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4 Ups & 5 Downs of WWE SmackDown (June 17)

Brock Lesnar's surprise return; Riddle shows WWE the future; Vince McMahon's Worst Performance Ever? (Author: Gardener)

June 17Vince McMahon, showing up on SmackDown mid-investigation, initially seemed like a bad idea. When crunch time comes, the controversial now-ex-WWE CEO (which is really weird to type) hasn't said much to the live audience in Minneapolis anyway. He quoted the WWE signature, "Then, Now, Forever, Together," smiled profusely, then left as everyone around the ring scratched their heads as if to say, "That's... that's it?". For example, there's a difference between creating real tension between wrestlers to generate interest and Vince walking away for no reason when he's being investigated for sexual misconduct. What the hell were they thinking with that real-life nod?

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Vince McMahon is keeping it short and sweet following his retirement from WWE SmackDown

Vince McMahon made his first public comments on WWE SmackDown since temporarily stepping down as Chairman and CEO of WWE. (Author: Gardener)

Vince McMahonVince McMahon made his first public comments on WWE SmackDown since temporarily stepping down as Chairman and CEO of WWE. McMahon was well received by the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he reminded the supporting audience of WWE catchphrases "Then, Now, Together..." and "Most Importantly, Forever." Some within WWE were reportedly concerned about what the historically combative Vince McMahon would have to say amid a whirlwind of serious allegations with the WWE Chairman. McMahon, who did not address any of these allegations directly, has been known to rally the WWE fan base against outside forces when it comes under heavy criticism or scrutiny. McMahon has been involved in several bombshell investigations, one of which relates to a $3 million settlement he made to an ex-employee during an alleged affair. McMahon and WWE are also under investigation by Scott+Scott Attorney at Law for a possible breach of fiduciary duty. Stephanie McMahon has been installed as interim chairwoman and CEO of WWE, and while the announcement was reportedly well-received behind the scenes, it is said to be a visual move with Vince McMahon - who remains in charge of WWE's creative work - the majority of control behind retains scenes. Stephanie McMahon took an abrupt leave of absence last month as part of what appeared to be a controversial exit, but now in WWE's top leadership position she finds herself in a desperate, chaotic situation with the company. McMahon, meanwhile, appears to be dealing with a "ceiling" issue as his role as WWE Chairman is now under threat, despite previously spearheading the most lucrative financial period in WWE history.

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Vince McMahon makes a brief appearance on SmackDown Live following allegations of misconduct

Vince McMahon opened Friday night's SmackDown Live with a brief appearance in the ring. (Author: Gardener)

Vince McMahonVince McMahon opened Friday night's SmackDown Live with a brief appearance in the ring. McMahon strutted into the ring with a smile on his face as his theme song - "No Chance in Hell" - played over the speakers. With that he left the ring. The segment on "SmackDown" came just hours after WWE announced that McMahon was stepping down from his responsibilities as chairman and CEO of the sports-entertainment giant. McMahon is currently under investigation by the WWE Board of Directors following allegations in The Wall Street Journal that McMahon agreed to pay a $3 million employee the company's severance pay to keep quiet about an affair. McMahon's daughter and WWE Executive, Stephanie McMahon, has been named interim CEO and Chair while the investigation is ongoing. Vince McMahon will retain his role and responsibilities related to WWE's creative content during the investigation and remains "committed to cooperating with the ongoing review," the company said Friday. The Board is also investigating alleged wrongdoing by John Laurinaitis, WWE's Head of Talent Relations. The board's investigation uncovered other settlement agreements involving McMahon and Laurinaitis, the Journal reported. A WWE spokesperson told the Journal that McMahon's relationship with the woman, who was hired as a paralegal in 2019, was amicable and that the executive used his personal funds to pay the severance payments, including those affecting Laurinaitis. The public company reported record revenue of $1.1 billion last year, which included a five-year exclusive streaming deal with NBCUniversal's Peacock in the United States. "SmackDown Live" aired on Fox in 2018 under a five-year, $1 billion deal.

