Editor’s note: This post contain extremely sexually explicit details from the lawsuit against WWE founder Vince McMahon.
UPDATED, 1:51 PM: Following a harrowing sexual assault and sex-trafficking lawsuit filed Thursday against Vince McMahon and World Wrestling Entertainment by a former WWE staff member, the wrestling mogul and current WWE owners TKO Group Holdings have broken their silence on the grisly claims.
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“This lawsuit is replete with lies, obscene made-up instances that never occurred, and a vindictive distortion of the truth,” a spokesman for McMahon said today. “He will vigorously defend himself.”
“Mr. McMahon does not control TKO nor does he oversee the day-to-day operations of WWE,” a TKO spokesperson told Deadline this afternoon regarding the company’s Executive Chairman. “While this matter pre-dates our TKO executive team’s tenure at the company, we take Ms. Grant’s horrific allegations very seriously and are addressing this matter internally.”
The statement makes no mention of whether McMahon will retain his role at TKO. A merger of WWE and UFC, TKO is controlled by Endeavor, with Ari Emanuel as CEO and Mark Shapiro the president of the combined organization.
PREVIOUSLY, 11:14 AM: In an explicit and disturbing filing in federal court Thursday, a former WWE staffer is suing co-founder Vince McMahon for rape, sex trafficking and battery. Janel Grant is also taking World Wrestling Entertainment itself to task for negligence and suing former WWE Head of Talent Relations and General Manager John Laurinaitis for sexual assault and more.
With a document full of alleged vile behavior and violence on the part of the already much-accused McMahon and others at WWE, Grant details a relationship full of cringey sexual innuendo from the first time the then unemployed and family loss grieving woman met now-TKO Group Holdings boss McMahon in March 2019. According to the lawsuit, that relationship soon turned overtly vehemently sexual as a clear condition of her employment and soon after that turned vicious and ugly — very ugly.
There’s also a corporate history here for McMahon and TKO Group Holdings owners Endeavor.
Pushed out by the then-board as WWE president and CEO in 2022 amid sexual abuse and harassment allegations in an ensuing investigation, McMahon returned with a newly installed board last year and soon afterwards unveiled a self-described “strategic review process (i.e., a sale of the Company).” In September of last year, WWE merged with the Endeavor-owned UFC to form TKO Group Holdings. McMahon is the Executive Chairman of the new-ish sports powerhouse, with Ari Emanuel as CEO and Mark Shapiro the TKO president.
On January 23, Netflix revealed a 10-year $5 billion deal with TKO for the streamer to become the new home for WWE‘s Monday Night Raw, as well as other programs from the company. Shaking up linear and streaming platforms, the big move into the ring and live sports for the Ted Sarandos co-CEO’d company came one day before Netflix’s latest earnings report – which saw big subscriber boosts and subsequent big stock surges.
Neither Endeavor nor Netflix responded to request for comment on the McMahon and WWE lawsuit filed in federal court in Connecticut. If and when they do, we will update this post. While the pugilistic Emanuel has been quick to rightfully condemn the egregious transgressions of the likes of Mel Gibson and Kanye West in the past, the silence so far from Endeavor is similar to what we heard or rather didn’t hear in early 2022 when footage of UFC boss Dana White hitting his wife on NYE came out. White remains UFC president, and sits beneath McMahon and Emanuel in the present TKO pecking order.
When the multi-billion deal to take over WWE and merge it with UFC came together last spring and Endeavor snagged a 51% share in TKO, White put out a statement saying: “Vince [McMahon] is a savage in the wrestling space, Ari [Emmanuel] is a beast at what he does, and then add what we at UFC bring to the table and there is no limit to what this company can accomplish in the next few years.”
The suit notes the sharing of naked images of Grant with other senior WWE staffers, forcing Grant into group sex situations, aggressive physical situations with degrading language like “b*tch” used over and over, some encounters saw the use of “sex toys” that resulted in “physical injuries” and some crossing of state lines — hence the trafficking claim.
As well as being told to repeatedly have violent sex with Laurinaitis, an unnamed “WWE Superstar,” which never turned physical, and others, Grant eventually was made to leave WWE in 2022 and sign an NDA, as spouse and ex-Trump administration official Linda McMahon supposedly had found out about her. In what today’s filing calls a move to “sweep the matter under the rug,” McMahon was to pay Grant $3 million under the agreement. While itemizing the various gifts McMahon gave her between 2019 and 2022, Grant’s filing says she only received $1 million in promised payments and any WWE investigation was a “sham.”
In that context, one revolting alleged group sex incident both stands out and personifies the overall tone and tenor of Grant’s filing.
“Early in the encounter, McMahon immediately directed Ms. Grant to lay down on her back in a supplicating position,” the lawsuit states, “While straddling over her, McMahon defecated on Ms. Grant’s head. McMahon left to shower off, but he instructed Ms. Grant to remain in place, with excrement in her hair, and to continue performing for his friend. While Ms. Grant requested protection, none was offered. McMahon and Physical Therapist actively continued with the threesome and directed Ms. Grant’s sexual performance for around an hour and a half while she was left covered in feces.”
Horrible to say, there is a lot of this in this filing. Stating her experience with McMahon and WWE, Grant is seeking a wide range of unspecified damages. Having seen her name previously leaked to the press when hush money claims first came up several months ago, plaintiff Grant now also wants a “declaratory judgment that the NDA is void and unenforceable, and does not bar any of Plaintiff’s claims against Defendants McMahon and WWE.”
For the record, John Laurinaitis left WWE last year under a cloud of accusations.
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