What next for the WWE after Vince McMahon resigns for the second time?

Divisive figure steps away after new federal lawsuit claims – and just days after $5 billion Netflix deal

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Vince McMahon has resigned from his position as executive chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment's parent company TKO Group Holdings.

A long-time fixture and divisive figure in the pro wrestling world, McMahon has been accused of misconduct by former employee Janel Grant in a federal lawsuit alleging sexual assault and trafficking.

He continues to deny any wrongdoing but said he was stepping down out of respect for WWE and TKO Holdings.

“I stand by my prior statement that Ms Grant’s lawsuit is replete with lies, obscene made-up instances that never occurred, and is a vindictive distortion of the truth,” McMahon said. “I intend to vigorously defend myself against these baseless accusations and look forward to clearing my name.”

This isn't the first time McMahon has stepped away from the WWE, having done so in 2022 when the initial reports came out about $3 million being used as a cover up for his affairs. The latest lawsuit seems to follow those allegations.

It also comes days after the announcement of a 10-year deal with Netflix, worth $5 billion, for exclusive rights to screen its flagship programme.

Here's what to know.

How did McMahon come to power in the WWE?

His father initially helped start up what would become known as the WWE today. It was originally founded in 1953 as the Capitol Wrestling Corporation as part of the National Wrestling Alliance.

In 1982, McMahon bought the company from his father for $1 million and helped grow it from a small-town family enterprise to a global behemoth, making wrestlers such as Hulk Hogan, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson and 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin household names.

Why did McMahon step away the first time?

In June 2022, McMahon resignedas WWE chief executive amid an investigation into allegations that $3 million was used as hush money towards a former employee who he had an affair with.

Soon after, McMahon announced his retirement but then returned to the company in January 2023 as executive chairman before a $9.3 million merger with Endeavor Group Holdings, parent company of UFC, to create TKO Holdings.

Who took over WWE while he was away?

After McMahon retired, his daughter Stephanie became chairman of the company. She, along with WWE president Nick Khan, was made co-chief executives. Meanwhile, McMahon's son-in-law Paul Levesque (also known as wrestler Triple H) was eventually made chief content officer and head of creative.

How was McMahon able to get his job back?

As the company's controlling shareholder, McMahon was able to engineer his return as a board member by forcing out members, replacing them with his allies and using the new boardroom power to give him back his old job as executive chairman. Soon afterwards, daughter Stephanie resigned from the company. Levesque and Khan still have their roles with the WWE.

What has the fallout been from news of the lawsuit?

Ahead of one of WWE’s biggest events, the Royal Rumble on Saturday, long-time sponsor Slim Jim announced it would be pausing its promotional activities in light of what it called “disturbing allegations” against McMahon. It is yet to be determined if they will remain partners in the future.

Have any wrestlers spoken out about the situation?

Currently no one on the active WWE talent roster has said anything about the situation and it is not expected they will.

Has TKO holdings said anything?

In an email to staff, Khan simply said that McMahon tendered his resignation from his executive chairman and board member positions. “He will no longer have a role with TKO Group Holdings or WWE,” Khan wrote.

On Thursday, after Grant’s allegations were made public in a lawsuit, the company said: “McMahon does not control TKO or oversee day-to-day operations at WWE. While this matter predates our TKO executive team’s tenure at the company, we take Ms Grant’s horrific allegations very seriously and are addressing this matter internally.”

What does this mean for the WWE going forward?

Just days before the lawsuit, it was announced Netflix had entered a 10-year, $5 billion agreement with the WWE for exclusive rights for its flagship programme WWE Raw, set to begin in January 2025. It was also announced that Johnson would be joining TKO’s board of directors.

It's likely there will be a shake-up especially for those who may have known about McMahon but did nothing to stop him. It remains to be seen who may step in and become the next chairman for a wrestling company that's been in the McMahon family for more than seven decades.

Updated: January 28, 2024, 5:11 AM