NOTE: The following article contains explicit content. Please read at your own discretion.
In the lawsuit filed Thursday in Connecticut, ex-WWE employee Janel Grant, who worked at the company’s headquarters, said McMahon emotionally and physically abused her, defecated onto her body during a threesome and insisted she have sex with him and other men, among myriad other mistreatments.
Grant said she feared losing her employment with WWE if she did not comply with McMahon’s abuses.
“Ms. Grant is filing this lawsuit not just to address her own suffering, but also to act for those who are afraid to speak out,” the lawsuit opens, referencing a potential history of misconduct within McMahon’s WWE operations.
The lawsuit additionally names WWE executive John Laurinaitis as a defendant, who Grant alleged was complicit and participatory in McMahon’s abuses. She is also suing WWE itself for alleged negligence.
Grant is seeking a jury trial and an unspecified amount in damages. The lawsuit is attempting to make void a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that Grant said she was pressured to sign in 2022.
McMahon, 78, has denied all allegations against him. In a statement to Deadline, a spokesperson for McMahon said Grant’s lawsuit is “replete with lies, obscene made-up instances that never occurred, and a vindictive distortion of the truth.”
“He will vigourously defend himself,” the spokesperson said.
The allegations against Vince McMahon
Grant said she met McMahon in March 2019 when she was unemployed and “struggling financially” after the death of her parents. McMahon, who apparently lived in a penthouse duplex in Grant’s apartment building, heard of her struggles and offered to find her a job at WWE.
“What seemed like a dream in the Spring of 2019 quickly became a nightmare,” Grant’s lawyers wrote in the lawsuit.
Grant alleged her relationship with McMahon turned inappropriate when the WWE founder, during meetings about her potential job, greeted her in his underwear, touched her and shared intimate details about his personal life at great length.
Grant said McMahon pressured her into a sexual relationship in exchange for her employment at WWE. She complied and was eventually hired as an administrator-coordinator.
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She was ordered to keep their sexual relationship a secret.
A year after first meeting McMahon, she alleged he began sharing sexually explicit photographs and videos of her with men affiliated and unaffiliated with WWE.
She claimed McMahon was sexually aggressive with her and would on occasion cause pain or bleeding from the forceful use of sex toys. Some of the sex toys, Grant alleged, were named by McMahon after male WWE wrestlers and performers. The sex toys, according to the lawsuit, made racial references to WWE wrestlers; for example, a “black ‘dildo’ would be named after an African American wrestler and a white ‘dildo’ would be named after a Caucasian wrestler.”
Grant said McMahon also began recruiting other men to have sex with her, or with him and Grant together, including Laurinaitis. Grant said she was “expected and directed” to have sex with McMahon, Laurinaitis and others at or outside of the WWE headquarters, during and after work hours.
She said in the legal filing that McMahon’s insistence she have sex with other men affiliated with him made her feel as though she was “being pimped out as an object for sexual gratification for her new boss.”
Grant alleged on one occasion she was used by McMahon as a “sexual pawn” to persuade a WWE wrestler, identified only as WWE Superstar in the lawsuit, to sign a new contract. McMahon allegedly gave the wrestler Grant’s phone number with the understanding that “‘she’ll do anything’ requested of her.”
Her lawsuit cites a specific instance of rape in the WWE offices, where — behind the locked door of Laurinaitis’ office — McMahon and Laurinaitis “forcibly touched her” while she “begged them to stop.”
On a separate occasion, Grant alleged McMahon defecated onto her body during a threesome, then insisted she continue to perform sexual acts for at least an hour and a half longer.
In the lawsuit, Grant said McMahon’s “extreme cruelty and degradation” caused her to “disassociate and/or become numb to reality in order to survive the horrific encounters.”
After her employment ended at WWE, Grant said McMahon’s abuses left her with “debilitating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal ideation.”
Grant claims others at WWE knew of the abuses against her, and “actively sought to conceal the wrongdoing.”
The non-disclosure agreement
In her lawsuit, Grant said McMahon told her that her “time at WWE was at an end” after his wife found out about his relationship with her. He allegedly asked Grant to sign an NDA.
After “immense pressure” from McMahon, Grant said she signed the agreement in exchange for payments, which she claimed McMahon later stopped making.
She has asked the court to invalidate her NDA under federal law, including the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
McMahon’s misconduct probe
In 2022, McMahon stepped down as CEO and chairman of WWE during an investigation into alleged misconduct. The investigation centred around reports McMahon paid more than US$12 million in hush money to four separate women in the past 16 years.
Grant’s lawsuit branded the WWE internal investigation “a sham.” She said she was never interviewed by investigators, despite her insistence that she would co-operate.
After the investigation concluded, WWE said McMahon would reimburse the company US$17.4 million.
McMahon is no longer WWE’s chairman and CEO, though he remains as executive chairman. WWE is now part of TKO Group Holdings.
A spokesperson for the group told Deadline that McMahon “does not control TKO nor does he oversee the day-to-day operations of WWE.”
“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 concluded.
This week, Netflix struck a US$5-billion rights deal with WWE that would make it the exclusive home of Raw starting January 2025. The 10-year partnership will have Raw stream on Netflix in Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and several Latin American countries, among other territories.
Netflix has not commented publicly on the lawsuit against McMahon.
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If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse or is involved in an abusive situation, please visit the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime for help. They are also reachable toll-free at 1-877-232-2610.