Konstantine Kyros on WWE Lawsuit: The Cover-Up of CTE Science in Wrestling

Konstantine Kyros on WWE Lawsuit: The Cover-Up of CTE Science in Wrestlers.

The lawyer leading the WWE concussion lawsuits, Konstantine Kyros talks about wrestlers diagnosed with CTE and the WWE’s efforts to discredit him and the cover-up of CTE in professional wrestling through WWE’s funding of Chris Nowinski’s Concussion Legacy Foundation.

Regular readers please scroll below for latest news & updates on the ongoing fight for wrestlers’ legal rights.

King Kong Bundy Vs. WWE

Chris Pallies died fighting for his rights and those of his fellow Pro Wrestlers.

I was introduced to Chris Pallies aka King Kong Bundy by Billy Jack Haynes who cautioned me that he was “a unique individual.” And he certainly was- he was blessed with that ‘once in a lifetime’ blend of hard man toughness while managing to be funny, sarcastic and passionate. Always armed with a lawyer joke or old school wrestling story he was truly one of a kind.

Chris was outspoken in defense of what he believed to be the WWE’s mistreatment of professional wrestlers and vividly described the failures he witnessed. He took legal action by joining a group of his contemporaries in trying to effect change to the WWE’s tragic ignorance of the plight of wrestlers like himself who sustained life long injuries in the Ring. Sadly he did not live to see his day in court, in one of our last talks wanted to see a Jury so that he could tell the world the truth about the WWE. His legal case appealed, as yet unheard…

There are many eulogies online that will do a better job describing his wonderful career and the support he enjoyed among his millions of fans. As his advocate I will simply say his strength of character, friendship and support will be missed. R.I.P. my friend Sincerely, Konstantine Kyros

Outlaw Ron Bass (Ronald Heard) Diagnosed with CTE. Sixth WWE Wrestler Diagnosed with CTE Represented by Kyros Law

Kyros Law Announces that “Outlaw” Ron Bass (Ronald Heard) has been diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). He is the sixth wrestler involved in the WWE concussion lawsuits, in sequence who has been diagnosed with the disease. Ron’s family is hopeful that this CTE diagnosis will help educate wrestlers about the risks of their professional careers and lead to research into medical conditions such as CTE that wrestlers like Ron are at risk for as they get older.

While Ron was alive he sought help from the WWE for his condition. The WWE ridiculed his claims, fought his case, and opened derided the idea that wrestlers get CTE or neurological diseases from their wrestling. The WWE has stated in Court filings that the “The State of CTE Science is Not a Known Fact,” and does nothing to study or help wrestlers with CTE. In an apparent attempt to influence CTE studies away from wrestling, the WWE gives millions of dollars to Chris Nowinski’s Concussion Legacy Foundation which does not actively recruit deceased WWE wrestlers’ brains and has not studied WWE wrestlers’ brains for CTE with the millions in WWE financing it receives. See Mr. Kyros Explaining this apparent corporate misconduct situation here and The Boston Globe Expose of WWE and its relationship to the “for Hire” CTE Activist Chris Nowinski Here.

That task of helping wrestlers with CTE has largely fallen to Kyros Law Offices which has taken the lead in the brain donations of pro wrestlers and coordinated the studies of Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, Mr. Fuji (Harry Fujiwara), Rex King, (Timothy Smith), Axl Rotten (Brian Knighton), and Balls Mahoney (Jon Rechner) who have all tested positive for CTE despite the WWE’s legal attacks on Mr. Kyros and WWE’s Public Denial of the Science of CTE in wrestlers.

Ron wrestled around the world and entertained millions of fans as a Heel, sporting a black hat, handlebar mustache and a whip named Miss Betsy. By all accounts he was actually a kind soul with wonderful friends and family. Before he died he pledged to donate his brain to help other professional wrestlers in failing health, and fought for the rights of professional wrestlers in his lawsuit against the WWE.

