Vince McMahon lawsuit, explained: WWE Chairman hit with alleged sexual assault, trafficking claims

Editor’s Note: The following story deals with sexual assault, and may be triggering for some readers.

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It wasn’t long ago when WWE Executive Chairman Vince McMahon was involved in a controversial investigation that almost forced him out of pro wrestling for good. Now, new accusations have come to light that affect him, WWE, and TKO.

In a bombshell released by the Wall Street Journal, a lawsuit has been filed against McMahon for alleged emotional abuse, sexual assault, and sex trafficking. Former Head of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis is also involved in the lawsuit.

The suit stems from Janel Grant, a former employee at WWE headquarters in Connecticut. Grant was promised career advancement opportunities within the report, and McMahon allegedly exploited and trafficked her to others within the company.

Per the report (provided via Variety), Grant signed an NDA in 2022 and was paid $3 million not to discuss the nature of their relationship. She alleges within the lawsuit that payments stopped after $1 million. As a result, she is seeking to void the agreement. Per Fightful, the NDA would be invalid under state and federal law, including the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

“Today’s complaint seeks to hold accountable two WWE executives who sexually assaulted and trafficked Plaintiff Janel Grant, as well as the organization that facilitated or turned a blind eye to the abuse and then swept it under the rug,” said Grant’s attorney, Ann Callis. “She is an incredibly private and courageous person who has suffered deeply at the hands of Mr. McMahon and Mr. Laurinaitis. Ms. Grant hopes that her lawsuit will prevent other women from being victimized. The organization is well aware of Mr. McMahon’s history of depraved behavior, and it’s time that they take responsibility for the misconduct of its leadership.”

What are the allegations against Vince McMahon, John Laurinaitis?

Several of the details within the lawsuit are graphic by nature.

They include McMahon and Laurinaitis allegedly sexually assaulted Grant in June 2021. McMahon was also allegedly known for using sex toys and sharing sexually explicit photos and videos of Grant with other men in and out of WWE. He also allegedly sent messages to Grant that were of a sexual and demeaning nature. One message, in particular, involved her being told to send sexual content for a talent he wanted to re-sign. The person was unnamed but described as a WWE talent and a UFC fighter. 

The report indicates that from 2019-2022, McMahon provided Grant with “gifts to keep her under his control,” some expensed to WWE. That included event tickets, gift cards/certificates for various needs, medical care, payments, clothes, flowers, a card, dinner in McMahon’s condo, and more.

Grant claimed McMahon distanced himself from her in 2022 after his wife Linda McMahon became aware of their alleged relationship.

It is not the first time McMahon’s name has been brought up in a controversial legal matter.

In 2022, McMahon was under an initial investigation for allegedly paying a woman $3 million in hush money to stay silent about an affair. McMahon allegedly hired a woman at a $100,000 annual salary but then increased it to $200,000 following a sexual relationship. An anonymous email sent to the WWE Board by a friend claimed McMahon “gave her like a toy” to Laurinaitis. Later reports by the WSJ indicated McMahon agreed to pay “more than $12 million over the past 16 years to suppress allegations of sexual misconduct and infidelity.”

Does Vince McMahon still own WWE?

As a result of these findings, McMahon stepped down as CEO of WWE, later retiring. He paid $17.4 million to the company to cover costs related to the investigation.

In January 2023, his daughter Stephanie announced her resignation from WWE as Vince was back as executive chair on the Board of Directors. The news of his comeback coincided with WWE looking at options for a potential sale of the company, as McMahon indicated any sale or rights deal couldn’t get conducted without his involvement. WWE later got sold to Endeavor Group, the parent company of the UFC, which eventually led to the creation of the TKO Group, of which McMahon is the executive chairman. 

WWE, TKO respond to Vince McMahon allegations

WWE recently landed a ten-year deal with Netflix worth $500 million to host its RAW brand. TKO recently went to Wall Street and McMahon was seen in various photos.

