Where to even begin? No mixing of hyperbole in declaring this week as momentous. Id like to say were all bloody agreed on that.
Starting the week sharing jokes at AEWs expense with their interim champions and ended it with a new interim CEO & chairwoman of WWE. Unprecedented times in the wrestling world as we verge on a potential major shift.
I normally ramble into proceedings with these intros, but with the seriousness of the first topic this weeks column is already long enough. So no beating around the bush, skipping the pleasantries today as we get straight in to the biggest talking point of the week.
Hush Money, Dont Say A Word
of course he is.
The image of a live crowd cheering and bowing to Vince McMahon amid hush money allegations will stay with me for a long time.
An ego driven company CEO & Chairman on a power trip in the middle of the ring. Stood telling us the most important word of the WWE Then. Now. Forever slogan is Together. Before dropping the mic in a strutting off statement that hes not going anywhere.
The Wall Street Journal dropped a bombshell of an article on Wednesday. Reporting on pending WWE Board investigations into Vince McMahon for paying an alleged $3m settlement to keep an ex-employee quiet about their sexual relationship.
Link To The Wall Street Journal Article
The boards investigations not just finding a copy of the agreement, but also emails detailing how the ex-employees salary was doubled after the relationship began. The former was paid for out of Vinces own money, but the increased salary? Yeah, that came out of company funds.
The board discovering multiple other McMahon settlements from over the years, as well as misconduct from other company heads such as John Laurinaitis for whom its quoted that the ex-employee was passed to like a toy.
On Friday the WWE said Vince McMahon had voluntarily stepped back from his responsibilities. Saying Stephanie McMahon would be stepping in as interim CEO and chairwoman, but Vince will still retain his role and responsibilities related to WWEs creative content.
Then came the announcement that Vince would be opening Friday nights SmackDown. A move that according to Fightful Select had multiple staff members and top talent reacting from confused to enraged backstage. Whilst Vince was in a reportedly happy mood, no-selling that anything was wrong and going along business as usual.
Just think about that for a second. The boss himself accused of paying off employees of which hed had sexual relations with breaking the companys code of conduct multiple times over in the process then went on national TV in character and flexed his muscles to the board.
Thats insanity. No denials, just a I cant be taken down like that, you should remember that this is my house! statement of power. His appearance promoted to garner a rating, trying to grab a viewership number with the man in the middle of sexual misconduct allegations.
Even Succession wouldnt write this for its unbelievability.
The man bathing in his cult-like appreciation whilst surrounded in an aura of dissatisfaction. Vince vs The World a tried and trusted tactic. Making it out like theres bad people just out to get him, like hes done nothing wrong. The worst part is this will work, a section of his viewership will eat it all up and become adamant supporters.
I fully expect Vince will do whatever he can to never have to face accountability. But is that a mistake for what is now a public trading company? This isnt the same family business WWE that faced the steroids trial in the 90s. Were talking having to convince boards and investors that Vinces image wont damage their profits.
What weve seen so far is an early stage reaction to a scandal like this, shifting pieces about to help negate the seriousness of the allegations. More chess moves will come as this really is just the beginning. You know the seriousness of this given the way the reactions have played out. There has been no denial, just promises that this is being met with full cooperation.
Call me pessimistic, but I dont expect much to alter no matter the findings. How can that man still be in power? Ill say, answering my own question with the words I phrased it with. A change has been called for within WWE for years, instead weve seen more doubling down on the older generation running the shop.
John Laurinaitis controversial rehire emblematic of the toxic culture we were previously told WWE had moved on from. Sean Ross Sapp reporting multiple accounts of staff and wrestlers alike feeling uncomfortable with his return to the company.
The story from AJ Lees book immediately coming to mind. A man is his 60s telling a 20-something old girl that guys wanted to hang out instead of having sex with her and that was a problem. PISS OFF with that shit.
Ember Moons recent account in an interview with Chris Van Vleet, talking of classes teaching the female talent how to make more revealing gear and to dress sexy like Mandy Rose. Toni Storm opening up about having to fight off getting stripped down to her underwear on national TV. THIS IS A CULTURE.
Nothing will change until the top does.
Going off a report from Fightful Select, Stephanie McMahon is apparently beloved by those she works with. Something which is fantastic to hear, but the moves so far tell me the chess pieces are all being moved to protect the King. How much change will there be when none of these actions are actually there to instigate it?
Not forgetting we havent even gotten to what on Earth all the other NDA agreements will reveal. Arguing in defence of Vince against this story being serious is almost a pointless exercise, because youre going to have to do that with all the other hush settlements uncovered.
Never mind if already known stories from Vinces past rear their heads once more with the spotlight on bright: WWEs first female referee Rita Chatterons accusations of rape (LINK) and being accused of forcing himself on a tanning salon worker in 2006 (LINK) come to mind.
The degree of reaction tells me how severely this has hit too big to be swept under the rug but the fear of McMahon whipping up his base into a support frenzy is all too real. Wielding the company control of creative he went on national TV and delivered a Wolf Of Wall Street-Succession threat consider the alarm bells of concern fully ringing.
Qualifying For The Bank
Good luck with this tonal shift, Imp
Hey, do you remember the tranquil waters of this past Monday? The sound of the waves lapping, the promise of ladders buckling. Its the most ladder-ful time of the year! I was thinking. Oh the innocence! How its cloud eventually rains in a downpour and drowns us all.