Dynamite Kid (Tom Billington) Dies After WWE Wins Lawsuit Denying Him Health Benefits, Denying CTE Risks

In life Dynamite Kid was denied help by WWE. He was denied royalties, he was denied health care, and WWE even publicly denied the science of CTE and the health crisis of wrestlers in thwarting his claims. (Two of the other wrestlers that I represented that WWE sued at the same time are already dead: Ivan Koloff and Blackjack Mulligan.)

This morning the phone calls and emails came. Dynamite Kid (Tom Billington) died, wasn’t he one of your clients? Wasn’t he involved in the lawsuit?

Yes he was.

In fact the WWE sued Dynamite Kid while he sat totally disabled with dementia in a Care Home outside Manchester, England to preemptively block him from getting any health benefits, telling the world wide Media through its Spokesman, Jerry McDevitt that before Mr. Kyros started trolling around the WWE was not aware of any wrestlers with Neurological problems. (See this typical WWE self serving incoherent statement made to the Associated Press here)

Read Dot Billington’s Affidavit to Federal Judge: “Tom is 58 years old, wheelchair bound and currently residing in the Dementia Ward …. Tom is totally disabled physically and neurologically… We have been married for over 20 years and I have seen him waste away from his injuries.”

This is now an all too familiar ritual, with each passing of a well-known professional wrestler, there is a period of social media eulogies, broad consensus amongst their peers that they contributed to wrestling and many tributes from fans to their professional career. This is fine, but it changes nothing about the WWE’s past abuses, exploitation and denial of the terrible plight of many former professional wrestlers such as Tom.

Indeed the WWE’s website exhorted: “Superstars past and present are taking to social media to pay tribute to The Dynamite Kid in the wake of his passing on his 60th birthday. Take a look at some of the most heartfelt messages from the competitors he both battled and inspired.” and the usual: “WWE is saddened to learn that Thomas Billington, known to his fans as Dynamite Kid, has passed away at age 60…. WWE extends its condolences to Billington’s family, friends and fans.”

The fact is that WWE cares nothing for its retired wrestlers. During my representation of him, the WWE sued Dynamite Kid to preemptively prevent him from making any claims against them for long term health issues arising from his career. The WWE continued to profit (and will continue to profit) from his career yet refused to pay him royalties or provide any health benefits or anything else while he was in his final years.
The message of the passing of Dynamite Kid to the millions he entertained is: WWE needs to help its former wrestlers. Don’t let this message be forgotten. God Bless Tom Billington, his friends and his family.

Epic Battle Looms in Appeals Court: WWE Wrestler Rights Suppression Activity Continues. Does WWE Believe in Time Travel?

The fight for the rights of professional wrestlers in their lawsuits entered a new phase in the past few weeks as a quiet battle has commenced in the Appeals court between the WWE and the lawyers seeking to appeal their lawsuits. The WWE is seeking to block four of the appeals citing to a 2018 Supreme court decision in Hall Versus Hall which they argue now makes the Appeals brought this year too late (WWE also argues that two Sanctions appeals are too early, “too late too early”, all the same to WWE as long as no wrestler gets a day in court).

The latest wrestlers appeal was conducted in accordance with the rules of the Court, complied the notice requirements of the District Court of Connecticut which entered a final judgment on the docket on 9/27/18 and the Appeal was filed pursuant to an earlier Second Circuit decision instructing the wrestlers when to file their appeal. That decision was based on WWE’s 2016 effort to block Haynes/McCullough Appeal as being filed “too early.”

WWE argues that does not matter in light of the Hall decision and argues that the appeals needed to have been made in the past, even though the cases could not have been appealed in the past.

