John Arezzi sees a multi-decade trend of sexual misconduct in WWE

Decades after he extensively covered numerous scandals involving professional wrestling’s top promotion, there’s something that shocks John Arezzi: They’re still dealing with the same issues.

A history of misconduct allegations within WWE has been revisited in recent months after a lawsuit filed against the company, Vince McMahon, and John Laurinaitis alleged sexual assault, trafficking, and abuse. The lawsuit, which forced McMahon out of the company, is one of many alleged incidents that show a lengthy culture of allowing such conduct within the promotion.

From 1989 to 1995, Arezzi hosted the Pro Wresting Spotlight radio show. He says the radio show quickly became an insider audio program for wrestling, covering the serious stories around the industry. He notably covered the ring boy scandal, which alleged that numerous WWF staffers sexually abused underage employees. WWF employees Mel Phillips and Terry Garvin allegedly took advantage of numerous people within the promotion, with allegations about them still coming out in recent times. 

More than 30 years removed from some of his pro wrestling work, Arezzi sees the same issues still in the industry.

“It’s like deja vu for me, that this is still going on after so many years,” Arezzi said in an interview on this week’s episode of Pollock & Thurston. “After decades of all the scandals that have plagued WWE, back then WWF. For me, it’s really disheartening in a way, that stuff was going on for decades. This latest flurry of allegations and lawsuits and just the sordid details are quite disgusting. It has been a fascinating look at someone who obviously, from the top of the organization, had a culture that has hurt many, many people in devastating ways.”

While the same issues surrounding the WWF back then are seen nowadays in WWE, Arezzi reflected on minor ways in which these stories have changed. Arezzi remembers receiving large amounts of backlash for covering the ring boy scandal, a topic which is still being considered a blemish on the promotion to this day.

“I can’t begin to tell you guys — when I go back and look at the history of what I did on Pro Wrestling Spotlight — me being condemned for even covering this stuff back then like I had some sort of agenda, all I wanted was for this stuff to stop … That’s why I covered it the way I did.”

Arezzi, who has been re-airing episodes of his show online in recent years, remembers WWF wanting Pro Wrestling Spotlight to be a broadcast that strictly focused on covering wrestling in a positive light. It didn’t take long for the promotion to distance themselves from the show.

“My way of covering wrestling was not embraced by WWF at the time at all. When I first launched the show in 1989 they cooperated with me and were kind of telling [me] ‘Let’s cover the business in a positive way,’” he remembered. “And then I had Bruno Sammartino on as my second guest. He said some disparaging things, and that’s when the cooperation ended, and that’s when they took me on as someone they didn’t really want to do business with.”

When looking at a bigger picture, outside of his personal experiences covering the ring boy scandal, Arezzi sees a change in how sexual assault allegations around McMahon, Laurinaitis, and WWE are being covered differently nowadays. He believes that modern WWE cases of sexual harassment have received extra scrutiny from the media. In the past, top wrestling controversies of any kind might make it onto the Phil Donahue show or, in more modern cases Nancy Grace, but it wouldn’t get extensive, highly critical coverage for weeks on end. Arezzi sees a much more critical eye being provided by top media companies. He mentioned specifically that Ashleigh Banfield’s nightly newscast on NewsNation has been closely following the story.

“When you see the mainstream media, you see NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox News, NewsNation, all of these people diving deep into this now, this is not going away,” he said. “This is now full-scale mainstream media coverage that did not exist when the other scandals came about in the early 90s. It ain’t going away, they’re going to be covering this until the bitter end.”

Arezzi has admitted that the darker parts of wrestling’s culture have made him dip in and out of following the sport throughout his life. While his feelings around wrestling have changed throughout the years, he only hopes that the culture inside the sport can improve and prevent sexual assault and misconduct from happening in the future. He believes that not just those who committed wrongdoing in the WWE but also those who knew of it need to be gone: “All of those people, no matter who they are, should be left, brought out, and never to return to the company.”

About Jack Wannan 169 Articles
Jack Wannan is a journalist from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He writes and reports on professional wrestling, along with other topics like MMA, boxing, music, local news, and more. He graduated from Toronto Metropolitan University in 2023 with a bachelor's degree in journalism. He can be reached at [email protected]