Stop calling it a retirement. Without the details of alleged hush payments skyrocketing well beyond $12 million to keep various women quiet, now-former WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon would still be in unquestioned power. He didn’t leave his post of 40 years unprovoked or out of humility to transition the leadership responsibilities to daughter Stephanie or son-in-law Triple H. This is a resignation. Vince removed himself from his perch before he was forcibly and much more catastrophically taken down.
Other accounts of alleged sexual misconduct since the mid-1980s hadn’t brought McMahon down. A 1994 trial where he was accused, and later acquitted, of purposefully distributing steroids to his roster didn’t give him the heave-ho. McMahon later bragged about beating the Federal government. A rematch Vince doesn’t want may be forthcoming.
The Wall Street Journal reported Monday night The Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal government prosecutors have launched inquiries into McMahon’s payments to settle allegations of sexual misconduct. WWE later announced it will revise financial statements dating back to 2019, stating that $14.6 million of payments made by McMahon should have been recorded as company expenses. The SEC filing stated McMahon’s payments from 2006 to the present day, and possibly into the future, needed to be recorded in the WWE’s financial statements.
McMahon announced via Twitter on Friday afternoon he was “retiring” from WWE five weeks after he intended to temporarily step down from his executive positions amid the ongoing investigation by WWE’s board of directors into the alleged behavior and hush money. The investigation is still ongoing and McMahon “has or will pay” every penny for those agreements, WWE confirmed in the report. The investigation “expects to conclude that its internal control over financial reporting was not effective as a result of one or more material weaknesses,” per the report. Well, duh. Mismanaging that large an amount shows financial instability to say the least.
As McMahon’s resignation came down on Friday, he cited his age (77 next month) as the main reason for stepping away from WWE. The foreshadowing of a larger probe into his actions was evident based on the timing of said message and McMahon’s lack of course correction since the mid-June report first emerged. Stephanie McMahon and Nick Khan are now WWE’s co-CEOs, while Triple H leads the company’s creative and talent relations efforts.
The attempt to sweep McMahon’s resignation under the rug as much as possible had limited success before new details emerged on Monday. He would’ve worked from his chair in the Gorilla Position, the area just behind the curtain at WWE events, or his Stamford, Conn. office until he was physically and mentally incapable — even though he’s lost his magic touch over the years. McMahon being stuck in his ways, like booking bad shows and repetitive big-time main events, seemingly had no end in sight two months ago. Now, it’s hard to imagine a way McMahon is publicly involved with WWE again. He’s still WWE’s majority owner, a likely future problem by itself.
A massive shift in the WWE landscape is expected with McMahon’s departure, as it should be. His hasty goodbye is now canon too, as Vince’s golden boy Roman Reigns dropped a line on last night’s episode of Raw to Theory, who also has a past of alleged sexual harassment, of “Your daddy’s not here anymore!” in a clear shot to their mutual status as hand-picked for stardom by McMahon. Reigns has backed up his chosen-one proclamation. Theory has plenty of work ahead of him. The Madison Square Garden crowd clearly comprehended the reference, quickly breaking into chants of “Who’s your daddy?” and “Daddy’s boy,” the former of which made Paul Heyman try his best to not break character and into hysterics.
Before Monday’s news, a conceivable thought was to the legitimacy of McMahon’s “retirement” as professional wrestling is rife with Brett Favre and Michael Jordan-types, who needed multiple comebacks before officially stopping to apply their athletic craft. Terry Funk, Shawn Michaels, and Ric Flair are glaring examples. WWE confirmed to multiple outlets his removal wasn’t part of a storyline, but the itch to return in some capacity would’ve likely been too strong for McMahon to deny. A McMahon has been the figurehead of WWE since 1953. If the SEC probe ramps up, he’ll need to stay away.
Mentioning McMahon’s legacy as solely a wrestling promoter or hush-payment fiend without the other is reckless. The monarch of WWE allegedly did horrible things to women for decades and tried to use his wealth to cover it up and continue as the top monopolizer in professional wrestling. Just stating he’s a piece of shit might be (likely is) accurate, but lacks the proper substance of how he rose to power where McMahon perceived his glorified status was impenetrable.
Forced retirement is an apt way to describe McMahon’s situation, as to better state this wasn’t his timeline. There’s no coincidence. He’s gone to save the family business from further embarrassment because his alleged wrongdoings list is growing by the week. McMahon’s not an idiot and saw the writing on the wall. And then he resigned.