The past 48 hours have been wild for WWE. On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the company was investigating CEO and Chairman Vince McMahon for having a relationship between himself and a paralegal. There are allegations that McMahon paid this paralegal $3 million of his own money in hush money, but doubled her salary from $100,000 to $200,000 once the relationship began and “gave her like a toy” to talent relations head John Laurinaitis.
Now, as revealed by WWE, Mr. McMahon is expected to open WWE SmackDown Friday night. I say “Mr. McMahon” rather literally, because according to CNBC’s Alex Sherman, McMahon will be in his Mr. McMahon character as he addresses his temporary absence.
Behind the scenes, McMahon is cooperating with an independent investigation. In a joint release from WWE and the Board of Directors, McMahon will “accept the findings and outcome of the investigation” and is voluntarily temporarily stepping down as CEO and hairman while the investigation is ongoing. McMahon will continue his creative duties during the investigation, and that’s why he will be at SmackDown Friday night.
Stephanie McMahon, Vince’s daughter, will step in as interim CEO and chairwoman. Stephanie revealed last month that she was taking a leave of absence from her executive duties as chief brand officer to focus more on her family.
Publicly, who knows what McMahon is going to say on SmackDown. Maybe Vince is using the Mr. McMahon character to say things that he can’t exactly say as executive Vince McMahon in order to change the optics of the past 48 hours.
Behind the scenes, Vince can do all the right things, like temporarily stepping down and cooperating with the investigation in order to preserve the stock price and appease the shareholders. But out in public, Vince can share his true feelings about what’s happening under the guise of a Mr. McMahon character we all know is fictional.
There’s certainly a reason why Vince McMahon is not only appearing on SmackDown but appearing in character. But until we hear what he actually says Friday night, your guess is as good as mine.