Thinking back to my excitement of adding another multi-person climbing kerfuffle to my routine list of re-watches. Im always hyped for new ladder standouts, having worn out the proverbial internet tapes of Money In The Bank 2011 and initial WrestleMania editions.
The chaos, the carnage, the crashes. Feed me those inventive ladder stunts and Ill keep gleefully eating like the constant consumer that I am. The promise of promotion literally hanging above the heads of employees as they fight it out for a contract in a suspended briefcase. If this was in a film I might think this match concept was saying something but who cares? I love every second!
In a Battle Royal movie Id be the guy watching with a paid subscription.
The prestigious briefcase game being afoot also results in WWEs telly shows themselves getting a jolt of short term direction. The lads and lasses doing what they can to qualify in exciting back n forth contests, as its slowly unveiled who well see climbing the ladders this year. A top notch excuse to feature awesome talents launching themselves at each other in the name potential glory.
This week featured an absolute banger between Seth Rollins and AJ Styles, with the former right on trajectory to solidify himself as Monday Nights focal villain. Arguably the favourite to walk away with the briefcase, especially after his stellar work elevating Cody Rhodes to the star WWE so desperately needed him to be.
This match with Styles playing out so perfectly. Constantly changing control and moment, before ending in a manner that really nailed the feeling that it could have been either one of them that walked away with the win. Seth was just able to better AJ on this day, setting him up nicely for Ladders In Las Vegas.
Talking of favourites, Liv Morgan also continued her strong run of momentum as she successfully teamed with Alexa Bliss to qualify. Morgan really developing into a fan favourite as she increasingly shows her ability to improve and impress. Money In The Bank either the perfect time to crown her rise more substantially, or set her into a programme to sink her teeth into.
I say this as if WWE are thinking that long term ahead right now. Even if they are looking forward only a tad, setting the wheel in motion to cement Liv Morgans elevation seems the clearest of objectives.
RAW was mostly forgettable this week, but we did get some enjoyable Money In The Bank set up.
The Road Rages On!
Why Christian? Why?? Oh yeah its AEW, we know exactly why. This has been set up for months.
Now to shift on to AEW and try remember that mid-week feeling of watching a top notch wrestling show with no controversy surrounding it oh wait no, this week started with the whole Jeff Hardy thing! How am I forgetting?
What an exceptional episode of Dynamite for my birthday. Always knew Tony would come through! He reads my cliff notes on the invoices after all.
Huge pops for Jericho vs Ortiz, the amazing visual of Wardlow destroying 20 lads, a downright impressive match between Ospreay and Dax, Tanahashi & Moxley bleeding into JAS & Suzuki-Gun versus the BCC, Miro in his dominant return honeymoon period, Hangman Page attacked by the new IWGP Heavyweight Champion and an exceptional tag team ladder main event that finally saw Christian turn heel.
A show so great you have to rattle down the card like Excalibur himself. A nonstop run as we zoned in on the Forbidden Door and all the unique cross-promotional set up that comes with it. Next week promises more NJPW names as previously unannounced spots get filled, but this week filled in the direction for some already announced names.
The biggest of those being the return of Orange Cassidy to challenge for Will Ospreays IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship. The Essex man only winning the title at Dominion last Sunday, but already finding himself having to defend on previously forbidden shores. A huge return pop for the denim clad man, a ridiculously over wrestler who just so happens to be perfectly beatable for New Japans new champion.
I guested on the Keeping It Strong Style podcast this week before Dynamite had aired and voiced my lack of excitement at the prospect of an Ospreay vs Trent match. A match against the Freshly Squeezed one himself though? Count me all the way in! PAC vs Orange Cassidy is one of my favourite AEW matches, an astoundingly fun bout I consistently return to. The perfect encounter for those times where you just need a smile on your face.
Orange Cassidy may not be the biggest dream name you could conjure up, but his match with Ospreay is damn sure going to be an entertaining one. Ill be eating that one up as much as the live crowd.
Shortly after this photo, Kyle ORiley with a 10/10 baseball bat to the dick sell
A perfectly harmlessly fun edition of Rampage this week. If anything a welcome change of pace following the insanity that was Friday.
An hour where I was able to turn my brain off and enjoy some solid wrestling. Ending on a lovely pop for the returning beloved Icon. A delightful note to close on given everything else.
Darby Allin and Bobby Fish with a solid main event, the former set on getting his revenge on those dastardly ReDragon boys. But it was all a set up for the man himself to return and swing a bat into Kyle ORileys penis. Setting up Darby for our full circle moment: Coffin Dropping onto Bobby Fishs ankle as its wrapped in a steel chair.
Revenge exacted for the duo taking out Sting, now them boys are in real trouble!
Elsewhere we had Jade Cargill remaining dominant with a win over the loveable Willow and Max Caster answering the call to deliver a line on the NDA news given they were recording the night the news broke.
There wasnt really a lot to talk about off of this weeks Rampage. Heres some more wrestling if you would like to see it. An enjoyable hour of wrestling, the easiest watch of the week. But also the least consequential if you happen to miss it.
RAW Grade Forgettable, but with a Rollins vs Styles banger in the middleDynamite Grade Road Raging in style on the road to the Forbidden Door!SmackDown Grade Vinces hush money and creative bankruptcyRampage Grade A delightfully fun, easy watch to end the week on
Comment below. Ill be here to reply and chat this weird wrestling world.
Contact Imp:Twitter Email [emailprotected]
Previous columnsImps Week In Wrestling The Forbidden Door Swings and Championship WinsImps Week In Wrestling Banks & Naomi, MJF/Wardlow and Disappointing the fans
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