PHILADELPHIA - Two former professional wrestlers accuse the WWE of "selling violence" while ignoring concussions that they say left them with serious brain injuries.
The men, including one who performed under the name Skull Von Krush, have filed a potential class-action lawsuit in federal court in Philadelphia that echoes thousands of suits pending against the NFL. The NFL litigation, pending in the same courthouse, could yield a $1 billion settlement if a judge approves the proposed deal.
The WWE plaintiffs are 50-year-old Vito LoGrasso of Coatesville and 22-year-old Evan Singleton of Lancaster.
"Under the guise of providing entertainment, the WWE has, for decades, subjected its wrestlers to extreme physical brutality that it knew, or should have known, caused created latent conditions and long-term irreversible bodily damage, including brain damage," the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit said that Singleton, who performed under the name Adam Mercer from 2012 to 2013, is now disabled because of brain trauma he suffered early in his career, which began at 19. LoGrasso suffers from migraines, memory loss, depression and deafness after nearly a decade with the WWE, the lawsuit said. His various stage names included Skull Von Krush and Big Vito.
A lawyer for the Stamford, Connecticut-based company, led by Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon, said the lawsuit and a similar one filed in Oregon have no merit.
"WWE has never concealed any medical information related to concussions, or otherwise, from our (performers). WWE was well ahead of sports organizations in implementing concussion management procedures and policies as a precautionary measure as the science and research on this issue emerged," lawyer Jerry McDevitt said.
The suit describes some of the more dramatic tricks performed by WWE wrestlers, including the flying head butt and the chair shot, which involves striking a performer in the head with a folding chair.
"When performed by, and on, hulking, poorly trained ... wrestlers with various levels of dexterousness, they (the tricks) are a recipe for disaster - and widespread, long-term brain damage," said the lawsuit, filed by lawyers Harris L. Pogust of suburban Philadelphia and Charles J. LaDuca of Bethesda, Maryland.
The lawsuit accuses the WWE of downplaying the seriousness of head injuries suffered in the ring and discouraging Singleton from seeing a neurologist.
The plaintiffs also allege that two WWE performers were found after their deaths to have the brain decay known as CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and that 13 current or former performers committed suicide over 10 years.
The suit seeks unspecified economic damages and medical monitoring.
The NFL expects about 6,000 former players to develop Alzheimer's disease or moderate dementia in the coming decades. Their awards could reach $3 million to $5 million but would likely average $190,000 given their age and condition.