You know, I thought that there would be 3 guarantees in life… Death, Taxes, and Vince McMahon dying before he retired from the WWE.
But, as predicted by my prior columns, the “piling on effect” of other possible Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA) coming out of the woodwork following the paralegal incident eventually caused Vince McMahon, the President/CEO and Chairman of the WWE Board, to retire. This is a SHOCKING news development, as it will cause both short-term and long-term major effects to the WWE company. Short-term, you are likely to see sweeping changes on the wrestling product with Triple H now officially back as EVP of Talent Relations and I would expect that any close Vince yes-man is going to be OUT soon (Bruce Prichard, Kevin Dunn). However, long-term, who is going to negotiate TV deals, keep a stranglehold on federal/state regulations on how WWE performs, and how will the talent respond to a kindler, gentler management group that they could possibly walk over…
There is a TON to unpack here with Vince stepping down, Stephanie and Nick Khan named Co-CEOs, Triple H returning to EVP of Talent Relations, and reported backstage issues with Brock Lesnar just before SummerSlam. Let’s get to it and I’ll try to organize my thoughts in sections.
Vince McMahon RETIRES
Even as I predicted it would happen, especially after the NDA incidents “piled on”, I’m still in shock. This guy dedicated his life to the business and legitimately loved it… But, he loved the position of power, too. In today’s corporate environment, especially as the #MeToo stuff exploded on many other corporations, you cannot take advantage of women below you on an organizational chart. If Linda McMahon isn’t doing it for you, go find women elsewhere. Hang out in clubs, attend events, or even get a dating app. Taking advantage of your own employs is not only sickening or creepy, it’s STUPID. Each person that Vince gets inside of, it creates a potential incident at work. Apparently, there were multiple incidents that happened and even spilled onto his friend John Laurinaitis.
Just stupid and Vince has nobody to blame but himself. If WWE struggles with the new corporate shake-up, it will be his fault that the company fails to secure better Television Deals in 2024 when the Comcast/FOX deals are set to expire or starts to decline. We have seen Triple H and Stephanie McMahon in executive roles before and as I alluded to in my LAST COLUMN, both had major struggles in their roles as EVP of Creative and Triple H had challenges as EVP of Talent Relations.
Steph and HHH aside, what about the rest of the WWE? Vince McMahon had such a stranglehold over the WWE product but also entities outside of it. There are many Athletic Commissions that tried to regulate WWE as a sport but Vince fought hard against it and built many relationships with politicians to maintain WWE being regulated as “entertainment”. Same thing with WWE talent… The one guy who made it impossible to unionize against, because he (a) compensated the top guys well and (b) made the lower guys feel like they could be replaced at any moment, is now gone. Vince McMahon once let Scott Hall and Kevin Nash walk out of the WWE, during 1996, because he refused to pay them more money. I’m just saying, Vince ran things in the office and backstage with an iron fist and only guys as bold and tough as him, such as Jesse Ventura, could get a win on him. Without Vince in place, could wrestlers walk all over Triple H, Stephanie, and Nick Khan?
I worry for Vince’s health… Without something to look forward to and nobody at home to comfort him (Linda is reportedly gone, been separated from him for years), Vince is going to be lonely sitting at home. He never invested himself into doing hobbies because he was wrestling 24/7. Now, that he’s out of that world. Sure, I’m willing to bet that he’ll still be consulting HHH and Stephanie in some capacity, but it’s not the same as being in the thick of a live event.
Immediately as the news broke of Vince’s retirement, NoDQ held a panel on YouTube and I’m in agreement with Jeff Meacham… In my view, Vince McMahon succeeds when he has good people surrounding him and he can manage the team to be effective. On Creative, for example, he utilized Vince Russo, Chris Kreski, or Stephanie McMahon’s BEST ideas while filtering out the BAD ideas. In agreement with Jeff, I believe that Vince was heavily filtering the 40-50 writing staff’s ideas for the BEST and WORST, hence why there were many last minute script rewrites. This Creative Team model that Stephanie implemented during the 2000s has ALWAYS been the problem and the WWE failing to transition older wrestlers onto that creative team has hurt them. While I get that wrestling is “entertainment”, wrestlers still have to have matches INSIDE A RING. It is still perceived as a sporting event and needs to be presented as such with well timed feuds and making your damn titles matter. Vince was filtering the bad ideas out from the idiot writing staff yet allowed the Corporate pressures of controlling everything to keep those idiots around.
