Secret Power Players Pulling Strings In Wrestling Today

Who's really in charge today - and who might be in charge tomorrow?

THAT Bryan Danielson shot

For years, decades, in the United States at least, it was just Vince McMahon. He controlled everything. Nobody else mattered. 

If you liked Daniel Bryan, you were incorrect. The Big Show had more perfect girth, so he could do the silly Yes! chant in his place. If you wanted John Cena to turn heel, tough t*tties. Cena moved merchandise. Cena was the silly, gurning, wildly unfunny face of the company who nonetheless lent it a respectable veneer after the media scorched it, rightfully so but not hard enough, throughout the 2000s. You didn’t matter. The heir to the throne didn’t matter, either. 

Into the 2010s, Paul Levesque rebooted the NXT brand to much critical acclaim. He created a tradition that was less than ideal; around five times a year, his TakeOver shows gave WWE main roster PPVs a complete drubbing. Levesque built a future of which Vince seemed legitimately unaware. The business succession plan felt broken at the time, but in reality, it didn’t ever exist. Vince didn’t acknowledge NXT, hence the stream of awful call-ups, because in his mind, he’d die in that chair in gorilla. 

He suffered a worse and richly deserved fate. Levesque is the man who pulls the strings now. 

Or does he…?

7. Ari Emmanuel

THAT Bryan Danielson shot

Ari Emanuel is the CEO of Endeavor. He controls WWE. He is definitially not a “secret power player”, but he might as well be. A lot of people don’t grasp how little, ultimately, a certain someone matters in relation to him. The extent to which Ari could wield his power is a fascinating thing to consider. 

Ari Emanuel, and nobody really knows this for sure, might get along with Paul Levesque, who for now oversees WWE creative. They might have struck up quite the rapport over the last year or so. 

This won’t matter; Ari has no sentimental reason to stay with Levesque when a wrestling company does what literally every wrestling company has done since the dawn of time: enter a period of decline or outright turmoil. Dana White has post-takeover persevered and thrived as CEO and President of UFC, granted, but WWE is a different entity entirely. Again: every wrestling promotion that has ever existed has suffered a fate Endeavor won’t tolerate for long. 

WWE is at long last a results business; it doesn’t feel that way for now because WWE is achieving those results. 

Paul Levesque, and this is heavily ironic, given where he was when CM Punk cut his infamous ‘Pipebomb’ promo, is no longer the heir apparent. It no longer matters how many years he spent working towards taking over a glorified mom n’ pop operation. It’s no longer his to take over. 

In 2024, as part of TKO, Paul Levesque is a spoke in the wheel. 

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Michael Sidgwick is an editor, writer and podcaster for WhatCulture Wrestling. With over seven years of experience in wrestling analysis, Michael was published in the influential institution that was Power Slam magazine, and specialises in providing insights into All Elite Wrestling - so much so that he wrote a book about the subject. You can order Becoming All Elite: The Rise Of AEW on Amazon. Possessing a deep knowledge also of WWE, WCW, ECW and New Japan Pro Wrestling, Michael’s work has been publicly praised by former AEW World Champions Kenny Omega and MJF, and current Undisputed WWE Champion Cody Rhodes. When he isn’t putting your finger on why things are the way they are in the endlessly fascinating world of professional wrestling, Michael wraps his own around a hand grinder to explore the world of specialty coffee. Follow Michael on X (formerly known as Twitter) @MSidgwick for more!