Examining the control freak, money-grabbing miser that is Vince McMahon, his incredibly damaging sale attempt, and the blood money belligerence of the Saudi regime in respect to wrestling.
Please note, the Saudi Arabia deal is NOT confirmed but alleged. All subject matters covered in the following piece are subject to opinion.
By now, you’ve probably seen clips going around of Vince McMahon’s famous 2002 promo where he pledges to kill what he created with “a lethal dose of poison!” Turns out that is very much true with Vince returning to the WWE after very serious sexual misconduct accusations last year – stepping down rather abruptly apparently against his desires. Now back and hungry to sell, Vince is willing to choke lifeless the company for a lethal dose of blood money.
Backstory In Brief
In 2022, The Wall Street Journal reported Vince McMahon paid upwards of $12 million to several women to suppress voicing sexual encounters between themselves and Vince. The article also brought to prominence the alleged rape of Rita Chatterton who Vince apparently sexually assaulted in a limousine.
Vince McMahon, who purchased the WWF in 1982, was simply the boss. Having brought wrestling to a major audience through his reliance on moving away from traditional wrestling to sports entertainment (focusing on gimmicks, celebrities, and glitz), it was seen as inconceivable that Vince would step down. There are many crazy stories about Vince and it seemed wrestling was his life.
After a brutally misjudged appearance on SmackDown, never denying the accusations, a Tweet from the Chairman announced he was stepping down at age 77.
In the aftermath, co-CEOs were named in Stephanie McMahon and Nick Khan whilst Paul “Triple H” Levesque headed up creative. There was plenty of positivity for the future of a slumping product and this was largely fulfilled for fans, who mostly cared about the on-screen product which improved with the creation of Damage CTRL, the establishment of Gunther, and Sami Zayn storyline (more on that later).
By the start of 2023, rumblings of a Vince comeback were imminent. It was no secret Vince was likely desperate for a return but never the goings on that have transpired over the past few days.
Internal Shuffle and Powerplay
On January 10th, co-CEO Stephanie McMahon resigned, shortly after telling the roster Vince was only returning for the sale of the company. Why was he returning at all? Well, money, of course!
Vince had never even wanted to leave, he said he wanted to return, being given “bad advice” to leave. VKM thought that the controversy would simply boil over, showing little remorse, even after the investigation into the sexual misconduct claims were investigated.
Vince, the majority shareholder, simply refused to go and said any sale without him involved would be rejected. In turn, he was unanimously – or at least such was claimed – voted back into the company as Chairman of the Board. Vince notably refilled the Board with loyal Vince supporters and ‘yes men’ including George Barrios and Michelle Wilson. Vince removed three Board members, including Man Jit Singh, the man heading the investigation against McMahon.
It was then announced by various sources that a deal with the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund had been done, with the company planning on going private. Although unconfirmed, I do truly believe that if such a move is made, it would – without hyperbole – be death to the whole professional wrestling.
Saudi Arabia: A Deal To Kill Professional Wrestling
Why WWE’s Sale Will Screw Over Fans
It is very hard to write about this subject without some form of emotional and sentimental hurt.
The truth is that for 90%, if not more, of people, WWE is wrestling. Some may remember the deaths of major companies like WCW and ECW but generally, fans are unfamiliar with the demise of wrestling companies, with WWE – the major wrestling company – very likely sliding further into the abyss with a Saudi deal.
The reason we are wrestling fans is because we love wrestling. This would actively hurt wrestling.
Not just WWE too. Since its heyday, many fans have tuned off from wrestling and how many more betrayals, how much more deceit can fans take before they turn off? And not just WWE but wrestling as a whole, moving on to other programming and leaving the art of pro wrestling in the dust.
It is we who have spent endless money on the company and we are the ones shafted in the face of some extra money for the WWE, including Vince – already a billionaire – horrifically desperate for an extra dollar, regardless of which regime he chooses to negotiate with. The WWE Saudi deal in 2018, for example, has gained WWE $400 million (according to sites such as WhatCulture, 411Mania, and Sportskeeda). WWE even ran with business as usual after an international incident was caused by the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi despite domestic governmental pressure. Does Vince care about the fans? No. He wants money.
We are passionate about wrestling and always have been but now we are perhaps in the darkest timeline where wrestling fans feel shortchanged for caring at all.