The 2018 Hall decision now allows for party to appeal immediately if their claims are dismissed during a consolidated action, which is what the WWE lawsuits were deemed to be: consolidated. When Billy Jack Haynes and Russ McCullough, Matt Wiese and Ryan Sakoda’s cases were dismissed in 2016 they timely appealed. The Second Circuit ruled at the time that Haynes and the others would have to appeal at the conclusion of all the consolidated cases which turned out to be 9/27/18 the date the court entered its final judgement. The WWE argues that the Hall decision now should be applied retroactively to foreclose the right to Appeal for Haynes and McCullough (and, Sakoda, Wiese, Frazier and Singleton/Lograsso). For example WWE argues Haynes would have had to appealed back in 2016 even though he could not have made any appeal under the rules then in existence. Make any sense? WWE in this sense seeks to argue that the wrestlers like Billy Jack Haynes would have had to travel back in time to file their Appeals in 2016 based on a 2018 Supreme Court decision.

Does WWE believe in Time Travel?

Although WWE’s lawyer Jerry McDevitt told the media and the Appeals Court that the wrestlers opposition is “frivolous,” a lawyer from his own law firm, K&L Gates presciently wrote shortly after the decision the exact issue now facing the wrestlers:

“While Hall has now clarified much of the Rule 42(a) framework, it also leaves questions unanswered. For example, what will happen in those consolidated cases where parties relied on now-overruled circuit precedent not to take immediate appeals (or in which they took immediate appeals and were denied)? It is unclear if those parties have lost their right to appeal. Similarly, if those parties have not lost their right to appeal, when does the appellate clock begin to run? There are consolidated actions pending around the country where such questions are not only relevant, but pressing. In the wake of Hall, we will likely see additional cases come before the courts that address these issues.” (Law360, June 18,2018 High Court Answer Appeal Question for Consolidated Cases, by Denise Moore/Daisy Sexton)

Where are the wrestlers cases heading next???? Hopefully they are not required to use the TARDIS.

Here are excerpts from a Law360 article on this important issue: WWE Wrestlers Fight To Save Concussion Suits At 2nd Circ.

Federal Appeals Court: Water Polo Players have Rights: Will WWE Wrestlers Have Any?

A Federal Appeals Court ruled on November 28, 2018 that USA Water Polo owes a duty to athletes to set protocols for returning to play after suffering from a potential concussion. The ruling went in favor of a proposed class action brought on behalf of a youth water polo goalie who was sent back into a match after being dazed by a shot to the face.

When reading this brief account of the Water Polo case, think of the activities of professional wrestlers, who swore affidavits and filed claims documenting near routine injuries of the type described in this single youth player on a near daily basis spanning decades of WWE neglect, indifference in the face of actual WWE stated knowledge (on Monday Night Raw in 1995 to cite but one example) of the effects of Post Concussion Syndrome.

The water polo case brought by Alice Mayall, whose 16-year-old daughter allegedly suffered post-concussion syndrome, argued that USA Water Polo, the governing body for the sport, was liable for her injuries because it failed to establish proper concussion-management and return-to-play procedures for youth water polo players. According to the complaint, while playing goalie during a February 2014 tournament overseen by USA Water Polo, she was hit in the face by a hard shot that left her “dazed.”

After swimming over to her coach, who had no specialized training or qualifications to handle concussions and head injuries, she was sent back into the match and later played in subsequent tournament matches, suffering many more hits to the head that exacerbated her injury, the complaint alleged.

Afterward, the player suffered headaches, sleepiness and fatigue, and was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome (PCS) a month after the match. (WWE featured a storyline about Shawn Michaels Post Concussion Syndrome on a December 1995 Monday Night Raw!!!!! but WWE claims that they knew nothing about PCS until Chris Benoit Issues, which they actually also denied and fail to acknowledge to this day)

The court in ruling for the water polo players wrote:
“USA Water Polo thereby increased the risk of secondary concussions to players who improperly returned to play, a risk that USA Water Polo could eliminate through the implementation of concussion-management protocols already used by its national team.”