The company has now released a statement following the allegations against McMahon and Laurinaitis. It sent the following, via Variety

“Mr. McMahon does not control TKO nor does he oversee the day-to-day operations of WWE. While this matter predates our TKO executive team’s tenure at the company, we take Ms. Grant’s horrific allegations very seriously and are addressing this matter internally.”

Vince McMahon responds to allegations

A spokesperson for McMahon released the following statement regarding the latest allegations against him (per Fightful):

“This lawsuit is replete with lies, obscene made-up instances that never occurred, and a vindictive distortion of the truth. He will vigorously defend himself.”

Vince McMahon resigns from WWE, TKO

One day after the allegations, Nick Khan informed WWE employees that McMahon resigned from his roles with TKO and WWE, effective immediately.

“I wanted to inform you that Vince McMahon has tendered his resignation from his positions as TKO Executive Chairman and on the TKO Board of Directors. He will no longer have a role with TKO Group Holdings or WWE,” the letter said via Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful.  

Earlier today (January 26, 2024), Slim Jim, a prominent sponsor of WWE and pro wrestling, paused its relationship with the company, citing “disturbing allegations” against McMahon. There have also been rumors of other sponsors distancing themselves from WWE.

McMahon maintained his innocence in his first lengthy comment after it was announced he resigned.

“I stand by my prior statement that Ms. Grant’s lawsuit is replete with lies, obscene made-up instances that never occurred, and is a vindictive distortion of the truth,” McMahon said via Deadline. “I intend to vigorously defend myself against these baseless accusations, and look forward to clearing my name.

“However, out of respect for the WWE Universe, the extraordinary TKO business and its board members and shareholders, partners, and constituents, and all of the employees and Superstars who helped make WWE into the global leader it is today, I have decided to resign from my executive chairmanship and the TKO board of directors, effective immediately.”

Per PW Insider, Endeavor may “sweep out anyone close to Vince McMahon and his remaining team in order to have a complete ‘fresh start’ for the company going forward.”

With Vince no longer with WWE, it looks to be the first time in the history of CWC/WWWF/WWF/WWE where a McMahon is not in charge. That is a run since the 1950s. 

Vince McMahon’s net worth, salary, career earnings

Per Celebrity Net Worth, McMahon’s net worth is $3.2 billion. In 2020, his net worth was $1.7 billion. He first became a billionaire in 1999 after WWE’s stock went public. McMahon’s latest deal with WWE puts his annual salary at around $1.2 million.

Comparing McMahon to other sports figures, the UFC’s Dana White’s net worth is $500 million with a $20 million salary. Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn has a net worth of about $50 million. 

Who is John Laurinaitis?

John Laurinaitis is the brother of Road Warrior Animal of the legendary tag team Road Warriors. “Johnny Ace” was a former pro wrestler, competing in 1986 for the NWA’s Florida Championship Wrestling. Later on, he had a stint in All Japan Pro Wrestling, where he won the All Asia and AJPW World Tag Team Titles multiple times with “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, Kenta Kobashi, and Bart Gunn. 

Retiring in 2000, Laurinaitis became head booker for WCW and would later be a road agent for WWE in 2001. Promoted to Director of Talent Relations, Laurinaitis’ title changed multiple times, including Executive Vice President of Talent Relations in 2009. Laurinaitis would become an on-screen authority figure for WWE from 2011-2012, engaging in feuds with CM Punk, John Cena, and Teddy Long.

He became a road agent again in 2012 and made sporadic appearances for WWE over the years, eventually becoming Head of Talent Relations again in 2021. He was removed from his job in 2022 and fired in August that year following the initial allegations of misconduct against him and McMahon.

Laurinaitis is married to Kathy Colace, the mother of The Bella Twins (Nikki and Brie). Brie is married to Bryan Danielson a current wrestler in AEW, while Nikki is married to dancer Artem Chigvintsev. 

More information will be added to this developing story.

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