If Vince McMahon has indeed sold WWE to Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, well, that’s something every wrestling fan knew could happen for a while. Though no deal has yet been officially confirmed or even addressed, it’s always been a distant buzz in the ether. Rumors of a sale of the company have been louder, though, since Nick Khan came aboard (big deals are what he does). Combine that with WWE running shows in Saudi Arabia — despite all the flashing, blaring reasons to not do so — made the connection relatively easy for anyone who wanted to connect the dots.
They just weren’t dots that anyone would want to connect. Though everyone knew it could happen, it was not the kind of thing you had any urge to try and comprehend. Sure, awful and disgusting entities get together all the time, but it’s not like one spends their free time thinking about hypothetical couplings of bog monsters. It’s hard to even wrap your arms around, before even thinking about the industrial strength soap you’d need to clean your arms afterwards.
It’s starting to feel like we’d all better start that process.
Tuesday’s news of Stephanie McMahon resigning as co-CEO of WWE barely had time to settle before Twitter went ablaze with rumors that Vince McMahon had already completed a sale of WWE to the Saudi PIF, and the company would again go private. There has been no official word from either party in the rumored deal, but there were plenty of tweets from reputable wrestling journalists suggesting the deal was done — though, again, nothing official had gone over at the time of writing. There’s just an explosion of smoke, let’s say.
What we know so far
Here’s what is for sure. Stephanie McMahon is out. McMahon, who returned from a leave of absence last year and rode in to the rescue for WWE, jumping in as co-CEO after her father had been pushed to retire, has definitely quit the company entirely. And she did so immediately after her father, Vince, was elected WWE’s Chairman of the Board in a Tuesday vote. Nick Khan is now the CEO of the company by himself, having previously shared the title with Stephanie. Earlier this week, when McMahon abruptly returned (in a hostile fashion, many would say) to engineer a sale of the company, the Saudis were said to be very interested. They were the only name mentioned so prominently. McMahon, as the majority shareholder, reportedly threatened to roadblock any sale or new TV deal unless he was reinstated to the board. (Both of the company’s TV deals — SmackDown on Fox and Raw on NBC’s USA Network — are up in just over a year and a half and negotiations will start much sooner than that.) As we said, a lot of dots to connect.
To repeat, there has been nothing official yet, just a lot of buzz and rumors and unconfirmed reports. What happens from here is anyone’s guess. So let’s guess!
Given the speed of all this news, if it does turns out to be a sale to Saudi Arabia, it’s hard to believe that Vince didn’t have this in his pocket before he ever sent that letter to the WWE board informing them that he was breaking down the door. And, if all this happens, Vince has ripped his company away from his daughter (and probably his son-in-law) to sell it to a murderous and oppressive regime. Which… in character.
How negotiations might change for those media rights, if the Saudis do own the company now or in the near future, is another total mystery. LIV Golf, the Saudi-owned upstart meant to upend the PGA Tour, couldn’t find a US outlet because no network wanted to be associated with the Saudi PIF. But that was a brand-new franchise in competition with the PGA Tour, and WWE is an established money-maker. Even if that money would be diminished by an association with the kingdom.
What does the reported sale mean for the rest of the company?
It’s also hard to fathom, if this is true, that Vince would ever come armed with a deal that didn’t reinstall him as the overlord of the TV product. Unless the Saudi bid, if there is one, is so much higher than any other entity would have dreamed of matching, he could have gotten several billion 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 upswing after Vince’s departure (in terms of viewers and overall feeling from both fans and wrestlers. Whether the product is that much better is in the eye of the beholder).
As for everything else, who knows what happens to a host of the performers if indeed the Saudis are now the new bosses. LGBTQ+ wrestlers certainly are a concern. Same goes for the women’s roster, some of whom have performed on Saudi shows in the past, but full-blown Saudi ownership is a different kettle of fish. Or the wrestlers like Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, and John Cena, who have either refused to go to the Saudi shows, or were not allowed (like Sami, due to his Syrian ethnicity) or both (Sami wouldn’t have gone anyway).
No one should be surprised that one of the worst people on Earth has reportedly done one of the worst things possible. It’s just a level of filth that no one ever wants to contemplate. And yet here we are, because the thing about people this shitty is that they can always get shittier.