PHILADELPHIA - As thousands of retired players await final approval of its settlement agreement with the National Football League over health coverage for the long term effects of severe head trauma they received while punishing their bodies on the gridiron, a pair of former professional wrestlers has filed a class action lawsuit against World Wrestling Entertainment.
The complaint filed Jan. 16 by Evan Singleton, 22, of Lancaster, and Vito LoGrosso, 50, of Coatesville, touches on familiar language used in the NFL litigation, accusing one of the top sports entertainment companies in the world of knowingly concealing the long-term effects of severe head trauma in the name of capitalizing on the extreme violence enjoyed by its ardent fans.
"It is not simply that the WWE has failed to protect its wrestlers," says the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. "WWE deliberately creates and heightens the violence of its matches in order to 'heat' up audiences and increase its profits."
While football players have endured dangerous helmet-to-helmet blows, brutal pile-ons for fumbles and head-rattling tackles, wrestlers have experienced shots to their heads with folding chairs, being thrown onto a pine, hardwood table and flying head butts, according to the complaint.
The claim says WWE management has willfully ignored harmful injuries during matches and supplied minimal medical care. The medical personnel has failed to diagnose possible concussions, the complaint says, which served to assuage many wrestlers' concerns about their injuries and encourage them to get back in the ring before they had fully recovered.
The lead plaintiffs seek a declaration of liability against the WWE and the creation of a medical monitoring program, also similar to the one agreed upon by the NFL and the retired players. They also seek financial compensation for the long-term chronic injuries that members of the class will suffer.
A litany of wrestling moves and special, themed matches are detailed in the complaint, such as powerslams, brain busters, jawbreakers, ladder matches, chain matches and cage matches. The complaint says the WWE encouraged increasingly dangerous stunts without providing adequate training and safety measures, all while growing into an international multimillion-dollar corporation.
Singleton entered the WWE under the stage name "Adam Mercer" in 2012. He performed several times a week, the complaint says, without receiving enough rest between matches.
After approximately 15 matches, the claim says, he suffered a major head injury in the ring. The league improperly cleared him to continue performing and downplayed his injury, but Singleton experienced several symptoms including tremors, migraines and memory loss, he says. He consulted a neurologist, who determined that he had become permanently disabled, ending Singleton's wrestling career after one year, he says.
A veteran of the wrestling scene, LoGrasso performed in the 1990s and mid-2000s under several stage names, such as Big Vito and Skull Von Krush. He claims that he had been coerced into returning to the ring without adequate time to recover from his injuries, under threats that he would lose future opportunities to wrestle.
During competitions, LoGrasso sustained blows from chairs, metal garbage cans, baseball bats and thrown into tables, he says. He claims to suffer from neurological damage, depression, anxiety and hearing loss.
The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys from Pogust, Braslow & Millrood in Conshohocken.
The federal case ID is 5:15-cv-00223-LS.