The world of pro wrestling was flipped on its head today, and no one is sure how this is all going to play out.
Vince McMahon, the guru of sports entertainment’s biggest company World Wrestling Entertainment, decided to announce his retirement today at the ripe old age of 76. He initially announced his decision via social media, then through a press release. Here’s a portion of what it said:
“As I approach 77 years old, I feel it’s time for me to retire as Chairman and CEO of WWE. Throughout the years, it’s been a privilege to help WWE bring you joy, inspire you, thrill you, surprise you, and always entertain you. I would like to thank my family for mightily contributing to our success, and I would also like to thank all of our past and present Superstars and employees for their dedication and passion for our brand. Most importantly, I would like to thank our fans for allowing us into your homes every week and being your choice of entertainment. I hold the deepest appreciation and admiration for our generations of fans all over the world who have liked, currently like, and sometimes even love our form of Sports Entertainment.”
Pretty much any pro wrestling fan probably took this announcement with a grain of salt, because McMahon has said for many years that he would never retire. But according to all of the most influential wrestling insiders, including Dave Meltzer, this is actually a real thing.
McMahon has been under massive scrutiny for the last few months following two Wall Street Journal articles that called him out for a string of illicit affairs that led to him paying large settlements in exchange for the silence of a number of women. He stepped down as WWE chairman last month, and said he would cooperate with the ongoing investigation taking place due to the allegations.
Now, he has apparently stepped away completely from the company he bought from his father in 1982 and turned into a billion-dollar business. This apparently includes giving up creative control, which would have seemed unfathomable just a few months ago.
This decision will have industry-changing implications. There are a bunch of different angles to consider here, from the fact that his company might be on the shopping block (and the most logical buyer might be Endeavor, who also owns the UFC), to how their creative decisions will be handled now, to how new co-CEOs Stephanie McMahon (Vince’s daughter) and Nick Khan will steer the company.
But one gigantic implication went down pretty much immediately after it was announced. Former UFC heavyweight champion and basically the top guy in WWE, Brock Lesnar, apparently walked out of WWE’s Friday Night SmackDown show after finding out Vince was gone.
Multiple sources have stated that Brock said something along the lines of “If he’s gone, I’m gone.”
Lesnar was scheduled to headline one of WWE’s biggest pay-per-views of the year, SummerSlam, on July 30th. While everything in pro wrestling could be a work and not a shoot (storyline or not storyline), by all accounts so far this appears to be legitimate. Losing Lesnar would be a massive blow to the company, and it coinciding with their creative genius McMahon stepping away could be potentially crippling.
Stephanie McMahon opened SmackDown tonight, albeit briefly, to give Vince some props on the way out. No mention was made of Lesnar. We’ll just have to see how the company handles the next eight days leading up to the PPV, and (unfortunately, at least to me) it might be the return of another guy that flirted with MMA for many years – Bill Goldberg.
EDIT – Lesnar just showed up on SmackDown. Crisis averted?