A Summary Of All Known Allegations Against Vince McMahon

The following article includes allegations of domestic abuse and sexual assault.

By all rights — especially through a modern lens — 1992 should have marked the start of the downfall of Vince McMahon and the company that is now known as WWE. That year, on the back of the steroid abuse scandal that kicked off in 1991 thanks to the drug distribution conviction of Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission physician Dr. George Zahorian, the company was rocked by numerous allegations of sexual misconduct and other wrongdoing. McMahon was accused of rape and turning a blind eye to sexual harassment and abuse under his nose, and even admitted that he had previously suspected some of it. The grand jury investigation that led to his and WWE's indictment on conspiracy and drug distribution charges (he was acquitted in 1994) started that year, too. But none of it stuck.

It took 30 years, WWE becoming a publicly traded company, multiple allegations targeting McMahon directly, the right reporters at the right publication getting tipped off, and the revelation of undisclosed hush money payments to lead to his resignation in July 2022 — and even then, he was back by January, forcibly reclaiming his seat on the WWE board of directors and facilitating the company's merger with UFC to form TKO Group Holdings under the auspices of Ari Emanuel's Endeavor Group Holdings. The deal was announced over WrestleMania weekend and officially closed in September 2023, with McMahon installed as the new company's executive chairman. It's a position he would still hold today if not for a lawsuit filed in January 2024 that contained the most damning details to date, ultimately resulting in McMahon's second resignation.

It's difficult to keep track of everything that's happened since 2022, let alone the 30 years prior. This primer looks at all of the allegations of abuse (or enabling the abuse of others) that have been levied publicly against McMahon since 1992.

1992: Vince is accused of turning a blind eye to rampant sexual misconduct in the WWF

In early 1992, WWE (then Titan Sports, doing business as the World Wrestling Federation) was rocked by what the Pro Wrestling Torch dubbed "Titangate" — various sexual misconduct allegations on the heels of the brewing scandal about steroid abuse in the company. At the center were Pat Patterson (head of wrestling operations), his right-hand man Terry Garvin, and ring announcer/ring crew chief Mel Phillips, who worked directly under Garvin. The allegations, at least broadly, pointed to Patterson and Garvin engaging in a casting couch culture with male wrestlers and other personnel, while also enabling Phillips to use his job to groom and molest underage "ring boys" who he brought in as day laborers on his crew.

All three resigned, although WWE later claimed that Phillips was initially suspended; only Patterson would return, likely benefitting from his greater value to the company and the discrediting of his most vocal accusers, Murray Hodgson (who alleged he was fired for rejecting an advance, but was later dubbed a "lifelong con man" by his lawyer) and "Superstar" Billy Graham (who recanted the claim that he saw Patterson grope an underage boys). Other, more credible allegations against Patterson, like those from former ring boy Tom Cole, fell by the wayside as a result, while Garvin vanished from public life.

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

Vince suspected a ring announcer had a 'peculiar and unnatural' relationship with children

However, just as the scandal started breaking publicly in March 1992, McMahon conceded to New York Post columnist Phil Mushnick that he had previously fired Phillips over his suspicion that, in Mushnick's words, "Phillips' relationship with kids seemed peculiar and unnatural," only to rehire him weeks later. Though McMahon sued Mushnick and the Post for defamation a year later, even citing other parts of the same article as defamatory, they never disputed his account of the conversation, nor a similar one with Wrestling Observer Newsletter editor Dave Meltzer. As recently as 2020, when contacted by Business Insider for a story about the ring boy abuse scandal, WWE attorney Jerry McDevitt ignored all questions about McMahon's calls with Mushnick and Meltzer.

A year after that, in 2021, a report from Babyface v. Heel unearthed a September 1993 FBI memo revealing that the Bureau had a videotape of Phillips not just molesting a boy in the ring before a WWF show, but doing so the exact way accusers had described. (WWE had previously obtained a copy of the video in the first half of 1992.) The FBI's Behavioral Sciences Unit, though, in a separate memo from December 1993, disregarded the videotape because it happening in a public setting provided, in their view, too many alternate explanations. Aside from a brief, forgotten stint as an independent promoter in 1997, Phillips disappeared from public life after his WWF career ended.

1992: Rita Chatterton comes forward alleging McMahon raped her in 1986

At least initially, the "Titangate" allegations didn't point towards Vince McMahon, but that changed on April 6. That was when "Now it Can Be Told," a tabloid news magazine TV show hosted and produced by Geraldo Rivera, reported (official transcript here) on former referee Rita Chatterton alleging that McMahon had raped her in a limousine in 1986. She also provided a much more detailed account on Rivera's talk show, "Geraldo," a week later.

