In November 2016, Ashley Massaro made national headlines by stating, under oath, that she was sexually assaulted while on tour as a WWE Superstar.
The alleged incident has largely faded from the public consciousness since, due in no small part to a lack of information. Much, if not all of what is known about the assault was taken from just a few short paragraphs published in article from the Boston Globe.
The outlet covered Massaro’s claims of sexual assault, among other damning subjects, made when she publicly joined 59 other wrestlers in a class action lawsuit against the WWE, collectively alleging a history of negligence and the concealing of risks that ultimately led to long-term neurological damage for dozens of performers.
The Globe stated that Massaro was “sexually assaulted at a US military base” in Kuwait, while several WWE stars were visiting with American troops as a part of the company’s long-standing relationship with the armed forces. After returning to the U.S., she was “examined by a company physician” who then informed WWE executives, who “persuaded her that it would be best not to report it to appropriate authorities.”
On December 23, 2016 WWE filed the following motion in response to her claims:
“The Amended Complaint falsely alleges that WWE attempted to persuade Plaintiff Ashley Massaro not to report an allegation of sexual assault on a military base in Kuwait to the appropriate authorities. This baseless and inflammatory allegation is wholly unrelated to the claims in this case and was presented for the improper purpose of generating negative publicity against WWE in violation of this Court’s prior admonitions.”
Because Massaro did not publicly share much, if anything, beyond what was covered in the article, and largely stayed away from interviews on the subject — likely due to being involved in an ongoing class action lawsuit — this was the only truly credible information to surface about the alleged assault since the news first circulated. Until this past weekend.
On May 16th, Massaro committed suicide in her home in Long Island, just ten days before her 40th birthday.
Within 24 hours, WWE had released a statement to The Blast claiming that the former Diva had apologized for her involvement in the class action lawsuit via a letter she wrote to company executives in October 2018, shortly after the lawsuit was dismissed in court.
Assuming the authenticity of the letter, Massaro does indeed apologize to WWE, claiming to be “roped in” by the lawyer spearheading the lawsuit, Konstantine Kyros, She also referred to WWE as “her family”, and specifically expressed “regret” to Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, Paul “Triple H” Levesque (referring to him as “Hunter”), and Kevin Dunn.
She apologized – but that’s not the end of the story.
What the former Superstar does NOT do in her letter, in any way, is admit that she was lying about anything said during her official testimonial – which WWE outright admits they did not have access to until after she passed away. The company’s statement also does not outright deny any of the claims she made in said testimonial.
Massaro’s apparent attempt to reconcile – and remember, the lawsuit had just been shot down and she was in the early stages of planning a comeback to the wrestling world – in no way cancels out the fact that she claimed, under oath and under penalty of perjury, that she was sexually assaulted on a U.S. military base, and that WWE officials were directly involved in covering it up.
Following the news of her death, Kyros released the full 15-page affidavit written and signed by Ashley Massaro on November 1, 2017. The report is devastating, and for the first time sheds much-needed light on a horrific incident that was far, far worse than anyone could have imagined.
While we encourage you to read through the complete report in the spirit of being fully educated on the matter, however, we also want to advise you that it may be incredibly difficult to read for those who are mentally or emotionally triggered by graphic depictions of sexual assault.
Massaro began the affidavit by explaining how she made her way into the company through the 2005 “Raw Divas Search”, a weekly competition between various attractive models and actresses WWE had been scouting.
She of course won the competition and was given the option of training in developmental as a wrestler, or taking the $250,000 prize money and representing the WWE women’s division as a non-wrestling spokesperson. She took the later option, but claims that not only did they try to scam her out of 20% of the money, but she was thrown immediately into a wrestling match without any training whatsoever.
“Vince McMahon insisted that I had been “represented” by an individual named “Rich” in Marina Del Ray, CA, and tried to force me to pay him 20% of the $250,000. This individual had never represented me so I refused – which almost resulted in me losing my contract. This was my introduction to the coercive and unscrupulous tactics employed by the WWE to take advantage of its performers.”
“As a result of being immediately thrown into a grueling schedule of performing at shows four to five days week with no training, I immediately began sustaining constant injuries.”
