WWE found perfect sale partner to solidify Vince McMahon’s return


The Post’s Joseph Staszewski brings you around the world of professional wrestling every Tuesday in his weekly column, the Post Match Angle.

Vince McMahon seems to always find a way to come out on top, whether you like it or not.

WWE’s announcement on Monday that it has been sold to Endeavor Group for a reported $9.3 billion and will merge with the UFC to form a new combat sports and entertainment juggernaut is only more proof of that.

It was just 10 months ago that the 77-year-old McMahon appeared to be leaving the wrestling business in shame when he retired in July amid a $17.4 million hush money and sexual misconduct scandal.

With his hands off the controls of WWE creative for the first time, the company became a red-hot product again under Triple H’s direction.

Seeing an opportunity for a sale, McMahon — who survived a federal steroid trial in which he was found not guilty of conspiring to supply steroids to wrestlers and WCW nearly putting him out of business in the ’90s — used all of his voting stock power to force his way back onto WWE’s board of directors as executive chairman in January with eyes on a sale.

It took just four months to get the right price and the perfect partner in Endeavor and CEO Ari Emanuel.

A mustachioed McMahon — if you believe him — said in a CNBC interview on Monday that he was prepared to walk away from wrestling if the right sale deal required it.

Instead, he was able to find someone in Emanuel, with whom he’s had a prior relationship, that “wasn’t going to let him” quit the business.

McMahon said it took “not that much” convincing to make him stay.

Emmanuel is thrilled McMahon is sticking around.

Vince McMahon during a CNBC interview Monday after Endeavor announced it was acquiring WWE and merging it with UFC.

“Him now being able to utilize what we have built in our flywheel, I’m the luckiest guy in the world because I got Vince McMahon, a visionary who sees around the corner,” Emanuel said on CNBC. “I got Dana White and what we’ve built. That’s pretty unstoppable.”

(Remember, Endeavor is the same company that levied no known punishment on UFC president Dana White after a video emerged of him and his wife slapping each other in Mexico on New Year’s Eve and chose not to comment all together. White said there were “no excuses” for his actions.”)

There are plenty of things that make this a great deal for WWE.

Endeavor has taken a mostly hands-off approach to the in-cage product in the UFC and Emanuel said that will be the case with WWE right now.

Wrestling people running a wrestling company is always the best policy as we learned from WCW and the AOL/TimeWarner merger in 2000 that contributed to putting it out of business.

Let’s hope there is not too much meddling.

Secondly, Endeavor has had great success growing the UFC, buying it for around $6 billion by 2021 and now valuing it at $12 billion.

The deal also opens up a giant new toolbox for WWE with the combined media rights and licensing power, as well as making any talent crossover opportunities that much easier.

Conor McGregor tweeted a photo of himself holding the UFC and WWE championships and wrestlers have been talking for years about former middleweight champion Israel Adesanya getting into the business.

All of that is a lot easier now.

What the merger means for WWE’s media rights deals, which are up in the fall of 2024, remains to be seen.

Endeavor and the UFC already have a strong partnership with ESPN, which was extended to 2025.

WWE’s streaming deal with Peacock ends in 2026, though a return to a traditional pay-per-view model down the road is something that has arisen as a fear because it’s how the UFC does it through ESPN+.

Vince McMahon performing at WrestleMania 38 on April 3, 2022.
Vince McMahon performing at WrestleMania 38 on April 3, 2022.

For now, at least Triple H will remain WWE’s chief content officer — thought a lot of fans who watched the Raw after WrestleMania probably felt McMahon’s fingerprints all over it.

McMahon, who recently signed a two-year deal to remain at WWE, admitted on CNBC he will have a hand in creative on “a higher level” but not “in the weeds” because you “can’t do that.”

He made similar comments when he hired Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff as executive directors of Raw and Smackdown, respectively, in June 2019.

That didn’t last too long once the XFL folded and the pandemic hit.

Maybe circumstances will be different this time, but it’s clear McMahon is back in full control of the company, at least on a macro level.  

He did at least address the sexual misconduct scandal for the first time publicly during the CNBC interview, saying he’s “made mistakes obviously, both personally and professionally throughout my 50-year career. I’ve owned up to every single one of them and then moved on.”

By negotiating a merger and not a straight sale, it’s a potentially much more lucrative deal for McMahon should the new company succeed as they believe it will.

After doing so, McMahon is pretty much back where he started before the scandals hit — a little richer, a little less creative control and no longer truly his own boss — but the face and overseer of WWE nonetheless.

Vince McMahon seems to always find a way to come out on top, whether you like it or not.

New Reality (Show)

The debut episode of “AEW All Access” left a solid foundation to build from.

The footage touching on Adam Cole’s return from his head injuries, coming to grips with not being cleared for “Full Gear” and his and Britt Baker’s bond through all of it was by far the highlight.

Because you knew everything about it is authentic.

Cole even talked about how wrestling helped him get through his parents’ divorce when he was 9.

Sammy Guevara’s concerns about his career and about the heat he and his wife Tay Melo get as a couple taking away from her in-ring career was also interesting and compelling for a casual viewer.

The show wasn’t without issues.

It took a little too long — about 20 minutes in to really get to Cole after he had just won his return match on Dynamite — but I get wanting to establish actually being at a wrestling show behind the scenes.

Starting with Baker and Toni Storm taking shots at Thunder Rosa for not working through injury and leaving the latter with the interim women’s title felt a bit shallow for an opener.

Also, what audience is going to care about The Young Bucks getting rid of ring rust, thinking about retiring and coming back when the show glossed over the whole All Out incident?

Honor is Real

Ring of Honor put its best foot forward with Supercard of Honor.

Claudio Castagnoli and Eddie Kingston delivered a main event worthy of the anticipation around it.