According to Chatterton, she met McMahon in his limo, where he forced himself on her twice, then fired her by invoking a rule he had previously mentioned about her not being allowed to fraternize with co-workers. McMahon would sue Chatterton, as well as Rivera and his associates, in February 1993 — albeit alleging a "civil conspiracy" as opposed to defamation — before dropping the suit a year later. Chatterton didn't breathe a word of the allegations publicly for the next three decades.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Rita Chatterton came forward again 30 years after Titangate

In June 2022, coming off of the initial Wall Street Journal article about McMahon settling sexual misconduct claims, Chatterton broke her silence in a New York Magazine article, giving additional context while pointing to the "Geraldo" episode for the details of her allegations. More newsworthy, though, was that Chatterton was now supported by a contemporaneous outcry witness, Leonard "Mario Mancini" Inzitari, who went to wrestling school with her.

"Was she taken advantage of? Absolutely," said Inzitari. "Was she scared to death? Absolutely. Did she wanna do that? Probably not."

In December 2022, Jon "Greg Valentine" Wisniski Jr. told the Wall Street Journal that Chatterton had told him, as well, while they shared a joint in a parking lot in Albany, New York. Valentine did not believe the story, however, citing questionable reasoning (that he didn't believe she was attractive enough for McMahon), but he corroborated the contemporaneous outcry regardless.

On November 3, the same Journal article reported that a lawyer for Chatterton sent McMahon a demand letter for $11.75 million, with McMahon pledging not to pay her. The letter said that the damages were "hard to overstate," including "years of ongoing depression, substance abuse, disordered eating, lost income, and overall a decreased quality of life." In addition, later that month, Chatterton gained the ability to sue McMahon for damages stemming from the alleged assault. That's thanks to New York's Adult Survivors Act, signed in May 2022, which created a one-year window suspending the statute of limitations on civil sexual assault claims. (New York previously had a similar Child Victims Act that opened another "lookback window" for survivors who were minors at the time of the abuse.)

1992: McMahon's role in Jimmy Snuka evading domestic violence and potentially murder charges revealed

In January 1983, "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka, then the top babyface in the WWF, was arrested just outside of Syracuse, New York, on charges of assaulting his girlfriend, Nancy Argentino, as well as various law enforcement officers who responded to the scene. Though it was reported at the time that he copped a guilty plea for harassment, records surfaced by MEL Magazine in 2020 revealed that he had actually pleaded out to assault in the third degree. Snuka could have had a worse fate if Argentino had followed through on pressing charges, though. As reported in the same MEL article, in the words of a Whitehall, Pennsylvania detective writing down what one of the arresting officers told him a few months later, "Vince McMahon tried to talk her out of making the complaint against Snuka."

On May 11 in Whitehall, Argentino died of a skull fracture. The narrative would shift on and off over the next 37 years, but here's what can't really be disputed anymore, all of which is documented in the aforementioned MEL article: Snuka, regardless of which version of his story he told, never claimed that anyone else was with them, and the coroner ruled the case a homicide.

The pause button was pressed on the Nancy Argentino case for 30 years

Despite the autopsy findings and Snuka never providing a story that could have accounted for someone else killing Argentino, the paper trail stopped cold after his second Whitehall Police interview. There, Snuka was joined by McMahon, and unlike every other interview in the case, the investigating officer's report did not recount anything that was said. (For Snuka's part, he claimed in his 2012 memoir that McMahon entered the meeting with a briefcase and left without it.) A year later, the prosecutor's office lied to the Argentino family lawyer and said Nancy's death had been ruled an accident.

Outside of a one year anniversary blurb in the local Allentown Morning Call newspaper, the case wasn't reported on again until Penthouse and The Village Voice commissioned features on the 1992 scandals that also revisited the case. It was the Morning Call's 2013 discovery of the autopsy report and a transcript of an incriminating Snuka interview in the case file for a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the Argentino family that got the ball rolling on Snuka being indicted. The case was dismissed days before his 2017 death, though, stemming from him being ruled incompetent to stand trial a year earlier.

