Former WWE ring boy comes forward about being sexually abused as a teenager by Mel Phillips

TW: rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse of minors
Vince McMahon Resigns From W.W.E.'s Parent Board Amid Sexual Assault Inquiry
Vince McMahon Resigns From W.W.E.'s Parent Board Amid Sexual Assault Inquiry / John Moore/GettyImages

Since Janel Grant filed a lawsuit against Vince McMahon, John Laurinaitis, and WWE, more people have been talking about situations they were involved in or knew of. Some of the stories were out there before, but have renewed scrutiny. Some are adding their personal experiences to allegations that have been public knowledge.

Former WWE wrestler, Paul Roma, discussed male wrestlers being propositioned by executives in exchange for a push. He also alluded to knowing about something happening to someone else that is "worse than what happened to Janel Grant."

WWE has had public stories out for decades, including former WWE referee Rita Chatterton coming forward about allegedly being raped by Vince McMahon in 1986. Another big story that got less attention than it would today is the Ring Boy scandal.

WWE's ring boy scandal makes national news

Back when it was WWF, they had ring boys who put together the wrestling ring. Former ring announcer, Mel Phillips, was in charge of this group of boys. Phillips, along with Terry Garvin (Terry Joyal) and Pat Patterson, are accused of grooming and sexually abusing some of the boys. Garvin was a wrestler who eventually became the Vice President of Operations. Patterson was also a former wrestler who later became a producer and consultant.

Tom Cole and Chris Loss came forward in 1992 and said that he had been sexually abused by Phillips. They were 15 and 16 at the time, respectively. Both said that Phillips would play with their feet and rub them against his genitals. A friend of Loss's who would sometimes accompany him said that Phillips would horseplay with them and "he would put us in between his legs up near his groin area."

Cole also said that when Joyal was vice president of operations, he wanted to engage in sexual activities with Cole. Cole was 16 and 19 when these incidents occurred. After Cole turned him down the second time, he alleged that he was fired by Phillips on Joyal's orders in 1990.

In a 1992 interview with Phil Mushnick, McMahon said fired Phillips because of his interest in young boys. He was later rehired with the caveat that he stay away from young boys. McMahon would later sue Mushnick and the New York Post for defamation. Both sides would settle in 1994 without Mushnick or the Post admitting error or money being exchanged. With the story going nationwide, Phillips and Joyal were fired and didn't return to the company. Patterson resigned, but was later rehired.

Another WWE ring boy comes forward

Tom Cole died by suicide in 2021. He was only 50 years old. Cole's brother, Lee, is the one who convinced Tom to go public in the first place. Lee recently interviewed another ring boy on his YouTube channel, Wrestling with the Devil.

The ring boy identified as "Shawn" was a ring boy from 1986 to 1987. At the time, he was a high school student and lived in a foster home. Mel Phillips would pick him up and take him to shows. Sometimes there were other boys, while other times, it was just him. While based in Philadelphia, Phillips took Shawn to events in Baltimore and New York. He was even taken to the Titan Sports warehouse in Connecticut.

While traveling to other cities, he would often stay in hotel rooms with Phillips. Shawn stated that Phillips would either be in only underwear or underwear with a t-shirt while trying to wrestle him in the hotel room.

“There’s like two Mels. There’s the Mel Phillips that was the ring announcer, that took you to the shows, fed you, gave you money. Then there’s the behind-the-scenes Mel that, once that hotel room door shuts, it’s like a little different.”

Shawn was in the military when Tom came forward with what happened when he was a ring boy. He stated that when he heard Tom's story, he thought "Hey, that happened to me." He recalled that a wrestler warned him to be careful around Phillips. It seemed that a lot of people in WWE at the time knew something nefarious was going on involving the ring boys, but no one stepped in to stop it.

Shawn did have interactions with Joyal, who he said gave him "bad vibes" and made him nervous anytime he was around. He said Joyal hinted that if he wanted to be a wrestler, he could help him but wanted something from him.

The interview ended abruptly and it appears that there will be a second interview.

As this lawsuit moves forward, more stories will be coming out. More people will find the courage to talk about what happened to them. Others will talk about things they've witnessed. The people who knew must be held accountable. If these people are still employed, they must go. WWE must reckon with its decades-long history of abuse.

If you or someone you know is dealing with sexual assault or abuse, The National Sexual Assualt Hotline can be reached at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).