Tonight, on SmackDown, Vince McMahon will reportedly appear in character as Mr. McMahon to address the allegations made against him in Wednesday’s bombshell Wall Street Journal report about his alleged use of company funds to buy the silence of several mistresses.
Stephanie McMahon, who recently went on hiatus from her role in the company, is returning to temporarily assume her father’s responsibilities as CEO & Chairwoman.
It is wild that, compared to Vince McMahon’s temporarily diminished role in WWE, his in-character segment on SmackDown tonight feels far more significant.
That obfuscation, and an extremely cheap attempt at popping ratings on a show that was already anchored by a Universal Championship match between Roman Reigns and Matt Riddle, is probably the point.
Yesterday, in response to an article I wrote about the last three or so years of events before this investigation into McMahon’s behavior, a friend asked me how likely it was that the allegations against McMahon would make their way into the narrative fabric of WWE’s product.
Like an idiot, I said they would not.
My thinking was that there were some things too embarrassing for even Vince McMahon to want to address in character, regardless of the dozens and dozens of embarrassing things “Mr. McMahon” has been through over the years, to say nothing of the multiple instances in which said character has found himself in employer/employee relationships within eyeshot of various members of his family.
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While I’d normally be inclined to see McMahon make an ass out of himself — it isn’t likely that his segment tonight will have any bearing on an independent investigation undertaken at the behest of a board of executives who are probably pretty well-aware of the differences between the real McMahon and the television one, however minute those are — his doing so in an instance that involves multiple women signing NDAs just serves as a reminder of the power disparity that existed between McMahon and the former employees whose silence has the force of contractual obligation.
So no, I will take no pleasure in Vince McMahon pulling a “Kevin Spacey addresses the allegations against him from the character of Frank Booth” tonight, beyond the initial thrill of finding out about it.
The best-case scenario here is that Mr. McMahon comes out, no strut, apologizes for fucking up, and goes away forever. But this is wrestling, this is an in-character segment, and very few characters leave with that definite a sense of closure, if you can even call a fictitious character’s end closure for something that happened in reality. You can’t blow a limo up or have a set fall on him as an out.
What makes this segment compelling, beyond the sheer ridiculousness of it, is that Mr. McMahon is the one entity in wrestling who sees himself as more of an underdog, more the victim of his own fortunes than Vince McMahon himself, from the steroid trial to WCW’s temporary ascendence to ginning up the need to defend WWE from Linda McMahon’s political opposition to numerous kayfabe betrayals and shows booked around appreciating him.
This would be a big deal for his character, but how could anybody possibly care about that? Who would think that WWE’s continuously shrinking audience wants a fictitious character to address the sins of the man who plays him?
Vince McMahon. The same Vince McMahon who remains in charge of WWE creative. The same Vince McMahon who has used WWE as an organ for his beliefs and grievances, who finds himself simultaneously the focus of a scandal that threatens to end his reign as the God King of wrestling and who has an embarrassing amount of television time to prosecute his version of events with, dressed up in the veneer that it’s all pro wrestling, all a ruse, all a trifle.
It is hard to imagine tonight’s SmackDown segment as Vince McMahon addressing the issue. Tonight, Vince McMahon addresses his enemies.
That’s us, y’all.