If Vince McMahon did indeed sell WWE to Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, well, that’s something every wrestling fan knew could happen for a while. While no deal has yet been officially confirmed or even touched upon, it’s always been a distant buzz in the ether. Rumors of a sale of the company have been stronger, however, since Nick Khan came aboard (big business is what he does). Combine this with WWE is holding shows in Saudi Arabia – despite all the glaring and glaring reasons not to – made connecting relatively easy for anyone who wanted to connect the dots.
They were just not dots anyone would want to connect. Although everyone knew it could happen, it wasn’t the kind of thing you wanted to try to figure out. Sure, horrible and disgusting entities get together all the time, but it’s not like we spend our free time thinking about hypothetical bog monster pairings. It’s even hard to wrap your arms around, even before you think of the industrial strength soap you’d need to clean your arms afterwards.
It’s starting to feel like we’d all be better off starting this process.
Tuesday’s news of Stephanie McMahon stepping down as co-CEO of WWE barely had time to settle before Twitter ignited with rumors that Vince McMahon had already completed a sale of the WWE at the Saudi PIF, and the company would go private again. There has been no official word from either party in the rumored deal, but there was lots of tweets from reputable wrestling reporters suggesting the deal is done – although, again, nothing official has passed at the time of writing. There’s just an explosion of smoke, let’s say.
What we know so far
Here’s what’s for sure. Stephanie McMahon is absent. McMahon, who returned from a furlough last year and came to the rescue of WWE, stepping in as co-CEO after her father was pushed into retirement, has left the company for good. And she did so immediately after her father, Vince, was elected Chairman of the WWE Board of Directors in a vote on Tuesday. Nick Khan is now the company’s single-handed CEO, having shared the title with Stephanie. Earlier this week, when McMahon abruptly returned (in a hostile manner, many would say) to arrange the sale of the company, the Saudis would be very interested. They were the only name mentioned so prominently. McMahon, as majority shareholder, would have threatened with roadblock any sale or new TV deal unless he is reinstated to the board. (The company’s two TV offerings – Smack down on Fox and Raw on NBC’s US Network – are up in just over a year and a half and negotiations will begin much sooner than that.) As we said, a lot of dots to connect.
To reiterate, there’s nothing official yet, just a lot of buzz, rumors, and unconfirmed reports. What happens from here is anybody’s guess. So let’s guess!
Given the speed of all this news, if this turns out to be a sale to Saudi Arabia, it’s hard to believe Vince didn’t have this in his pocket before he sent this letter to the board of WWE administration informing them that he was kicking down the door. And, if all that happens, Vince has snatched his business from his daughter (and likely son-in-law) to sell to a murderous and oppressive regime. Who… of character.
How negotiations might change for those media rights, whether the Saudis own the company now or in the near future, is another total mystery. LIV Golfthe Saudi upstart destined to upset the PGA Tour, impossible to find a US outlet because no network wanted to be associated with the Saudi PIF. But it was a whole new franchise competing with the PGA Tour, and WWE is an established moneymaker. Even if that money would be diminished by an association with the kingdom.
What does the reported sale mean for the rest of the business?
It’s also hard to fathom, if true, that Vince would ever be armed with a deal that didn’t reinstall him as TV product overlord. Unless the Saudi bid, if there was one, was so much higher than any other entity would have dreamed of matching, it could have gotten several billions from a host of bidders. But at least a few of them would have insisted on keeping the current creative and production team, given WWE’s recent upturn after Vince’s departure (in terms of viewership and general fan sentiment and wrestlers. That the product is much better is in the eye of the beholder).
For everything else, who knows what happens to a host of performers if the Saudis are now the new bosses. LGBTQ+ wrestlers are definitely a concern. The same goes for the roster of women, some of whom have starred on Saudi shows in the past, but full Saudi ownership is a different story. Or the wrestlers like Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens and John Cena, who either refused to go to Saudi shows or weren’t allowed to (like Sami, due to his Syrian background) or both (Sami doesn’t wouldn’t have gone there anyway).
No one should be surprised that one of the worst people on Earth did one of the worst things possible. It’s just a level of dirt that no one ever wants to consider. And yet, here we are, because the thing with such shitty people is that they can always get shittier.