Like just about any person with boatloads of money, WWE CEO Vince McMahon is no stranger to the courtroom. Both for legitimate reasons and those that have been entirely nonsense, the sports entertainment impresario has been sued an incredible number of times, sometimes resulting in huge payouts. Since early 2016, McMahon has been facing one of his greatest legal challenges yet, with over 50 former WWE superstars banding together under the direction of lawyer Konstantine Kyros to take their previous employer to task for issues related to brain injuries, specifically concussions and CTE.
At this point, CTE is still very much a mystery, with the research into its causes and effects only just beginning. All medical professionals know for sure is that repeat concussions are blatantly detrimental to a person’s health, and there’s no denying a good number of WWE superstars have head their head knocks pretty hard inside the squared circle. However, the question is whether or not McMahon and WWE are responsible for this, or if it’s a general issue the industry needs to address as a whole.
According to Kyros and the wrestlers who hired him, the answer is yes, Vince McMahon totally contributed to the trend by sending some of them out to the ring specifically so they could get hit in the head with a steel chair. That said, a few wrestlers named in this class action lawsuit never took a chair shot in their careers, let alone wrestled for WWE in the first place. What this means is there’s no way of knowing how the case will end, but the fact remains it’s a case that should have every wrestling fan’s attention. For more specifics, keep reading to learn about 25 wrestlers currently suing WWE in a case that could cost Vince McMahon millions.
25. King Kong Bundy Was Used
For a wrestler who is largely forgotten today, King Kong Bundy played a surprisingly big role in the rise of Hulkamania and by extension the WWE Universe. The plus-size athlete was involved in all three of the first WrestleMania’s, usually in relatively important roles. First, he set the record for shortest match against SD Jones, then challenged Hulk Hogan for the WWE Championship at the second, and finally bringing 93,000 fans to a violent frenzy when he literally squashed dwarf wrestler Little Beaver with a massive elbow drop. From there, Bundy kinda just disappeared, aside from a forgettable stint in Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Corporation. Throughout it all, the truth is that Bundy was never a hardcore wrestler, with much of his ring style related to his massive size and the difficulty in knocking him over. Bundy also achieved earlier, and perhaps more important, success working for WCCW and other territories, meaning WWE can’t be solely responsible for any pain caused in his career.
24. Adam Bomb Kept On Bombing
Introduced as a man who somehow survived the Three Mile Isle incident, and thus was imbued with radioactive superpowers of some kind, the Adam Bomb gimmick actually seemed like it could have ended with a lawsuit in one way or another. Of course, he should have been suing the poorly operated nuclear power plant, and not a man who employed him less than two years to wrestle in forgettable matches. This is to say Bomb never achieved much success in WWE, never experiencing a single noteworthy feud or championship opportunity before getting released and jumping to WCW. While there, he worked both as the violently destructive Wrath and under his real name Bryan Clarke, one half of Kronik. The latter gig made him a multiple time WCW Tag Team Championship and gave him another shot in WWE during the Invasion, which Clarke quickly bombed —no pun intended — getting fired again in under a month.
23. Judy Martin Got Totally Gypped
The women’s wrestling revolution may be a relatively new concept to the WWE Universe, but it’s not like Judy Martin and other female wrestlers like her weren’t trying their damnedest to kick things off decades before it happened. Martin’s efforts toward furthering her gender’s opportunities in the sport were largely confined to the largely forgotten WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships, which she held twice as a member of The Glamour Girls with Leilani Kai. Believe it or not, the matches the Girls wrestled against their rivals the Japanese export Jumping Bomb Angels were some of the most innovative of the 1980s, introducing hard hitting action like sentons and powerbombs, which men in WWE wouldn’t try extensively for a few more years. This violent action definitely could have effected Martin’s brain, and coupled with the fact WWE fired her basically at her peak for questionable reasons we don’t have time to explain here, maybe McMahon actually owes her a little bit.
22. Perry Saturn Suffered From Traumatic Brain Issues
Having spent a good portion of his career playing a character who appeared constantly concussed, it makes sense that Perry Saturn would be involved in the CTE lawsuit. Saturn is also a more decorated performer in WWE than most others on this list, having won both the European and Hardcore Championships. That he even competed in the hardcore division at all makes Saturn perfect for the suit, but then again, his career also happened to begin in ECW, where he was a multiple time Tag Team Champion as half of The Eliminators. Workplace accidents in WWE pale in comparison to those happening in the hardcore Philadelphia promotion, so it’s just as likely any later traumatic brain issues Saturn is facing could have been more Paul Heyman’s fault than Vince McMahon’s. Saturn also spent significant amounts of time in WCW and other independents as well, further shifting the blame off the man he’s suing.
