How will Netflix’s $5 Billion deal with the WWE affect its documentary on Vince McMahon in light of recent allegations?

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Today we are going to look at the story behind the making of Netflix’s documentary on Vince McMahon. We will also look at the serious allegations regarding McMahon and the WWE. As well as what the project and Netflix should do to address concerns. Content warning for mentions of sexual assault and trafficking.

The Project and McMahon’s History

The McMahon documentary series, centred around the life of the titular wrestling CEO/performer, was originally announced in 2020. According to WWE President Nick Khan, the project was going to be one of the highest-budget docuseries Netflix had produced. Then in 2022 reports began saying that the series release was possibly cancelled. Netflix supposedly pulling the title from their programming spreadsheet.

Around this time, McMahon had serious allegations made against him. McMahon already had ire surrounding him due to continuing to work WWE performers through the pandemic. Despite several wrestlers having tested positive for COVID-19. Then it was revealed he was being internally investigated regarding allegedly paying hush money to former employees and contractors. He temporarily stepped away from the WWE while the internal investigation was ongoing. He returned to the company in early 2023.

Later that year the documentary was revealed to still be in production. With some news outlets speculating on whether the project would become a film rather an a series. The project was expected to be released in 2024. But earlier this year Janel Grant came forward with a lawsuit against McMahon which accused him of sexual assault and trafficking. She is part of a group of five women cooperating with a federal investigation into McMahon. McMahon has now stepped down from his post.

Netflix Controversy

Producer Bill Simmons has stated that McMahon has no say over the final piece. So he will at least not be able to dictate how his image is used in the documentary. But as contributor Dave Meltzer said, “This changes the whole doc 100%…I don’t know how it can possibly be out very, very soon now”. As the documentary was said to be out soon will Netflix (who has final cut) be able to give time to these serious claims in a respectful manner?

In addition to the important choices facing Netflix over the documentary, Netflix has now signed a deal to become the new home of the WWE’s weekly RAW programme in 2025. And given that the brand is firmly associated with McMahon and that the WWE is implicated in the abuse it seems like a terrible idea to provide a platform to the company. Especially during a serious ongoing investigation.

What Should Happen?

So what is Netflix going to do? If they release the McMahon documentary without giving time to incorporate what has happened recently then they may look like they are trying to avoid a serious topic relating to their subject. If Netflix doesn’t release it but still hosts WWE programming, they may appear to be protecting a profitable brand. One that potentially hurt many workers. 

That said if the documentary is given enough time to update itself will Netflix allow a revealing documentary to be hosted alongside their WWE shows? As the documentary will continually remind audiences of the reported abuse perpetrated by the company’s former CEO and which is reportedly widespread at the company itself. Netflix is a company first and foremost, it’s hard to believe they would be willing to host both. As it would understandably result in audiences questioning Netflix’s decision to partner with WWE and potentially a loss in viewers.

If there is a way out of this it would be for the documentary to give time to cover recent events delicately. To ensure the people seeking justice have their chance to be heard. Or the documentary should pause until the case is resolved. Also, Netflix should cut ties with the WWE until all investigations are concluded. Only resuming if the company demonstrates itself to be a safe place. If they can’t do that then it shows that Netflix is not worthy of industry and audience trust and that the entertainment industry truly learned nothing from the #MeToo movement.

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Posted by
Josh Greally

Writer and filmmaker. I have a masters in directing film and television and have written film reviews for several smaller sites in the past. Films are my life, but I also enjoy writing, reading, listening to music and debating.