Triple H and Vince McMahon share the ring on an episode of WWE Raw.
Vince McMahon continues to face scrutiny following his decision to cut ties with top executives and former Co-Presidents George Barrios and Michelle Wilson.
With just about every major WWE key performance indicator trending downward ahead of a February 6 earnings conference call, WWE’s stock has plummeted below $50 after peaking as high as $100.10 around this time last year. Following the first full day of trading since WWE announced its shocking management transition, shares closed at $48.88.
And after a market cap of $4.9 billion on Thursday, WWE’s current valuation has settled at $3.8 billion, meaning the promotion lost over $1 billion in a single day.
An in-depth 2019 Pro Wrestling Industry report, published by Brandon Thurston of Wrestlenomics, takes a look at key metrics, analysis and insights regarding the 2019 performances of every major pro wrestling promotion (WWE, AEW, Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling and IMPACT Wrestling).
In the “Insights and Opinions” section, the report notes that Vince McMahon as head of creative causes vulnerabilities to WWE’s business. Using WWE’s own language, the report quotes the worldwide leader’s own stance on McMahon’s irreplaceable presence.
“The unexpected loss of the services of Vincent K. McMahon could adversely affect our ability to create popular characters and creative storylines or could otherwise adversely affect our operating results,” said WWE per the report.
The report rejects the notion that McMahon’s services cannot be replaced, however, instead taking it one step further in suggesting that replacing McMahon is not only possible, it’s necessary.
“The continued services of McMahon as WWE’s head of creative is an ongoing problem that adversely affects WWE’s ability to create popular characters and creative storylines,” countered Thurston.
The report went on to note that McMahon as head of creative “adversely affects WWE’s operating results and has resulted in the emergence of WWE’s strongest direct competitor in many years.”
Citing the overachieving success and growth patterns of NXT—which, despite being on the wrong side of a Wednesday Night War it was forced into, has been able to average respectable viewership figures in the 700,000 range—Thurston’s 2019 industry report concluded that Executive Vice President Paul “Triple H” Levesque is better suited to lead WWE as head of creative:
“NXT is WWE’s overachieving developmental brand. Its creative direction is delegated to McMahon’s son-in-law, EVP Paul Levesque. McMahon takes little or no control over the production. NXT’s performance is, within WWE, a counterexample supporting the notion that McMahon’s creative vision is ineffective and that Levesque would be a qualified and more capable head of creative, to the benefit of WWE’s operating results. The success of the NXT brand, while a credit to the company, wouldn’t have been so possible if WWE’s main roster programming hadn’t for so long frustrated its audience.”
Calls for Vince McMahon’s head are nothing new within the wrestling industry. But with XFL set to command a considerable amount of the WWE Chairman’s attention, not to mention McMahon quickly running out of options for scapegoats, there seems to be far more gravity to the notion that Vince McMahon is no longer fit to run this company.
Beginning in 2020, WWE’s financials will look excellent on paper due to its pair of billion-dollar deals with NBCUniversal and Fox, which will be coupled with favorable corporate tax rates under the Trump administration. Barrios and Wilson were instrumental in negotiating these deals, and given the timing of their 2018 promotions to Co-Presidents, these advancements were seemingly a direct result of their success in increasing WWE’s television rights fees.
Whether or not the investors were able to read the writing on the wall over the past several years, there’s no ignoring WWE’s all-out implosion as the entertainment juggernaut struggles to revamp its once-unquestioned dynasty.
The McMahon family could go face a rough transition in the coming years.
With the XFL expected to lose money within its first three years (if they make it that far), a potential second failure of the resurgent league could create more cause for concerns among investors and those within WWE about McMahon’s capability as a chief executive.
With viewership, social media rankings, Google search trends, live event attendance and its previously surging stock price all down, a succession plan would be a no-brainer in just about any other company.
But WWE isn’t just any company. And as Vince McMahon continues to rule with an iron fist with no end in sight (McMahon has famously vowed to “die in the chair”), installing Triple H as head of creative will be easier said than done.