WHO IS LEAKING THE NDAs from the WWE Board?
When the Wall Street Journal news broke last month, it reported that the WWE Board was investigating a NDA from a paralegal that received around $2 million for her involvement with Vince McMahon and John Laurinaitis. The article noted that the Board was going to review past NDAs.
Then, weeks later, the Wall Street Journal AGAIN reports on more NDAs that were uncovered to show a “pattern of behavior” with not only Vince McMahon, but John Laurinaitis as well.
Usually with Board of Directors, their activities are kept secret as their meetings are held behind closed doors because they often talk about strategy, managing employees, changing policies, and handling legal matters. Have you ever seen Board Meeting leaks from Apple, Google, Walmart, or other big corporations? NO, YOU HAVEN’T. It’s someone on the WWE Board of Directors who has been leaking this information…
While there are many individuals on the WWE Board and several of them could have been legitimately concerned about Vince’s activities, there are 3 key members of the Board to consider:
– Nick Khan
– Stephanie McMahon
– Triple H
All I can say is this… For YEARS, I used to get into Twitter debates with Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer and I’d tell him repeatedly about how he overrated both New Japan and AEW. We’d get into seriously heated arguments, but he never blocked me… The time he blocked me, though, was when I accused him of getting his insider WWE leaks from Triple H or those backstage close to him. BOOM, he blocked me. If you read Meltzer’s reports for YEARS, they were always about how “senile” Vince McMahon was becoming and NEVER any issues with Triple H or Stephanie McMahon’s role with Creative or Talents. NEVER. Always about Vince.
You can preach to me about “family” all that you want, but Triple H is Clique through and through and was one of the most competitive wrestlers ever in the business backstage. I guarantee he was PISSED about losing his Talent Relations job to John Laurinaitis along with losing his Creative job to Eric Bischoff/Paul Heyman or eventually Bruce Prichard. Dismantling his NXT promotion could have been the last straw. Stephanie McMahon, always the power hungry one, was applauding it… It’s likely that HHH’s anger towards Vince caused Stephanie to step down briefly but then both realized that Vince ignited a timebomb with these NDAs. That was the PERFECT opportunity to strike.
If I’m wrong, then you sell me which WWE Board Member is leaking stuff to the Wall Street Journal besides those 3 who have a LOT of incentive to gain power without Vince McMahon as CEO or Board Chairman. Nick, Stephanie, and HHH all were promoted to higher level PERMANENT positions because of Vince’s exit. Nick is a Co-CEO, Stephanie is Board Chairman and Co-CEO, while Triple H returns to EVP of Talent Relations. If I’m wrong, then guys like Steve Pamon, Erika Nardini, Steven Koonin, Ignace Lahoud, Jeffrey Speed, Alan Wexler, and Man Jit Singh need to be investigated internally as WWE Board members for leaking info to the Wall Street Journal.
DID BROCK LESNAR REALLY WALK OUT?
People can say what they want about wrestling insiders, such as Bryan Alvarez… But he doesn’t have much incentive to lie about a story because his business is all reputation and he needs subscribers and website traffic. Ditto with the PWInsider guys, Sean Ross Sapp, etc. Bryan reported that Brock walked out of Smackdown, out of anger that Vince retired, and several other news sources confirmed Bryan’s story. Then, Brock was talked back into returning and I wouldn’t doubt that some extra money was wired into his account.
If this story really is true, and it seems to be… Why would Brock Lesnar possibly leave the WWE if Vince were to retire?
Because Brock can only tolerate working with Vince McMahon.
Period, end of story.
