WWE sells to Saudi Arabia, Stephanie McMahon resigns: report

(From left) Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon and Paul “Triple H” Levesque Photo: Getty Images

If Vince McMahon did indeed sell WWE to Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, well that’s something every wrestling fan knew could happen for a while. While no deal has yet been officially confirmed or even addressed, it has always been a distant buzz on the airwaves. However, rumors of a sale of the company have grown louder since Nick Khan came on board (he makes big deals). Combine that with WWE shows in Saudi Arabia — for all the flashy, blaring reasons not to — made the connection relatively easy for anyone wanting to connect the dots.

They just weren’t dots that anyone wanted to connect. Although everyone knew it could happen, it wasn’t the sort of thing you wanted to try and understand. Sure, horrible and disgusting beings come together all the time, but it’s not like spending your free time contemplating hypothetical connections between bog monsters. It’s hard to even wrap your arms around it before even thinking about the industrial soap you’ll need to clean those arms afterwards.

It feels like we should all better start this process.

Tuesday’s news that Stephanie McMahon is stepping down as WWE’s co-CEO barely had time to settle before Twitter erupted with rumors that Vince McMahon had already finalized a sale of WWE to Saudi PIF and the company again would become private. There was no official word from either party in the rumor business, however there were lots of tweets by reputable wrestling journalists who suggested the deal was done – although nothing official had happened at the time of writing. Let’s say there’s just a smoke explosion.

What we know so far

Here’s what’s for sure. Stephanie McMahon is out. McMahon, who returned from furlough last year and came to WWE’s rescue, stepping in as co-CEO after her father was pushed into retirement, has definitely left the company entirely. And she did so immediately after her father, Vince, was elected CEO of WWE in a vote Tuesday. Nick Khan is now the company’s sole CEO, having previously shared the title with Stephanie. When McMahon returned abruptly (many would say hostilely) earlier this week to plan a sale of the company, the Saudis are said to have been very interested. You were the only name mentioned so prominently. As the majority shareholder, McMahon reportedly threatened to block any sale or new TV deal unless he was reinstated on the board. (Both of the company’s TV deals — SmackDown on Fox and Raw on NBC’s USA Network — are in just over a year and a half, and negotiations will start much sooner.) Again, lots of dots to tie.

To reiterate, there hasn’t been anything official yet, just a lot of fuss and rumors and unconfirmed reports. Nobody can imagine what happens from here. So let’s guess!

Given the speed of all this news, if it turns out to be a sale to Saudi Arabia, it’s hard to believe Vince didn’t have this in his pocket before ever sending that letter to the WWE Board of Directors to inform them about breaking down the door. And when all of this happens, Vince has snatched his company from his daughter (and probably son-in-law) to sell to a murderous and oppressive regime. What… characterful.

How negotiations over those media rights might change if the Saudis own the company now or in the near future is another complete mystery. LIV Golf, the Saudi-owned newcomer set to turn the PGA Tour upside down, was unable to find a US subsidiary because no network wanted to be associated with the Saudi PIF. But this was a brand new franchise competing with the PGA Tour, and WWE is an established moneymaker. Even if that money were diminished by a connection with the kingdom.

What does the reported sale mean for the rest of the company?

It’s also hard to imagine, if true, that Vince would ever be armed with a deal that didn’t make him the overlord of TV product again. If the Saudi bid, if there is one, is not so much higher than any other company would have dreamed, he could have gotten several billions from a multitude of bidders. But at least some of them would have insisted on keeping the current creative and production team given WWE’s recent resurgence after Vince’s departure (in terms of viewership and overall sentiment from both fans and wrestlers). Whether the product is that much better is in the eye of the beholder).

As for everything else, if indeed the Saudis are now the new bosses, who knows what will happen to a multitude of the cast. LGBTQ+ wrestlers are certainly a problem. Ditto for the list of women, some of whom have appeared on Saudi shows in the past, but full Saudi ownership is another matter. Or the wrestlers like Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens and John Cena who either refused to go to the Saudi shows or weren’t allowed (like Sami due to his Syrian origins) or both.

No one should be surprised that one of the worst people on earth supposedly did one of the worst things possible. It’s just a level of dirt no one ever wants to think about. And yet here we are because the thing about people who are shitty like this is that they can always get shittier.