Netflix's loss is HBO Max's gain, or at least that's what it looks like on paper. Remember when news broke that Netflix canceled a big Vince McMahon documentary? Well, it looks like HBO's picking up the ball and running with it — in a different direction.
This all started when the Wall Street Journal (opens in new tab) broke news that the then-WWE CEO had paid $3 million in hush money to hide an alleged affair with a former employee. Following that, McMahon stepped down from his position as CEO, with his daughter Stephanie McMahon replacing him. A WWE press release announced that a "Special Committee of the Board is conducting an investigation into alleged misconduct."
In a statement, McMahon said "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."
Then a second WSJ (opens in new tab) report broke news of $12 million in payouts to four women over 16 years. These included "a 7.5 million pact with a former wrestler who alleged that Mr. McMahon coerced her" into sexual acts.
One woman, a WWE contractor (it should be noted the company designates its wrestlers as 'independent contractors') alleged he sexually harassed her on the job, and had been sent unsolicited nude photos of McMahon. McMahon is still operating as the head of WWE's creative division that creates plots for its programming, and has appeared on-camera portraying confidence to the audience at WWE's Raw and Smackdown shows.
This all adds up to the material for one heck of a potential true crime documentary, and so we're not surprised that HBO Max may be getting such a project. According to PWInsider (opens in new tab)'s Mike Johnson, "HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel has been prepping a potential story on the McMahon allegations. They have been attempting to reach out to former female employees of the company."
This isn't the first time Real Sports has turned its cameras to WWE, as a previous episode saw McMahon interviewed over the deaths in his industry, and slapped papers in reporter Armen Keteyian's hands (opens in new tab). Recent editions of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel run around an hour long.
Analysis: Seems like a different Netflix documentary could still happen
While Netflix's current project — which was reportedly in post production — was done in cooperation with WWE, there's no reason to believe the company will not consider any films about the CEO's current controversies. It could even finish and air the project it was working on, but that feels like something that would take ages for them to be comfortable releasing.
At this stage, it feels like Vince McMahon documentaries could be available on all of the major streaming services, much like how Hulu and Netflix each had their own documentary about Fyre Fest.
This seems even more obvious as Joe Palazzolo and Ted Mann, the reporters that broke the story, teased that more news is coming. Talking on the Busted Open Radio (opens in new tab) show, Palazzolo said "I think it’s probably not done yet ... And we're continuing to report."
One tragedy that could be investigated in these documentaries is that of former WWE wrestler Ashley Massaro's death (opens in new tab). After Massaro left the WWE, she testified under oath that she was sexually assaulted during her time at the company, and encouraged to not go public. Massaro was found dead in an apparent suicide in may 2019.