Massaro specifically states that Stephanie McMahon rejected her request to learn how to wrestle, because she had gained a large fanbase during the Raw Divas Search, and was told she would “lose her spot” if she took time off to train in developmental. This led to several injuries and even completely untreated concussions.
“During my time wrestling for the WWE, I sustained multiple concussions and did not receive appropriate (or in many cases any) treatment for my injuries. As an example, shortly after I started performing for WWE, on or around September 5, 2005, I had a match with Torrie Wilson, and while rehearsing for our match, she performed a move on me known as the neck-breaker. Again, I did not know how to safely be on the receiving end of this move, and as a result, I was knocked unconscious for five minutes.”
After that Massaro claims she was told to “shake it off” by Hall of Famer Trish Stratus – not out of malice, but because she knew at the time that the newcomer would get into trouble for speaking out. She again approached Stephanie McMahon, and even offered to train on her days off, but was again rejected.
Massaro then had to go outside of WWE to learn wrestling at a gym on her days off work, but when the company found out about it, Stephanie demanded she stop.
“Aside from numerous concussions, I received a multitude of other injuries as a result of WWE’s failure to properly train me or provide proper treatment for my injuries. For example, I suffered a hairline fracture in my spine and sustained numerous back injuries, in addition to the one described above, and ultimately was diagnosed with herniated discs in C4 and C5 of my vertebrae.”
The affidavit goes on to tell the stories behind the multitude of injuries she sustained through her relatively short run with the company. While this does not directly relate to the allegations of sexual assault, it absolutely establishes a pattern of intentional neglect, shady behavior and dangerous practices implemented by high-ranking WWE executives.
The injuries are also incredibly relevant because of the established physical connection between head trauma and long-time mental conditions, such as depression. In 2013 TIME magazine covered two case studies surveying former NFL players, directly linking those suffering from depression to an abnormality in their brain’s white matter, believed to be caused by repeated concussions. It was also found that the more concussions a player had sustained, the more frequently they exhibited signs of depression.
“Aside from my on-going physical injuries that were sustained in the ring, and my former battle with addiction, to this day, I suffer from depression, for which I take medication; migraine headaches; and severe short-term memory loss. I have been receiving medical treatment for these problems since I left the WWE and am currently still undergoing treatment.”
And then came a WWE tour of the U.S. military base in Kuwait.
Massaro described herself as “a strong supporter of the US military” and was “enthusiastic” when chosen to represent WWE overseas on a two-week tour through the Middle East, alongside fellow WWE Diva Maria Kanellis, and Hall of Famers Ron Simmons and Jimmy Hart. Gary Hart was also with them as a producer for the trip.
Early on she describes incidents of “harsh treatment” from the men in Saudi Arabia, attributed to her “fair skin and light eyes”, and admitted she felt uncomfortable.
During the tour, while in Kuwait, Massaro began to suffer from severe menstrual cramps and asked to remain in the air-conditioned vehicle to rest. She was then told by U.S. soldiers that she was suffering from dehydration and had to be taken to the local military base to be placed on an IV, despite her protests.
She remained in the hospital for several hours and was not allowed to leave, until a man “in an orange t-shirt and cargo shorts”, who claimed to be a U.S. Army doctor, administered an unknown IV without her permission. He then took her “into a room that did not appear to be a treatment room” that was guarded by a woman in full military fatigues, and was injected with a drug that induced a temporary paralysis.
“The man then proceeded to violently rape and sodomize me. I was completely helpless to defend myself against this attack as the drug he injected rendered me temporarily paralyzed. Despite being unable to control my movements, I remained fully conscious for every second of the attack. I felt excruciating pain as a result of this man penetrating me by force and against my will, in a violent and aggressive manner, while I was completely defenseless. Each second that went by was excruciating and I have never felt more helpless or been more terrified in my entire life. The experience was a living nightmare.”
“I have always considered myself to be a fighter and survivor so I can’t even find the words to describe what it felt like to be thrown on a table and stripped and then brutalized in the worst possible way that one human being is capable of brutalizing another – all while being unable to move or speak. In addition to the pain and terror, I felt almost dehumanized, and was extremely disturbed by the feeling that I was somehow given to this man as some type of sick birthday present, and it also made me sick that the female soldier willingly guarded the door for him while he raped me without blinking an eye.