21. Marty Jannetty Had Too Many Concussions To Count
Fully committing to the phrase “rock rock till you drop, rock rock never stops,” former Rocker Marty Jannetty has kept the party going long after hitting the prime of his career. In addition to his incredible and innovative team with Shawn Michaels, Jannetty tore up the ring in WWE with The 1-2-3 Kid in order to briefly hold the Tag Team Championships, and he also once beat his former partner HBK for the Intercontinental title, as well. During his time on top, Jannetty almost always delivered great matches in the ring, only for his success to come crumbling to pieces when substance and alcohol started running his life. Nowadays, the former champion is a sad reflection of his former self, and those same dangerous substances are largely the reason why. Could concussions also be playing a role? Given his high-flying and dangerous ring style, its certainly possible, at least more so than some others involved in the suit.
20. Ashley Massaro Didn’t Receive Much Training
Entering the WWE Universe, and by extension the wrestling community in general, through the 2005 Diva Search, chances are Ashley Massaro didn’t have the same level of training and experience as most others in her field. Then again, Massaro came to fame when most women working for WWE were models first and wrestlers second, so she wasn’t exactly alone in this. Still, for the company to expert her to appear in WrestleMania matches for the WWE Women’s Championship with barely two years in the industry was kind of asking a lot. Granted, most of her time in the industry was spent as either eye candy or in a managerial role, regularly accompanying WWE Tag Team Champions Brian Kendrick and Paul London to the ring. Even so, is it possible that Massaro suffered a bad head injury or two in her few actual matches? Absolutely, especially with how little training she received.
19. Muhammad Hassan Was Hated
Despite spending a grand total of six months in the WWE Universe, ill-fated gimmick Muhammad Hassan quickly became one of the most hated heels the company ever created. Portraying an Arab American only a few years after September 11, 2001, the crowd would violently react with anger at the mere sound of his pre-entrance music chanting. Luckily, he was a talented enough athlete to back it up in the ring, aptly competing against much higher profile wrestlers like Chris Jericho, Batista, Shawn Michaels, and Hulk Hogan. The downside is that the controversy quickly became too much, and WWE was heavily pressured to drop the character as his terrorist overtones began feeling way too true to life. Of all the names on this list, Hassan spent the least amount of time in wrestling by far, but on the other hand, almost all of it took place in WWE, with great spotlight attached. If he actually suffered any injuries in this short time, it could be a bad sign for Vince’s chances in the whole lawsuit.
18. Shane Douglas Was All About Headlocks And Bodyslams
By throwing down the NWA Championship to instead reign as ECW Champion, the “Franchise” Shane Douglas was indirectly setting the tone for the entire concussion lawsuit. In doing so, Douglas was rejecting decades of traditionalism in favor of the “extreme,” meaning chair shots, crashing through tables, and fighting violently destructive brawls that went far beyond headlocks and bodyslams. Is this to say Douglas is more responsible for any future wrestling brain injuries than Vince McMahon? Not in the slightest. However, the point is that Douglas’ own words and decisions in putting ECW on the map were definitely equal in responsibility. When it comes to Douglas specifically, any injuries he personally suffered likely took place in ECW and not WWE, since he reigned as the Philadelphia promotion’s World Champion over three years, while he spent mere months with Vince McMahon. Of course, his hardcore style definitely meant a few head injuries were possible in that time, so he could nonetheless be suffering, either way.
17. Too Cold Scorpio Was Demoted
Flying through the air like few others at the time, Too Cold Scorpio was one of the first American wrestlers putting high flying styles on the map. For the most part, Scorpio did this in WCW and ECW, jumping off the top with 450 Splashes that won him the WCW Tag Team Championship with Marcus Alexander Bagwell, plus a record four reigns as ECW Television Champion. Like everyone in the hardcore Philadelphia promotion, Scorpio’s style occasionally tended toward the hardcore as well, with a broken table making his moonsaults look even flashier. Later on, Scorpio tried taking these skills to the WWE Universe as Flash Funk, though he was much less successful. Before long, he was 1-2-3-4 Life as a member of Al Snow’s J.O.B. Squad, rarely competing in matches of note, a demotion that quickly sent him back to ECW. While his time in WWE wasn’t as high profile as in other companies, he was still there for long enough that he might have suffered a few head injuries while working for the McMahon’s.