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Vince McMahon makes an appearance on WWE's "SmackDown" amid the ongoing scandal

The 76-year-old resigned as CEO on Friday after a report surfaced of alleged misconduct towards former employees. (Author: Gardener)

Vince McMahonVince McMahon appeared on Friday night's WWE Smackdown to announce his decision to step down as CEO and chairman of the board amid an ongoing investigation into allegations of misconduct by former employees. McMahon's stunning announcement on Friday morning came two days after a Wall Street Journal report revealed that the 76-year-old had agreed to a secret $3 million settlement with a now-former employee with whom he was allegedly having an affair. In addition, the report revealed "other, older non-disclosure agreements covering misconduct claims by former female WWE employees" involving McMahon and WWE's head of talent relations, John Laurinaitis. WWE also announced Friday that Stephanie McMahon, who was recently furloughed from her role as chief business officer, will serve as interim CEO pending the conclusion of the investigation. The WSJ reported on June 15 that the investigation into McMahon began in April and focuses on his relationship with a former WWE assistant who was hired in 2019. The report reveals that McMahon and the associate signed a separation agreement in January 2022, which stipulates that she cannot disparage him or discuss their supposedly amicable relationship. The WWE Board of Directors first became aware of the alleged settlement earlier this year through a series of emails from an anonymous source who, according to the WSJ, identified himself as a friend of the former WWE attorney. The emails allege that the woman's salary was increased from $100,000 to $200,000 after her relationship with McMahon began; The emails also reportedly claim the former paralegal was given to Laurinaitis "like a toy." According to the Journal, the board's preliminary findings show that McMahon paid former female employees who signed agreements with personal funds. However, McMahon's attorney confirmed to the WSJ that the woman made no allegations of harassment against the CEO and said that "WWE did not pay any monies" to the former employee "upon her departure." WWE on Friday confirmed the next steps of the investigation, noting that the company will not comment until the investigation is complete. "WWE and its Board of Directors take all allegations of misconduct very seriously," the wrestling promotion said in a press release. “The Board's independent directors have engaged independent legal counsel to assist them with an independent review.

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Brock Lesnar returns after Roman Reigns retained the title against Riddle on WWE SmackDown

IF REIGNS WINS Roman Reigns defeated Riddle on Friday (Author: Gardener)

RiddleRoman Reigns defeated Riddle on Friday night's episode of SmackDown to retain the undisputed WWE Universal Championship, but the surprise came after the match. It has been announced that Reigns will defend the undisputed WWE Championship against Brock Lesnar in a Last Man Standing match at SummerSlam on July 30th. Reigns hit the ropes, spearing Riddle mid-air and the ref counted the pinfall. Lesnar's return comes at a time when WWE may have been trying to find a challenger for the undisputed champion. Based on the determination of Reigns Special Counsel Paul Heyman, Riddle can no longer compete for the title while Reigns is champion. Based on the determination of Reigns Special Counsel Paul Heyman, Riddle can no longer compete for the title while Reigns is champion. Riddle has been at odds with The Tribal Chief and The Bloodline as a whole for several weeks, stemming from RK Bros' feud with The Usos for the Raw and SmackDown Tag Team Championships. At the time, Riddle and Randy Orton held the Raw Tag Team Titles and The Usos were SmackDown Tag Team Champions. This led to a unification match on SmackDown, which the Usos won thanks to interference from Reigns. After the match, Reigns and The Usos brutally attacked RK-Bro, leaving Orton on the shelf indefinitely with an injury. From that point on, The Original Bro vowed to get revenge on The Bloodline and he temporarily teamed up with Shinsuke Nakamura to beat The Usos for the Tag Titles, but Jimmy and Jey Uso were victorious. Riddle then set his sights on Reigns and got an opportunity to challenge Reigns for the world title if he could beat Sami Zayn in a match. Zayn, who had been trying to force his way into The Bloodline, came with the stipulation that Riddle would be banned from SmackDown if he lost, but would face Reigns for the WWE Universal Championship if he won. Riddle emerged victorious and set the stage for the biggest match of his relatively young WWE career. Friday marked Reigns' first title defense since the unification of the WWE and Universal Championships by defeating Lesnar at WrestleMania 38. Riddle presented a legitimate challenge, but Reigns managed to end the match with the title run still intact.