Do you notice a pattern here? Wrestlers who joined the main WWE roster during the 2010s are likely to be applauding the Vince retirement. Why? Because most of them worked with Triple H as the Talent Relations EVP during the 2010s, whether they were signed by him, received new contracts by him, or were brought up from NXT. Anybody who joined the WWE BEFORE 2010s has a few issues with good ol’ Triple H. Why? Because they were around the guy when he was a wrestler…
Brock Lesnar doesn’t take BULLCRAP from anyone. That’s a fact, as he doesn’t have to do this WWE stuff if he doesn’t want to. Brock, living on a farm, knows a snake when he sees one… He probably feels that Vince was sabotaged internally to retire, as Board level information can only appear in a newspaper if leaked, and he probably knows who may have did it. Lesnar doesn’t want to work for a company that has trust issues and leaking info to the press, to force the hand of a CEO and Board Chairman to resign, probably has Brock at unease.
It’s likely that Brock will “do business” at SummerSlam, but after that… Who knows?
What the Internet Wrestling Community needs to realize is that Triple H is heavily disliked by veteran wrestlers. I bet that Brock is still pissed about their Wrestlemania 29 match where Triple H put himself over Brock at the biggest event of the year. However, if you look at other wrestlers who have left the WWE, it was due to friction with Triple H. CM Punk had major heat with Triple H thanks to their 2011 feud and CM Punk has heavily suggested that as an issue for him leaving. Remember, Triple H was going to wrestle CM Punk at Wrestlemania 30 and Punk wanted no part of that. Cody Rhodes reportedly had friction with Triple H backstage and left the WWE in 2016, negotiating with Triple H as EVP of Talent Relations, and then during his first year in AEW, he used a sledgehammer to smash a throne. Cody returning was a Vince McMahon pushed idea, as was the megapush upon Cody’s return. What happens to Cody with Vince McMahon gone and Triple H is now there managing Cody’s role?
Many of the wrestlers who were signed during the 2010s love Triple H because they were talents that HHH personally liked and they gave him respect in return. Lesnar was dealing with Vince McMahon personally for any deals or pushes and with Vince done, these big money deals and megapushes could be gone too.
TRIPLE H RETURNS AS EVP OF TALENT RELATIONS
I received a whole bunch of emails about this one… Who else is going to step up to the role when John Laurinaitis was out? Sad thing is that Jim Ross’s contract was up earlier this year and the more logical role would be to have Ross return to his role with a large staff to support & learn from him. Ross should be in this role, but he re-signed with AEW and Triple H is literally the only man for the job. My issue with HHH is that he didn’t create any sustainable Main Event talent since he began his EVP of Talent Relations role during mid-2012 (he didn’t sign Rollins, Ambrose, or Reigns, by the way). Maybe I’m wrong on that because, in my opinion, Velveteen Dream COULD have been that guy but he had major accusations that derailed him.
Meanwhile, all of those Triple H signed guys who were CUT by Vince McMahon/Nick Khan aren’t doing so hot in AEW… Keith Lee, Adam Cole, Aleister Black, and Andrade were pegged as HUGE SIGNINGS but are getting completely exposed on instances where “Vince McMahon was right”. Finn Balor is still proving to be truly a Cruiserweight living in a heavyweight world and HHH’s pushed veterans, such as Samoa Joe, Nakamura, and Bobby Roode ran out of steam or didn’t make a big splash. Kevin Owens is probably HHH’s most successful NXT groomed wrestler but he’s kinda stuck in that upper midcard role.
THAT SAID – Triple H hired a great trainer for the Women’s Division and his NXT Tag Team Division was always great. If Triple H can improve the booking of Women’s wrestling and especially Tag Team wrestling, he could be successful.
Triple H HAS to learn from his past mistakes, though, and maybe the WWE Main Roster didn’t match his ideas. HHH was signing smaller indy guys or older Impact Wrestling veterans. For any larger guys he did sign, he always gave them dark or brooding characters. Have you not observed why Hulk Hogan, Macho Man, Rock, Austin, or John Cena were famous? Each had PERSONALITY that made wrestling fans smile or laugh with enjoyment… Each were colorful characters and dressed the part. Triple H’s “hosses” have tattoos all over their body, long dark hair, always wearing black, or wear tights that don’t make them look like an athlete. HHH just doesn’t understand what MASS APPEAL is and just tries to recreate the dark and brooding character that he once was as “the Game” through other wrestlers.