16. What Happened To Mr. Fuji Could Be Blamed On McMahon
Throughout the majority of legendary WWE wrestler and manager Mr. Fuji’s life, he seemed like one of the last people who would ever sue Vince McMahon. Loyal to the very end, Fuji started his career with WWE in the 1970s, rarely leaving for more than a few months until his retirement in 1996. Vicious as a wrestler and devious as a manager, Fuji won five Tag Team Championships with Professor Toru Tanaka and Mr. Saito before helping Demolition win a handful more, then lead his final charge Yokozuna all the way to the WWE Championship. Fuji’s decades of loyalty remained in tact until his untimely death in 2016, but it seems his surviving daughter, Kelli Fujiwara Sloan, feels a bit differently about the situation. This is in part because an autopsy determined Fuji suffered from CTE or a similar disease, and Sloan feels that his primary employers throughout life probably had something to do with this. If she’s right, Vince McMahon will have to pay for it in one way or another.
15. Kamala Suffered Too Much
Well before the whole talk of CTE and other brain injuries became a focus of every wrestler’s life, the Ugandan Giant Kamala was already suffering in a major way. Since 2011, high blood pressure and diabetes have gradually caused Kamala to amputate both of his legs, and he’s also had heart and lung troubles that brought him to the brink of death. Prior to any of this happening, he was one of the most feared superstars in the world, a status he earned as a rival of Hulk Hogan, Jerry Lawler, and The Undertaker. Believe it or not, though, Kamala managed to challenge all of these luminaries without spending all too much time in WWE, basically only competing in these feuds before deciding to head elsewhere. Kamala could afford this luxury because territories around the world were always happy to hire him, which has the side effect of suggesting any other promoter he worked for was equally as responsible for later health problems as anyone in WWE.
14. Butch Reed Worked For McMahon For A Decade
While this list is entirely about wrestlers suing WWE, the real focus of the CTE debate is centered on the NFL, and whether or not football has the same detrimental effects on a player’s brain as wrestling allegedly does. This is relevant in the case of “The Natural” Butch Reed, as he played several seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs before hitting the squared circle. That said, Reed was only a Chief for about a year, and he was a wrestler for over a full decade. Though much of this time was indeed spent working for Vince McMahon, it could easily be argued Reed’s greater fame came on the territorial scene or in WCW, where he was one half of Doom with Ron Simmons. In fact, Reed only spent two short years in WWE, and didn’t exactly achieve any fame when he was there. It’s possible working for McMahon contributed to longstanding injuries faced throughout his career, but once again, WWE isn’t solely at fault.
13. Jazz Got Too Many Hits To The Head
Immediately upon her introduction to the WWE Universe, Jazz was revered as one of the toughest and meanest women in all of pro wrestling, and with good reason. Prior to working for the McMahon family, Jazz was one of the few ladies hardcore enough to play a regular role in ECW, where she managed Justin Credible and showed no fear in regularly challenging men to hardcore matches. Her time in WWE was equally destructive, twice managing to reign as Women’s Champion by defeating future Hall of Famer Trish Stratus. That said, as is often the case, Jazz toned down her ring style in WWE to involve significantly less chair shots than when she was in ECW. Of course, powerbombs and Chick Kicks straight to her head can be just as painful to a person’s brain health, and Jazz stuck around WWE long enough that additional damage could have been done while there.
12. Earl Hebner Didn’t Sign Up To Get Kicked In The Head
Showing just how pervasive the discussion on whether or not pro wrestling causes CTE is becoming, it’s not only the superstar grapplers who are at risk for potential brain injuries. Just about everyone involved in a wrestling show could accidentally wind up in the line of fire for a dropkick or some other move, and taking it to the face could possibly lead to the same sort of concussions this lawsuit is based on. For this reason, it makes total sense that a non-wrestler or two would join the suit, especially a person like Earl Hebner. For decades, Hebner was the senior WWE referee in charge of all the biggest championship matches and main events, and as fans are well aware, he got his head kicked in during a whole bunch of them. Obviously, the half hour plus he spent “unconscious” on screen was usually for show, but its entirely possible Hebner received a few real head injuries in the course of the action. Does that mean WWE is responsible, even as he continues his career elsewhere? That’s what the court has to decide.
11. Sue Green Lost The Spotlight In The ’80s
With all due respect to Sue Green, she’s almost certainly the most obscure wrestler on our list. This is despite the fact she was nearly part of history, as one of several women to defeat The Fabulous Moolah for the NWA Women’s Championship, only for her reign to get written out of history when WWE purchased Moolah’s contract and the belt’s history along with it. Green’s brief reign took place in 1975, when she beat Moolah for the title in her home state of Texas, where she spent most of her career. Although neither WWE nor the NWA proper wanted her to have the belt, they were both happy to hire “The Texas Queen” on multiple occasions around this same time frame. Green kept wrestling for decades, but WWE seemed to lose interest in the early ’80s when Vince McMahon, Jr. purchased his father’s company. For this reason, it’s hard to see the younger McMahon being held responsible, though the WWE Universe in general may have played a role.
