Vince McMahon continues to remain in power not because fans love him, but because of the cowardly men around that continue to protect him.
“Shocked, but not surprised” is a phrase thrown around when an individual behaves in a way that should be met with chastisement but falls right in line with their character. It was popularized during President Donald Trump’s run in the White House, but could also be used to characterize his friend, Vince McMahon. News broke last week that a former WWE writer filed a lawsuit against the promotion, citing racial discrimination, a hostile work environment, and wrongful termination. Those that have followed WWE for years were not shocked by this story. It was more shocking that this situation was just now getting mainstream coverage. But what is even more unfortunate is that many don’t expect any of the individuals involved to face any real punishment when it’s all said and done.
The complaint names the promotion itself, WWE, five backstage employees, Vince McMahon, and his daughter, Stephanie McMahon. In the days since the lawsuit became public, news about the situation, namely racist pitches made during creative sessions, came to light. Fightful Select reported on some of the pitches that were named in the allegations. For example, Ryan Callahan’s pitch to have Mansoor reveal that “he was behind 9/11.” The Apollo Crew’s Nigerian accent gimmick and another that would have seen Shane Throne “hunt” Reggie (a Black performer) on air week after week were also discussed.
Fans were rightfully taken aback by this news. But those well-versed in professional wrestling were not surprised. Vince McMahon has a track record of downright disturbing actions both behind and in front of cameras. Just a few short months ago he was ousted due to multiple allegations of sexual misconduct that led to a board review. But it is what happened after that, which draws a direct correlation to why McMahon remains in power.
In April, McMahon claimed he was ready to “walk away” from WWE but Ari Emanuel, one of the most powerful men in entertainment, pulled him back in. That is the problem. McMahon, just like many powerful and problematic men, is protected by his peers. Their peers continue to make excuses for them and find ways to make sure their memberships in the boys’ club do not get rejected. It’s troubling to think that Emanuel, who was very vocal about the need to silence Kanye West, would look at the transgressions that McMahon has had over the years and think that professional wrestling needs this man.
As with the start of many movements, women are at the forefront shining the light on McMahon’s problematic behaviors. But it is the men in the background that continue to enable and allow him to build up even more power now that Endeavor’s purchase of WWE is underway.
The only fans who could look at WWE and not find something offensive with the presentation of its product over the years are white men. Minorities have long been presented as caricatures of what McMahon thinks they are in real life. That situation is further exasperated by the individuals in the creative rooms that share his disgusting worldviews and attempt to bring that to light on the screen. And until those individuals are removed, and more voices in the room openly speak out against this behavior – nothing will change.
Professional wrestling has long moved beyond “needing” Vince McMahon. In fact, the industry doesn’t need any of the McMahon family members. No one is surprised by this lawsuit from a former employee. What’s unfortunate is that in a few weeks, a wide majority of the fan base and the media that cover the industry will move on to other stories. We’ve heard this song across entertainment for years. That is why many are shocked but never surprised.