“These allegations, taken as true, demonstrate that USA Water Polo was well-aware of the severe risk of repeat concussions and of the need to implement a policy to remove players from play after suffering a head injury,” the opinion said. “USA Water Polo’s inaction in the face of substantial evidence of risk of harm, constitutes an extreme departure from the ordinary standard of conduct, and amounts to gross negligence under California law.”The case is Mayall v. USA Water Polo Inc., case number 16-56389, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

As astute readers of this blog will observe the numerous allegations made by WWE wrestlers about the dangerous working conditions, head injuries and so forth at WWE would tend support their claims. This “Gross Negligence” Water Polo ruling is one more precedent indicating that the Courts should to allow the wrestlers to hold WWE to account for its outrageous misconduct towards them.

WWE Wrestlers’ Lawsuits Appealed to Second Circuit Court of Appeals

On November 9, 2018 former WWE wrestlers arguing that WWE subjected them to brutal, unregulated working conditions that resulted in long-term latent occupational injuries, diseases and damages Appealed their cases to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals that sits in New York that were formally dismissed by the District Court of Connecticut on 9/27/18.

Second Circuit Court of Appeals Website Link

The Initiation of the Appeal Papers Can be found below: (the Pre-Argument Statement near the beginning of each document and the Issues to Be Appealed at near end of each document are probably of most interest (the Form C requires copies of some earlier filed rulings, papers, & docket entries etc) The Forms C’s as filed with the Court are linked below.

William Albert Haynes III v. WWE Appeal

Russ McCullough, Matt Wiese and Ryan Sakoda V. WWE, et el. Appeal

Cassandra Frazier for Estate Nelson Frazier V. WWE Appeal

Evan Singleton & Vito LoGrasso V. WWE Appeal

Joseph Laurinaitis (and 59 Others) V. WWE and Vince McMahon Appeal

Sanctions Appeal in Dismissal of Laurinaitis Case

Sanctions Appeal  for Rule 37 Discovery Issues in Singleton/LoGrasso Case

Jimmy Snuka Can’t Sue for CTE, but College Football Player from 1970s can Sue for CTE

The Supreme Court of Ohio ruled October 28, 2018 (one month after WWE Wrestlers claims were dismissed)  that a former Notre Dame football player can sue the school and NCAA for CTE. The court noted that the allegations involved a “latent” brain injury stemming from when he played football in the 1970s. The court ruled that his case can go forward, ruling the statute of limitations was triggered when he learned of the brain injury in 2012, not when he suffered blows to the head in college in the 1970s.

The court wrote that Steven Schmitz, who played for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish from 1974 to 1978 had sustained impacts to the head and experienced concussion symptoms such as disorientation during his playing days, he was unaware of the lingering effects those injuries had, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain disease.

Hmmm. Anyone find it curious that this NCAA player can sue, but that 60+ wrestlers have ZERO rights? Who do you believe has a factual and legal basis to argue that they were injured by CTE? Jimmy Snuka or Steven Schmitz?

In start contrast a Federal judge in Connecticut ruled against 60 wrestlers who brought substantially similar claims, including five diagnosed with CTE, arguing that the claims were patently time barred, frivolous and sanctioned the attorney who brought the case. This post outlines the Statute of Limitations Issues taking Jimmy Snuka as an example, as the Federal Judge in Connecticut singled out his claim as being “Patently Time-Barred.”

Read the Ohio Court’s decision here.

CTE. Don Leo Jonathan’s Brain Donated for CTE Study in Pro Wrestlers


Kyros Law announces that Don Leo Heaton’s family has donated his brain for a study of CTE in professional wrestlers. Mr. Heaton known as Don Leo Jonathan was a towering figure in the history of wrestling. Known as the world over as the “Mormon Giant,” Don Leo’s style and performances were foundational to the modern era of wrestling when he was one of the world’s best known performers between the 1950s into the 1970s. Don Leo was involved in Championship matches with Pedro Morales, Bruno Sammartino in WWWF and frequently wrestled Andre the Giant. At 6′ 6″ and more than 300 pounds, he is considered as one of the greatest athletic “big man” wrestlers of all time. The Wrestling Observer on his passing, noted his stardom to millions of fans and that his natural ability was “almost mythological to those in the business.”