However, he can be successful if he simply implements the following reforms:
– Take Tag Team Wrestling seriously and feature it with colorful & fun tag teams that fans can easily remember.
– Implement weight classes in WWE. Sure, HHH likes smaller wrestlers but they look odd against larger wrestlers. Take a cue from boxing and MMA… Weight Classes protect size differences from each other and allows each class to grow on their own.
– Just improve the booking of the Women’s Division, as the titles seem to change like a hot potato, with a few undeserving champions while there are others who are overpushed too much to be champion.
– Improve the US/IC Titles… End the day of everybody chasing the World Title. Keep a select few on top while the rest fight for the US/IC Titles. Make those belts matter again.
– End Kevin Dunn’s camera flickering. I used to like Dunn’s produced shows but now, it changes directions too much.
– Add more logic to how matches are set up for titles and how wrestlers are even ranked to get a title shot. STOP THE LAZY BOOKING of Triple Threats, Fatal Four Ways, too. Have you ever seeing a 3 way dance in MMA or Boxing, especially when the champion can lose their title if they don’t get knocked out?
If Triple H learns from his prior Talent Relations mistakes AND implements obvious reforms, he could be successful. That said, if he still cannot find the next big Main Eventer, it won’t matter. As good as Roman Reigns has become as a heel, business hasn’t boomed. Smackdown is consistent at 2 million viewers, but WWE struggles to fill arenas for live events. Plus, Roman failed at being a babyface and has just lucked into becoming the top guy when the rest of the roster is weak. If Triple H can somehow manufacture the next babyface competitor to challenge and defeat Roman, then he’ll be OK.
I predict that many Triple H signings will return to the WWE… AEW better watch their contracts because HHH will raid anybody that he signed with NXT once their deals are up. I fully expect the likes of Sasha Banks to not only return, but get pushed hard.
HHH has a second chance to right the wrongs of the past… If he implements more logical booking, better tag wrestling, improved women’s booking, pretty much helps Kevin Dunn retire, makes the IC/US Titles worthwhile again, implements weight classes, and just STOPS giving his bigger guys dark & brooding gimmicks… It could work.
But I’ve seen Triple H’s work during the 2010s and I have valid concerns.
Once NXT went to the USA Networks for a live 2 hour show, HHH’s NXT “magic” was exposed. It’s easy to hide things on a TAPED 1 hour show on the WWE Network and then giving it your all on 3-4 Takeover events… It’s another to do a LIVE 2 hour show each week with new ideas and then still put on Takeover events in front of burned out fans.
Just remember, NXT lost the “Wednesday Night Wars” against AEW Dynamite. FACT.
STEPHANIE MCMAHON and NICK KHAN
I don’t trust Stephanie McMahon… She did nothing as Chief Brand Officer and was AWFUL as EVP of Creative from late 2000 through late 2013. WWE did nothing but decline on her watch and her only true contribution was giving John Cena a chance to incorporate his rapping skills into his character. That said, Cena was the one rapping and he was already talented as a performer. Her other Creative ideas, such as WCW/ECW Invasion, NWO’s Return, Flair vs. Vince, Kane’s Unmasking and Katie Vick, Triple H’s evil heel character, Hot Lesbian Action, Billy and Chuck, blowing up Vince McMahon in a limo, Divas Search, and other bad ideas all came under her Creative Administration. Because she didn’t want to write 4 hours of television each week, SHE was the one who began hiring the writing staff.
So FINGER OF SHAME at Stephanie for being an ineffective Communications Major turned WWE Executive. Who would have guessed that she’d be BAD at her job?
Nick Khan, though… It’s GREAT for the WWE that he’s still around and if Triple H can present him with a GOOD WWE product to sell, then he should be able to negotiate something lucrative in place of the expiring Comcast/FOX deals of September 2024.
But it all depends on what Triple H and others backstage can hand Nick Khan to market to the networks for a better deal… Because if ratings and attendance go down, it’s going to be a hard sell and Nick Khan will soon shift from negotiating with TV Networks to negotiating to the WWE to sell.
