It’s a scene straight out of a soap opera. The boss, wearing nothing but his underwear, greets a prospective employee to a “business meeting” at his home. But for former World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) employee Janel Grant, this bizarre encounter in 2019 marked the beginning of a years-long nightmare of alleged sexual coercion, abuse and trafficking at the hands of WWE’s notorious chairman and CEO, Vince McMahon.
Grant has now filed a damning lawsuit against the 78-year-old pro wrestling mogul, accusing him of not only sexually exploiting her in exchange for employment, but also inflicting physical violence, emotional torment and other unthinkable abuse throughout her time at WWE. The lawsuit, filed in a Connecticut federal court last week, also names WWE executive John Laurinaitis and the company itself as defendants.
For devoted fans of WWE, the colorful world of theatrics and drama, this sordid legal case may seem like just another twist in the larger-than-life McMahon legend. But the graphic details emerging from Grant’s complaint paint a much darker picture of the backstage culture at America’s highest-profile wrestling outfit. Let’s break down the key allegations and their implications.
Trapped and Exploited
The lawsuit alleges that after losing her parents and finding herself unemployed in 2019, Grant reached out to McMahon about possible job opportunities on the advice of mutual friends. Their first meeting took a bizarre turn when McMahon, wearing only underwear, promised Grant a powerful, high-paying position within WWE – but only if she agreed to have sex with him.
Grant says she felt “trapped” but acquiesced, believing she had no other choice if she wanted the job. McMahon started her off with an entry-level legal role, a far cry from the senior position he had dangled. But the real abuse, Grant alleges, came after she began working at WWE’s Stamford HQ.
McMahon allegedly coerced her into degrading sexual acts, even filming their encounters and flaunting the images to subordinates. The complaint describes McMahon as exerting total dominion over Grant’s professional and personal lives, empowered by his position as her boss. He allegedly continued assaulting and exploiting Grant until 2022, when word of their relationship reached McMahon’s wife.
Violence and Coercion
But it apparently wasn’t just McMahon preying on Grant. The lawsuit claims McMahon pressured her into having sex with Laurinaitis and other WWE personnel, portraying her as property that McMahon could offer up to sweeten business deals.
In one of the more gut-wrenching episodes detailed, McMahon and Laurinaitis allegedly trapped Grant in an office and took turns raping her. The abuse she endured at WWE gave rise to debilitating PTSD and suicidal thoughts, Grant says.
When McMahon’s wife caught wind of the affair, Grant’s WWE career abruptly ended. McMahon then pushed Grant to sign an NDA in exchange for $3 million, delivering only the first $1 million payment. He continued forcing sex up to March 2022, two months after signing the hush agreement, dangling a WWE contract to pressure a wrestler into a tryst with Grant.
Grant’s complaint portrays McMahon as a predator bent on dominating every facet of her life, enabled by his position of power at WWE. He allegedly monitored her calls and texts, controlled her social media accounts, and barred her from dating or being anywhere “that McMahon could not find her.” She says he once yanked chunks of her hair out for “disobedience.”
The complaint also accuses McMahon of voluntarily demoting Grant at WWE to keep her financially dependent on him. He allegedly used nude photos and videos of her as blackmail, threatening to share them if she stepped out of line. Grant claims McMahon even trained her on how to pleasure him sexually to his precise liking.
Is the Company Complicit?
While McMahon clearly stands accused of monstrous wrongdoing, WWE also faces scrutiny for enabling his alleged behavior. According to Grant’s lawsuit, the company’s 2022 internal investigation into McMahon was a calculated “sham” that never even questioned her.
Despite McMahon temporarily resigning during the probe, he remained the controlling shareholder and returned to lead WWE months later. The company’s handling of the allegations allowed McMahon to escape any real accountability, Grant argues.
WWE’s parent firm contests this, defending the investigation’s integrity and insisting McMahon lacks operational control currently. Nonetheless, the WWE brand seems destined for serious reputational damage from this lawsuit’s damning picture of its inner workings.
McMahon himself denies any intentional wrongdoing on his part, though he’s made no specific public response to Grant’s lawsuit yet. If even half of her allegations prove true in court, he stands guilty of hideous abuse and corruption on an unfathomable scale. For Grant, her battle for justice has only just begun. But her case could well spark a long-overdue reckoning within the dubiously glamorous world of WWE.