2006: Tanning salon employee files a police report against McMahon alleging forcible groping

It took over a decade after "Titangate" before Vince McMahon was accused of sexual misconduct again, this time coming the weekend of the 2006 Royal Rumble event. McMahon was in Boca Raton, Florida, where he had a seasonal residence, and went to a local tanning salon, Tanzabar, to refresh his tan for the one of the biggest shows of the year. There, the clerk would allege in a police report that McMahon showed her nude photos of himself unprompted, and then forcibly groped her. When she managed to get away, she said McMahon told her he was "only trying to have some fun." The Palm Beach Post broke the story a few days later, with Vince's wife, Linda, telling them that the allegations were "totally bizarre," while their daughter, Stephanie, confirmed that Vince was a Tanzabar regular.

After a South Florida Sun-Sentinel follow-up about McMahon not being charged a month later, the story vanished for a dozen years. It was revived in January 2018, when The Daily Beast unearthed the original report, revealing that police felt that there was probable cause to charge McMahon. (Prosecutors told The Daily Beast that the charging standard was greater than that.) Less than two weeks later, a Deadspin feature that was being worked on concurrently with the Daily Beast story included quotes from an eyewitness named in the police report. The witness added that he recalled McMahon staring down he and the accuser down from his car in the parking lot for 45 minutes until shortly before police arrived.

WWE and McMahon did not respond to either outlet's requests for comment in 2018.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

2022: Whistleblower email kicks off hush money/non-disclosure agreement investigation

2022's biggest wrestling news story kicked off on June 15, when the Wall Street Journal reported that WWE's board of directors was using an independent law firm to investigate a $3 million settlement that Vince McMahon paid a former subordinate months earlier. The investigation started in April after the board got "a series of anonymous emails" from someone claiming to be a friend of the woman in question, who had worked for WWE as a paralegal, and it had turned up additional settlements with other women. The paralegal had, according to the emails, gotten a 100% raise after beginning a sexual relationship with McMahon, from $100,000 annually to $200,000. The emails further alleged that Vince "gave her like a toy" to then-talent relations head John Laurinaitis, becoming his assistant in the process, with the situation further deteriorating from there.

"My friend was so scared so she quit after Vince McMahon and lawyer Jerry [McDevitt] paid her millions of dollars to shut up," the friend was quoted as writing. McDevitt formally commented in a letter to the Journal, saying that "WWE did not pay any monies" to the paralegal "on her departure," and that she hadn't alleged sexual harassment. Based on what the paralegal's friend alleged, though, nobody had alleged that she was paid the settlement "on her departure," as the friend had said the paralegal quit her WWE job after being paid the settlement money. A WWE spokesperson, meanwhile, said that the relationship was consensual — it doesn't appear that anyone was arguing the relationship was not consensual in the criminal sense, though in recent years, the collective mindset has shifted as to whether or not someone can fully consent to sex with their boss in the first place.

Some of the Journal's follow-up reporting added additional details about the paralegal's situation. She allegedly met McMahon in the condo building where both had apartments and got her WWE legal assistant job without ever applying for it. In addition, she "often talked with colleagues in the department about her close relationship with Mr. McMahon" to that point that "her boss asked her to stop, saying she was making other employees uncomfortable." What specifically caused her to start viewing the relationship in a more negative light or caused her friend to address the Laurinaitis situation the way she did has not been elaborated on in the Journal's reporting.

Janel Grant files suit against McMahon, Laurinaitis, and WWE

The Wall Street Journal's reporting (which entailed much more than the case of the paralegal) put enough pressure on McMahon that he announced his retirement from WWE on July 22, 2022. He returned to the WWE board, however, on January 6, 2023, and would serve as executive chairman of WWE — and later of TKO Group Holdings following a merger with UFC — for just over a year. However, on January 25, 2024, the paralegal — now identified as Janel Grant — filed a civil complaint against McMahon, Laurinaitis, and WWE, accusing them of "physical and emotional abuse, sexual assault and trafficking."

The 67-page complaint, alongside new reporting by the Wall Street Journal, painted a truly disturbing picture. According to the suit, McMahon met Grant in March 2019 during a time when she was emotionally and financially vulnerable, using her desperation for employment first to befriend her, then to take liberties with her before pressuring her into physical relationship in exchange for a job with WWE. McMahon ultimately created an entry-level position for Grant in WWE's legal department, where she began working in June. Less than a year later, in March 2020, McMahon allegedly began sharing explicit photos and videos of Grant to various men both inside and outside WWE, including (per the Wall Street Journal) former WWE Champion Brock Lesnar, whom McMahon was attempting to sign to a new contract at the time. Grant was also instructed to keep their relationship secret — early in their acquaintance, he had impressed on her that "he had world-class legal resources on speed-dial to deal with people who became a problem."