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Vince McMahon emerges after an internal investigation

The SmackDown Roundup includes testimony from Vince McMahon, Roman Reigns defending his title and Happy Corbin calling out Pat McAfee. (Author: Gardener)

Vince McMahonHours after stepping down as CEO following an investigation by the WWE Board of Directors, Vince McMahon appeared on Friday's SmackDown. Welcome back to another SmackDown Roundup, this time on the June 17 edition of the show with Vince's statement, Roman Reigns defending the Undisputed title and Happy Corbin calling out Pat McAfee. - Madcap Moss def. Happy Corbin by pinfall in a Last Laugh match - New Day's Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods def. Jinder Mahal and Shanky by pinfall after Trouble in Paradise hit Jinder - Raquel Rodriguez def. Shayna Baszler by pinfall to to qualify for the Women's Money In the Bank Match - Reigns retained the Undisputed Universal Title over Riddle after landing a javelin on his opponent. After that, he dropped the microphone and the show began. Even after the loss, the former tag team champion looked good and had a bright future on the main event scene. Riddle also gave Roman Reigns a credible near-fall, which isn't easy considering how dominant the champion was. As mentioned above, Rodriguez qualified for the women's Money in the Bank match. After losing to Moss, Corbin called out McAfee and appears to be entering a scheme with his former roommate. This should be fun between two masters of the microphone. Lingering Question: Do we need another match between Brock Lesnar and Reigns? This week's SmackDown concluded with Lesnar reappearing and once again targeting The Bloodline/Reigns. These two just wrapped up an epic program that ended in "The Greatest WrestleMania Match Ever," so it's not too exciting to revisit it a few months later. I'm guessing what's going to happen here is Seth Rollins wins Money in the Bank and then cashes it that same night to become the Undisputed Universal Champion. Rollins has teased that he wants to top his famous WrestleMania heist, so what better way to do that than on a night where two titles are at stake, in a match featuring the exact same two Superstars he saw in 2015 defeated via cash-in. Don't forget to follow all your favorite WWE Superstars and shows on the FOX Sports app for notifications on what they're up to and more. Ryan Satin is a WWE Analyst for FOX Sports. Satin previously starred in FS1's "WWE Backstage" and founded Pro Wrestling Sheet, where he was the editor in chief, breaking the news.

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Vince McMahon enters 'Smackdown' phase after allegations of misconduct surfaced

Vince McMahon is in the midst of a corporate firestorm, but he still opened up the company's wrestling television show "Smackdown" on Friday. (Author: Gardener)

Vince McMahonA look back at Vince McMahon, who is stepping down as WWE CEO amid misconduct allegations A look back at Vince McMahon, who is stepping down as WWE CEO amid misconduct allegations TV show "Smackdown" on Friday. "It's a privilege, as always, to stand before you tonight," McMahon told the crowd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. "Welcome to Smackdown!" McMahon then exited the ring while his theme song "No Chance in Hell" played. According to a Wall Street Journal report, he was allegedly having an affair with a former employee. On Friday morning, the company announced that McMahon has agreed to step down from his role as chairman and CEO while the investigation continues. His daughter Stephanie McMahon will serve as interim CEO and chair, the company said in a statement on Friday. It prevented the paralegal "from discussing her relationship with or disparaging Mr. McMahon," according to the Journal. Vince McMahon resigns as WWE CEO following hush-money allegations "Other, older non-disclosure agreements unearthed involving claims by former female WWE employees of wrongdoing by Mr. McMahon," the Journal said. Further allegations of misconduct were reportedly identified against John Laurinaitis, the company's head of talent relations. "I have also pledged to accept the findings and findings of the investigation, whatever they may be." McMahon added in the statement that he loves to work collaboratively and "is committed to working with the independent directors to advance our culture." "It is extremely important to me that we have a safe and collaborative workplace," he said. "I have committed to doing everything in my power to help the Select Committee do its job, including the Working together across the organization to support the completion of the investigation and implement its findings." As evidenced by Friday's appearance on "Smackdown," McMahon has been an integral part of WWE for decades, both as an executive and as a wrestler himself. He made the company into a global media powerhouse that currently has major broadcast and streaming deals with Fox and NBCUniversal.