Why WWE’s Sale Will Screw Over Its Roster
The reliable Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful reported “an incredible amount of concern” from employees over the sale although it seems they have little influence.
One of the most notable aspects of the Saudi shows is the treatment of women. It is well known that Saudi Arabia is one of the most misogynistic, tyrannical, vile regimes in the modern world.
Described in Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion as a place of “narrow bigotry, heartless cruelty, and sheer nastiness,” the nation is known for its repressive attitude to women’s rights.
Women gained the right to drive in 2018, women’s education was only allowed in 1960, 2019 saw women the allowance to live alone without male guardian consent, and that same year (2019) saw women legally allowed to know when divorced (yet only via text message), with the relaxation of the strict wearing of the hijab in public only occurring that same year. Fatwas and extreme sexism caused by fundamentalist religion have also occurred in other Middle East nations.
In 2019, the first women’s wrestling match took place in the nation and the women had to wear oversized shirts. One fan even threw a water bottle at Natalya.
Imagine being a women’s wrestler such as Dakota Kai. Reinstated under Triple H, she was pushed heavily as one of the top acts, but now fearing for your job security under a dogmatically conservative autocracy.
In relation to the previous statement, the nation is also constitutionally tied to the Qur’an. Islam is taught and enforced, with the renouncing of Islam punishable by death by stoning. This is why MVP has not competed in Saudi Arabia as a Muslim-turned-atheist.
The New Yorker even notes that “Saudi Arabia, among other Gulf countries, was one of the leading countries in dispersing anti-Semitic material.”
With very few religious wrestlers fulfilling the Saudi ideology, it would likely cause problems for many.
We’ve not touched much on the in-ring portion, especially due to its perceived insignificance in the whole Saudi matter. With the Saudi shows, some of the worst in WWE history, WWE has helped hamper the careers of some of the most acclaimed figures in the pro wrestling business.
The biggest victory has to be The Undertaker. Cartwheeled out so the Saudi prince can play with his real-life action figures, ‘Taker has left a marked dent in his legacy with some of the worst matches ever. He managed to win a trophy for a tournament he was not in, brought poor Shawn Michaels out of a perfect retirement, and legitimately almost died against Goldberg. Infamously terrible, ‘Taker himself has stated his own disappointing performances, a contributing factor to him seeking the perfect final match, continuing his career but, in doing so, has created more awful memories.
Goldberg has since become one of the most hated stars in the industry. In 2019, during Goldberg’s ‘dream match’ with ‘Taker, he dropped “The Dead Man” on his head during a botched Jackhammer. This a scary illustration of why the Saudi regime should not have a charge over wrestling; it is seriously dangerous. Goldberg also beat The Fiend in one of the most reviled booking decisions of the 21st century, turning back the clock for the sake of blood money nostalgia.
That is not to mention wrestlers previously boycotting the show for other reasons such as Roman Reigns, John Cena, Daniel Bryan, Aleister Black, and Kevin Owens.
On that note, if the Saudi deal is true, it will surely end the Sami Zayn storyline. Zayn is of Syrian descent so does not compete in Saudi Arabia.
Not only would this ruin the best and longest-running storyline in WWE right now but it would subvert the fans’ expectations wildly. Extremely damaging to the product, Zayn has been one of the most consistently brilliant performers in the WWE but due to petty religious issues, Zayn’s dismissal would design fans to not favour their heroes as they could so easily be snuffed out, even else accountable to the WWE on bad booking, especially with Saudi crowds likely forced to dictatorially react as wished.
We have only briefly detailed the major issues of the Saudi Arabia deal if it were to go ahead.
A sexist, fundamentalist, undemocratic nation would oversee a privatised WWE, a company away from the checks of effective leadership and fairness. Moreover, it has less dependence to entertain the wishes of those in the locker room, in the crowd, and watching at home.
The sale would seriously damage, if not eradicate, the wrestling industry. We love it and it is tremendously sorrowful to see it positioned in such a way that cowers to the whims of those with enough money devoid of morality or loyalty to the very fans who have made it what it is. Vince McMahon is going to throttle his industry to death – not leave it to his family, not allow it to continue without him, not do what is best: he does it for cold, hard cash, and it does not take a cynical mind to see that.
I hope the sale does not happen. I want wrestling to stay. We all do.