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Rumors have long circulated about a WWE casting couch, in which women were put in position to either yield to the sexual demands of male managers or be humiliated on camera or fired—or both. They have been difficult to substantiate, in part because women believed to have been subject to such schemes have been hesitant to speak out for fear of retaliation from WWE, which until recently was controlled by McMahon and his family. Currently it is controlled by TKO, a conglomerate headed by Hollywood power player Ari Emanuel, whose Endeavor merged its own UFC with WWE last year. McMahon was brought in as chair of the newly-formed company after he had resigned from WWE following Wall Street Journal reporting on secret hush-money payments and allegations of sexual abuse of women who worked for WWE.McMahon resigned from TKO two weeks ago after being named alongside WWE and former talent-relations head John Laurinaitis as defendants in a civil sex-trafficking suit that alleged he raped, trafficked, and even defecated on an employee. Both men have denied the allegations. TKO has sought to portray the allegations as being in the past and having to do with two men who are no longer associated with the company; the creative and talent-relations roles they held for most of this century are now filled by Paul “Triple H” Levesque, McMahon’s son-in-law and hand-picked protege, who was groomed to replace McMahon over more than 20 years, first as a star wrestler and then as a member of management. VICE News obtained the statement from Konstantine Kyros and Erica Mirabella, lawyers who represented Massaro and dozens of other former WWE wrestlers in a lawsuit seeking damages related to traumatic brain injuries. That suit was dismissed in 2018 and appeals, which reached the Supreme Court, were denied; Kyros was sanctioned by the judge and eventually ordered to pay more than $300,000 in fines for his conduct in the case.As part of the suit, the lawyers collected statements from dozens of wrestlers, including Massaro, and refined them into sworn affidavits. As Mirabella described it, they spoke in detail about Massaro’s experiences in WWE, and then Mirabella wrote a draft affidavit. Massaro reviewed that and then offered feedback, new details, and edits on a phone call, which Mirabella used in preparing a new draft. They repeated this process several more times to come up with a final draft of the affidavit.“Ashley was extremely detailed, thoughtful, and thorough throughout this entire process,” Mirabella told VICE News. The previously unpublished statement was initially included as a section in the finalized affidavit, but members of Massaro’s legal team ultimately decided to leave it out because it wasn’t clearly relevant given that the lawsuit was about concussions. “Our colleagues ultimately decided we should focus only on the sexual assault and physical in-ring injuries Ashley sustained,” Mirabella said, “so I discussed this with Ashley and she agreed that we could remove it, so it was deleted. We then finalized the affidavit, she signed it, and we submitted it to the court.”The statement reads as follows; it has been reproduced verbatim as it was provided to VICE News with the exception of one redaction.
During my time with the WWE, I had observed Vince McMahon making-out with other divas in the locker room, but he never paid attention to me, and I assumed I was not his type. This changed after my Playboy cover was released. I 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. On one of these occasions, Vince was attempting to get me alone with him in his hotel room late at night and I felt extraordinarily uncomfortable. He began calling the hotel room phone and my cell phone nonstop. I called Kevin Dunn to explain the situation and he said I should tell Vince I was not feeling well and would see him on TV the next day, so I did. Immediately after that night, Vince started writing my promos for me. Vince does not write promos for female wrestlers—that is the job of the creative department—and he certainly wouldn’t have, under any normal circumstances, written a promo for me. But he did, and the promos were written with the clear intention of ruining my career. I brought the first script Vince wrote for me to the WWE employee in charge of Creative at the time, Michael Hayes, and he said, ‘you’re not saying this, who the [expletive] wrote this?’ and I told him that Vince did. He said, ‘Well kid, these are the breaks,’ meaning that Vince wanted to end my career and destroy my reputation on my way out. 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.
Kevin Dunn, referenced in the statement, is WWE’s longtime production chief, who served as one of McMahon’s loyal right-hand men for more than 40 years; he left the company last month. In Massaro’s affidavit, he is said to be one of the men who attended a meeting in which she was told not to speak about her claim to have been raped in Kuwait, in part because it could harm WWE’s relations with the military. (“He told me not to let one bad experience ruin the good work they were doing,” Massaro said of McMahon in the affidavit.) He could not be reached for comment and TKO did not provide contact information for a representative. Hayes is a former star wrestler who works, as he has for many years, as a member of the creative team responsible for planning out and scripting WWE shows.