Saudi Arabia may be buying WWE, Stephanie McMahon resigns as CEO: report

Vince McMahon, just back from exile, may have already pawned off his empire to a brutal government looking to sportswash its evils

We may earn a commission from links on this page.
(From left) Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, and Paul “Triple H” Levesque
(From left) Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, and Paul “Triple H” Levesque
Photo: Getty Images

If Vince McMahon has indeed sold WWE to Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, well, that’s something every wrestling fan knew could happen for a while. Though no deal has yet been officially confirmed or even addressed, it’s always been a distant buzz in the ether. Rumors of a sale of the company have been louder, though, since Nick Khan came aboard (big deals are what he does). Combine that with WWE running shows in Saudi Arabia — despite all the flashing, blaring reasons to not do so — and the connection was relatively easy to make for anyone who wanted to connect the dots.

Advertisement

They just weren’t dots that anyone would want to connect. Though everyone knew it could happen, it was not the kind of thing you had any urge to try and comprehend. Sure, awful and disgusting entities get together all the time, but it’s not like one spends their free time thinking about hypothetical couplings of bog monsters. It’s hard to even wrap your arms around, before even thinking about the industrial-strength soap you’d need to clean your arms afterward.

It’s starting to feel like we’d all better start that process, though.

Tuesday’s news of Stephanie McMahon resigning as co-CEO of WWE barely had time to settle before Twitter went ablaze with rumors that Vince McMahon had already completed a sale of WWE to the Saudi PIF, and the company would again go private. There has been no official word from either party in the rumored deal, but there were plenty of tweets from reputable wrestling journalists suggesting the sale was done — though, again, nothing official had gone over at the time of writing. There’s just an explosion of smoke, let’s say.

Advertisement

What we know so far

Here’s what is for sure: Stephanie McMahon is out. She had returned last year from a leave of absence and rode in to the rescue for WWE, jumping in as co-CEO after her father had been pushed out amid a sexual harassment scandal, and now she has definitely quit the company entirely. And she did so immediately after her father, Vince, was elected WWE’s Chairman of the Board in a perfunctory Tuesday vote. (Vince never surrendered his controlling share of voting power in the company and reportedly threatened to roadblock any sale or new TV deal unless he was reinstated to the board.) Nick Khan is now WWE’s lone CEO, having previously shared the title with Stephanie.

Advertisement

Earlier this week, when the elder McMahon abruptly returned (in a hostile fashion, many would say) to engineer a sale of the company, the Saudis were said to be very interested. They were one of the only names to be mentioned so prominently.

What does the reported sale mean for WWE?

To repeat, there has been nothing official yet, just a lot of buzz and rumors and unconfirmed reports. What happens from here is anyone’s guess. So let’s guess!

Advertisement

Given the speed of all this news, if it does turn out to be a sale to Saudi Arabia, it’s hard to believe Vince didn’t have this in his pocket before he ever sent that letter to the WWE board informing them that he was breaking down the door. And, if all this happens, Vince has ripped his company away from his daughter (and probably his son-in-law) to sell it to a murderous and oppressive regime. Which… in character.

Both of the company’s TV contracts — SmackDown on Fox and Raw on Comcast’s USA Network — are up in just over a year and a half and negotiations will start much sooner than that. Another major asset for WWE, its massive streaming library and “premium live event” broadcast model, currently resides on Comcast’s Peacock service as part of a rights deal worth over $1 billion. (Comcast has also been seen as a frontrunner to purchase the company, given the amount it already spends on WWE content.)

Advertisement

How negotiations might change for those media rights, if the Saudis do own the company now or will in the near future, is another total mystery. The Saudis’ upstart golf tour, LIV, couldn’t find a US broadcaster, in part because no network wanted to be associated with the country’s history of human rights abuses. But that was a brand-new franchise in competition with the PGA Tour, and WWE is already an established money-maker at the top of its industry. Even if some of that earning power could be jeopardized by a sale to the kingdom.

It’s also hard to fathom, if rumors of this sale are true, that Vince would ever come armed with a deal that didn’t reinstall him as the overlord of the TV product. Unless the Saudi bid, if there is one, is so much higher than any other entity would have dreamed of matching, McMahon could have gotten several billion from a host of bidders. But some of those bidders may have insisted on keeping the current creative and production team, given Vince’s now-checkered reputation as an alleged sex pest and WWE’s recent upswing after his departure, both in terms of viewers and overall feeling from fans and talent alike. Whether the product is actually that much better is in the eye of the beholder.

Advertisement

As for everything else, who knows what happens to a host of the company’s performers if indeed the Saudis are now the new bosses. LGBTQ+ wrestlers certainly are a concern. Same goes for the women’s roster, some of whom have performed on Saudi shows in the past, but full-blown Saudi ownership may be a different kettle of fish. And it could be a morally unjustifiable leap for other notable talent, such as Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, and John Cena, who have already either refused to perform at Saudi shows or were not allowed to do so (like Sami, due to his Syrian ethnicity).

No one should be surprised that one of the worst people on Earth has reportedly done one of the worst things possible. It’s just a level of filth that no one ever wants to contemplate. And yet here we are, because the thing about people this shitty is that they can always get shittier.