Former WWE Ring Boy Comes Forward With Allegations Against Mel Phillips

TRIGGER WARNING

In 1992, Mel Phillips and Terry Garvin were accused to have inappropriate sexual relations with underage boys by Tom Cole, a former ring boy. Phillips was initially fired by Vince McMahon, but later re-hired with the mandate to stay away from kids.

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Cole also accused Pat Patterson of making sexual gestures. Cole reached an out of court settlement with WWE.

The Ring Boy Scandal was heavily covered by David Bixenspan for Business Insider and Abraham Josephine Riseman for Rolling Stone.

Cole committed suicide in 2021, but his brother Lee Cole has continued to seek the truth for his brother.

In a new interview, Lee spoke with former ring boy Shawn, who spoke on his experiences with WWE and Phillips.

Shawn: Mel would come, when they were in Philadelphia, come and pick me up at my house. We would drive down to Philly, stay at the Red Roof Inn outside of Philly.

Lee: Were there other ring boys with you?

Shawn: Sometimes, there were. Sometimes we'd pick up someone from the Kensington area. Other times, it could have been just myself. Some of them came from broken type homes. We were all pretty much....we had similar backgrounds.

Lee: You didn't have trouble getting along with them?

Shawn: No. Not at all.

Lee: Did Mel rent a room?

Shawn: Yes, we would stay in the same room.

Lee: Separate beds?

Shawn: It depends on how many people were with us.

Lee: When did you feel uneasy?

Shawn: The one thing, Mel had this thing about your feet. He would wrestle you, grab your toes, bend them. Then you'd be like 'Ah.' That's probably where it started. I didn't think about it. That guy is trying to make me submit to this wrestling hold. That's where it started.

(Lee mentions video of Mel putting a foot between his crotch)

Shawn: Yeah, he would do that, or he'd sit on top. I'd be on the bottom. I'm almost sitting on my legs, pulling my toes and stuff.

Lee: Did it creep you out?

Shawn: There are like two Mels. There is the Mel Phillips that is the ring announcer that took you to the shows, fed you, gave you money. Then there is the behind the scenes Mel that, once the hotel door room shuts, it's a little different.

Lee: He was a big brother or father figure outside of the room?

Shawn: Right.

Lee: How is he dressed?

Shawn: He's surely not in the suit that he wears in the ring. Sometimes he was in his underwear. Sometimes he'd have his underwear and t-shirt on. Sometimes, sweatpants.

Lee: Did you believe what Tom was saying?

Shawn: When that came out, I was already in the Army, but yes. 'Wait, that happened to me. That's similar what I had happened to me, sort of.' I don't know everything that happened to your brother. I started 86-87, but August 87, I left for the Army. That was the one thing, I can't say what happened to Tom. I don't even know if I ran into him or we went to the same place.

I was kind of warned by a wrestler, later towards the time I was getting ready to leave. I can't remember exactly who told me. It was, 'Be careful. Be careful who you're with.' Then, come to find out, later in life, every body knew Mel had this fetish. To me, if all the wrestlers knew, who else knew that he had this fetish? I do remember when I was with somebody else, we were at the show, and someone had talked to Mel about having all these boys around. I didn't really think, 'what's going on?' Someone talked to Mel about it, though. You could see, obviously he starts to groom to trust in him.

Lee: Did he have ring boys he liked more than others?

Shawn: I think you age out.

Mel asked me one time what I wanted to do. I wanted to get into law enforcement. That was taboo. They were like, 'Huh?' You have to remember, you're running away with the circus. It's not all what you see. When you say you want to be in law enforcement, it's like, 'Woah.'

Lee: You got the feeling they didn't care for law enforcement?

Shawn: Yes, that's what I felt. I was 5'5'', there was no way I was going to be a professional wrestler. Back in 86-87, you just weren't. You had guys were 200-300 pounds.

Lee: What was first meeting with Terry Garvin like?

