WWE: Vince McMahon Jr Retires at 77 Years of Age

Anyone who grew up with the WWF(E) and had been following it for decades like myself will have been in shock at Vince McMahon’s announcement over his retirement yesterday. Quite honestly, this might be the biggest news in the pro-wrestling for at least a decade and maybe more as Vince pretty much was one of the last bastions of a line from the old days but also such a powerful (most likely THE most powerful figure) in pro-wrestling ever. Whether you liked him or hated him, you cannot deny the social, cultural and business impact Vince McMahon had over the landscape of pro-wrestling as he was the ultimate mover in creating what we see today.

With the recent scandal breaking out about the various NDAs that had surfaced over sexual misconduct allegations brought by a group of the WWE’s own board of directors, there had been quite a bit of speculation as to whether or not Vince would be forced out of the WWE. Up until yesterday, the attitude reported about Vince has been how he’s obdurate and defiant. Yet more NDAs had surfaced since the first one where I asked the most important question in this: how many more will there be?

Even with Vince stepping down, there has not been any notice by the investigators that the case has been closed. The only thing we know is that John Laurenitis is gone, most likely permanently as part of the result while Stephanie McMahon has moved up to be co-CEOs with Nick Khan, who had been serving as the president and chief revenue officer. Also, HHH has assumed Laurenitis’ position as head of talent relations as part of some of the major internal moves made within the past day.

With regards to Vince, I’m guessing that like Bill Gates during the anti-trust trial of Microsoft, Vince is stepping down to prevent further blemishes against the WWE during this investigation. During the Microsoft trial, many people assumed part of the situation was the perception of Bill Gates being the focus rather than Microsoft’s practices. He still was one of the most influential people at Microsoft, although his main role was taken over by Steve Ballmer (and look where that got Microsoft moving forward). Many people (myself included) have associated Vince as THE WWE itself so that makes this situation very interesting.

Since Stephanie had appeared on WWF(E) TV, it had always been assumed that she was the one being groomed to take her father’s place, especially once HHH married her. Before this role, she was the company’s chief brand officer, which meant she was used as a PR person, making special appearances and representing the company as one of the key faces. However, there had been mixed rumors about her as one of the heads of creative where people didn’t think much of her. On the other hand, she (allegedly) had been one of the main figures responsible for bringing the women’s side of the roster into a more prominent light (which probably is true) and has been liked by many of the women talent backstage.

But her actual knowledge of the business itself and having a clear cut vision of what pro-wrestling should be might remain in doubt, despite how Stephanie had grown up through the business. And I’m not just talking about the creative side but the actual business side. That’s where Nick Khan probably is there for in helping to groom Stephanie. Yet many see Nick Khan as another media executive leech who will be responsible down the line for selling the WWE to a major network before taking his golden parachute. I’m assuming part of Stephanie’s elevation into this role is to (borrowing/paraphrasing from a Game of Thrones quote) “always have a McMahon in the WWE.” Because Nick Khan obviously has zero knowledge of pro-wrestling itself and his presence is strictly about numbers and lining his pockets. Also, even with the allegations made against Vince McMahon, I think the shareholders and vast majority of the public have always viewed the WWE as a family run business (which is odd being that it is a publicly traded company)

That’s where HHH moving back into the thick of things makes the situation very interesting. Being the head of talent relations and replacing Laurenitis, I expect morale to dramatically improve in the WWE. Many have always assumed it would really be HHH being the person assuming control of the WWE once Vince retired and with Stephanie remaining as the “McMahon” face for the company. While the current direction of NXT 2.0 might not change, the main roster most likely will. HHH has been instrumental in smoothing over numerous bumpy roads such as getting Bruno Sammartino to return for the Hall of Fame. With what happened to Sasha Banks and Naomi, I expect them to have their roles reinstated especially now that Laurenitis is gone. I can see the WWE reaching for their ex-NXT talent and giving them a second chance, despite the policies from NXT 2.0 of “not recruiting indy level talent”.

But the interesting part for me is where AEW stands in all of this. When Laurenitis made his comeback as “the axe man” (along with Bruce Pritchard), many talent, especially the female side, felt incredibly uncomfortable. Now, that he’s gone (along with the other scumbag that had sent a plastic bag containing Mickie James her belongings in a “traditional manner”) I can see AEW having a real threat again. This whole past 2 years or so of talent cuts “due to budgetary reasons” has left the WWE’s top with a limited roster where only “superstars” of yesteryear were being featured. The ones being called up from NXT either were repackaged for no good reason or slated to have a stupid gimmick. A lot of that talent which had been cut or fled to AEW might now be thinking of going back because the WWE will always be the place to make your name and be the super star that you’ve longed for.

