A lot of eyes are on tonight’s episode of “WWE Smackdown,” now that news has broken that Vince McMahon will appear in character amidst a reported investigation by the WWE board of directors into hush-money payments made to former female employees who alleged misconduct against McMahon and WWE Head of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis.

News recently broke that Laurinaitis’s position in the company was shaky at the moment, and a new backstage report from PWInsider states that Laurinaitis is not backstage at tonight’s “WWE Smackdown.” An initial report from Fightful suggested that Laurinaitis was possibly going to be McMahon’s “latest scapegoat,” and news of Laurinaitis being absent from tonight’s program comes while the central figure in the investigation is literally running the show. McMahon was noted to be in a “great mood” backstage and is joking around despite the weight of the investigation.

An earlier report noted that one source from within the company would be happy if Laurinaitis were to be let go over the situation, but also noted that it was possible Laurinaitis could return to the company. Laurinaitis returned to the WWE Head of Talent Relations position in 2021, after initially holding the position from 2004 – 2012.

Laurinaitis’s name came up when a $3 million cash settlement between Vince McMahon and a former WWE paralegal was brought to the attention of the WWE board of directors. Investigating that settlement led to the discovery of a number of other settlements between McMahon and former female employees alleging misconduct. McMahon stepped down from his role as WWE Chairman & CEO, with his daughter Stephanie assuming corporate duties, while Vince still oversees creative decisions for the company. There has been no word on Laurinaitis’s role in the company in the wake of the investigation.

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