Vince McMahon is in the midst of a business storm, but he still opened the company’s wrestling broadcast “Smackdown” on Friday.
“Mr. McMahon,” the executive’s in-ring persona, kept it short.
“It’s a privilege, as always, to be here before you tonight,” McMahon told the crowd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
McMahon told the audience he was there simply to remind the crowd of the four words that make up the “WWE signature.”
“Those four words are ‘then’, ‘now’, ‘forever’ and the most important word is ‘together,'” he said. “Welcome to Smackdown!”
McMahon then left the ring while his theme song, “No Chance in Hell”, was played.
The wrestling company’s head is under investigation by the company’s board for agreeing to pay a $3 million secret settlement to a former employee with whom he was allegedly having an affair, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
On Friday morning, the company announced that McMahon has agreed to relinquish his role as chairman and CEO while the investigation continues.
His daughter Stephanie McMahon will become interim CEO and chairman, the company said in a statement.
As for McMahon’s in-ring persona, he’s not going anywhere for a while. McMahon will retain his role in relation to WWE’s creative content and will appear as his character in matches as the investigation unfolds.
The divorce deal was reportedly made in January between McMahon and the former unnamed employee. It prevented the employee, who had been hired as a legal assistant, “from discussing her relationship with Mr. McMahon or belittling him,” according to the Journal.
The investigation, which began in April, has “uncovered other, older nondisclosure agreements involving former WWE female employees’ claims of misconduct by Mr. McMahon,” according to the Journal. Other misconduct claims were reportedly found against John Laurinaitis, the company’s head of talent relations.
“I have pledged my full cooperation to the Special Committee’s investigation and I will do everything possible to support the investigation,” McMahon said in a statement Friday. “I also pledged to accept the findings and outcome of the investigation, whatever they may be.”
McMahon added in the statement that he loves the WWE and is “committed to working with the independent directors to strengthen our culture.”
“I think it’s extremely important that we have a safe and collaborative workplace,” he said. “I have pledged to do everything in my power to help the special committee complete its work, including the cooperation of the entire company to assist in the completion of the investigation and carrying out the findings.”
As Friday’s appearance in “Smackdown” shows, McMahon has been an integral part of the WWE for decades, both as a manager and as a wrestler.
He turned the company into a global media powerhouse, which currently has major broadcasting and streaming agreements with Fox and NBCUniversal. McMahon has also helped create many famous wrestlers, including The Rock, John Cena, and Stone Cold Steve Austin, all of whom have transitioned into pop culture.
— Jordan Valinsky of CNN Business contributed to this report.