"I've been with him on two different WWE functions where she came up to him and knew him by name," McNaught said in an interview from his office in San Antonio, where Lance died, aged 29, on Aug. 13.
"She disrespected him," McNaught said. "She disrespected my family."
The father also said he thinks McMahon and her husband, who remains at the helm of their $1.02 billion corporation, know exactly what a toll the driving pace of wrestling competition can take on individual wrestlers struggling, as his son did, to work through injuries and not be passed over for a chance to be in the spotlight.
Lance McNaught "would have cut his arm off for Vince McMahon, but it wasn't there in return," his father said. "He don't care any more than the man in the moon for them, other than as dollar signs."
In a written statement, WWE vigorously defended its "Talent Wellness Program," which includes drug testing, cardiovascular testing, screening for possible head injuries, annual physicals and referrals to outside consultants as needed.
"The well being of our performers is our number one concern, without whom, WWE would not exist," the statement read. "Specifically, our current Talent Wellness Policy is at least as good or commensurate with any others of its kind. As for the assertion that the company was embarrassed because Lance went to rehab (which WWE encouraged and paid for), that is ridiculous. Other WWE performers have successfully completed rehab and are currently on the roster. We are proud that we can offer this assistance, and of our performers who have completed these programs."
The company continually checked on McNaught's health, spokesman Robert Zimmerman said, including after his release from WWE. McNaught was released from his first WWE contract in 2008, then brought back in September 2009. He asked to be admitted in January 2010 and successfully completed rehab, the company contends, but was released from his contract in April after a planned story line in which he would have appeared was scrapped.
Zimmerman said the company continued to reach out to McNaught after his release.
"No talent has ever been discouraged to speak up," the statement said.
Meanwhile, a McMahon campaign spokesman said it "certainly wasn't Linda's intent to diminish any additional interaction she may have had" with McNaught.
"WWE has nearly 600 employees and about 140 performers, and I think it's understandable that Linda may not recollect every interaction she's had, particularly given the fact that she's personally met with thousands of voters since resigning her position at WWE in September," said spokesman Ed Patru. "Linda's a very kind and sympathetic person, but she is human."
Pretty much the usual from WWE & the McMahon campaign, albeit on the softer side of the continuum that's balanced by statements like their rebuttal of Chris Nowinski. Between Nowinski, McNaught, and Michael Benoit, they have made a lot of enemies that could badly damage the campaign.
The article also goes into interviews that Cade gave earlier this year, including references to the pressure to keep working while injured. There's also a pretty glaring error: Cade is quoted as referring to "the media attention that this has gotten since Eddie and Chris has passed away." Given the context, he's most likely referring to Eddy Guerrero and Chris Benoit, but The Day thought he was referring to Eddie "Umaga" Fatu and Chris "Kanyon" Klucsaritis.
Meanwhile, here's a scary statistic:
When WWE pulled its developmental affiliation from Memphis Championship Wrestling in 2001, forcing them to close, and fired much of the talent working there (including Daniel Bryan) to make room for wrestlers whose contracts were acquired with the rest of WCW's assets, they kept six of the wrestlers and sent them to the Heartland Wrestling Association in Cincinatti: Russ Hass, Charlie Haas, Kimo (Matt "Rosey" Anoa'i), Ekmo (Eddie "Umaga" Fatu), Lance Cade, and Steve Bradley. Of the six, all but Charlie Haas and Matt Anoa'i are dead. It gets creepier. Charlie Haas, Anoa'i, and Cade found Russ Haas's body in Cincinatti. Anoa'i and Cade were Charlie Haas's best friends after his brother died, and died within a year of each other.