If a new long-form report is right on the dot, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon, together with daughter Stephanie and son-in-law Paul “Triple H” Levesque, treats his employees as “commodities,” and could turn on a dime and quickly fire high-ranking executives when they no longer live up to expectations. And Shane McMahon may have actually tried to take over WWE’s creative team in 2012, at a time when he was no longer connected to the company.
When Shane McMahon returned to WWE television in 2016, it marked a grand return for the 46-year-old son of company chairman Vince McMahon. Shane had left WWE late in 2009 under “shadowy and uncertain circumstances,” and upon his return, he was put into a storyline feud with his father and sister, and booked in a match against The Undertaker at WrestleMania 32. That match stipulated that Shane would take over Monday Night RAW if he won or be gone forever from WWE if he lost, but even with Shane losing in that Hell in a Cell cage match, he was brought back on television soon after, and eventually named SmackDown Live‘s commissioner ahead of this year’s brand draft.
Since then, Shane McMahon has been in a storyline rivalry with younger sister Stephanie McMahon, who runs the RAW brand as commissioner and serves in real life as WWE’s Chief Brand Officer. But a new report from Vice Sports lends credence to past claims that the McMahon family has had some non-scripted infighting from within, particularly when it comes to the wrestling business.
What a night. Thank you Detroit for that incredible welcome. It's great to be back. pic.twitter.com/l1TFbZMXiP— Shane McMahon (@shanemcmahon) February 23, 2016
Earlier this year, industry veteran Vince Russo spoke to Wrestling Inc. and detailed the purported power struggles between Vince and Shane McMahon that led to the latter’s departure in 2009. But in the new Vice Sports report, writer Ian Frisch confirmed a rumor that had been swirling in past years that despite the apparently bitter fallout, Shane had met with Vince, Stephanie, and Triple H in 2012 in hopes of taking over WWE Creative.
In an interesting note, Shane had arrived with controversial A Million Little Pieces author James Frey for a March 2012 “surprise” meeting at WWE’s production office. This meeting, according to one of Frisch’s sources, was set up by WWE executive Kevin Dunn, who has served as Vince’s most loyal employee for close to three decades.
“When Stephanie found out Shane was going to be there, she went white in the face. And (Triple H) freaked out.”
The proposed deal played on the belief that Dunn and Shane were particularly close to each other, and that Dunn had “tremendous tension” with the husband-and-wife team of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. And it would have had Shane leading WWE Creative and all its writers, and Frey’s content creation firm Full Fathom Five serving as consultants.
“Presumably, if Dunn could figure out a way to get Shane back in the company in a high-ranking position, he would have even more influence with Vince. And Shane, too, could regain control over at least a portion of his family’s legacy. It was a win-win for (Shane and Frey).”
Ultimately, the Shane McMahon/James Frey proposal was rejected by Vince, and it would be almost four years before Shane made his WWE return. But it’s merely as an on-air authority figure, as Frisch wrote that Shane, unlike his sister and brother-in-law, isn’t part of WWE’s Board of Directors. He also cited an email from Triple H, which offered a short and punchy description of what Shane currently does in WWE.
“Shane is back as a performer on our TV programming.”
The Vice Sports report mostly cited sources that declined to be identified, but some of its sources included known high-level employees who had once worked for WWE, including Monday Night RAW lead writer Brian Gewirtz, chief operating officer Donna Goldsmith, and senior director of events Sally Presutto. All three had left the company in the 2010s, and Presutto claims that she was unceremoniously and unexpectedly fired in the early-2010s after spending over two decades with WWE. Frisch also noted several examples of top WWE executives, including multiple television industry veterans, who lasted less than 18 months with the company.
An unnamed “former senior-level executive” told Frisch about Vince McMahon’s alleged hiring and firing practices, and how he, Stephanie, and Paul “Triple H” Levesque tend to blame others whenever business doesn’t go WWE’s way.
“Outside people will get killed unless they totally conform to what Vince wants—it’s impossible to do that. Vince, Paul, and Stephanie will blame everyone else for their own missteps. That’s why no creative executive can last there. You are treated like a commodity—just a barrel of corn. You are only a piece of talent, cultivated and developed, until they need to blame you and fire you and bring someone else in. They like the appearance of hiring people from outside the wrestling industry, but it in the end it’s still Vince making all the decisions.”
Frisch didn’t specify whether it was the same senior-level executive or someone else who had “nearly a decade of experience” with WWE, but he quoted this executive in another passage, which describes how Vince McMahon has a tendency to grow disenchanted with his top hires over time, and get rid of them quickly when this happens.
“First, you’re the second coming of Christ and Vince loves you. Then, over time, he decides you are a moron and he can’t get wait to get rid of you. It’s a slow, painful death.”
As WrestlingNews.co suggested, Frisch’s long-form piece for Vice Sports is one that WWE might not be pleased with. But it took great lengths to detail the inner workings of WWE’s business, and how Shane McMahon may still have a complicated real-life relationship with his family, and the company his father Vince helped turn into a sports entertainment powerhouse.
[Featured Image by WWE]