Kingston really is a super babyface with his ability to scratch and claw his way back despite looking done multiple times in a match that had some nice callbacks to their feud in Chikara.

The finish was a back-and-forth sprint of emotional twists and turns with Castagnoli reversing Kingston into a roll-up for the win after Eddie had just countered a Ricola bomb.

Just all around good stuff as Kingston came so close many times. 

Wheeler Yuta, (l. to r.), Claudio Castagnoli, Eddie Kingston and Katsuyori Shibata end Supercard of Honor.

Komander and El Hijo del Vikingo are just playing video game wrestling in real life.

Except for the fact the stuff they do you can’t even do in video games.

Top Flight really has no injury luck.

Dante Martin seriously hurt his ankle on a pretty dangerous Canadian Destroyer to the outside through a pair of stacked tables.

The physics of that make it hard to land clean.

Love heel Athena, and Tony Khan needs give us Katsuyori Shibata vs. Bryan Danielson for the Pure title by year’s end.  

The 10 Count

After the controversial finish to WrestleMania 39, WWE appears to have Cody Rhodes on a similar path to John Cena — without Cena’s pedigree — after his WrestleMania 28 loss to The Rock.

Both got demolished by Brock Lesnar the night after.

It was great to see Rhodes have legitimate anger after being screwed by The Bloodline and being swerved into a Lesnar feud feels like the next biggest match WWE can do with him.

But it did it suck to rob fans of the epic tag main event you teased them with.

The Raw After WrestleMania turned out to be a bit of a dud to cap off a weekend that felt lacking in significant surprises — the biggest one on Monday being Matt Riddle’s return.

There was very little actual wrestling, lots of recaps and Seth Rollins just coming out for a commercial break to celebrate so the people in the arena could sing his song.

The Rhea Ripley-Bianca Belair teaser faceoff was super smart and effective.

Bryan Danielson returned to turn heel with his fellow Blackpool Combat Club members against The Elite with a dramatic flying knee to Kenny Omega, which was very well done.

You thought Danielson would be the one to try to talk sense into his mates.

But him blaming Omega and The Elite for ruining pro wrestling was perfect as we are likely headed for a Blood and Guts duel. 

Bryan Danielson attacked Kenny Omega to end AEW Dynamite.

“Jungle Boy” Jack Perry had a solid showing across from MJF during their promo on Dynamite — finally showing some much-needed emotion and range at the end.

Even so, I didn’t get the feeling that this is a world title feud we need to see right now.

Perry is progressing well but would love for him to continue to get more seasoning.

NXT Stand and Deliver certainly did deliver.

Johnny Gargano got a fitting NXT goodbye, and Indi Hartwell got a stunning ladder match win — with help from Dexter Lumis — to become NXT women’s champion.

Few people are more deserving and all the women in the match showed how bright the future of the division is.

Carmelo Hayes needed to beat Bron Breakker to become NXT champion, but all the shenanigans and the ref not seeing Hayes tap took a little bit away from it for me.

Indi Hartwell is the new NXT women’s champion.
Basil Mahmud

I know CM Punk can be self-destructive.

But it’s hard for me to believe that he and AEW agreed to his return in principle, as has been reported, and then potentially blew it up with a quickly deleted Instagram post.

Either Punk is more destructive than we think or something is off there.

Konnan maybe have set a gold standard for Hall of Fame introduction speeches by what he gave Rey Mysterio.

The story Mysterio told of his now-wife Angie quitting her studies for a bit and sending him money when he was running out early in his career was about as cool as it gets.  

Orange Cassidy takes a crowbar to the back from The Blade.

The way Orange Cassidy is winning matches these days — kicking out from a crowbar to the back — you have to start to wonder what it’s actually going to take to beat him for the International Championship.

The Hook vs. The Firm story has been under-the-radar good.

It’s going to end with Matt Hardy and Private Party finally breaking free and maybe a fun eight-man tag.

It’s was really refreshing to see MJF let Maxwell Jacob Friedman shine through while getting the key to the Town of Oyster Bay on Monday.

Flanked by plenty of friends and family, you could tell it genuinely meant something to the Plainview, Long Island native.

The AEW world champion wanted to leave a message for the kids in attendance in a different tone than he might at Dynamite.

“You can be proud of struggling in school because school did not come easy for me,” Friedman said. “But the fact of the matter is, Long Island has a community of people that is so overwhelmingly positive and I think for me, even when I was struggling in school, even when I told people about my insane dreams, for the most part, I wasn’t met with an insane amount of hesitancy or anger. A lot of the time I was just met with ‘go for it.’

“What I would like to say to you guy is, if you give stuff 110 percent and you do not stop and if you do not yield and you laugh in the face of adversity you can be anything you want to be. That not some gaga crap. It’s real. If you have a dream and you want it more than anything, go for it.”

Wrestler of the Week

Rhea Ripley, WWE

No one’s stock rose more during WrestleMania than Ripley.

The 26-year-old Aussie was finally able to overcome Charlotte Flair for the SmackDown women’s championship in probably the match of her life and maybe the weekend on the grandest stage of them all.

It fully solidified Ripley as a main-event player.

On top of that, Bianca Belair retaining the Raw women’s championship in a third straight WrestleMania win could put the two young stars on a major collision course for WrestleMania 40.

Rhea Ripley is the new SmackDown women’s champion.

Match to Watch

Austin and Colton Gunn (c.) vs. FTR, AEW tag team championship on Dynamite (8 pm., TBS)

FTR’s contract status with AEW is hot topic, with theirs reportedly up soon.

The stipulation for this match is if Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler can’t defeat the Gunns for the AEW tag team championships they will leave the company.

So there is plenty of reality seeping in here, especially with FTR likely being a key component to any CM Punk return if it does happen.

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