By now, the news is out there. Everywhere you turn, there’s an opinion on Vince McMahon retiring. Some are praising his legacy, some are wondering what exactly forced him out the door and others are thinking about the future of WWE. Now with the dust starting to settle, let’s dive into what the retirement of Vince McMahon truly means for WWE.
The announcement that Stephanie McMahon and Nick Khan would serve as Co-CEO’s is an important element to the story, one which should tell us that Vince is actually gone and this isn’t a wrestling angle. The inclusion of Khan and not just running with Steph tells a story, a story of the future of WWE. This isn’t just giving one of the kids the throne but it also isn’t pissing on the family name. By having Steph, the tradition lives on but by including Khan, Wall Street can feel more at ease. The man who reshaped WWE internally for the past two years isn’t leaving. The business will be co-led by a man who sees dollars and cents and has his own vision for a global entertainment company.
This means, yes, a power struggle between Stephanie and her husband, Triple H, and Nick Khan is likely at some point. More on Triple H later but Khan’s ascension in the company correlated with Triple H’s movement down the ladder. It’s safe to say that there are differences in vision there. Can the two sides work together, with Steph and Triple H bringing the creative and culture, and Khan keeping the business side sound? Possibly, but there are egos at play here and these two camps are competing for the trust of the board and shareholders, of which Vince McMahon owns 38% of the shares. Yes, he’s out of power but he still has to be impressed.
The Old Guard
There are a lot of eyes on Kevin Dunn and Bruce Pritchard today and rightfully so. Vince kept them both in power whereas others didn’t want either there. Even with Vince still owning more stock than anyone, look for the old lieutenants to be out the door in the next year – and this is a decision Vince McMahon won’t contest. New upper management means new leaders, that’s just how business works and when the old guard leaves, their top guys know their days are numbered. It won’t be sudden but it is inevitable.
Most people who follow WWE closely know that Dunn and Pritchard aren’t the most popular backstage figures and many who have left the company over the years have spoken really poorly of both. Those two potentially leaving – and it’s safe to say they won’t be there forever – is going to make WWE look more appealing as a place to work than perhaps it previously was. This leads me to…
The Triple H Effect
The announcement that Triple H was returning to his previous position as EVP of Talent Relations came out a few hours before the Vince McMahon retirement announcement. It was instantly a curious one because while yes, Triple H was the EVP of Talent Relations up until 2020, he began to be downgraded role-wise after that, even before his medical hiatus. (It’s also interesting to note that yesterday’s announcement didn’t return Triple H to his previous role of being over Live Events or Creative). Triple H wasn’t coming back to work in the role he left, he was coming back to the role Vince McMahon and Nick Kahn demoted him from before his health issues.
So Triple H is back in charge of talent. He’s not over creative because Bruce Pritchard is for now but the writing is on the wall that Bruce will be out and Triple H will either reclaim that role or ensure that one of his guys will take it over. This is where the Stephanie / Triple H vs Nick Khan dynamic will be interesting. There are going to be a lot of people Triple H wants to bring back to fold now that he’s got a seat at the table again. How much of a fight will Nick Khan put up when it comes to Triple H bringing in his people?
Equally as important are wrestlers who have left WWE over the years. Is Vince McMahon leaving, and possibly Dunn and Pritchard too, going to make WWE a place where they want to work again? Are we looking at some bidding wars when certain AEW contracts expire? Let’s be clear – nobody had any heat with Triple H when they left. From Mox to Adam Cole to William Regal and everyone in between, they all liked Triple H and either had heat with Vince and his creative or were forced out by Khan budget cuts.
In a lot of ways, this is really bad news for Tony Khan and company. AEW has been where you go when you’re tired of WWE’s poor creative and awful environment. It’s the alternative. How much of an alternative will it be if WWE, with Stephanie and Triple H in positions of power, changes the culture and creative?
Now I don’t want to make the assumption that creative is going to change overnight. It’s not. WWE is still Corporate America and change comes slowly. Bruce Pritchard has to be worked out. Triple H (most likely) has to assume creative control, assuming that Nick Khan can’t stop it. The writers’ rooms and creative culture have to be revamped. So yes, better WWE creative is possible and should in theory happen, but not right away.
The biggest question that I have about the Vince McMahon retirement is why now? Are there more allegations ready to become public? Are there smoking guns the investigation has uncovered? Did corporate sponsors demand this? We all know Vince McMahon’s ego, and his demeanor in recent weeks has been well documented. He’s been defiant. Excellent reporting from Mike Johnson at PWINSIDER says that internally, the Vince McMahon retirement has been planned for 7-10 days now. This all adds up to Vince feeling like he has no choice. He didn’t “retire” on his own. He was forced out, but why?
These allegations have been bad. The past is filled with stories of abuse, abuse covered up, and frankly way too much to discuss in this article. It’s all out there – the WWE has a lot of skeletons in its closet. Perhaps more was going to see the light of day and Vince decided to ride off into the sunset rather than have his company face past mistakes? It’s really anyone’s guess right now but it’s safe to say that this story isn’t going away and more details will become public soon.
Most of us have never expected to live in a post-Vince McMahon world. We’ve speculated for years as to what the WWE could be like after this era ended but now we are here. There will be departures, there will be infighting at the highest levels and there will be people who want to come home. AEW should feel threatened and well, that’s best for business too. It’s going to take a few days for the Vince McMahon retirement news to feel like less of a shock and more of a reality but we are in uncharted territory here and if nothing else, it will be interesting to watch.