As is so often the case in the wrestling industry, a subdued week explodes into gossip and intrigue with one simple story. The announcement came that Shane McMahon, Executive Vice-President of Global Media and son of WWE Chairman Vince McMahon has resigned from World Wrestling Entertainment, sending shockwaves through the industry. Whilst not quite the abdication story it would have been years previously, it is nevertheless a startling development. It had been assumed Shane would continue within the company, learning and steadily ascending the hierarchy before taking a strong operational holding upon Vince’s death. With the announcement of Shane’s resignation, the future of the company is now open to conjecture and uncertainty. The likely reality of ?life after Vince? has suddenly gained momentum.
Ever since Shane arrived on WWF TV as a character (rather than standing around vacantly and occasionally breaking up brawls) it had been assumed he would follow in his father’s footsteps. A likeable if occasionally overbearing fellow, Shane quickly demonstrated a typically powerful oratory. Likewise, a physical adeptness unlike any of his family. Within one year of his introduction Shane was carrying the Corporate Ministry angle in main events and wrestling matches to a highly convincing standard. His heavily choreographed encounters with Test and X-Pac in 1999 and with his own father at Wrestlemania 17 were, undoubtedly, highly entertaining.
Not everything Shane touched turned to gold, however. Though a willing and daring worker, Shane would on occasions allow his McMahon-sized ego to cloud his judgement. Shane’s unwillingness to grasp the finer points of selling inflicted horrendous damage on the unmasked Kane’s monster push in 2003. Likewise, his cringe worthy feud with Randy Orton and Legacy evoked memories of wrestling’s worst nepotistic tendencies. Flabby, uncoordinated, greying and obviously knackered, Shane embarrassed himself and insulted his opponents in the process. Shane’s strengths as a character and grappler were most evident within a plucky, chatty and ultimately cowardly heel persona. That stupid strut was a genuine heat magnet. Babyface Shane invariably grated quickly and negated his talents as a naturally gifted performer.
The internal machinations of WWE are both Shakespearean and labyrinthine in equal measure. As the boss’s son and so-called heir apparent, Shane wielded considerable clout. The likes of Andrew ?Test? Martin and The Big Show benefited greatly from his largesse. Shane always seemed to fancy himself in-tune with the boys and, as a bright, perceptive chap, had an ear for the populous. Shane was raised in the WWF/WWE cauldron and as such would always espouse and protect the company’s often chequered image in public. Behind the scenes, Shane expressed an interest in the media and corporate relations aspects of WWE enterprise as a means to broaden his horizons. Based in New York, Shane evolved into a capable executive wielding a panache and refinement unbecoming his hyperbolic father. Like his mother, Shane was very good at the business side of things; most notably the development of WWF/E.com which was spearheaded by Shane. Perhaps tempered by marriage and fatherhood, Shane didn?t seem to place such personal emphasis on matters professional. When the Benoit tragedy occurred and the resultant wellness policy scandal followed, Shane wisely avoided intimate involvement in public. He held the line but he didn?t make a rod for his own back as Vince, Stephanie and countless WWE superstars did so ineptly on numerous occasions starting in 2007.
For all his apparent power, Shane has not been secure in his overall powerbase for some time. From the moment his sister decided to ?Play The Game? in real life with Joanie ?Chyna? Laurer’s boyfriend, Shane has been embroiled in a gradually simmering power struggle. Though untouchable whilst his father rules the roost, Shane has nevertheless had to watch as his sister and her husband Paul ?Triple H? Levesque cemented their grip on the company’s creative direction.
Stephanie has held the book for the better part of a decade now, presiding over a perpetual transition from a wrestling committee and Vince to bookworm, toadying acolytes who report directly to her. She then relays the particulars to Vince who has overall say and control. It’s not unfair to note Vince seldom ever overrules or questions his daughter’s decisions. The ruthless self-aggrandising and ubiquitous propaganda that so serves Triple H doubtless fills Vince with paternal fervour. A self-confessed obsessive who will destroy anyone and anything in his way and bleeds WWE from every orifice, Triple H is the man in WWE. He earns millions every year, has a place on the booking ?committee? and has sired two daughters with Stephanie. He leads by example in so much as he works relentlessly in maintaining the rigid, inflexible and authoritarian philosophy that has come to typify the latter day WWE. Add to the mix his qualities as a performer and you are presented with the son Vince wishes he had. Given the power he and his wife collectively wield, he might as well be.
Shane has been more or less content to let the McMahon/Levesque axis conduct matters as they see fit. Rich, secure and blessed with a little perspective, why should he care? The stress and demands of working in the WWE booking department has claimed long-term servants, Hollywood actors and seasoned writers alike. Why insinuate one’s self into such a cornucopia of strife? The eventual day of Vince’s passing and the assumption of power by his children has long been a source of intense curiosity. No doubt about it, HHH and Stephanie will keep things as they are and employ the same siege mentality that has so frequently been Vince’s method. Shane, with his New York corporate glint and ideas bordering on the charlatan has no place in such a world. Though the idea sucked, Shane attempted to orchestrate a huge Jackass/WWE tie-in for Summerslam 2006. He spent months laying the groundwork and lobbied the idea heavily. His viewpoint was consistently challenged by Levesque and Stephanie who felt the idea limp at best, defamatory at worse. The deal ultimately fell through and Vince personally sided with his daughter and son-in-law on the issue of credibility. Humiliated and defeated, Shane withdrew to his corporate exile and apparently ruminated.
With his extensive business knowledge of the cutthroat WWE and accrued contacts, Shane apparently feels the time is right to get out of the rat race. Whatever happens, he stands to inherit millions upon his father’s death and may yet return to WWE upon that day with renewed vigour. Privately, HHH and Stephanie will be toasting a victory. The keys to the kingdom are now apparently theirs for the keeping. With Shane gone there is no one but them in the positions of absolute power beneath Vince. Perhaps Shane will assist his recently departed mother in her bid for Congress in Connecticut. It will be fascinating to behold this new future where only two members of the first family actually draw a salary from the family business. Though the WWE (and Shane) have moved quickly to assuage fears of familial unrest, the intrigue is present in layers. This story has only just begun. Cast your mind back to the very end of the promo video at the beginning of Wrestlemania 20. It featured Vince, Shane and Shane’s newborn son Declan James under the caption: ?It all begins again?. The inference was clear. The McMahon legacy would endure into a fourth and fifth generation, passing from Vince to Shane and onwards in perpetuity. Five years later, Shane has resigned. A simple statement belying a complex reality? We shall see.