Eventually Gary Hart returned to the hospital to check on Massaro, while her rapist and the female soldier guarding the door quickly left without further explanation. Gary carried her to the vehicle, still “limp” and unable to speak, before taking her back to the hotel and putting her in bed to rest.
“Three hours later, I woke up suddenly and jumped out of bed and had regained the ability to move and speak. My mind however could barely process the fact that I had just been drugged and then violently and brutally raped and sodomized repeatedly by a man who was celebrating his birthday and claimed to be a US Army doctor. I also felt a sense of abandonment and wished someone had just stayed with me at the base as this likely would never have happened had I not been left there alone.”
Massaro then claims to have informed Maria Kanellis about the assault, who informed the rest of the group they were traveling with. She also states that because of her mental and physical condition at the time, and due to being in the Middle East and having just been raped at a medical facility under the care of the U.S. military, she was not in a position to have a rape kit administered at the time.
There was still more trouble to come before the WWE crew could even get home, as Massaro recalled that her “ticket was inexplicably missing” as the group was about to board their flight from Saudi Arabia to London, en route back to the U.S.
“Their solution was to leave me in Riyadh alone and put me up in a hotel by the airport. At this point, I had already given the burqa I had borrowed from the US Service members back to them and they had left; Riyadh was the location where I was harassed at the beginning of the trip when while wearing a burqa; and I had just been drugged and viciously raped. I could not believe that anyone would expect me to stay there overnight alone given the circumstances. Nevertheless, Gary and rest of the group left and got on their flight.”
After finally returning home, Massaro was questioned by a WWE physician named Dr. Rios, who had somehow found out about the incident. She then asked him to keep things between them confidential, but he immediately informed Vince McMahon, who then spread the news to Kevin Dunn, John Laurinaitis, several other executives and company lawyers.
She describes being called into a meeting with all the above names present, where she was asked to once again recount what happened to her in the Middle East, in front of a room full of male executives and complete strangers.
“Vince led the meeting with these men and asked me to recount what happened in Kuwait. Then he said it was not in the best interest of the WWE for me to make the information about my attack public. I was still completely traumatized at that point and I just agreed. It was clear that there had already been a conversation and that they had reached a decision on their own prior to consulting with me as this was not a debate but rather Vince instructing me to keep this confidential.”
Massaro claims Vince McMahon apologized to her because of the trauma she endured, but “stressed” that going public with the incident would “ruin the relationship between the WWE and the US Military”. He then allegedly told her “not to let one bad experience ruin the good work they were doing.”
“It had already happened to me and the damage was already done. But again, I felt so defeated at that point that it seemed pointless to protest. I also admittedly was uncomfortable with the thought of all the wrestlers finding out so I asked Vince and those in the room to keep the incident quiet and they agreed.”
“At the time, I was completely traumatized and had literally no support. I also had no evidence as I was unable to have a rape kit administered and did not even know the name of my rapist. I was also not in the appropriate mental state to determine the proper channels to go through to report a crime that happened on a military base in Kuwait and was committed by a man I could not identify by name. Given my condition, I simply did not have it in me to go against the wishes of the WWE and to attempt to pursue the matter any further and I remained silent. The easiest thing to do seemed to be to try to pretend it didn’t happen (which of course ultimately never works).”
“This experience was by far the most traumatic and emotionally damaging thing that has ever happened to me and it and it haunts me to this day. People often speak of having nightmares where they are being attacked but for some unknown reason are unable to scream or run. This happened to me – in real life – and I can’t count the number of times I have relived this incident in my mind.”
In July 2008, Massaro posted on her official Myspace page that she would be asking WWE for an early release from her contract, in order to return home and tend to her 9-year-old daughter, Alexa, who is now 18.
Allegedly, not one person in the company recommended she seek therapy following the assault.
In honor of Ashley, we ask that you consider making a donation to RAINN, a beautiful organization that does incredible work for the survivors of sexual abuse, and their loved ones.