PWInsider - WWE News, Wrestling News, WWE



By Mike Johnson on 2023-12-30 21:14:00

Kevin Dunn, one of the most influential executives in WWE history, is leaving the company, has exclusively learned.  

Dunn, who held the post of Executive Producer & Chief, Global Television Distribution, informed WWE around Christmas week he was exiting after more than three decades with the company.   We are told that a big factor in his decision to retire is changes made internally post-Endeavor acquisition and as one source stated, that Dunn was "never going to do anything that was dictacted" to him, as opposed to how he personally oversaw production in the past.  We are told this was not an issue of creative but two differing versions of how things should be run from a TV production perspective as WWE's new owner seeks to cut costs.

While there had been rumors of his departure a number of times in recent years, the company at no point ever asked Dunn to leave.  In fact, Dunn had been asked to stay on by the WWE Board of Directors when Vince McMahon initially retired in July 2022.

All that said, Dunn’s exit is not so much shocking as it’s oft-been whispered over the years that he never intended to work for anyone other than Vince McMahon in WWE and McMahon’s power has greatly waned since the company was acquired by Endeavor as part of TKO Group Holdings.  Still, his depaRture has massive ramifications as Dunn, more than anyone not named McMahon or Levesque, was very much responsible for the vibe, feel and production of the WWE product over the last several decades.

From 1993 on, when the Monday Night Raw era began on the USA Network, Dunn was named Executive Producer of all WWE programming, overseeing the style of WWE production that has been the hallmark of what the casual fan believes professional wrestling should look and feel like.  To the average person flipping through the channels, WWE and pro wrestling as a genre are one in the same and there has not been one WWE broadcast or documentary that didn’t pass through Dunn’s hands for approval.

For many live broadcasts, Dunn has remained the official Director for those shows, but more importantly, he was also the Line Producer of record for every WWE broadcast from 1993 on.  In the entertainment world, the line producer is usually the most important internal component of any production, the person responsible for breaking down the budgeting of a show, hiring the crew and production, overseeing the filming to make sure it is kept fiscally responsible, etc.    It would be his job to make sure that the company properly spends its capital for production and does so to the best of its ability in order to make the best show possible.    They are the person who prevents the fires via planning and when an emergency happens, it’s on them to take care of it and keep the show rolling, no matter what.  It’s the most stressful and most important job in any film, TV, concert or theater production - and for decades, that was Dunn in WWE.

Dunn’s DNA is very much embedded in WWE programming for a number of reasons, the least of which is that his father, Dennis Dunn was involved with WWF programming all the way back in the early 1970s after being tapped by Vincent J. McMahon to handle syndication and program production out of Baltimore.  In a legendary story that bonded the families seemingly forever, Dennis Dunn was transporting WWWF TV Taping masters following tapings in Pennsylvania when his car had issues, leading to it going on fire.  Dunn snatched the masters out of the car, rescuing them and the promotion from destruction.  From that point on, it was considered internally that the Dunn family had a job for life if they wanted it.

Kevin Dunn was a strong proponent of the perspective that WWE was not professional wrestling or a sport, but a theatrical show that was unique and different from everything else out there.  This would certainly lead to those who were wrestling purists, such as a Jim Cornette, calling Dunn and his POV into question, but the reality is that he was always Vince McMahon’s number two in the company, more than any other writer or booker or producer, and Dunn was always going to be who McMahon leaned on and trusted, so his power never dissipated at any point over the years.  

Dunn was very much a gatekeeper for the company, and was extremely protective of Vince McMahon and the company’s IP.  He worried about what was best for the company and if a talent was leaving, Dunn was the first to make sure the company’s best interests were put well ahead of them.  Bryan Danielson has noted one of the reasons he doesn’t do the “Yes” chants in AEW is out of respect to a conversation Dunn had with him about WWE’s IP.

There will undoubtedly be those who celebrate Dunn’s exit as he represents what WWE “was” to those who hated that version of professional wrestling, even though “that” version is, for better or worse, the version that has stood the test of time.  

There are some who felt Dunn was rash and rude at times, but in the post-Vince McMahon exit (before his return and the sale to Endeavor), Dunn’s rep softened among some in the production circles, feeling it was a sign that as hard as Dunn was on them, it was probably a reflection on how hard McMahon was on Dunn privately.

Kevin Dunn first learned the television production world from his father and came on board with the WWF officially in 1984, a year before the first Wrestlemania was held at Madison Square Garden.  Initially hired as Associate Producer for all WWF programming.  He was involved in the planning and production of the original Wrestlemania in ‘85 and was there for the WWF leap to pay-per-view, a move that helped set ripple effects across the entire broadcast industry.  Dunn was the Line Producer for Wrestlemania III in 1987, the event that legitimized WWF forever.  By 1991, he was the Supervising Producer for all WWF programming. 

Dunn was the person with his hands in the mix for every major WWF/WWE television project you can think of - Saturday Night’s Main Event, Tough Enough, Friday Night Smackdown, Total Divas, the WWE Network, the WBF, the original XFL and countless other WWF/WWE television projects, great and small.  He would be the one person threadline through which they all ran, good and bad alike.  The vision of WWE programming we all became accustomed to was Kevin Dunn’s.

If there’s anyone who has logged as many or more miles working for WWE not named McMahon, I can’t imagine it’s anyone but Kevin Dunn.  Over the course of the last three decades-plus, Dunn helped oversee and steer a promotion that went from a fledgling national company to an international powerhouse, building a massive production team that is arguably the best in the world at producing live spectacles and television events.  All of that came with a lot of support obviously, but it was Dunn’s vision that put it all together.

Dunn was the top of the pyramid for many aspects of what WWE fans watch weekly, and when he’s officially gone, it’s not an understatement to say that a new generation of WWE will be upon the industry.  

The real question is who, if any one person, will replace him, especially since the person so many believed would be that person - Michael Mansury, left WWE years ago and now holds a similar position in AEW.  We are told that if anything, it would likely be a mix of people sharing the responsibilities that Dunn once shouldered himself.  Of late, we are told that Dunn has stepped back a bit and was allowing others to spread their wings and handle more responsibilities in the Endeavor era, so that may have been in advance of Dunn knowing he was planning to exit.

Of course, this leaves us all with a very interesting question - what will WWE production look like post-Kevin Dunn?  Will it veer back into a sports-oriented style under Paul Levesque?  That will soon be answered, but no matter what direction production takes in the future, the roots of it all come from Kevin Dunn - and we’ll have to see what his post-WWE future holds as well.

If you enjoy you can check out the AD-FREE PWInsider Elite section, which features exclusive audio updates, news, our critically acclaimed podcasts, interviews and more by clicking here!