Lurid new allegations surface in WWE boss Vince McMahon’s sex abuse case

The Wall Street Journal has broken the story of a second stage of the sexual abuse/hush money scandal of Vince McMahon, the 78-year-old chief of WWE and its predecessor entities for the last 42 years.

In 2022 McMahon temporarily “retired” amid revelations that his publicly traded company paid out $14.6 million in hush money to employee victims of his serial abuse. But the character known on television as “Mr. McMahon” during the dominant professional wrestling entity’s game-changing late 1990s “Attitude Era” clawed his way back to power — seemingly sidelining his own daughter and the company CEO, Stephanie McMahon, in the process. (Stephanie is married to former wrestler and WWE executive Paul “Triple H” Levesque.)

McMahon then sold WWE to the Endeavor Group, which earlier had acquired the mixed martial arts group UFC. The combined company is now called TKO Group and is run by Ari Emanuel, brother of former Bill Clinton aide and former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel.

At the time two years ago, I shared with Salon readers the history of my own decades of reporting on WWE sex and drug scandals, which became the backbone of my 2007 book “Wrestling Babylon: Piledriving Tales of Drug, Sex, Death, and Scandal,” and my book “Chris & Nancy: The True Story of the Benoit Murder-Suicide and Pro Wrestling’s Cocktail of Death,” first published in 2009 (with two subsequent editions).

My 2022 article was particularly focused on McMahon’s long-time friendship and business relationship with Donald Trump, in keeping with the cultural-criticism cliché that the whole of American politics and public life has been “wrestling-ized.” One thing I neglected to mention in that article — you can’t think of everything on deadline! — was that Vince and his wife Linda McMahon (who poured $100 million into two failed U.S. Senate campaigns in Connecticut, and later served in the Trump administration) were the largest donors to the fraudulent Donald J. Trump Foundation, later shut down by New York Attorney General Letitia James. The McMahons’ beneficence was essentially a payout for Trump’s antics in support of a WWE shtick operation called “The Battle of the Billionaires,” which in 2007 gave WWE’s marquee annual event, WrestleMania, its largest-ever pay-per-view numbers to that point.

Vince McMahon’s circle of cronies also included Rudy Giuliani, who, as mayor of New York, officiated at the City Hall wedding of Marty Bergman and Laura Brevetti. Bergman, a dubious character who was the brother of famed journalist Lowell Bergman, was investigated but never charged for suborning the testimony of McMahon’s former secretary, Emily Feinberg, at McMahon’s 1994 trial on steroid-trafficking charges. Brevetti was McMahon’s lead defense attorney in that trial, and succeeded in securing a jury acquittal. (Marty Bergman died in 2008.)

The new legal case against McMahon, recorded in a 67-page civil lawsuit complaint filed Thursday, goes far beyond the mere outline of the 2022 disclosures. The plaintiff, former WWE employee Janel Grant, says she was among the recipients of McMahon’s hush money — though she adds that she initially agreed to a payment of $3 million, accompanied by a nondisclosure agreement, but only received a first installment of $1 million. Grant is asking for the NDA to be voided, plus additional damages.

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The narrative of the complaint, rendered in a lurid novelistic style and including lightly redacted text messages purportedly written by McMahon, takes the depravity of the story to new depths. In one anecdote, McMahon defecated during a threesome, and Grant’s hair was allegedly smeared with excrement.

Also named as defendants, along with McMahon, are the company and its former executive John Laurinaitis (brother of the late Road Warriors tag team member Joe “Animal” Laurinaitis). Another shocking allegation in the new lawsuit is that McMahon set up Grant for sex with an unidentified “WWE Superstar” as an inducement while that wrestler was being recruited for a new WWE contract after an interval fighting in UFC. In the wrestling “dirt sheet” world, analysts who have studied the timing of that episode and the profile of the fighter speculate that it may have been Brock Lesnar.

With Vince McMahon, as with his buddy and former collaborator Donald Trump, there’s no business like show business.

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from Irvin Muchnick on the dark side of sports


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