Vince McMahon delivers cryptic statement live on Smackdown after stepping down as CEO amid $3m hush money claims | The Sun

VINCE McMAHON delivered a defiant message in his character as WWE boss live on Smackdown on Friday night amid an investigation.

McMahon earlier stepped down from his role after an investigation was launched over claims he paid an ex-employee $3million to stay quiet about an affair.

And he appeared live on Smackdown at the start of Friday night's show in Minneapolis.

McMahon entered the ring in his usual character, with his trademark walk and famous music.

He didn't directly address the ongoing probe, and instead delivered a short and sweet statement.

McMahon climbed into the ring and said: "It is a privilege as always to stand before you tonight – the WWE universe.

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"It's especially a privilege to stand here in this ring in Minnesota.

"I'm here simply to remind you of the four words we saw, the WWE signature – then, now, forever, together. "

The WWE boss then left the ring and made his way backstage having delivered the defiant message.

The McMahon probe began in April 2022, finding non-disclosure agreements involving claims made by former female WWE employees of misconduct by McMahon and John Laurinaitis, the head of talent relations.

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The WWE put out a statement on Friday morning confirming McMahon has "voluntarily stepped back from his responsibilities" with the company.

His daughter and the wife of wrestling legend Triple H, Stephanie, will take over as interim CEO and chairwoman.

The 45-year-old tweeted: "Until the conclusion of the investigation into recent allegations, I am honored to assume the role of interim Chairwoman & CEO. I love WWE and all it continues to do to entertain billions around the world."

Meanwhile, the company statement read: "WWE (NYSE: WWE) and the Board of Directors today announced that a Special Committee of the Board is conducting an investigation into alleged misconduct by its Chairman and CEO Vincent McMahon and John Laurinaitis, head of talent relations.

"And that, effective immediately, McMahon has voluntarily stepped back from his responsibilities as CEO and Chairman of the Board until the conclusion of the investigation.

"McMahon will retain his role and responsibilities related to WWE’s creative content during this period and remains committed to cooperating with the review underway."

WWE chief McMahon added: "I have pledged my complete cooperation to the investigation by the Special Committee, and I will do everything possible to support the investigation.

"I have also pledged to accept the findings and outcome of the investigation, whatever they are.

“I love this company and am committed to working with the Independent Directors to strengthen our culture and our Company; it is extremely important to me that we have a safe and collaborative workplace.

"I have committed to doing everything in my power to help the Special Committee complete its work, including marshalling the cooperation of the entire company to assist in the completion of the investigation and to implement its findings."

New York-based law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP has been retained by the board's eight independent directors to conduct the investigation, said people familiar with the board inquiry.

Preliminary findings revealed that McMahon allegedly used personal funds to pay the former female employees who signed the agreements, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Emails from someone claiming to be a friend of the woman who had the alleged relationship with McMahon were found by the WWE board.

The emails claimed that the employee was hired by the company as a paralegal in 2019 with a salary of $100,000 before it was bumped up to $200,000 after she and McMahon had allegedly begun their sexual relationship.

It was also claimed that McMahon "gave her like a toy" to Laurinaitis, 59.

In 2021, the former employee became an assistant to Laurinaitis after moving from the legal department before she left the company.

"My friend was so scared she quit after Vince McMahon and lawyer Jerry paid her millions of dollars to shut up," wrote the person who sent the initial email.

The email appears to be referring to McMahon's attorney, Jerry McDevitt, who wrote to the Wall Street Journal that the paralegal hadn't made any claims of harassment against McMahon and that "WWE did not pay any monies" to the former employee "on her departure."

McMahon has been married to Linda McMahon since 1966 with whom he shares two children, Shane and Stephanie.

Linda served as the administrator of the Small Business Administration under former President Donald Trump.

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McMahon bought Capitol Wrestling Corporation, the holding company that owned the then-World Wrestling Federation from his father, Vincent J McMahon, in 1982.

McMahon expanded the company during the pro-wrestling boom in the 1980s and over the years, WWE has cited McMahon as the key to the company's success.

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