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Winners, grades, reactions and highlights from June 17th

For the first time since combining the top two awards in sports entertainment at WrestleMania 38, Roman Reigns established his Undisputed WWE Universal Championship... (Author: Gardener)

June 17thFor the first time since unifying the top two prizes in sports-entertainment at WrestleMania 38, Roman Reigns pitted his Undisputed WWE Universal Championship against Riddle in the Friday Night SmackDown Main Event. The Head of the Table's return to the square circle wasn't the most notable occurrence on the show, as Mr. McMahon made his presence known amid an off-screen investigation into alleged misconduct. What did McMahon have to say to the WWE Universe and was Reigns able to defend his championship against a very ferocious Riddle? Find out now with this round-up of Fox's June 17 broadcast of all time. As the product sometimes reflected, it was a bunch of hype for absolutely nothing. Riddle next entered the arena for a promo on Roman Reigns and their Undisputed WWE Universal Championship match later in the show. The WWE production team, who knew better than to let The Original Bro do the heavy lifting, aired an admittedly powerful video package to wrap up the main event. An ode to Randy Orton and a fiery conclusion ended a promo segment that went on far too long for Riddle to carry alone. Reigns, Paul Heyman, the Usos, Shinsuke Nakamura, Sami Zayn or literally anyone else was in dire need of help with this. Riddle's unabashed love for Orton is fun, and he revealed the future Hall of Famer will be undergoing surgery soon, but this definitely felt like an entire segment that could have been condensed into a backstage promo starring Kayla Braxton instead something in front of the audience. F for McMahon performance, C for Riddle's promo. Riddle promised to play Orton's "Voices" theme if (and when) he wins the title in today's main event. The Last Laugh: Madcap Moss vs. Happy Corbin The match that was billed as the very first Last Laugh match for a week was actually, just another one-on-one match between Madcap Moss and Happy Corbin. There was no special condition, nor was there increased intensity as this was a feud ender. Instead, it was an easy match with Corbin dominating, only for Moss to fight his way back into the match and end things with two. consecutive punchline finishers. The match was good for what it was and the crowd was hot, but there was no reason for it at all. The feud ended in Hell in a Cell with Moss' eventual victory over Corbin, but WWE chose to quash it with another showdown. The post-game confrontation between Corbin and Pat McAfee suggests there could be a match between the two sooner rather than later. And therein lies the problem: we know what Corbin is up to next, and that feud will draw considerable attention on social media, but what about Moss? Where does the guy crucially booked to win the feud go? Perhaps that was the question WWE Creative should have answered here. At least McAfee vs. Corbin will be creative gold from an advertising standpoint compared Corbin to Jurassic World: Dominion, claiming they both thought they would be bangers, but actually weren't. After the match, Corbin clipped a promo for McAfee and took offense at his weekly reviews. Jinder Mahal and ShankyNew Day next battled Jinder Mahal and Shanky in a match that had nothing to do with increasing the tag team division and everything to do with showcasing the latter's new dance element. The action was nondescript before Xavier Woods played his trombone, motivating Shanky to stop beating Kofi Kingston and start dancing. The fact that two former WWE Champions were involved (Kingston and Mahal) and neither was treated as one. The same does not apply to half of the dressing rooms. Natalya clipped a backstage promo touting the Sharpshooter she promoted on Ronda Rousey last week, revealing the SmackDown Women's Champion isn't there tonight and vowing to win the title if they meet . All said and done, New Day was about an entire square circle Edge vs. Randy Orton WrestleMania 36 Match before the bell even rang. Drew McIntyre and Sheamus promo; Women's Money in the Bank QualifierWWE Official Adam Pearce joined Drew McIntyre and Sheamus in the square circle to reveal which of the fighters will team up with Seth Rollins in the Money in the Bank Ladder