And let’s face facts about AEW since these cuts have been made: they’ve done the worst job in promoting these people unless it was CM Punk. AEW has been a major flop in my books with regards to how talent have been booked, their matches have stunk and many of these people get injured every week because the people on top (Bucks/Omega) like this style. With Cody back in the WWE, the WWE will have a link back into AEW in case recommendations are needed. Certain people who have been under utilized, under paid and just made to look bad (MJF, Powerhouse Hobbs and Wardlow in particular come to mind) in favor of AEW’s untalented darlings or Tony Khan’s fetish NXT guys will probably jump ship once their AEW contract ends. For myself, I think that would be a great thing because Tony Khan has yet to prove that he can book and promote a good show. Not a long show, not a show with hour long broadways that aren’t broadways, not some stupid meaningless high spot/indy garbage fiascos. But really good shows that are solid because people are invested in the matches, issues and wrestlers from the start.

Yet here’s one thing that might happen as a result of Vince NOT being in the WWE any longer: would the world finally get a true co-promotional dream show? This is where I think HHH might be the key. I really believe HHH is one of the smartest guys at the top of wrestling at the moment. I’ve been impressed with his vision of NXT and he had done a great job making it successful. HHH is the guy that, as I have mentioned earlier, who has smoothed over relationships with wrestlers many people thought they would never see in the WWE again. More than that, HHH is an old school wrestler with a mind for that old school and he, I believe, probably wants to have more competition on the playing field. So with HHH as the real brains behind the creative for the WWE and hopefully regaining his influence, I think it is not out of the question anymore whether or not the WWE will one day have a co-promotional show with AEW.

On the other hand, we still have yet to see what lingering influence Vince has over the WWE. Just because he’s “officially retired” does not mean he won’t have some level of sway. Vince still is the majority shareholder in the WWE’s stock with controlling interest. I’m certain that Stephanie (and Hunter) will continue to honor Vince’s wishes while he remains in the background. Vince might end up as a shadowy figure that can vote no on anything people do within the company. So the question remains to see if Vince merely continues to control the WWE from the sidelines.

However, something to note about these internal structural changes is that both Bruce Pritchard and Kevin Dunn remain in the WWE. Pritchard still remains head of creative while Dunn is the main guy responsible for producing their TV. One of the notes I read was that Dunn most likely will not be at the WWE for much longer. While it is uncertain if he partook in any of the NDAs/misconduct, most people view Dunn as a McMahon guy and has been allowed to stay at the WWE because of his tenure and connection to Vince for doing him a favor ages ago. Now with Vince out, it’s unlikely that HHH and Stephanie will keep the guy around since he has been severely detrimental to the company, possibly only worse next to Johnny Ace.

Bruce Pritchard is an interesting case because he’s one of Vince’s flunkies that pretty much has his position because of being the ultimate yes-man for the WWE. If the WWE needs someone to do a TV interview and be the Mouth of Vince, send Bruce Pritchard. But the fact that he’s still head of creative is where I think it might be a temporary compromise with Vince leaving. No word has been said about how long Bruce will remain in his position. However, it has been said that Bruce understands Vince in terms of what Vince wants better than anyone else. My guess is that as long as Vince has some form of sway over the WWE, Bruce will be the one to execute it as a proxy service to Vince.

A while back just around the time when HHH had his heart problems, there, Nick Khan being hired in and various cuts were being made, it was talked about how there was an internal power struggle going on with Laurenitis/Pritchard in one camp and HHH/Stephanie in another. No one knows for sure what happened in that struggle but by the way it looks, at least for now, the HHH/Stephanie had won. With Laurenitis out, that leaves Pritchard pretty much isolated. People have said they’re fine with him but he’s always been a yes-man type. But without Vince directly backing him, I would say that Pritchard’s future with the WWE should be considered up in the air. My hot take on this situation is that if the WWE’s ratings fall, Pritchard will end up becoming the fall guy (and he’s been fired multiple times already). In this situation, I think it’ll be permanent and we’ll be hearing from his terrible podcasts once again.

But this does make the industry far more interesting. Obviously, Tony Khan has secured the ex-WWE wrestlers/talent  with contracts but no one knows for sure how long those will last. If Vince is truly gone and HHH becomes the real source of the WWE’s creative power and talent management, will the WWE start becoming serious and try to move back towards HHH’s original vision of what NXT once was? If that’s the case, I think AEW will be in big trouble. I’m guessing that as these next few months pass, we might see people like Shawn Michaels increase his influence in WWE and become one of the key people running the show. He already had taken over NXT when HHH was on the shelf. Ric Flair is retiring from the ring permanently (as we are lead to believe anyway) while HHH is a huge Flair fan. So perhaps he will be part of the WWE. I mean, without Vince’s vision of the WWE being a competitor to Disney, we may have a chance for wrestling to be wrestling again. And that’s where I think AEW will be in trouble unless they get their act together and become more serious.

At any rate, I’m still in shock by this announcement. Hell has truly frozen over and life in pro-wrestling is interesting once again. I think Vince’s problem was that he got in his own way and the man with the vision to build the original Wrestlemania, the idea to compete against Disney, the NY Broadway/entertainment connection, the embracing of MTV pop culture and bringing pro-wrestling to the mainstream, etc. no longer was relevant. He’ll still be the WWE to many (myself included) but it really was time for him to go. I don’t know what the WWE will do from here on out but these changes look promising on the surface.


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