"Given McMahon's omnipotent position at WWE, coercion was inherent in his increasingly depraved sexual demands," the lawsuit read. "Specifically, while McMahon was CEO of WWE and Ms. Grant was employed as an entry level coordinator in the legal department, McMahon recruited individuals to have sexual relations with Ms. Grant and/or with the two of them, directed Ms. Grant to visit Defendant Laurinaitis prior to the start of workdays for sexual encounters, and expected and directed Ms. Grant to engage in sexual activity at the WWE headquarters, even during working hours."

During Grant's time as a WWE employee, McMahon allegedly attempted to "isolate her from friends and attempts to chip away at her identity until it was replaced with his desired role for her," "exercised complete ownership and control over both her personal and professional lives," and "subjected Ms. Grant to acts of extreme cruelty and degradation that caused Ms. Grant to disassociate and/or become numb to reality in order to survive the horrific encounters." The suit's allegations were backed up by screenshots of text messages between Grant and McMahon that detail, among other things, the nature of McMahon's sexual fantasies, which have been described by many since as "deviant." It also alleges that in June 2021, McMahon and Laurinaitis "sexually assaulted Ms. Grant inside Laurinaitis' office in WWE headquarters while colleagues were busy at their desks."

Per the complaint, McMahon dismissed Grant from WWE in January 2022 — just five months before the Wall Street Journal stories that forced his first resignation began to hit — because his wife, Linda McMahon, had discovered their relationship. McMahon allegedly pressured Grant into signing an NDA securing her silence in exchange for $3 million. However, after the initial $1 million payment, no further payments were ever made.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Second resignation and federal investigation

The day after Grant's lawsuit was filed, major WWE partner Slim Jim — which was set to sponsor WWE Royal Rumble the next day — suspended its promotional deal with the company, prompting Ari Emanuel to personally urge McMahon to resign. McMahon complied but did not admit guilt, instead stating "I intend to vigorously defend myself against these baseless accusations, and look forward to clearing my name."

Laurinaitis denied the allegations, but did not deny the charges against McMahon, claiming that he was also a victim.

"Mr. Laurinaitis denies the allegations in the misguided complaint and will be vigorously defending these charges in court, not the media," Laurinaitis' attorney wrote. "Like the plaintiff, Mr. Laurinaitis is a victim in this case, not a predator. The truth will come out."

Meanwhile, Grant's lawyer has stated that her firm has been in contact with numerous other women seeking to come forward about McMahon's behavior, which is one of Grant's primary reasons for filing the lawsuit. Federal investigators are also reportedly investigating McMahon after delivering him a subpoena and executing a search warrant for his phone over the summer. According to the Wall Street Journal, federal investigators have been speaking to various other women who have made accusations against McMahon — some of whom were reportedly subject to more McMahon payouts and NDAs, which were reported by the Wall Street Journal back in 2022.

2022: The Wall Street Journal uncovers three more settlements, including from a former talent alleging sexual assault

The aforementioned second Wall Street Journal article, which came out on July 8, 2022, painted a significantly more bleak picture of McMahon's alleged behavior. It revealed that three more of his settlements with former subordinates found by the board's investigation took the total amount over $12 million, with one, a $7.5 million settlement, accounting for the majority of that figure.

That settlement went to a woman who the Journal described as "a former wrestler who alleged that Mr. McMahon coerced her into giving him oral sex and then demoted her and, ultimately, declined to renew her contract in 2005 after she resisted further sexual encounters." Of the settlements that were reportedly uncovered in the board's investigation, it's the only one where the allegation of sexual contact is framed as "coerced," with the women in question apparently suggesting that she did not fully consent.

The settlement didn't come back in 2005 when the wrestler was fired, though. It came in 2018, after the wrestler and her lawyer reached out to McMahon and negotiated the $7.5 million settlement in exchange for a non-disclosure agreement. That would place it just after the #MeToo movement blew up in the wake of the reporting about Harvey Weinstein's misconduct in the New York Times and the New Yorker. It's also the same general time frame where, according to an August 2022 FanByte article, the Times began work on investigating McMahon, only to stop when the women who had been contacted stopped cooperating, feeling that the reporter didn't know wrestling well enough for the necessary trust to develop.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

The article with the wrestler's coercion allegation didn't stop there

Elsewhere in the July 8 story, the Journal described the other two newly-discovered settlements as:

  • A woman described as "a WWE contractor" who presented the company with unsolicited nude photos of McMahon that she said he had sent her (echoing the tanning salon attendant's allegation) while also accusing him of sexual harassment more broadly. This resulted in a $1 million settlement in 2008.