Shawn: I only ran into Terry Garvin a few times. It depended on where you were. Terry Garvin was a pretty big, for me, a bigger man. He came off friendly, but then, he gave me the creeps. I just felt nervous around him. Put his arm on your shoulder, 'Hey, how are you? So, you want to get into wrestling?' 'I like it. I'm too small to be a wrestler.' I just had bad vibes with him. It gave me a bad vibe because of my background (being in foster care). Now you're feeling, 'If you ever want to....' I don't know if I want to do that. There is a difference where Mel didn't do that. One is more aggressive than the other. I felt like, 'Hey, I can help you,' but it felt like there was something else and he wasn't going to do it just for himself. That's just the vibe came off him, but I didn't see him that much.

There was rules. When Mel would bring us, 'You're going to put up the ring or help with the ring guys. You come back, you don't get in the ring.' Depending on who was the booker or in charge, like Patterson [Pat Patteron] or Jay Strongbow [Chief Jay Strongbow]. Strongbow seemed to be more bossy. Maybe they knew they didn't want the kids around and that was the whole thing with certain bookers. 'You can't be here, you have to be here.' That's how I took it, but I'm 16-17 years old. Mel would bring us and put us somewhere in the back. One time I was in Philly, I sat with Ricky Steamboat's wife and Hulk Hogan's wife. Ricky Steamboat's wife was pregnant at the time so they'd talk about the baby coming. They were very cordial to me. I met Paul Orndorff, he asked me to get him a coke at the refreshment stand. We're there before everything opens. He gives me a $50 bill, I go to get the drink, they wouldn't give it to me. 'I'm with the wrestlers.' I had to go back and tell him they wouldn't give it to me and I gave him his money back. He went up and got his soda.

Lee: How many times did Mel pick you up?

Shawn: At least, probably, that's a good question. I have all the dates somewhere.

Lee: More or less than ten?

Shawn: Probably about ten. You also have to remember...there was like three in Allentown, the last two were when Mel would talk to me. Philadelphia, then I went to Philly a couple of times. February 14 around that time, I went to Philadelphia with him and then I went to Baltimore. At that time, they did an afternoon show and an evening show. The evening show in Baltimore was big for me because I got to carry the heavyweight title, which was in a bag, which was cool. I sat at ringside for the Hogan vs. Ugandan Giant [Kamala] match. I was sitting where they ring the bell. That was a cage match. They had the big blue cage that we put up. That was cool, putting up the cage.

Lee: People responsible for you in foster care, what did they think of Mel?

Shawn: I moved back home. I think I was back home, back then. Before that, I was staying with a friend at Allentown after I got out of foster care. I was in foster care and I had to get approval one or two times for Mel to take me. I finally got out of foster care. I could get back to my parents. That was the whole thing.

Lee: Did Mel take you across state lines?

Shawn: Yeah. If you go from Philadelphia to Baltimore, that was one. I went to Ithica, New York for a match, I was up in Connecticut at their old warehouse. You had the two big u-haul trucks, one went south, one went north. One on the east coast, and one out west, but I never went out that way.

Lee: What was the furthest from Philly you went?

Shawn: Connecticut

Lee: You were near titan towers?

Shawn: Yeah, they had a warehouse there we would drop stuff off, pick stuff up for the rings or pick up merchandise. 87, they didn't have the big merchandise they have today. It was right before they got big. WrestleMania 3 was right before I was still with them. Mel thought about taking me, but I guess you need certain approval, and it wasn't happening. The tickets were too expensive, I don't know.

That was the conclusion of part one.

Throughout the interview, Lee pauses to give his commentary, and there is a discussion regarding the allegations against Phillips and Patterson, which includes clips from former wrestlers like Bret Hart and Roddy Piper.

Phillips died in 2012.

Fans can watch the full show below.

Victim Resources:

National Sexual Assault Hotline
Hours: Available 24 hours
1-800-656-4673

RAINN.org

SAKI

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