Match on July 2nd. After some brief back and forth, Pearce called Sheamus to the game. A brawl broke out and after cooler heads prevailed, McIntyre was also called to the match. So... that was a segment that happened and definitely couldn't have been reserved for a quick backstage vignette. That being said, McIntyre and Sheamus are great additions to a match already promoting Rollins and numbers to add superstars like Kevin Owens and maybe Sami Zayn to the group. Say what you will about WWE Creative's summer state, but the talent, as always, is exceptional and will make up for it with an exceptional fight. Raquel Rodriguez attempted to redeem her ticket to Money in the Bank in a qualifier by battling Shayna Baszler while Lacey Evans watched from the commentary position. The contest winner would join Evans and Raw's Alexa Bliss and Liv Morgan in the match. The competitive match ended with Rodriguez fighting his way through the Queen of Spades challenge to knock her down with the Tejana Bomb for the win. The result was obvious, sure, but it was the right one. Competitors are clearly going in two different directions, with Rodriguez appearing to be one of WWE Creative's key projects. A win here and her addition to the Money in the Bank match raise her star at a time when the company needs her. There will be some who question the company's inconsistent use of Baszler, and with good reason, but that's a similar task to pushing a boulder up a hill. Rather than revisit it, take comfort in the fact that the company is trying to create a new star, something it could do more often. C- for the Sheamus-McIntyre nonsense; C+ for Rodriguez' win "I wear a black tank top every day. I don't look like it," McAfee said of Jacked McIntyre. Evans' excitement at Rodriguez's win was a nice insight into her competitive nature. Roman Reigns returned to SmackDown for the first time in a month to defend the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship since winning it at WrestleMania 38. A floating bro from Riddle earned him a dramatic near fall, but Reigns regained control of the fight. Riddle fought his way back into the match, using Randy Orton's trademark mark to fuel his comeback. Reigns javelined him in mid-flight to secure victory and successfully defend the title in a great match. Then, in an unannounced surprise, the Brock-mad Lesnar returned to smash, crush and destroy F-5 The Bloodline, proving that clear loss not his troubles with Reigns are far from settled. Plus, WWE doesn't have another marquee match available to fill a stadium, so it's returning to the fountain with this special showdown. With a lack of available stars due to injuries, there are worse choices, especially considering the possibility of Seth Rollins winning Money in the Bank and recreating WrestleMania 31 all over again. Every competition that Reigns appears in not only gives the feeling of a big fight, but there seems to be a need to live up to the current level. Full-time competitors he clashes with. We've seen it here at Riddle, but his best matches as a champion have always come against Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, and Jey Uso. He even had a really fun TV match with Montez Ford last September. This was no different. Reigns worked overtime and delivered a truly amazing TV main event against a guy in Riddle who, like him or not, has become the workhorse for WWE. This was a coming-of-age performance for The Original Bro, and a statement from Reigns to his critics that he can still deliver bangers when the moment calls for it. The match was great and the return was an emphatic exclamation mark on the show. While it's broadly trivial, WWE had to kick this out of the arena to mitigate some of the more negative headlines that have dominated this week. Remember that time Sasha Banks and Naomi let fans down by not delivering a promoted segment? New Intercontinental Champion Gunther cut a promo for Ricochet, calling him the epitome of all things wrong with America. They meet next Friday night in a rematch of last week's title match. "It's very similar to Rock Bottom when you smell what I'm cooking," McAfee said, continuing his brilliant night with the headset while alluding to speculation of a WrestleMania match between Reigns and Rock next year in Los Angeles . The fall from the RKO was a great false finish and one that both Riddle and Reigns should be proud of.

