Vince McMahon, the longtime chairman and CEO of WWE who is credited with bringing professional wrestling into the mainstream and establishing the careers of Hollywood A-listers like Dwayne Johnson, John Cena, and Dave Bautista, has announced his retirement.
McMahon’s departure from WWE comes amidst an internal investigation into allegations that he paid multiple women to keep quiet about alleged affairs and misconduct. According to the Wall Street Journal, at least $12 million dollars in hush money was paid to four different women who were formerly associated with the WWE over the last 16 years.
“As I approach 77 years old, I feel it’s time for me to retire as Chairman and CEO of WWE,” McMahon said in a statement. “Throughout the years, it’s been a privilege to help WWE bring you joy, inspire you, thrill you, surprise you, and always entertain you. I would like to thank my family for mightily contributing to our success, and I would also like to thank all of our past and present Superstars and employees for their dedication and passion for our brand. Most importantly, I would like to thank our fans for allowing us into your homes every week and being your choice of entertainment. I hold the deepest appreciation and admiration for our generations of fans all over the world who have liked, currently like, and sometimes even love our form of Sports Entertainment.”
McMahon’s daughter Stephanie and Nick Khan will immediately serve as co-CEOs. In addition to his executive responsibilities, McMahon is giving up his role as Head of Creative. Paul “Triple H” Levesque, Stephanie’s husband, has also resumed his old role as Executive Vice President of Talent Relations. Levesque had long been expected to eventually take over creative responsibilities.
After first serving as the commentator for his father Vincent J. McMahon’s then-called WWWF throughout the 1970s, McMahon bought the company in 1982 and consolidated the pro wrestling industry by signing wrestlers from regional promotions. McMahon brought the newly-christened WWF to another level in the mid-1980s after signing Hulk Hogan and holding the first annual WrestleMania at Madison Square Garden. In 1987, WWF filled the Pontiac Silverdome with a larger-than-life main event featuring Hogan vs. Andre the Giant.
By the mid-90s, however, WWF would enter into a TV ratings battle with the Ted Turner-owned World Championship Wrestling (WCW). The flagship show of each company, WWF’s Monday Night Raw and WCW’s Monday Nitro, went head-to-head and McMahon responded by shifting into an edgier format with the now-iconic “Attitude Era.”
While stepping into a role as the villainous Mr. McMahon character, he placed himself in feuds with superstars like Stone Cold Steve Austin during the “Monday Wars.” Raw proceeded to reach new heights of popularity thanks to superstars like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Mick Foley, The Undertaker, Triple H, and Kurt Angle.
Eventually, the success of WWF put WCW out of business, and McMahon acquired the company in 2001 along with Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW). This left WWF as the only major wrestling promotion in America. Shortly afterward, the company was forced to change its name to WWE after losing a lawsuit to the World Wildlife Fund.
WWE continued to enjoy success during the “Ruthless Aggression” era and subsequently toned down “PG Era,” which began in 2008. Though the shift made the company more appealing to corporate sponsors, it also led to the growth of independent wrestling promotions that offered an alternative to WWE.
Social media helped these promotions continue to expand in popularity over the next decade. In 2019, a group of independent wrestlers teamed with Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan and his son Tony to launch All Elite Wrestling, the second-most popular promotion in the United States and the biggest threat to WWE since WCW.