VINCE MCMAHON RESIGNATION: It is the dawning of a new era'...How WWE moves forward without Vince McMahon (ESPN.com)


Posted on 8/04/122 by Mike Informer



NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- STEPHANIE McMAHON milled
around the Wild Horse Saloon, where three
rings were set up in front of a stage. Her
husband, Paul "Triple H" Levesque, was also
on hand Friday, as was Nick Khan.

On this morning, the day before WWE's
second-largest event, SummerSlam, the trio
took in the final day of tryouts, where 50
collegiate athletes delivered promos and ran
the ropes hoping to land a WWE contract.
Fourteen aspirants were signed.


One person was conspicuous in his absence:
Vince McMahon. For 40 years, the McMahon
name has singularly towered over the world
of professional wrestling -- or sports
entertainment, as he calls it -- both on
screen and behind the scenes.

When McMahon bought what was then the World
Wide Wrestling Federation in 1982 from his
father, wrestling was a regional business
made up of territories across the country
and the world.

McMahon had a far grander vision for
wrestling and executed it with the purchase
of competing territories, transforming WWE
from a Northeast-based company to a global
brand that amassed more than $1 billion in
revenue for 2021, according to the company's
fourth-quarter earnings report. Thirty years
since McMahon took over his father's
business, WWE now stands above the
competition and is synonymous with
wrestling.

But in a flash, McMahon is gone, and with
his departure, a gaping hole is left atop
the global wrestling business.

McMahon, 76, announced his retirement on
July 22 following a Wall Street Journal
report that he doled out $14.6 million in
payments to several women surrounding
allegations of sexual misconduct.

Stephanie McMahon, Levesque and Khan are now
tasked with collectively filling the
enormous shoes of Vince McMahon, a titan who
has presided over WWE for four decades.

With McMahon no longer in charge, his
daughter, Stephanie, was named chairwoman of
the publicly traded company and co-CEO
alongside Khan, a longtime agent and
formerly the co-head of CAA's television
department. Levesque, a legendary wrestler
who rose to fame in the 1990s, is in charge
of talent relations and creative, the engine
that powers WWE's storylines and characters
on programming each week.

Inside WWE, there's optimism that Levesque's
vision -- one that took shape when he led
the company's developmental brand, NXT --
will lead to a product with an emphasis on
quality in-ring work, edgier storylines and
more creative control for talent. A
departure from McMahon's philosophy.

"It is the dawning of a new era," Becky
Lynch, one of WWE's top stars, told ESPN on
Friday. "For me, it's crazy and sad because
everything I've ever known about WWE has
always had Vince in charge, and we wouldn't
have WWE the way it is if it wasn't for
Vince. He's somebody who believed in me and
allowed me to do everything that I've done."

Questions remain about whether Levesque --
along with Stephanie McMahon and Khan, who
sits on WWE's board of directors -- will
maintain WWE's dominance atop the sports
entertainment business. Rival promotion AEW
continues to find ratings success while
using talent formerly employed by WWE. Plus,
issues within WWE's locker room have
emerged, with wrestlers growing frustrated
with the storytelling and upward mobility.

"We have the opportunity to change some
things that maybe weren't so great that we
didn't love," Lynch said to ESPN. "I think
everybody's very excited and optimistic
because we know that the people in charge
[are] some of the greatest minds in the
business, you know. Having Triple H at the
helm of the ship is phenomenal. What he's
done with NXT speaks for itself. What he did
with the women's division and how he allowed
us to change the business forever speaks for
itself."

BACKSTAGE AT THE Wild Horse Saloon, The
Undertaker sat on a couch moments after his
1 deadMAN Show premiere, where he told
stories out of character that chronicled his
30-year run at the pinnacle of sports
entertainment.

Perhaps no wrestler is more synonymous with
McMahon than The Undertaker. When WWE was
amid the Monday Night Wars in the 1990s with
WCW, a television ratings battle that
threatened WWE's place on top, Taker
remained while stars such as Hulk Hogan and
Bret Hart departed for the rival company.

The Undertaker, whose real name is Mark
Calaway, retired from in-ring competition in
2020 following a WrestleMania 36 Boneyard
match with AJ Styles. When he made his Hall
of Fame speech in April, it was McMahon
himself who inducted the legendary wrestler.

