Amid an internal company investigation into alleged misconduct, the longtime head of WWE stepped down on Friday, only to introduce Smackdown the same night.
Vince McMahon’s future at WWE is up in the air. The longtime CEO of World Westling Entertainment stepped down from his position last Friday amid an investigation into misconduct allegations, only to take the stage to introduce Smackdown the same night.
“It’s a privilege as always to stand before you here tonight,” said McMahon, who serves as much as an entertaining character in the WWE universe as any of the wrestlers themselves. He dramatically referenced the four words of that night’s opening montage that serve as the WWE signature.
“Those four words are ‘then,’ ‘now,’ ‘forever,’ and the most important word is ‘together,’” he said. “Welcome to Smackdown!”
Earlier that day, McMahon — who purchased the WWE in 1982 — announced his departure from roles as both CEO and Chairman of the Board after a Wall Street Journal report from earlier in the week. The story revealed that the WWE board had been investigating a secret $3 million settlement between McMahon and a former employee he allegedly had an affair with. The investigation also revealed multiple nondisclosure agreements with other women.
“I have pledged my complete cooperation to the investigation by the special committee, and I will do everything possible to support the investigation,” Vince McMahon said in a statement on Friday. “I have also pledged to accept the findings and outcome of the investigation, whatever they are.”
In McMahon’s absence, his daughter, Stephanie McMahon, announced that she would assume the CEO role.
“I love this company and am committed to working with the Independent Directors to strengthen our culture and our Company; it is extremely important to me that we have a safe and collaborative workplace,” Stephanie said in the same press release. “I have committed to doing everything in my power to help the Special Committee complete its work, including marshaling the cooperation of the entire company to assist in the completion of the investigation and to implement its findings.”
The news comes amid turbulent waters elsewhere for the company under McMahon’s leadership. The organization has already had a history of bigotry both in and out of the ring, perpetuating stereotypes in its marketing and storylines. And in May, two of WWE’s biggest stars, the tag-team champions Sasha Banks and Naomi, walked out of a Monday Night Raw taping. WWE has since suspended them indefinitely without pay. According to the joint statement, McMahon will “retain his role and responsibilities related to WWE’s creative content during this period.”