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WWE executives fearing the wrath of Vince McMahon in NBCUniversal TV deal fallout

Vince McMahon is being driven crazy by all the mainstream publicity over the loss of his billionaire status and is thus on the warpath in Stamford, Connecticut, with all his executive staff walking on eggshells, fearing his wrath and a future yell of "YOU'RE FIRED!!!!!"

WWE headquarters - bloodier than Game of Thrones?
WWE headquarters - bloodier than Game of Thrones?
Michael N. Todaro

The biggest news story of the week continues to be the fallout from WWE's renewal of their TV deal with NBCUniversal for much less money than anticipated and the subsequent collapse in WWE's stock value.

Needless to say, Vince McMahon hasn't taken this roller coaster plunge downwards very well at all. Indeed, there was speculation in this week's Wrestling Observer Newsletter that all the publicity over the loss of his billionaire status again would inevitably cause him to blow his top:

"One person with a long association with [Vince McMahon] noted to us that the actual losing of the stock money isn’t going to bother him, but that all of the stories in so many of the major business publications and mainstream media that talked about $350 million in losses over one day, and that he’s no longer a billionaire, would drive him crazy."

For decades McMahon has been obsessed with his public image, wanting to be more than just a common rasslin' promoter, but every time he's been on the cusp of achieving that proud goal, a big fall was just around the corner. The sluggish takeoff of the WWE Network is obviously not a positive sign that this latest venture out of McMahon's comfort zone will do much better than the rest, and that must be causing him a lot of stress.

Clearly, this wouldn't have been a good week to be working in the WWE offices at Stamford, Connecticut. Apparently, even high ranking executives were fearing the wrath of Vince McMahon, after the television industry snubbed his programming with a lack of offers and Wall Street gave his management team a big vote of no confidence. The stockholders are baying for blood and McMahon seems to be in the mood to give them their pound of flesh, as's Mike Johnson reported earlier this week:

"I can tell you from speaking to a number of people over the weekend who work for WWE and have spoken to those that work within the executive ranks of WWE that there is a high level fear that Vince McMahon is about to walk into the executive ranks with a sword and off with their heads. There's a feeling amongst those who have spoken to Vince that Vince feels that the management team in place, not [Chief Strategy & Financial Officer George] Barrios, but others, led him to believe that there was a greater anticipation amongst the different television entities for getting WWE under their umbrella and also that the current WWE business outlooks and the path that WWE has taken was something that was going to be a positive and now obviously there's a lot of negative involved with it. And [consequently] there are people who have been executives for a number of years and have gotten high level salaries and bonuses who have to be shaking in their boots wondering what is going to happen to me because now I've led WWE down this path and Vince McMahon is not a happy man, and as we all know, when Vince is not happy, things are going to happen very quickly."

This is not an idle threat, as Vince had already fired Matthew Singerman, his Executive Vice President of Programming, over disagreements at his scheduling choices and show selection for the WWE Network, several weeks before stockholders turned on the company.

However, even if he was genuinely misled by some of his executive officers, a lot of blame still has to fall on Vince's broad shoulders, as, after all, he always has the final say and he needs to be able to cut through the crap, like the bogus statistic that there are 52 million broadband homes in the United States alone that have an affinity for WWE. McMahon is also the person responsible for making the most brash public statements that fueled investor expectations to crazy proportions and the subsequent second guessing of his company's corporate decision making.

The promise of a hammerlocking if he didn't double U.S. TV rights fees is the most memorable of his off the cuff quips, but he also publicly told Forbes that he walked away from the model of a traditional cable channel when he was only offered 20 cents per month per subscriber (and it must be noted that with this plan they would not have put their pay-per-views on the Network), which now looks like a fair offer that Vince squandered because his ego was offended that he wasn't offered more right off the bat. Of course, that's presuming that such a deal was on the table and he wasn't exaggerating as the real numbers were embarrassing for the company, although it would be in Vince's nature to get pissed that he was offered less than third-tier networks like MSNBC and Bravo, when he has a better track record of drawing ratings.

Vince also claimed earlier this year that NBCUniversal was fully behind the WWE Network, realizing its potential to reach lapsed fans and make the WWE brand hotter, which would in turn grow the ratings for Monday Night Raw and Smackdown, only to perform an about-face on Monday's investor conference call. Here, when asked whether the launch of the Network had hurt their TV rights fees negotiations with NBCU and other broadcasters, he admitted that it had, but they felt the need to launch it during WrestleMania season and they didn't want to wait another year before doing so.

Like Dana White, Vince McMahon's straight shooting from the hip demeanor, which is part of his down to earth appeal, has started to become more of a liability than an asset. If he had just been more tight lipped, then maybe WWE wouldn't be facing multiple investigations by law firms all over the country for possible violations of federal securities laws, the latest one being based in New York.

The mood is so bad, according to Mike Johnson, that some people within WWE were even openly speculating that Vince McMahon may have to pull the whole plug on the WWE Network soon, to stop the bleeding before it gets out of control. That's not going to happen, they're simply too far down the rabbit's hole to go back.

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