Don Leo was by far the oldest wrestler involved in lawsuits against the WWE and died in the midst of fighting for his rights and the legal rights of professional wrestlers. His lawsuit (now being appealed) was sadly dismissed a few weeks before his death.

Like NFL great Frank Gifford, who lived to age 85, Mr. Heaton at age 87 decided to donate his brain to help the next generation of athletes. Sports organizations like the NFL and WWE should be studying CTE so that athletes can understand the risks and develop better treatment. The NFL settled claims made against it, finances CTE studies and helps former players at risk for CTE. The NFL recently awarded one of Mr. Kyros’ clients diagnosed with CTE over $3.8 million. In contrast the WWE denies that CTE exists in wrestlers, fought the injured wrestlers legal claims with scorched earth tactics, does nothing to help wrestlers with CTE or wrestlers at risk for the disease and WWE is attempting to silence legal advocacy on behalf of wrestlers in various ways. Don Leo and his family hope his donation will contribute to ongoing medical research linking professional wrestling to occupational diseases like Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

The WWE has donated millions of dollars to the leading CTE advocacy group (The Concussion legacy Foundation in Boston) and appears to have influenced that entity (headed by former wrestler Chris Nowinski) not design or conduct studies of CTE in deceased wrestlers. See front page Boston Globe expose on this WWE CTE research suppression activity.

In contrast to the WWE financed Nowinki group which does not actively recruit brains to study wrestlers, Kyros Law has advocated for wrestlers with CTE and facilitated the brain donations of many of the most famous professional wrestlers to die in the past few years including Jimmy Snuka, Mr. Fuji, Balls Mahoney, Chyna, Axl Rotten, Rockin’ Rebel, Rex King, Ron Bass, and Brickhouse Brown. At least Six of these wrestlers have tested positive for CTE to date with several studies pending.

Memory of Chris Benoit: CTE, Wrestler Mistreatment Haunt McMahon, WWE Legacy

No matter how long the WWE and McMahon family ignore, downplay, create doubt or wait for the passage of time to realign the cultural memory of their long history of wrestler mistreatment and the science of CTE, the memory of Chris Benoit will continue to haunt them.

It’s a powerful memory uniting the spiritual, legal and scientific that casts a long shadow. When Chris Benoit murdered his family and committed suicide it was an enormous tragedy that presented the McMahon family and WWE an opportunity to correct past mistakes. The Benoit events emanated from misfortunes many wrestlers face and will continue to face. Instead of confronting these issues: long-term injuries, a historically unregulated workplace, grueling road schedule, no off-season and the increased risks of CTE in former talent, WWE have been seeking to avoid responsibility for wrestlers’ health, particularly retired wrestlers. Unfortunately, the moral, legal and scientific imperatives of the health crisis tragically illustrated by the Chris Benoit events won’t go away so easily.

Chris Benoit by all accounts was an upstanding family man, driven to perform, technically proficient and had 21 years experience entertaining millions with his skills. The WWE fostered a narrative of his striking physical and mental toughness.

This is graphically illustrated in the WWE coffee table art book, “WWE Unscripted” (Leiker, Vancil Pocket Books 2003) published three years before his death. The glossy photos on its pages show a bloody-eyed stoic Benoit juxtaposed with him grimacing while weight lifting, while the text informs presciently: “I am sure I’m going to have some physical problems down the line.” For those readers that don’t know (Chris certainly could not have), Tau protein accumulation in athletes’ brains associated with CTE is considered by experts to be a present physical injury. The text of the WWE book describes his neck fusion of C6 and C7, nagging injuries and chronic pain and even concludes with a passage that could have been lifted from a sentence in one of the wrestler rights lawsuits: “and we have no off season to recover.”

