Vince McMahon sex trafficking lawsuit: Details, developments on WWE co-founder

The fallout from the Vince McMahon lawsuit continues.

In January, a bombshell lawsuit was filed against the founder of WWE, as former employee Janel Grant alleged McMahon took part in sex trafficking and put her through sexual acts that were done with "extreme cruelty and degradation." WWE’s former head of talent relations John Laurinaitis was also named in the suit.

Since then, McMahon has stepped down from his position within the company and there's been several developments into the lawsuit, such as what transpired during McMahon's time running the sports entertainment company, and several star wrestlers have commented on the case.

Here are the latest details on Vince McMahon and the lawsuit filed by Grant:

Vince McMahon still has stock, 'control' in TKO Holdings Group

WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon speaks to an audience during a WWE fan appreciation event, Oct. 30, 2010, in Hartford, Conn.
WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon speaks to an audience during a WWE fan appreciation event, Oct. 30, 2010, in Hartford, Conn.

Despite stepping down from his position as executive chairman and board member of TKO Group Holdings, McMahon still owns stock in the company, according to executive Mark Shapiro. He said in the company's fourth quarter earnings call it is not dictating what he plans to do with the stock.

"He’ll do whatever he’s going to do, and we’re all on the sideline," Shapiro said. "We’ll have a look, we’ll see. We have no idea on timing. We’re not having any discussion with him. He’s given us no point of view on his motive or his plans to sell or not sell, or if he does, how much. So, we’re going to wait around and find out just like you."

In its filings to the SEC, TKO also said McMahon "controls a significant portion of the voting power of the issued and outstanding shares of the company’s common stock." The company also said McMahon plans to reimburse the company the amount of money it spent on a special committee to investigate allegations made against McMahon. By the end 2023, McMahon had reimbursed the company $5.8 million.

Randy Orton, John Cena speak out on lawsuit

Two of WWE's biggest stars this century publicly spoke about the lawsuit in Randy Orton and John Cena.

Orton told Sports Illustrated he wouldn't be where he is without McMahon, but didn't mince any words about how much it "hurts" reading the allegations.

“I’ve got to say this; I wouldn’t be where I am without Vince McMahon taking a chance on me a handful of times,” he said. "I would not be where I am today without Vince McMahon. But, (expletive) I’m reading this (expletive). What you’ve seen and read, I’ve seen and read. As far as commenting on that, it (expletive) hurts my heart. It hurts my heart."

Cena took a different approach when asked about it on "The Howard Stern Show." He said he would support McMahon through the allegations as he is going to "love the person I love, be their friend."

"I've openly said, I love (McMahon), I have a great relationship with the guy, and that's that. It's largely my construct of operating with honesty and communication. Those are strong leads to handling any problem or achievement. The whole thing is super unfortunate and it sucks. It deals with an individual I love and an entity I love. I want everyone to have the experience that I have," Cena said. "Not only do I tell a friend that I love them, but I switch to the entity and say, 'How can I help?'"

Seth Rollins: 'It's a disgusting situation'

Current World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins addressed the lawsuit while speaking with CBS Sports Radio at Super Bowl 58 radio row.

"It's awful, it's terrible. I hate it, it's a disgusting situation," Rollins said. But we're so far removed from it, you know? When we get to work, it's like 'How do we make this the best possible show we can?"

Rollins added it's something that he wishes he could've done something about.

"You feel terrible and you wish could have seen it or done something, this and that," he saidsaid. "But at the end of the day, your job is your job, and that's what we do. We show up and we try to give the people to pay the tickets to come in the best possible show we can. That's kind of our department."

Feds investigating Vince McMahon sex-trafficking allegations

A report by the Wall Street Journal said federal prosecutors are investigating sexual assault and sex trafficking allegations against McMahon.

According to the Wall Street Journal, federal agents searched McMahon’s phone last year looking for documents related to any allegation of “rape, sex trafficking, sexual assault, commercial sex transaction, harassment or discrimination” against current or former WWE employees.

Rape reported by late-WWE star resurfaces

Since the news of the lawsuit, other cases involving WWE and McMahon have resurfaced, including the alleged rape of the late Ashley Massaro.

In 2006, Massaro said that she was raped by someone representing himself as a U.S. Army doctor while WWE was doing a tour in 2006. In a sworn affidavit her lawyer released in 2019, Massaro said WWE executives like McMahon and Laurinaitus knew about the reported rape and told the star not to release any details about it.