10. Ahmed Johnson Had Many Medical Problems
Barreling through the competition, Ahmed Johnson arrived in the WWE Universe like a force of nature, immediately shooting to the top of the card and become wildly popular amongst fans. Unfortunately for him, the only thing faster than Ahmed’s incredible rise to fame was his sudden fall from grace, and the main culprit was a series of injuries that kept him out of action long enough fans basically forgot about the guy. Before the repeat medical problems started to arise, Johnson briefly reigned as Intercontinental Champion and seemed on the fast track for the WWE Championship if things kept going well. This meant lots of time in the ring against high-profile opponents, and if they were injuring other parts of his body, it’s possible his brain suffered some damage, as well. Of course, he also wrestled for WCW, Global Force Wrestling, and a handful of independent companies, so once again, it’s hard to picture McMahon taking the full blame for Ahmed’s medical history.
9. Jimmy Snuka Suffered From CTE
Truth be told, it’s a little bit surprising to see Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka’s name on this list, considering his daughter Tamina Snuka remains an active WWE employee to this day. It’s also hard to believe WWE would host a tribute to a man who was suing them at the time of his death, but that’s exactly what they did in January of 2017 when Snuka passed on. The catch is that the Superfly’s widow, Carole Snuka, is the person in charge of his estate, and therefore the woman who decided his name should be attached to the lawsuit. Not that anyone could blame her, especially after it was reported an autopsy revealed Snuka was suffering from CTE or another brain disease similar to it at the time of his death. Even before he died and this could be confirmed, Snuka’s brain capacity was said to be rapidly deteriorating for years, such to the extent he couldn’t face legal charges against him. All that said, Snuka is also yet another wrestler who spent decades working for the NWA, ECW, and other companies in addition to WWE, so Vince McMahon isn’t solely responsible for his later misfortunes.
8. Demolition Put His Life On The Line
In a rare case of two wrestlers sticking together as a tag team long after their mainstream careers ended, Ax and Smash of Demolition are still very close to this day. Unfortunately for Vince McMahon, one of the things they bond over is how WWE effected their lives and brain capacities once their careers were over. Unlike some others on this list, they might have a point, as the duo once reigned as WWE Tag Team Champions for nearly two full years, and that was just one of several accomplishments they shared in the company. All in all, Demolition spent four years roughing it up on the tag team division, at times with the now deceased Crush serving as a third partner. Spending this much time in the spotlight means they put their lives on the line for WWE more than most others on this list, and if any brain injuries were suffered, the company might have been at fault. However, it also needs to be stated both men worked extensively in other promotions as well, with Smash in particular spending almost as much time in WCW as he did in WWE.
7. Henry O. Godwinn Got McMahon To Pay For His Bills
Believe it or not, there was once a rumor that former WWE Tag Team Champion Henry O. Godwinn was a good friend behind the scenes with one of his first rivals in the company, Triple H. Were that true, it would be rather odd for Godwinn to sue his buddy’s father-in-law Vince McMahon, which is exactly what he’s doing these days. In addition to feuding with the future COO, Godwinn spent most of his time in WWE teaming with Phineas I. Godwinn, also known as Mideon. It was during their time as a duo that Henry O. suffered a severe neck injury while wrestling the Legion of Doom, which essentially ended his career. Considering the nature of his neck problems and how they happened, it’s also entirely possible that Godwinn’s brain suffered from the accident. McMahon had to pay for the medical bills related to Henry’s first problem in the ring, so maybe it’s fair he’d be tasked with paying for any future issues related to it, as well.
6. One Man Gang Made It In The Books
Technically speaking, the name that starts off this entry probably shouldn’t be “One Man Gang.” While that gimmick brought George Gray the most respect and success of his career, it was as Akeem “The African Dream” he achieved his greatest profile in WWE specifically. Teaming with Big Bossman as the Twin Towers, Akeem regularly challenged for the Tag Team Championships and briefly feuded against Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, and other notable names in the company. However, winning the UWF Heavyweight and WCW United States Championships as the One Man Gang were arguably greater accomplishments in the long run, since his name actually wound up in record books because of them. In any event, no matter what they called him, Akeem spent enough time in WWE that it could have contributed to later brain injuries, but his stints in WCW and elsewhere may well have done the same.
