Lots more on Vince McMahon, John Laurinaitis and Stephanie McMahon
Despite Vince McMahon voluntarily stepping down as Chairman & CEO while the WWE Board of Directors investigates allegations of misconduct, he was seen “joking around” earlier today during the production meeting held before WWE SmackDown.
It was noted by PWInsider that McMahon wasn’t “selling” anything at all, and was described as being in a “great mood.”
As noted, Vince is scheduled to appear on tonight’s SmackDown broadcast. CNBC’s Alex Sherman reports that McMahon will address the controversy, but in-character. Sherman also noted that WWE writers were working to change the script for tonight’s SmackDown episode, which had been completed earlier this week.
This is interesting as we pointed out earlier how WWE’s announcement on Vince’s SmackDown appearance noted that “Mr. McMahon” would be appearing. This is the name they’ve often used use to keep Vince the character separate from the real Vince. It will be very interesting to see how, and why, Vince addresses the scandal as his “Mr. McMahon” character, if that really is the route they go.
WWE Talent Relations Senior Vice President John Laurinaitis has not been spotted at the Target Center in Minneapolis for tonight’s SmackDown. It was reported earlier in the week that both McMahon and Laurinaitis would be at SmackDown and that it would be “business as usual” for the taping, but that was still early on after the matter was made public, and before today’s announcement on Stephanie McMahon returning to work as the Interim CEO & Chairwoman while Vince steps away during the investigation.
There had been some talk of Vince addressing the employees today, but as of 4pm ET that has not happened. The pre-SmackDown meetings were described as “weird” by multiple sources, given the obvious “elephant int he room,” especially since no one in the company knows when more will surface about the situation. There are people within WWE privately wondering how many NDAs were discovered during the investigation, and how many others could be out there. It was noted that no one is asking Vince directly about the situation.
Regarding tonight’s segment with Vince on SmackDown, word is that nothing was discussed about the segment during pre-show meetings as it was treated almost like the segment wasn’t a part of the show. There was absolutely no hint at what might be said during the segment based on production-related meetings, but that may be by design to prevent potential leaks.
Two topics of discussion have to do with McMahon Family relationships. It’s been reported by Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer Radio that while Vince and Linda McMahon are still legally married, they haven’t been together in a “long, long time.” Furthermore, PWInsider points to how today’s press release on Stephanie referred to her as Ms. McMahon instead of Mrs. McMahon. PWInsider added that this led to a lot of eyebrows raised within WWE today. However, this is apparently a non-issue as Stephanie has been referred to as Ms. McMahon in corporate SEC filings for several years now. It’s likely that WWE used “Ms.” and that’s all as it’s not unusual for that title to be used in business circles.
Furthermore, Fightful Select notes that there has been a general reaction of frustration within WWE today, especially over the SmackDown appearance. Sources within WWE said they viewed the move as a largely superficial move.
One talent reportedly said that they saw Vince appearing on screen as a “cheap ratings ploy in the middle of something serious” and that they don’t expect much of the culture or presentation of WWE to change with McMahon still around and in control of creative. “As long as Vince McMahon still has his creative duties, nothing can change. What could possibly be different? If he asks something of Stephanie as interim CEO, is she going to say no?,” one wrestler said.
It was also said that numerous sources across multiple departments in WWE planned to communicate to higher-ups, and possibly Vince himself, that appearing on TV in-character isn’t a good idea. One wrestler feared Vince will attempt to turn this into a “Vince McMahon vs. The World” narrative that existed after the steroid trial. Many agree that this is the biggest threat to Vince’s power since then.
Regarding Stephanie returning from her leave of absence earlier than she planned, and in a different role, there is a lot of optimism among the talent as she’s well liked by many on the roster.
A top WWE talent reportedly said they didn’t really know what was going on, but that they’ve “heard in theory Stephanie McMahon is my boss, and that fucking rules.”
A female talent talking to Fightful said they think things can only get better from this point, and was hopeful that both the investigation and Stephanie as Interim CEO would lead to better treatment for women in the company, across the board. The talent went as far as to say they hope this all results in women getting treated and paid equal to men in the company.
“I imagine it won’t change much. But I love Steph. So that’s good,” said another top talent. “I imagine Vince keeps his position in creative and once the investigation is over he’ll take back over if he can.”
We noted before that many people see this being the end of Laurinaitis’ time with the company, and that is still expected, nearly unanimously. However, one source said, “as long as Vince McMahon is around, he’ll probably just come back unless he’s Vince’s latest scapegoat.” Another talent said, “From a creative aspect im hoping that things change but I doubt they will. From a business aspect I’m also hoping that things change, but also still doubt they will. Really the only thing that I think will actually change is Johnny will be fired which will be nice. Stephanie is great but I doubt she’s gonna suddenly be on board with healthcare and guaranteed contracts.”
It’s rumored that Vince’s segment will open tonight’s SmackDown at 8pm ET, but that has not been confirmed.
WWE continues to receive major mainstream media coverage for the ongoing scandal, and that will likely continue into the next few weeks or so.
As we’ve noted, it was revealed on Wednesday that WWE’s Board of Directors are investigating McMahon over a “secret $3 million settlement” he made to a former WWE paralegal that was hired in 2019. Laurinaitis is also being investigated for his involvement, and the Board is looking into other instances with former female employees as well. Full details can be found by clicking here. It was then announced today that Stephanie has returned from her leave of absence to act as the Interim CEO & Chairwoman while Vince voluntarily steps away during the investigation. You can find today’s full press release by clicking here.