Calaway acknowledged that his attention to
WWE's weekly programs comes in waves now
that he's retired. Still, now more than
ever, he's intrigued to see what lies ahead
with Triple H, a man he faced at
WrestleMania 27 and 28, at the helm of the
company's controls.

"They're loosening the reins a little bit as
far as what guys can say and do," Calaway, a
longtime locker room leader, told ESPN. "I
think the product will probably be a little
more aggressive. I think that's going to
come through in the creative.

"They've kind of been in this entertainment
mode, so they're going to have to get some
grit and meanness."

One instance came on the July 25 edition of
Raw, the flagship program's first show under
Levesque's leadership. Usually, when a WWE
wrestler is bleeding, the match is stopped
and the commentary team doesn't reference
the wound.

But when Montez Ford of the Street Profits
was busted open by Roman Reigns -- the face
of WWE -- during the six-man tag team main
event, the cameras even zoomed in on Ford's
bloody face while the announce team
discussed the injury.

"Those things are going to help because WWE
is going to do it better than anybody else,
and they don't throw things away," Calaway
said. "Hopefully, a lot of people there know
how to rein things in and make things like
that mean something instead of just doing it
to do it."

Calaway was also confident that changes
under Levesque's leadership would be
noticeable "pretty much right away." A shift
was apparent during the first segment of
SummerSlam this past Saturday. Following
Lynch's Raw Women's Championship match with
Bianca Belair, Dakota Kai, who grew
disgruntled with the company before her
release in April, returned. She was
accompanied by Iyo Sky, who gained
prominence in NXT alongside Kai.

"And we're just getting started," Levesque
tweeted following the pair of surprise
debuts on WWE's main roster.

A few more wrinkles came two nights later on
Raw.

Ciampa, an undersized yet gifted wrestler,
seldom used since his call-up to the main
roster in April, was suddenly an integral
part of the program. A favorite of
Levesque's during his time as NXT champion,
Ciampa won a triple-threat match against
Dolph Ziggler and Chad Gable, two other
talented "workers" who often don't receive
time to showcase their skills.

That wasn't all. AJ Styles, The Miz and
Mustafa Ali competed in another triple
threat to determine a No. 1 contender for
the U.S. title held by Bobby Lashley. Ciampa
later defeated Styles in a singles match and
will challenge Lashley on Monday's edition
of Raw.

All three matches were given proper
television time to play out and tell a
story. In the past, such bouts were often
abbreviated. Furthermore, mid-card titles
such as the U.S. Championship and
Intercontinental Championship are often
given little attention or ignored outright.
But on this episode of Raw, a vignette
detailing the storied history of the U.S.
Championship was featured in an attempt to
legitimize the title.

"I mean, he's brilliant, he really is,"
Calaway said of Levesque. "I don't think he
gets enough credit for his wrestling acumen.
I think he'll be a huge asset to the
development of a lot of guys.

"And he's a no bulls--- kind of guy too.
He's going to let you know what you're doing
that's right and what you're doing that's
wrong. I think it's going to be a step in
the right direction with Hunter [another
nickname for Levesque]."

Lashley, who retained his U.S. title with a
victory over rising star Theory at
SummerSlam, isn't so sure Vince McMahon will
be entirely removed from the inner workings
of the business. After all, McMahon remains
the multibillion-dollar company's majority
shareholder.

"It's not like Vince isn't going to be there
anymore," Lashley told ESPN. "He's not going
to just let his baby that he's grown to this
level just falter. So, he's still going to
be there. He's just giving other people
opportunities to keep pressing on.

"Stephanie, she's been in the business her
whole entire life, so it's not like she
doesn't know. ... And look what he did with
NXT; that's a big thing Triple H did. So
he's just going to take that same mentality
and same philosophy, building stars, bring
it up to the main roster, which is cool.
It's going to be refreshing."

WHEN FORMER UFC heavyweight champion Brock
Lesnar entered Gorilla Position, the staging
area wrestlers enter and exit on the other
side of the curtain, McMahon wasn't there to
greet him following his Last Man Standing
match with Reigns for the Undisputed WWE
Universal Championship that headlined last
weekend's SummerSlam.

