WWE performer Matt Riddle was accused of sexually assaulting an indie wrestler, Samantha Tavel, in June 2020. She named Riddle, WWE, Evolve, and former Evolve booker (and current NXT producer) Gabe Sapolsky in the multi-million-dollar civil lawsuit, but two of these parties are no longer involved. Northern District of Illinois Judge Manish S. Shah removed WWE and Sapolsky as defendants.
According to PWInsider, Sapolsky filed a motion to dismiss on Jan. 8 while listing several reasons why the court should dismiss proceedings against him. The motion argued that the Illinois court does not hold jurisdiction over Sapolsky given that he does not live in Illinois, does not own any property in the state, and only travels to the state sparingly for work reasons. The motion also argued that Sapolsky did not hire Tavel to perform and that Riddle was not an Evolve employee.
"As an initial matter, it is important to point out that Mr. Sapolsky did not hire Ms. Tavel to perform at this event," the motion said. "She came to the event on her volition, insisted on attending the event, and paid her own expenses." The motion included several private Twitter DMs between Sapolsky and Tavel as evidence, including those where the performer said that she had booked her own flight to the events.
The sexual assault allegedly occurred in 2018 after an Evolve event. Tavel said on Twitter that she was riding with Riddle and a few other wrestlers in a van. When the three other wrestlers fell asleep, Riddle allegedly asked her to "hop on his d—." She refused but mentioned she "had previously been together" with the professional wrestler. However, Tavel wrote that she was "uncomfortable in that setting."
Riddle then allegedly "grabbed me by my throat, choked me and said, 'What if I just made you?'" Tavel then wrote that she gave Riddle oral sex in order to avoid having sex with him. She called the ordeal "incredibly humiliating."
"Further decreasing the event's relevance, Ms. Tavel does not allege that Mr. Riddle assaulted her during the event," the motion added. "Instead, she claims Mr. Riddle assaulted her 'after the Evolve event . . . while on a bus leaving the event,' a bus that was neither provided by Mr. Sapolsky nor Evolve. In fact, the bus was not even a bus, but an old van belonging to and driven by Mr. Ranta. Moreover, Mr. Sapolsky was not in Mr. Ranta's van with Riddle and Tavel, and had no knowledge of the events once the couple left the Evolve 104 show."
Riddle has continued to deny the allegations against him, calling the entire story about the van a "fabricated lie." He said that he did have an affair with Tavel but claimed that she "stalked" him after he tried to end the relationship. Riddle has continued to push for the lawsuit to be dismissed, but these attempts have failed.