Vince McMahon is not going to go away quietly. It’s going to take NBCUniversal and Fox putting pressure on the longtime WWE chairman to force him to tap out.
The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that McMahon, a 1964 Fishburne Military School graduate, had paid $12 million to quiet four sexual misconduct allegations, the most troubling involving an unnamed former WWE wrestler who claimed that McMahon forced her to perform oral sex, then demoted her and ultimately decided not to renew her contract after she resisted further sexual advances.
McMahon owns the majority of voting stock in WWE, so he’s not going to be forced out by the publicly-traded company’s board, which he controls, and to this point he hasn’t publicly commented on the latest round of sexual misconduct allegations.
His response to the first allegation that surfaced last month, from another Wall Street Journal report, that provided details on a $3 million settlement to keep a sexual relationship with a former employee under wraps, was to make brief appearances on WWE’s “Smackdown” and “Raw” programs, apparently just to show that he wasn’t going anywhere, and one wrestling news website reported that he made a triumphant return backstage after the first appearance, on “Smackdown,” loudly saying “F— ‘em” as he walked through the curtain.
That bravado aside, McMahon won’t survive this if NBCUniversal, which is paying WWE $200 million a year for the broadcast rights to “Raw,” and another $200 million per to house the WWE Network on its Peacock streaming service, and Fox, which is paying $205 million a year for the broadcast rights to “Smackdown,” say, enough.
Neither has signaled what their next steps with regard to the unsettling situation with McMahon may be, but it’s hard to imagine that the broadcast giants could themselves be immune to public and stockholder pressure if they were to continue to do business as usual with a McMahon-directed WWE.