wwe Vince McMahon, Paul "Triple H" Levesque, Lee Fitting, Kevin Dunn. Vince McMahon, Paul “Triple H” Levesque, Lee Fitting, Kevin Dunn.

If there was a moment that encapsulated the primary message of WWE’s WrestleMania XL weekend, it came at the start of Night 2 on Sunday.

Rather than kicking off the show with a match, Stephanie McMahon — who as far as we know isn’t currently employed by the company in an official capacity — made her way to the ring and issued a not so subtle statement on the significance of the event.

“When I was about eight years old, I sat out at the entranceway at WrestleMania 1 and I have had the honor and the privilege of being at or a part of every single Wrestlemania since.” McMahon said. “And every WrestleMania is special for its own reason. But I think WrestleMania 40 might be the one that I am the most proud of, because this is the first WrestleMania of the Paul Levesque era.

“Tonight we have people from 64 countries in all 50 states. All of us coming together from different backgrounds, different beliefs to share this one thing that we love that brings us all together. And nobody understands that better than Triple H.”

It certainly wasn’t difficult to read between the lines.

Here was Stephanie McMahon — the daughter of WWE founder and former chairman Vince McMahon — stating that this was the WrestleMania she was most proud of, in part, because it was the first one her father wasn’t in charge of. Sure Paul “Triple H” Levesque is Stephanie’s husband. But if there was one central message of WrestleMania XL weekend it was that the old king is dead — and he’s not coming back. All hail the new king — the “King of Kings” — Triple H.

Considering the allegations of sexual misconduct, including assault and trafficking, against Vince McMahon, it goes without saying that WWE is better off without its former chairman, regardless of what it means for the quality of the on-screen product. The heinous allegations against the 78-year-old aren’t just the subject of a lawsuit filed by a former employee, but also a federal investigation.

But while McMahon’s legal issues remain in progress, at this point, what we can definitively about his ouster from the company he built into a global giant is that it was, in fact, best for business.

WrestleMania XL shattered records. It was critically praised (a rarity for WWE shows in recent years). And while WWE was already plenty big when Vince was in charge, it would be impossible to argue that it isn’t even better with Levesque — and not McMahon — in charge of the company’s creative.

The same could be said with ex-ESPN executive Lee Fitting taking over the show’s production from Kevin Dunn following the former executive producer’s retirement earlier this year.

For years, fans complained about the stale — and sometimes nonsensical — nature of WWE’s production under Dunn’s direction. And in just a few weeks, Fitting has validated those criticisms with a more sports-like presentation that has been well received and, according to Levesque, is still in its early stages.

“[He] is new here, but has just been, no pun intended, a game changer. Lee Fitting,” Levesque said in a his post-show press conference following Night 1. “From a production standpoint, from a what we’re doing, from the look, the feel. All of it. You see changes happening every week on TV, and there is going to be more of them. But you see them. And I see people excited by them, just loving the changes that are made. But I’m telling you there is so much more to come.”

The feel-good nature of the WrestleMania weekend extended into Monday’s episode of WWE Raw, traditionally one of the most anticipated shows each year. It was just a year ago that the post-WrestleMania episode of Raw was considered a massive disappointment, with McMahon reportedly filling the show with late edits to the script.

“Numerous WWE talent were disappointed as they feel this weekend was a way for Vince McMahon to wedge himself back into the fold,” Fightful’s Sean Ross Sapp reported at the time, referencing McMahon’s power play to return to the company after his initial departure in 2022.

One year later, McMahon’s only apparent presence at WrestleMania was that each night of the four-day event included heavy handed references to this now being Levesque’s era — to the point that by Monday, it felt like they were beating the audience over the head with one of Triple H’s sledgehammers.

But even without the proclamations, between the coherent creative and improved production, the message would have been clear.

This is, in fact, a new era for WWE. And it’s for the better, in more ways than one.


About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.