n August 28, 2021, Rita Chatterton, a sandy-haired 64-year-old woman, stood at a podium in Albany to receive a “Trailblazer Award” from the International Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame was the brainchild of a wrestling fan named Seth Turner, who wanted to honor Chatterton for being the World Wrestling Federation’s first female referee. “Seth calls me and says, ‘Rita, I need you to do the Hall of Fame with me,’” Chatterton recalls. At first she refused; she didn’t want to revisit her time with the WWF, now known as WWE. But Turner finally convinced her, and she was ultimately glad she did it. “I always said I don’t want to live and die and be forgotten,” she told him.
Chatterton has been forgotten before. In 1992, she came forward publicly to accuse Vincent Kennedy McMahon, the iron-willed owner of the WWF, of raping her in the summer of 1986. However, the statute of limitations for rape had already run out by then, so no charges were brought against McMahon. What’s more, the accusation came out while the WWF was mired in a number of unrelated scandals, and it got lost in the shuffle.
Since then, her story was whispered about and occasionally cited by wrestling journalists bold enough to risk earning McMahon’s ire. But such occasions have been rare. The reporters’ reticence had been understandable, and not just because they fear McMahon. The bigger problem has been that no one would come forward to speak on the record.
That’s starting to change. In June, The Wall Street Journal reported that McMahon had paid millions of dollars of his own cash to silence women he had sexual relationships with while they worked for him. In the wake of the report, McMahon stepped down as chairman and CEO of the company, letting his daughter, Stephanie, replace him in the interim — although it’s unclear how much power he has actually ceded.
The news so disgusted Leonard Inzitari, a former professional wrestler, that, in a conversation with me, he did something no wrestler ever has: corroborated the allegation that McMahon raped Chatterton. “I remember it like it was yesterday,” says Inzitari. “She was a wreck. She was shaking. She was crying.”
Inzitari’s in-ring alias was “Mario Mancini,” and he was what the wrestling industry calls a “jobber”: He’d be paid a few hundred bucks per show to “lose” to more famous wrestlers in their choreographed matches. Inzitari, like everyone else involved in the WWF, obeyed the whims of McMahon, who began to take control over his father’s company in 1982. In the three decades since Inzitari retired, he has always taken care to speak highly of McMahon in interviews.
But now, as Inzitari puts it, “He’s dug himself such a deep hole that I’m just tired of it. I can’t do it anymore.”