As Wednesday’s bombshell report dropped of WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon allegedly having a sexual relationship with an ex-company staffer and paying her $3 million in hush money, no longtime wrestling fan read the headline and was shocked. McMahon has been the Harvey Weinstein of professional wrestling. A shitbag, womanizer and monopolizer hiding in plain sight. Only the 76-year-old McMahon is a rich shitbag with access to some of America’s most distinguished lawyers.
Despite McMahon stepping aside, he isn’t relinquishing his creative duties, booking himself to appear on tonight’s episode of Smackdown! on FOX, even with the investigation ongoing. McMahon hasn’t appeared on WWE television since WrestleMania 38 in April, the month the probe began. Per CNBC, McMahon will be speaking in character to address his absence.
The investigation into McMahon and fellow wrestling magnate and WWE top executive John Laurinaitis has given second thought to the motives behind the leave of absence from the company by Stephanie McMahon, Vince’s daughter and fellow WWE executive. She briefly departed WWE in May in what was described as 100 percent her own decision, but returns to the family business as the company’s interim CEO and chairwoman.
The nepotism signals Vince has no intentions to permanently leave or sell WWE. According to a report from Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Vince’s family isn’t implicated in the investigation. Stephanie’s former position on WWE’s Board of Directors did mean she would’ve had information about the investigation before her hiatus began.
For a report as damning as WSJ’s, there’s no doubt multiple Journal lawyers looked at every word of the story and each document cited to curate the news. The reporting is solid. The seal was broken on McMahon’s proclivities and the connected web of his actions soon followed.
According to WWE’s code of business conduct, an example of a prohibited activity is “the grant or offer of an employment quid-pro-quo for personal intimacy.” The company guidelines also state that any waiver for the code for an executive “may be made only by the Audit Committee and must be promptly disclosed to stockholders.” Those parameters make the 2.1 million WWE shares that changed hands on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday, about 1.5 million more than the average day and all before the WSJ story was posted, look suspicious.
An analyst from Morgan Stanley did raise the price target per share $15 on Wednesday morning, likely affecting the jump. The coincidence of jumping from 600,000 normal switches to 2.1 million is still staggering and could indicate insider trading, a federal crime. Giving insider information to others not readily available is also considered insider trading. “WWE Personnel with information about WWE or its business partners should consider the information ‘nonpublic’ until the second full trading day following the widespread disclosure of that information,” the company’s prohibition against insider trading states.
The WSJ article did have an official comment from WWE, alerting the company that McMahon’s affair was about to become public. Doesn’t take much brain power from there to figure out how to gain money with embattled executives. WWE’s stock has seen similar activity before, like in June 2007, when an on-screen storyline had McMahon die in a limousine explosion. WWE’s value stock dropped dramatically overnight, causing a fire sale before the company stated how his death was purely storyline.
Also resurfacing after the WSJ story was an April tweet from former WWE wrestler Nia Jax, whose real name is Lina Fanene. Her post references “certain higher ups can never see past their own perverted ways.” While it’s not confirmed it’s a burn against WWE, what else should the former women’s champion, and cousin of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, be talking about? All Elite Wrestling’s Max Caster did have no problem dropping the letters “NDA” in his usual freestyle rap during the WWE rival’s weekly television taping.
WWE’s succession plans likely will also involve president Nick Khan, who has no relation to AEW CEO Tony Khan and took over most of Stephanie’s responsibilities after her interim leave of absence. He’s been an influential figure behind the scenes for WWE since his hiring in August 2020.
This is a disgusting web that’s being uncoiled about the spoils of McMahon and one of his cronies. An awful part remains: there’s likely more horrible information about WWE’s higher-ups that has yet to surface. The more damning details that emerge, the better bet WWE won’t be the same in the aftermath.