The fear of seeing the words “lawsuit” and “concussion” in the same sentence probably keeps plenty of higher ups at the major sports organizations up at night, but the WWE is not your normal sports organization. But now, with a suit filed in US District Court in Connecticut, where the WWE is based out of, 53 former wrestlers allege a possible link between head injuries sustained during their time in the squared circle and CTE, the progressive degenerative brain disease that has been diagnosed in a number of deceased athletes and at least two professional wrestlers, Chris Benoit and Andrew “Test” Martin.
The Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka factor
One of the more interesting names on the list is Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, who in 2015 was arrested for the 1983 death of his then-girlfriend Nancy Argentino, but who was ruled not mentally competent to stand trial just this past June. While many remember Snuka for his high-flying moves, he’s maybe most famous for getting smashed in the head with a coconut by the late Roddy Piper.
Among the plaintiffs names you’ll find a number of former WWE stars from the 1980s and 1990s, including Ax and Smash of the tag team Demolition, Slick and King King Bundy, but you’ll also find a few names like Sabu, Shane Douglas, and Chavo Guerrero Sr., all of whom wrestled for the bulk of their respective careers in different federations, some of which – including WCW and ECW – now fall under the WWE banner.
The former WWE superstar and co-creator of the Concussion Legacy Foundation obtained Chris Benoit’s brain for research after Benoit murdered his wife, son, and then himself in 2007. Nowinski and former partner Dr. Bennet Omalu’s findings will play a large part in any concussion lawsuit, but as Nick Paglino at Wrestle Zone pointed out, WWE is a huge sponsor of Concussion Legacy Foundation: “And as WWE continues to battle a concussion lawsuit in part by challenging Omalu’s diagnosis of Benoit, Nowinski might have a major question to answer: does he support WWE or the findings of his ex-partner Omalu, with whom Nowinski is no longer in business?”
The WWE released a statement aimed at Konstantine Kyros, a member of the six-member legal team that brought the suit against the WWE: “This is another ridiculous attempt by the same attorney who has previously filed class-action lawsuits against WWE, both of which have been dismissed.” Kyros responded: “It has been the studied practice of WWE through its counsel to denigrate the motives and integrity of anyone who is courageous enough to protest WWE’s self-serving choice to ignore the human toll and health crisis that its policies, fraud, and mistreatment of its workers have created.”
WWE superstars are classified as independent contractors, so unlike football or hockey, there’s no union to represent them in such matters. The lawsuit makes the claim that the independent contractor designation is wrong and seeks damages.