As Wednesday’s explosive report fell on the WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon reportedly had sex featuring a former staffer at the company and paying him $3 million in silent money, no longtime wrestling fan read the headline and was shocked. McMahon was the Harvey Weinstein of professional wrestling. A shitbag, a womanizer and a hoarder hiding in plain sight. Only 76-year-old McMahon is a wealthy shitbag with access to some of America’s most distinguished lawyers.
Despite McMahon retireshe’s not giving up on his creative duties, saving himself to appear on tonight’s episode of Smack down! on FOX, even with the investigation going on. McMahon has not appeared on WWE television since WrestleMania 38 in April, the month the investigation began. By CNBCMcMahon will speak in character to respond to his absence.
The investigation into McMahon and fellow wrestling mogul and senior WWE executive John Laurinaitis has called into question the motives for the termination of the company by Stephanie McMahon, Vince’s daughter and fellow WWE executive. She briefly left WWE in May in what was described as 100% her own decision, but is returning to the family business as a CEO and Acting President of the company.
Nepotism signals that Vince has no intention of leaving or selling WWE outright. According to a report by Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Vince’s family is not involved in the investigation. Stephanie’s former position on the WWE Board of Directors meant she would have had information about the investigation before her hiatus began.
For a report as damning as the WSJ’s, there’s no doubt that several of the Journal’s lawyers went through every word of the story and every cited document to organize the news. The reporting is solid. The seal has been broken on McMahon’s inclinations and the connected web of his actions soon followed.
According WWE Code of Business Conduct, an example of a prohibited activity is “the granting or offering of employment in return for personal privacy”. The company’s guidelines also state that any waivers to the code for an executive “may only be made by the audit committee and must be promptly disclosed to shareholders.” These parameters make the 2.1 million WWE shares which changed hands on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday, about 1.5 million more than the daily average and all before the WSJ article was published, seems suspicious.
A Morgan Stanley analyst raised the price target per share by $15 on Wednesday morning, likely affecting the jump. The coincidence of the jump from 600,000 normal switches to 2.1 million is still staggering and could indicate insider trading, a federal crime. Giving inside information to third parties that is not readily available is also considered insider trading. “WWE personnel with information about WWE or its business partners should consider ‘non-public’ information until the second full trading day following widespread disclosure of such information,” the company’s prohibition against insider trading.
The WSJ article contained an official comment from WWE, alerting the company that McMahon’s case was about to become public. It doesn’t take a lot of gray matter to figure out how to make money from embattled executives. WWE stock has seen similar activity before, such as in June 2007, when an on-screen storyline had McMahon killed in a limo explosion. WWE’s stock value plummeted dramatically overnight, sparking a fire sell before the company declared how purely narrative his death was.
An April tweet from former WWE wrestler Nia Jax, whose real name is Lina Fanene, also resurfaced following the WSJ story. His post refers to “some high ups can never see past their own evil ways”. While it’s not confirmed to be a WWE burnout, what else should the former Women’s Champion and cousin of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson talk about? All of Elite Wrestling’s Max Casters Had No Problems dropping the letters “NES” in his usual freestyle rap during the WWE rival’s weekly TV taping.
WWE Succession Plans will likely also involve Chairman Nick Khan, who is unrelated to AEW CEO Tony Khan and took over most of Stephanie’s responsibilities after her interim leave. He has been an influential figure behind the scenes in WWE since being hired in August 2020.
It’s a disgusting web that unfolds over the loot of McMahon and one of his cronies. One terrible part remains: there’s probably more gruesome information about WWE’s superiors that has yet to surface. The more damning details emerge, the better bet that WWE won’t be the same afterwards.