Business in the next year will determine WWE’s fate… Will it be a new TV deal or will the WWE sell itself to a media company? It all depends on the assumption that “Vince McMahon was the Creative problem” being true and if Triple H can “save it”.
I don’t know, folks…
These are CRAZY times for the WWE and we are in total uncharted waters here… With all of the information above, I’m going to make predictions. I do want to emphasize that this is a quickly evolving story and this column may be outdated by the time the next news cycle hits the fan.
But I’ll try my best to give you predictions on what I *think* is going to happen next, whether it is with individuals, the company itself, or the markets.
(1) More will “pile on” to Vince McMahon and other shoes will fall on other WWE personnel involved with Vince. Many, many accusations will fly, true or not.
(2) Multiple released or sidelined WWE wrestlers will return. AEW talent raid of Triple H signed guys is coming…
(3) NXT 2.0 recent signings may see terminations, as Triple H implements his own signings or repopulates NXT with veterans from WWE Main Roster who need a boost.
(4) New TV Deal “extensions” announced, maybe 2-3 year extensions to the expiring 2024 deals to help placate investors of recent bad news.
(5) Roman Reigns will expedite his “exit plan” with too much turmoil. He could turn to acting following the next Wrestlemania.
(6) Lots of Logan Paul and Pat McAfee coming your way. Paul signed with HHH/Stephanie while McAfee just signed an extension.
(7) Days of relying on older but overpriced veterans are over. SummerSlam may be Brock’s WWE finale while Bill Goldberg’s days in the WWE are probably numbered as an in-ring performer.
(8) The TV-14 will result in minor changes, but nothing close to the Attitude Era. You’ll see some vulgar language used and maybe female performers might be encouraged to have more freedom with their outfits. I fully expect Mandy Rose and her 2 friends to appear in WWE soon. Rose is prime to really benefit from this environment.
(9) Triple H and Stephanie shall return as on-screen authority figures… They cannot resist!
(10) Shane McMahon won’t be back. The one area where Vince and Stephanie agree is that Shane cares more about being an in-ring performer than doing anything backstage.
(11) Wrestlers may attempt to join the Screen Actor’s Guild or organize as their own union. There will at least be talk of it.
(12) Sasha Banks will return to the WWE, as will Naomi. They will reclaim their Tag Titles and be pushed hard as dominant champions.
(13) The living members of the Wyatt Family will each return to the WWE. It’s a shame that Luke Harper wasn’t alive because he was a Triple H guy and without Vince, he could have really thrived in the WWE.
(14) WWE will become more open to working with other promotions in America and World Wide, even allowing them to air shows on WWE Network (Impact, New Japan, NWA, etc).
(15) HHH will at least try to push Tag Team wrestling again. I believe that the Revival will be a target signing.
(16) Kevin Dunn is “done” with the WWE, and may likely resign himself to save face rather than getting axed by HHH/Stephanie. Bruce Prichard is likely out, too, though he is honestly well liked backstage though very loyal to Vince.
(17) Vince McMahon Jr. will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame during 2023 and that shall be his final WWE on-screen appearance.
(18) WWE Stock will be just fine if (a) WWE can prove to sustain itself without Vince or (b) there is an impression that WWE is about to be sold. If (a) happens and (b) doesn’t happen, WWE stock is in deep trouble. If other WWE officials are revealed to have issues, more problems will occur.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this column… Look, I’m still “retired” but if there is a BREAKING NEWS STORY that convinces me to write, I’ll do it.
But writing twice a week or even once a week, just too difficult with my new busy schedule and other projects that I’m involved in. Plus, I don’t watch wrestling as much as I should to fill a wrestling column on a weekly basis. The McMahons are an easy topic for me because I’ve written thousands of columns covering them since October 1998.
Back to the retirement home, I go, as I’ve said everything that I need to on Vince McMahon and the ever changing WWE for the moment. However, if more Breaking News happens and I’m motivated to put the Tito costume on once again, then I may write.
The only thing sure about Mr. Tito is that nothing is for sure…