Laurinaitus' lawyer Edward Brennan told VICE any allegations Laurinaitus helped cover up the alleged rape "is an outright lie," but did admit WWE executives knew about the allegations.

"Johnny, like most upper level management at sometime became aware of the allegations and ensured all proper WWE protocols were followed, including privacy for the alleged victim. We object to the use of the term cover up as no such plan or plot ever took place to hide or assist in the alleged rape," Brennan told the outlet.

Massaro was part of a 2016 lawsuit in which several former wrestlers sued McMahon and WWE, seeking damages related to the effects of traumatic brain injuries they said they suffered while wrestling. Massaro died by suicide in 2019 at the age of 39.

Attorney: John Laurinaitis is a victim

Despite being named as a co-defendant in the lawsuit, an attorney for John Laurinaitis told VICE his client is a victim in the situation, and appeared to corroborate the claims made against McMahon.

“Mr. Laurinaitis denies the allegations in the misguided complaint and will be vigorously defending these charges in court, not the media," lawyer Edward Brennan told the outet. "Like the Plaintiff, Mr. Laurinaitis is a victim in this case, not a predator. The truth will come out.

"Read the allegations. Read the Federal Statute. Power, control, employment supervisory capacity, dictatorial sexual demands with repercussions if not met. Count how many times in the complaint Vince exerts control over both of them."

Triple H, Cody Rhodes make WWE's first comments on Vince McMahon lawsuit

The news of the lawsuit came just days before the 2024 Royal Rumble premium live event, one of the major pay-per-views for WWE.

After the Royal Rumble, reporters asked men's Royal Rumble winner Cody Rhodes about the lawsuit, marking the first time someone in WWE would be publicly commenting on the allegations. Rhodes said he and other WWE stars found out about the news as it broke. He agreed with a reporter that the situation casts a "dark cloud" over the company, but he isn't sure what's next for McMahon and WWE.

"As far as TKO, Nick Khan and the board, clearly (they) took it very seriously (and) acted immediately," Rhodes said. "Looking at the future, I don't know the answer to that."

WWE chief content officer Paul "Triple H" Levesque then spoke with the media, but he deflected any question asked by the media by choosing to focus on the positives in the company, like it signing a $5 billion deal with Netflix.

"I choose to focus on the positive and yes, there's a negative but I want to focus on that and just keep it to that," Levesque said.

"I'll go back to what I said before. This is an amazing week for us, and just at this point, I don't even want to get bogged down in the negatives of it," he added. "I just want to focus on the positives and where we're going and we're at the most exciting time of the year for us."

Vince McMahon resigns from TKO Group Holdings

One day after the news of the lawsuit, McMahon resigned as executive chairman and board member of TKO Group Holdings, parent company of WWE.

“I intend to vigorously defend myself against these baseless accusations, and look forward to clearing my name,” McMahon said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports announcing his departure. “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.”

McMahon had served as executive chairman of TKO Group Holdings, the company that owns WWE along with the UFC. He made a public appearance with the company just days before when Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was appointed as a board member for the company, and he rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange. TKO had previously said McMahon had no part in the day-to-day operations of WWE.

Vince McMahon denies allegations

After the lawsuit was revealed, a spokesperson for McMahon released the following statement:

"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," the spokesperson said.

Janel Grant files lawsuit against Vince McMahon, WWE

Grant's lawsuit filed in Connecticut was first reported on Jan. 25. In the suit, Grant said McMahon made her sign a non-disclosure agreement about their relationship for an agreed amount of $3 million. However, she alleges she never received full payment from McMahon, and wants to void the agreement with the lawsuit.

Grant detailed her experiences with McMahon, which began when she was hired by WWE in 2019. During her employment, Grant said she was forced into a sexual relationship with McMahon, and he would share explicit photos, videos and details of her to other WWE employees, as well as coerce her into having sexual relations with other WWE staffers, including WWE’s former head of talent relations John Laurinaitis, who is also named in the suit.

In May 2020, the lawsuit states McMahon began to recruit other men and force Grant into sex trafficking. Text messages allegedly from McMahon show he told Grant "i’m the only one who owns U and controls who I want to (expletive) U."

These allegations came nearly two years after reports McMahon paid upwards of $12 million to four women in a 16-year span to quiet allegations of sexual misconduct and infidelity. After the reports of payment, McMahon retired as CEO and chairman of WWE and he was subpoenaed by federal agents in August regarding the payments.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Vince McMahon sex trafficking lawsuit: Latest details and developments