EDITORIAL: Levesque should’ve been better prepared and more forthright in responding to media questions about McMahon resignation

By Zach Barber, PWTorch contributor


When Paul “Triple H” Levesque walked into the post-Royal Rumble press conference, he had to know what he was walking into. Only 24 hours prior, his father-in-law Vince McMahon resigned from all roles in WWE and its parent company TKO in absolute disgrace.

McMahon was accused in a lawsuit of heinous and vile crimes ranging including sexual assault to sex trafficking. The victim, Janel Grant, loaded the suit with receipts in the form of text messages containing some of the most vile and repulsive language imaginable. Levesque knew he was going to be asked about this, but instead of coming prepared with a legal statement or coming prepared seemingly at all, he appeared to wing it, providing wholly insufficient answers when asked and overall presenting the wrong tone at the wrong time.

Levesque began his portion of the presser by waxing poetic about what a great night it was, what a roll the company’s been on, and how this feels like the launching of a new era. He touted the returns of Naomi and Andrade, TNA loaning Jordynne Grace to WWE for the night, and Cody Rhodes and C.M. Punk. This lasted for ten minutes and not once did he mention the most serious and important topic people were inevitably going to ask about. This would’ve been the perfect opportunity for a prepared statement of some kind, an acknowledgement of the severity of what was detailed in the lawsuit. Doing that would’ve set the proper tone of seriousness. Instead, he choice to ramble on, perhaps trying to delay what he had to know was headed his way.

When he finally opened the floor for questions, he was asked was about the Netflix deal. He gave his response and concluded with, “It’s been an incredible, incredible week.” That was tone deaf, at best. The second question, asked by Jon Alba, probed Levesque on why he opposed Vince McMahon returning last year and what he knew about what Vince was up to. This is where things went off the rails.

Levesque’s answer wasn’t just obfuscation, it was cavalier. He brought up the Netflix deal, The Rock joining the TKO board, and the Rumble selling out and said “I choose to focus on the positives.” He may want to do that, but that’s not reality. Talking about Netflix or The Rock doesn’t change the fact that a woman asserted that she was sexually assaulted in a boardroom at Titan Tower by the CEO and another high ranking executive. “I choose to focus on the positives” is such an inappropriate answer in this situation.

Somehow though, it only got worse.

Cameron Hawkins of The Ringer followed up Alba’s question by asking what was being done to keep people safe from people in positions of power taking advantage of them. Levesque momentarily froze, seemingly stunned that another question about this most pressing issue at hand been asked, before offering the most boilerplate answer of “everything possible.” The next question is where Levesque lost all credibility.

Brandon Thurston of Wrestlenomics asked Levesque point blank if he read the complaint and what his reaction was to it. This was the easiest question to answer. All it required was a little bit of humanity, a little empathy. What we got instead was of both questionable veracity and logic.

Levesque responded that he hadn’t read the complaint and found out in real time like the rest of us. Because that wasn’t a sufficiently questionable answer, he then added that he didn’t want to get “bogged down in the negatives.”

Are we really supposed to believe that in the two days since both the Wall Street Journal article and the lawsuit itself dropped, that he hasn’t read it? That sounds farfetched, at best. If it is true, then he’s just continuing the problematic culture of turning a blind eye. To say he didn’t want to get “bogged down in the negatives” was beyond the pale though.

For the first WWE executive in front of a microphone to label the horror Janel Grant went through at the hands of Vince McMahon as simply “the negatives” is deeply insensitive and offensive to her and any other victims out there.

Janel Grant was subjected to years of abuse, abuse the company materially profited from in the form of Brock Lesnar who was wisely kept off the show, and all she got was being referred to as “the negatives”?

Look, I realize that Paul Levesque was in a difficult, probably no-win situation. There were no perfect answers to give. That does not excuse these bad answers, though. Hiding behind legal statements would be one thing. Demeaning a woman’s pain and suffering by reducing it to an inconvenience when you’d rather discuss your latest nine-figure deal or your onscreen storylines is something else entirely.

Paul Levesque had a choice when he walked into the room and he made the wrong choice. In his ill-advised attempt to focus on the TV product, he further overshadowed it and brought into sharper focus the corporate culture Janel Grant called out in her lawsuit.

(Zach Barber is a PWTorch contributor who writes the weekly AEW Feud Tracker column.)

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