In an odd turn of events, WWE suspended Titus O’Neil for “unprofessional conduct” due to an incident during the final seconds of the WWE Network stream of Daniel Bryan’s retirement celebration. O’Neil is seen “playfully” grabbing Vince McMahon by the arm right before he was shoved by McMahon in retaliation.
O’Neil was notified on Tuesday that he was being sent home and fined an undisclosed amount of money. On Wednesday, O’Neil’s suspension was reduced from 90 days to 60 days. This means he will miss WrestleMania, which is the biggest payday of the year.
The optics look bad here because an African American wrestler was suspended, during Black History Month, for what appears to be a petty issue. O’Neil has brought WWE a lot of publicity for his charitable work outside of the ring and was recently named Celebrity Dad of the Year by everythingfordads.com.
Earlier today, ProWrestlingSheet.com exclusively broke some new information. It turns out that O’Neil told management he was only trying to allow Stephanie McMahon to exit the stage first. O’Neil said “ladies first” when he grabbed Vince’s arm, but understands how it could have been taken as something more.
I can’t think of a single job I’ve ever had where I wouldn’t have been reprimanded, written up, or maybe even fired if I grabbed my boss by the arm and said “Ladies first.” While the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, Titus O’Neil, who completely misread the play, was the example that needed to be made.
The biggest concern going forward is for the future trajectory of Titus O’Neil’s career. He was in the early stages of a singles push, and now that’s gone. Hopefully WWE will not follow their historical pattern of humbling the suspended party upon their return and instead, take a clean slate approach, thus showing the professionalism that they believe O’Neil failed to display.