As Buck Woodward wrote over the weekend, WWE's Ashley Massaro was implicated as being part of an escort service run by Michelle "Nici" Braun in an article that was published in the current issue of Rolling Stone, written by the magazine's Contributing Editor Michelle Grigoriadis.
According to Grigoriadis' piece, the FBI monitored emails between Massaro and "Bella Models" which Braun ran as the front for the escort service, arranging transportation for Massaro in 2004. The monitored emails (and many other email exchanges between the agency and others, models and clients alike, from 2004 through last year) were used as building blocks for a search warrant executed during a raid on Braun's home October 2007.
Massaro came out publicly against the allegations almost immediately on her MySpace.com blog, penning, "Just got buzzed on some BS that is going around. Dont believe it for a second. Getting in touch with my lawyer as we speak. No post song because I'm beyond upset." Massaro has not commented since.
One theory that began making the rounds online after word of the RS article broke was the idea that WWE's Massaro is being confused with another woman who goes by the same name. However, according to Grigoriadis' piece, Braun's escort service was made up almost exclusively of high-end women recruited "from the ranks of Playboy models and porn stars." It was what set them apart from other agencies and what made Braun her fortune. While Massaro wasn't with WWE at the time of the monitored emails, she was indeed, already involved with Playboy.
The timeline mentioned in the Rolling Stone article is very important here. The article noted the year of the FBI monitored emails between Massaro and Bella Models was 2004. That would be a year prior to Massaro winning the 2005 Diva Search competition and signing on with World Wrestling Entertainment full-time.
However, as noted, Massaro would have already been involved with Playboy, modeling under the stage name "Mackenzie Ryan". In 2003, Massaro took part in Playboy's 50th Anniversary Playmate Search, posing for a magazine dedicated to the search. She was also featured as Playboy.com's Cyber Girl for January 2004. While WWE has played up a storyline that Ashley's character first posed for the magazine in 2007, the reality is that Massaro had appeared previously for Playboy and those pre-WWE appearances do theoretically fit neatly into the same period as the FBI emails cited in the article.
The Rolling Stone piece noted that Braun had been soliciting Playmates through one of Playboy owner Hugh Hefner's girlfriends, who, had a connection to Braun and "was willing to solicit other Playmates and [Hefner] girlfriends." It stands to reason that Massaro would know those who traveled in those circles by virtue of her modeling work for the magazine and the escort service specifically provided services for those looking to meet high-end, beautiful, somewhat celebrity women that would otherwise be unattainable had it not been for the size of the johns' wallets.
Now, I concede there's always a possibility that another woman was using the same name (either legitimately or using a stage name that happened to be Massaro's real name) during that time period, but I've been unable to find anything that lends credence to that theory. All research for the name "Ashley Massaro" only turns up information relating to the WWE performer. One reader who actually sent us a link to the "other" Ashley's website mistakenly sent us to photos of a pre-WWE, pre-tattooed Ashley.
A case of mistaken identity? Involving Rolling Stone magazine and a writer that has a great track record? Well, the odds that there was a mix-up involving another woman going by the same name (one that isn't exactly Jane Doe when it comes to being common), with connections to Playboy during the same time frame as the 2004 emails seems almost astronomical.
Still, despite all that, could this still just be a case of mistaken identity for the self-proclaimed "Dirty, dirty Diva"?
When reached via email over the weekend regarding the Massaro aspect of her Rolling Stone piece, RS Contributing Editor Michelle Grigoriadis didn't seem to believe so. When informed of Massaro's denial and the online theories, Grigoriadis commented, "Obviously, I stand by my story. Massaro is named in an FBI search warrant that was executed on Michelle Braun's property in October, 2007. I have no knowledge of another woman by the same name."
Gossip website TMZ.com picked up on the Massaro story over the weekend, but were unable to reach World Wrestling Entertainment for comment at the time. As of this writing, WWE has not publicly responded to or acknowledged the story.
World Wrestling Entertainment is taping Raw tonight in Toronto, so Massaro should be scheduled to be at the taping. Should she make a live appearance on the show, we'll know soon enough if the Toronto fans acknowledge the story.