Vince McMahon and Dana White, the most powerful figures in their respective industries, showed us that absolute power is absolute this week.
Marred in scandals through their respective treatments of women, neither appears to be facing any significant consequence and in fact, both appear to have been rewarded this week.
For McMahon, it’s a longstanding ability to shield himself with Teflon avoiding scandal after scandal from a rape accusation in the ‘80s, the ring boy scandal and subsequent steroid distribution trial of the early ‘90s, the death of a performer on his watch in 1999, a murder/suicide by an active talent in 2007, and yet the company survived and thrived with varying degrees of investigation and scrutiny along the way.
It was a laundry list of hush money payments that were improperly reported as personal expenses that saw his temporary removal from power last summer. Accusations ranged from the coercion of a female talent to perform oral sex and later losing her job to multiple incidents alleged at tanning salons to name a few.
However, it wasn’t a moral dilemma for the company or its audience, that treated McMahon as a deity both behind-the-scenes and on television. McMahon responded to the first Wall Street Journal report in June by throwing himself on television seeing an opportunity to take a scandal and draw a television audience. The response? Thousands of cheering fans would rather cheer Vince McMahon the character than condemn Vince McMahon the individual.
More reporting was done by Joe Palazzolo and Ted Mann of the Wall Street Journal but it was only when the sexual harassment and assault stories turned into a financial discrepancy story that measures were taken to remove McMahon from his placement as CEO & chairman.
If you were holding your breath for a unified statement of condemnation for the acts alleged by the company’s leader, one would be left wanting as McMahon’s departure was presented as retirement, as empty as one that fans have become accustomed to following pro wrestling.
Stephanie McMahon-Levesque led a chant of “Thank you, Vince” while platitudes were thrown McMahon’s way as the new regime took hold, noting the “huge shoes” to fill of the creative visionary.
The ongoing speculation of how McMahon was filling his days went on for months and months. The answer was simple, viewing himself as the ultimate babyface, he was bracing to make a spirited comeback and do so in the most dramatic fashion.
On the same day, McMahon was penning a lengthy response to WWE’s board of directors and was willing to hold the company over his knee if he was not reinstalled, Dana White was counting down to 2023 in Cabo San Lucas.
The site was El Squid Roe where White was placed in a VIP section alongside his wife, Anne.
Days later, a video emerged of White grabbing hold of Anne’s wrist, whispering into her ear, and being met with a slap. White’s response was to strike his wife with a slap of his own.
The damning footage was obtained by TMZ, releasing the footage in concert with a pre-taped interview with the UFC president, initiating his plea for public redemption in lockstep with the revelation of his heinous conduct.
To his credit, White offered no excuses even when presented with “outs” by the TMZ hosts regarding alcohol intake and was willing to face the music.
Sadly, the tune was the “Sound of Silence” by Endeavor and UFC, broadcast partners, and anyone else fearful of conflict with the UFC head, which sounds like a bunch of Bologna.
U.S. broadcaster ESPN punted on the story, referring to the UFC and putting their hands in the air, and effectively stating that they just run their content.
TBS, in partnership with White for the forthcoming Power Slap reality series, was quiet all week until confirming to the New York Post that the ill-timed launch of the series will have to be delayed…by a week.
Apparently, a slap to the face did not warrant even a slap on the wrist for White as TBS felt the need to attach its brand to a man seen slapping his wife that will now be promoting a slap league.
As the week comes to an end, White is firmly in control of his position with the UFC, with a one-week delay on his latest project, and countless supporters willing to make excuses and provide the benefit of the doubt even when White wasn’t offering any in his own statement.
Stephen A. Smith addressed the video of Dana White slapping his wife pic.twitter.com/HwuGAjXnxi
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) January 4, 2023
McMahon took the ultimate powerplay as controlling shareholder of his company to execute the removal of three board members, installing past presidents George Barrios & Michelle Wilson leading to two others – Man Jit Singh and Ignace Lahoud to resign from the same board.
With the threat of filibustering and blocking any attempt to sell the company or stand in the way of its upcoming media rights deal, McMahon applied pressure to the most vulnerable areas of the company to thrust himself back onto the board with designs to lead the company into the potential of a sale and causing the company stock to soar.
No addressing of the allegations, no acknowledgment of mistakes made, and no contrition.
His lack of addressing the elephants in the room was only met with visions of a sale dancing in stockholders’ heads, in hopes that soaring figures soon would be there.
$WWE shares continue climbing past $87, up 21% on the day currently. $6.5B market cap. pic.twitter.com/iTM5xiKOki
— Brandon Thurston (@BrandonThurston) January 6, 2023
It’s business and the train keeps moving because these are men that are never told “no”, where there is no difference between “wants” and “needs” because everything is within reach and nothing is outside their grasp.
In a world without consequences, there is no concern for crossing the line because it all blurs and it’s all solvable, not by sheer force of will but complicity and acceptance from the unions formed around you that want access to power and it’s your ultimate currency.
McMahon or White could retire multiple times over without a thought or care for financial stability. It’s the craving for influence, of power, of people’s lives that are a game and one in which they win year after year, controversy over the controversy, and down to their core the wins and losses are not measured in ethics, morals, or character, but in numbers, dollars, and deals.
If the men are good for business, those around them will see no evil, hear no evil, and most importantly, speak no evil.
The game is power, and the prize is control.
Vince McMahon and Dana White won this week, and everyone with the power and influence to affect that outcome said everything by saying nothing.