  • A different woman described as "a former manager" (in the corporate sense, not the ringside sense) "who had worked 10 years for Mr. McMahon before he allegedly initiated a sexual relationship with her was paid $1 million to keep quiet about it" in a 2006 settlement.

As of this writing, no further settlements have been reported, but that wasn't the end of new allegations in 2022. There were still two more new ones to come, and not just from the investigative reporters at the Wall Street Journal.

2022: Paul London accuses McMahon of sexually harassing Ashley Massaro

WWE Diva Search winner Ashley Massaro, who died by suicide in 2019, also had her name come up as part of the 2022 Vince McMahon news cycle. Specifically, her ex-boyfriend, Paul London, accused McMahon of obsessively pursuing her while she worked under him in WWE.

"I do remember, specifically, many times when she would be crying to me because Vince was propositioning her to fly on the jet with them," London told Rene Dupree on his Cafe de Rene podcast in July 2022. "Kevin Dunn, Bucktooth Bucky, would be telling her that she has to fly on the jet with them ... Every now and then, they'd always put the Divas up at like the TV hotel or whatever, he'd be knocking on her door and trying to get her to answer."

"I'm shocked this Vince stuff is just now coming out," London added. "I haven't looked up on a lot of it ... but I'm surprised it hasn't come out within the last 10 years. But that just goes to show how afraid people are of the power dynamic where they're so fearful of losing their job. What does that say about you, if you're protecting this 90-year-old f***ing corpse with a thong tan line, just because he's a billionaire?"

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

McMahon allegedly tried to ruin Massaro's career, knew about military base incident

In 2024, shortly after Janel Grant filed her lawsuit, VICE News discovered and published a previously unreleased statement from Massaro, which she had prepared as part of another lawsuit against WWE related to concussions (it was ultimately not included in that suit). The statement backs up London's recollections; while Massaro said she was "fortunate enough to be allowed to fly on the company jet and stay at the same hotels as the executives for a period of time so that I could get home faster to spend more time with my daughter," she describes an incident in which McMahon attempted to get her to come alone to his hotel room. Massaro claimed she asked Dunn what to do and was instructed to tell McMahon she wasn't feeling well.

"Immediately after that night, Vince started writing my promos for me," Massaro wrote. "The promos were written with the clear intention of ruining my career ... He is known for this type of behavior and also did this to [REDACTED] upon her departure from WWE. In addition, after that night, each time I walk by him he would make vulgar sexual comments that were clearly designed to make me uncomfortable."

Massaro also claimed that when she showed what McMahon had written for her to then-head of WWE creative Michael Hayes, he responded by saying "Well kid, these are the breaks."

VICE News also spoke to Laurinaitis' lawyer regarding Massaro's claim, in a sworn affidavit published after her death, that she was raped on a United States military base while touring Kuwait with WWE in 2007. Upon release of the statement, WWE publicly denied all knowledge of the incident, but Laurinaitis' attorney refuted that claim, saying "most of upper management" knew about it, a statement that presumably includes McMahon.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

2022: The Wall Street Journal discovers a spa manager who alleges McMahon assaulted her in 2011 and intends to sue under new California law

In the same December 13, 2022 article where the Wall Street Journal reported on Rita Chatterton's November 3 demand letter, they also broke the story of a previously unreported allegation. This woman alleges that in 2011, when she was working as a spa manager, Vince McMahon sexually assaulted her at the "five-star resort in southern California" where she was working at the time. She also told her husband, which led to him showing up at a WWE event with a baseball bat to look for McMahon, only to be turned away by security.

According to the Journal's reporting, the woman told her employer about what happened, and it was specified that McMahon was in town for a WWE event. In 2011, WWE did two televised loops in southern California: The "go-home" TV tapings for Elimination Chamber (in Anaheim and San Diego) as well as SummerSlam and the post-SummerSlam episodes of Raw and SmackDown (in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Bakersfield). The alleged victim's attorney has apparently been in touch with McMahon's since July 2022.

As with Chatterton alleging she was assaulted in New York, the location being California is important. On September 19, 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Sexual Abuse and Cover Up Accountability Act (AB-2777) into law, waiving the statute of limitations on civil claims of sexual assault for one year, starting on January 1, 2023. According to the Journal article, McMahon has insisted he won't pay settlements to the spa manager or Chatterton, but these grace period laws allow both women to take him to court, so he may very well have to deal with those allegations regardless before long.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

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