The investigation of Vince McMahon and hush-money payments takes another drastic turn. WWE announced early Friday that McMahon has voluntarily stepped down as WWE Chairman and CEO, but he will still maintain his responsibilities helming creative content.
Stephanie McMahon will immediately return early from her leave of absence to assume the role of interim CEO. Once the investigation concludes, Vince will reassume the Chairman and CEO roles.
On the same day Vince McMahon has stepped down, he will appear on tonight’s episode of SmackDown at 8:00 PM on Fox. Wow, there is a lot to unpack here.
The brief statement announcing his appearance on television tonight made it a point to state that “Mr. McMahon will appear.” WWE has gone to great lengths over the years to convey that Vince McMahon, the person, is different from Mr. McMahon, the character.
It will be interesting how Vince McMahon’s appearance on SmackDown is produced. Will he appear in the ring in front of the audience or a backstage segment? It could also be a pre-taped message. Are we getting Vince McMahon, Mr. McMahon, or a mix of both?
Will the live audience fiercely boo him or cheer him on with thunderous applause? If Vince is booed, WWE can mute the crowd reaction, but will they? Heaven forbid if production pipes in audience cheers.
While no one knows what he will say tonight, there is one undeniable fact. No investigation, no SmackDown appearance.
Anything that suggests Vince’s appearance is nothing more than a ratings ploy will get him skewered in the media. Using this real story to jumpstart or kick off a new angle on television will be in poor taste. Giving a rah-rah speech in the vein of “Stand Up for WWE” would be even worse.
The only thing that will allow Vince McMahon to save with such an ill-advised move is if he says goodbye. Odds are anything else will make him look worse than he does now.
Stephanie McMahon is technically Vince McMahon’s boss right now. However, her appointment is seen as good as it is superficial. It’s good that a woman is helming the company amid this scandal. However, will Stephanie say no to her father when push comes to shove?
Plus, Vince is back as Chairman and CEO when the investigation is over. Anyone who moves against Vince will feel his wrath if he comes out of this unscathed.
The main thing to take away from Vince McMahon’s current situation is no one that closely follows pro wrestling is shocked about these allegations. His name has been linked to various accusations for decades. The information is not hard to find online—Google referee Rita Chatterton for one example.
No matter what happens in the day and weeks ahead, the mainstream media will play a significant role in the outcome. If the media largely ignores the story because of how often they look down their nose at wrestling, Vince McMahon will weather the storm. If the media covers this like it would any other major CEO like Harvey Weinstein, Vince will not survive it.
In many ways, tonight on SmackDown is the defining moment of Vince McMahon’s life. The odds are not in favor of him coming off well.