programming is up to Vince himself.
Unfortunately, this story is not yet resolved and probably won’t be for the foreseeable future. Vince’s iron-clad control of his company for decades now, even through scandal after scandal, is virtually unprecedented in the business landscape, and any meaningful change in leadership at the top of the company will undoubtedly be messy. Though the McMahons control the vast majority of the voting interest of the company, if Vince steps down voluntarily or is asked to by the board of directors, which he has agreed to do if prompted, the very future of one of the most stable organizations in professional sports history could be called into question. For now, all eyes are on Smackdown, as Vince may just attempt one final performance on the stage he christened to save face.