Chris Benoit’s own WWE illustrated “Unscripted” experience very simply demonstrates the failures of the McMahon family to maintain a safe schedule, workplace and shows the injuries sustained by the people who made them billions of dollars. As the title of the WWE publication suggests Chris Benoit’s injuries were very real and his issues were also present in the WWE’s employment law failures including the creation of these conditions with the use of unconscionable contracts WWE talent are required to sign. The contract violates labor laws (per lawsuit theory), and it even required Chris to waive liability for his own death: “Wrestler hereby releases, waives and discharges promoter from all liability to wrestler and covenants not to sue promoter for any and all loss or damage on account of injury to their person or property or resulting in serious or permanent injury to wrestler or in wrestler’s death, whether caused by negligence of promoter or other wrestler under contract to promoter.”

See Chris Benoit’s UNCONSCIONABLE CONTRACT Here

In the immediate aftermath of the incident, the critical emphasis was on his drug use, which is understandable, as illicit drugs are easily identified as the hallmarks of an unsafe workplace. Steroids, pain medications (without prescription) are also easily understood to be a problem, especially when used as a necessary component of athletic activity that a for profit business like WWE monetizes.

See Chris Benoit’s Death Certificate Here>>

After his autopsy and toxicology report, it soon became known that Chris had evidence of drugs in his system. The WWE publicly distanced itself, noted he passed a recent drug test and challenged the notion that drugs played any role in the incident. Later the members of the McMahon family would, under pains and penalties of perjury, be asked to testify on the illegal drug issues in their workplace, including whether Chris had ever any positive drug tests. You can See a May 2006 Chris Benoit “positive” test result here and see the McMahon testimony here.

The issue that would soon augment and overtake the drug abuse was the science of Chris Benoit’s brain tissue. Unlike drug use, which is rampant, commonplace and more easily (falsely) solely attributed by WWE to wrestler choice and conduct, the science of brain disease conjured up more powerful enemies to confront the McMahons.

With the revelation that Benoit had a brain disease now called CTE, WWE deployed its media relations department to create doubt and even the inimitable Mr. McDevitt was enlisted to fight the truth. The chain of custody regarding the Benoit brain tissue slides was to be doubted and hence the veracity of the test, the notion he had brain damage was silly because how did he get to the airport etc. etc. When a second wrestler (Andrew Martin) was diagnosed, the WWE denial playbook was the same.

As the CTE crisis threatened to engulf the NFL and create a billion dollar liability, the WWE strategically funded the leading CTE advocacy group, founded by one of their own former wrestlers, Chris Nowinski. Mr. Nowinski, with supreme irony as he had helped launch his career with the Benoit CTE Study (see this Boston Globe story on Nowinski and Benoit). Unfortunately none of that WWE money was used to fund a dedicated CTE study of former wrestlers brains, none of that money was used to conduct outreach to acquire the brain tissue of the multitude of deceased wrestlers or even apparently dedicated to helping retired wrestlers with CTE. (More in a future post, but this Boston globe story gives you the basics).

See Chris Benoit’s Neuropathology Diagnosis >>

Although the WWE attempted to bury all memory of Benoit and CTE science, the memory of Benoit continues to haunt the halls of Titan Towers. The science of CTE in wrestling may have remained buried by the WWE until dozens of professional wrestlers and their families began legal action. The science of CTE in wrestlers was marched forward in court battles involving Balls Mahoney, Jimmy Snuka, Axl Rotten, Rex King and Mr. Fuji, with their families speaking out about their CTE diagnoses after their deaths.

Chris Benoit will be ever present in WWE folklore and the fight for wrestlers’ rights:  Short video clip of Chris Speaking before his untimely death featuring Jim Ross venerating him: “I wish we had one hundred Chris Benoits.”

Unfortunately, there are hundreds of Chris Benoits, though not in the sense intended by Mr. Ross. There are hundreds of wrestlers that were overworked, with no off season, whose bodies are seriously injured who treat with addicting drugs, who have inadequate medical care and who face the prospect of being checkmated by a latent neurological disease that may slowly steal their identity and rob them of their conscious being. You may have heard all of this before, you may have read all of this before, but the Ghost of Chris Benoit makes it Real.