5. “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff Wrestled Outside Of WWE
As a featured performer in the main event of the first WrestleMania, the influence of “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff on the WWE Universe cannot be overstated. About a year and a half after that match happened, Orndorff also participated in a landmark feud against Hulk Hogan over the WWE Championship that brought tens of thousands of fans into the arena when he challenged for the gold in a cage match. Somehow, though, Orndorff’s name doesn’t come up as much as Hogan’s, or that of his WrestleMania tag team partner “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Maybe this is because Orndorff never actually won the top titles he challenged for, though he did earn some golden success with the WCW Television and Tag Team Championships years later. Of course, this brings up the point that Orndorff also wrestled for dozens of promotions outside of WWE, all of which could be considered equally responsible for his reported dementia related problems today.
4. Chavo Guerrero, Jr.’s Work Ethic Might Be A Downside
Wrestling fans who remember the debacle that was Kerwin White would probably agree the real potential lawsuit between WWE and Chavo Guerrero, Jr. relates to racial discrimination. Then again, that shockingly offensive gimmick only lasted for a few short months, and Guerrero’s full career with the company spanned a full decade of potential injuries to the head and elsewhere. Perhaps a little bit surprisingly, Guerrero is actually one of the longest-tenured former WWE employees on this list, and he’s not without the success to show for it as a former ECW, Tag Team, and Cruiserweight Champion. Especially in ECW, it’s easy to imagine how these victories had a downside, as Chavo’s high work ethic meant a hard hitting style that often landed him directly on his head. However, like so many others on this list, Guerrero has also wrestled for dozens of promotions outside of WWE, so its hard to place all the blame on Vince McMahon for any brain related issues he may one day suffer.
3. Slick Got Punched One Too Many Times
Stylish, sophisticated, and so cool, André 3000 would call him ice cold, the “Jive Soul Bro” Slick was one of the first wrestling personalities to understand the concept of swag. The son of territorial legend Rufus R. Jones, Slick very rarely actually got in the ring to wrestle himself, but he was the sort of loud mouthed manager who easily annoyed babyface enemies to the point they would give him a powerful smack. Because Slick managed some of the WWE Universe’s biggest and baddest monsters, including Big Bossman, Earthquake, The Iron Sheik, and the One Man Gang, his enemies were equally gigantic athletes like Hulk Hogan or Randy Savage. All it takes from a man like that is a single punch to cause a brain injury, so it’s entirely possible Slick suffered one or two while he was a wrestler. Unlike others on this list, Slick was in WWE longer than any other organization, so if he actually faced brain issues during his career, Vince McMahon might need to take responsibilities.
2. Sabu Is Reckless In The Ring
Homicidal, suicidal, and genocidal in his destructively death-defying actions, if there’s any wrestler out there who we believed suffered from concussions in his day, it’s Sabu. At the peak of his fame in ECW, Sabu would wantonly shoot himself off of chairs all the way out of the ring, flying headfirst into the guard rail and/or fans, hoping against hope they would catch him. This reckless behavior brought Sabu two reigns as ECW Champion, one as TV Champion, and three as Tag Team Champion, twice with Rob Van Dam and once with his arch nemesis, Taz. Later on in his career, Sabu made a handful of appearances in the revived WWE version of ECW, challenging The Big Show for the new version of the brand’s World Championship to no avail. Sabu also once challenged Rey Mysterio for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, albeit with equally little success. While Sabu was just as destructive in this time, he only spent a year in WWE, versus decades of reckless abandon elsewhere, so it’s questionable how much Vince McMahon had to do with any future medical issues.
1. Road Warrior Animal Had It Hard In The Ring
With or without his partner Hawk, Road Warrior Animal was one of the most destructive forces in wrestling history. The violent Chicago tag team ran roughshod over the AWA, NWA, and WWE, reigning as Tag Team Champions in each promotion. Especially in the NWA, both Hawk and Animal were just as viable solo stars in the main event as they were together in a team, leading to high-profile matches against Ric Flair and other top talent. After Hawk’s untimely passing, Animal made a comeback to WWE and regained the Tag Team Championships with Heidenreich as his new partner, although that period was significantly less celebrated than his initial run in the business. Throughout it all, one constant of Animal’s career was hard-hitting matches where he and his opponents all took a serious beating, so concussions and other brain issues were certainly a possibility. One last time, though, it needs to be pointed out that Animal worked for dozens of people in addition to Vince McMahon, all of whom contributed to his current condition in some way.
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