McMahon typically is in charge of the
headset backstage, as the person in the
earpiece of the broadcasters as they call
the matches and set the storylines. In his
place was Levesque, and it's believed this
was the first of WWE's big five events
McMahon has ever missed since taking over.
(WrestleMania, Royal Rumble, Survivor Series
and Money in the Bank round out the
quintet.)

"This is the longest-running stuff on TV,"
said Levesque, who stepped away from WWE in
September following a cardiac episode, only
to return in the spring. "I do not dream for
one second that I could fill those shoes by
myself, period. It's going to take everybody
here to fill those shoes and continue this
on, but we will.

"The intent is to continue the legacy of
what has been going on, what made me fall in
love with this business that he created, and
to take it to new levels. To take it beyond
where it is now. The only way we're going to
do that is with a team. That's with Steph,
that's with Nick Khan, that's with myself,
that's with Kevin Dunn [who produces WWE's
TV programs], that's with everybody that is
here, that is with all this talent. We have
the greatest, hardest-working talent in the
world. I have no doubt in mind, with this
team, we can do it."

During his time at CAA, Khan represented
2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow along
with a who's who of sports broadcasters,
ranging from former athletes to journalists.
Regarded as the most dominant sports media
agent in the business, Khan was approached
by Levesque with a pitch after the New
England Patriots cut Tebow in August 2013.
He proposed a WrestleMania 30 matchup
featuring Tebow against the Big Show. The
bout never materialized, but a friendship
was forged.

After Levesque invited Khan to his 50th
birthday party in 2019, their bond grew
stronger and solidified Levesque's belief in
who he wanted with him in the trenches.
Levesque and Stephanie introduced Khan to
McMahon, which led to Khan assisting in
their most recent TV rights negotiation. The
result: three times the value after Khan
split the programs up in the network deals,
maintaining Raw on USA but bringing
SmackDown to Fox.

Those deals -- $265 million annually for
Raw; $205M for SmackDown -- run through the
fourth quarter in 2024. In 2020, Khan joined
WWE as president and chief revenue officer,
leaving the agency business behind. He
negotiated a deal for the streaming service
Peacock to carry WWE Network, a partnership
worth approximately $1 billion over five
years that runs through 2026.

Inside WWE's walls in Stamford, Connecticut,
the new leadership trio plans to look at
each part of the business with a fresh set
of eyes, a source told ESPN.

Khan is joined on the business side by
Stephanie McMahon, who has worked in
wrestling since childhood. She's a longtime
on-screen character but also an ambassador
of the brand who suddenly finds herself as
the face of the company in the wake of her
father's departure.

Now, the challenge is to blend mainstream
appeal with the in-ring credibility of the
NXT Black and Gold brand that Levesque is
revered for developing.

It was there that indie darlings such as
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn flourished. These
are wrestlers who embody the antithesis of
the muscle-bound, larger-than-life
characters Vince McMahon coveted.

"He understands as a talent what we go
through and what we need to be more
creatively energized," Lynch said. "There
has been a tendency in the past for creative
to change last minute, or we don't know
where we're going. It's hard to bring
everybody along on this journey if we're
rambling.

"Triple H has a great eye for storytelling
and for treating the women the same way he
treats the guys. Just everybody's equal. How
do we tell great stories? And that's all
this is."

McMahon, of course, was notorious for
tearing up scripts at the eleventh hour. And
as Lynch alluded to, the programs often
lacked cohesive storytelling and featured
plot holes. That's one area Levesque will
aim to correct.

But there's another, lighter possibility for
why Lynch is giddy.

"Maybe we get to bring some words back. I
like words. I like having a free range of
lots of words," she said. "Belts, fans,
whatever else it is."

Such words -- along with wrestling -- were
banned by McMahon in favor of terms such as
"championship" and "WWE Universe."

But it's a new era filled with hope, perhaps
a sprinkle of blood and, yes, even some
terms long forbidden by the titan who's
presided over WWE and transformed it into a
powerhouse.

Just maybe, sports entertainment is making
room for a little more wrestling.

Editor's note: Mike Coppinger is also
represented by CAA.

Return To Pro Wrestling Between The Sheets Message Board