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Brock Lesnar returns after Roman defeated Reigns Riddle in the title match

Lesnar apparently still wants to return to Reigns after her WrestleMania fight (Author: Gardener)

Brock LesnarFriday night's edition of WWE SmackDown certainly drew unusual attention. When Vince McMahon resigned as CEO and Chairman of WWE following allegations of misconduct related to a sexual relationship with a female employee, WWE announced that McMahon would be performing live on the show. Add in a match between Roman Reigns and Riddle for Reigns' undisputed universal championship, and you had the recipe for a night that would have more viewers than normal tuning in. While McMahon's performance meant nothing but some ego-boosting, Reigns and Riddle put on a wonderful match before Reigns emerged victorious. Then Brock Lesnar returned and made it clear that he still had his sights set on Reigns after "The Tribal Chief" defeated Lesnar to unify WWE and the Universal Championships at WrestleMania. Undisputed Universal Championship – Roman Reigns (c) def. Puzzle via pinfall after a spear. After McMahon's opening segment (see below), Riddle came to the ring to show a video summarizing his troubles with Roman Reigns and The Bloodline. The match went down as the main event of the evening, with plenty of drama with both men showing signature moves. This included Riddle stepping out of a Superman punch and kicking Reigns out of an RKO delivered as a counter to Reigns' spear. Riddle went for another RKO, which was countered before Reigns delivered the javelin to retain his undisputed championship. After the match, Reigns announced that there was no one left to question his place atop the WWE mountain. Before he could leave the ring, Brock Lesnar's hit music and "The Beast" arrived. Lesnar offered to shake hands with Reigns before delivering the champ an F-5 and then making the same move on both Usos as the show went off the air. Unlike the McMahon segment, Reigns vs. Riddle really showed he can go move after move with the champion, and the match had the live audience biting at every pin attempt. However, Lesnar's return feels more like the same thing, as WWE struggles to really find footing for Reigns' titular reign, which dulls the moment a bit. McMahon took to the ring to open the show to his theme song, "No Chance in Hell," and drew a mostly positive response before using some cheap heat by praising Minneapolis to blow the crowd. McMahon then reiterated the WWE motto "then, now, forever" before saying the most important word is "together." After repeatedly triggering cheers for the brief promo, McMahon threw the mic and exited the ring while high-fiveing ​​fans on his way back to the entrance ramp. Every bit of that totally unnecessary opening segment felt like an excuse to let McMahon perform live and bask in the cheers of the fans as he faces allegations of misconduct for telling an employee he was having an affair with gave her a raise and then paid her millions of dollars to sign a non-disclosure agreement and walk away. McMahon temporarily stepped down as CEO and chairman earlier in the day, but this felt like an opportunity to step out and send a message that he was going nowhere and was still in control despite the news from earlier in the day. Happy Corbin via pinfall in a Last Laugh Match. After the match, Corbin interrupted the commentary booth and confronted Pat McAfee for making jokes about him. Corbin said if he didn't stop, he would throw McAfee in the ring and make him wish he were dead. McAfee then made the crowd "laugh Corbin from the arena." * Natalya edited a promo for Ronda Rousey, vowing to be the first woman to make Rousey tap when she challenges Rousey for the SmackDown Women's Championship on Money in the Bank. * The new tag def. Jinder Mahal & Shanky via pinfall when Kofi Kingston hit Mahal with Trouble in Paradise. * Adam Pearce announced that both Drew McIntyre and Sheamus would be in the Money in the Bank ladder match. McIntyre attacked Sheamus when Pearce announced he was in the match before finding out he would be included in the match as well. * Bank qualifier money - Raquel Rodriguez defeated.

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Vince McMahon enters 'Smackdown' phase after allegations of misconduct surfaced

Vince McMahon is in the midst of a corporate firestorm, but he still opened up the company's wrestling television show "Smackdown" on Friday. (Author: Gardener)

Vince McMahonA look back at Vince McMahon, who is stepping down as WWE CEO amid misconduct allegations A look back at Vince McMahon, who is stepping down as WWE CEO amid misconduct allegations TV show "Smackdown" on Friday. "It's a privilege, as always, to stand before you tonight," McMahon told the crowd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. "Welcome to Smackdown!" McMahon then exited the ring while his theme song "No Chance in Hell" played. According to a Wall Street Journal report, he was allegedly having an affair with a former employee. On Friday morning, the company announced that McMahon has agreed to step down from his role as chairman and CEO while the investigation continues. His daughter Stephanie McMahon will serve as interim CEO and chair, the company said in a statement on Friday. It prevented the paralegal "from discussing her relationship with or disparaging Mr. McMahon," according to the Journal. Vince McMahon resigns as WWE CEO following hush-money allegations "Other, older non-disclosure agreements unearthed involving claims by former female WWE employees of wrongdoing by Mr. McMahon," the Journal said. Further allegations of misconduct were reportedly identified against John Laurinaitis, the company's head of talent relations. "I have also pledged to accept the findings and findings of the investigation, whatever they may be." McMahon added in the statement that he loves to work collaboratively and "is committed to working with the independent directors to advance our culture." "It is extremely important to me that we have a safe and collaborative workplace," he said. "I have committed to doing everything in my power to help the Select Committee do its job, including the Working together across the organization to support the completion of the investigation and implement its findings." As evidenced by Friday's appearance on "Smackdown," McMahon has been an integral part of WWE for decades, both as an executive and as a wrestler himself. He made the company into a global media powerhouse that currently has major broadcast and streaming deals with Fox and NBCUniversal.

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