Wrestlers’ Rights Issues Go Mainstream: John Oliver’s WWE Critique Exposes Truth of Allegations in Pending Lawsuit: Calls Vince: “Billionaire on the broken backs of his non-employees”

March 31, 2019- “And when you’ve lost the moral high ground to the fucking NFL, you’re morally subterranean.” -John Oliver

At midnight my phone began to “blow up.” The HBO comedian, John Oliver had just launched a sustained attack on the WWE and its Chairman to his millions of viewers. Mr. Oliver hits nearly all of the issues raised in the WWE lawsuits: 1) Misclassification as Independent Contractors and inability to Unionize; 2) Unconscionable Contracts (actually shows Nelson Frazier’s Contract- deceased plaintiff whose family we represent) and sharply hits the death clause; 3) Lack of Health Insurance, workers’ compensation, pensions and health care; 4) No offseason; 5) The WWE’s Health crisis and premature death rates of pro wrestlers. This is a massive media victory and noteworthy vindication of the wrestlers’ legal claims.

The piece contains all of the talking points familiar to readers of this blog: The Jessie Ventura Unionize interview, the infamous Armen Keteyian paper in your face Vince McMahon Interview, the Keteyian Roddy Piper interview.

Amazingly Mr. Oliver concludes the very long segment with a call to action for the fans to stand up for wrestlers’ rights at Wrestlemania 35 on 4/7/19 with signs and chants!!! The segment ends with a satirical advertisement exhorting fans to see: “all your favorite wrestlers having access to: “retirement accounts,” “worker’s comp” and “family and medical leave,” i.e. the same things the wrestlers seek in their lawsuit. It goes further and describes the death rate, imagines something called an “offseason” and even ridicules the particularly embarrassing fact that many wrestlers depend on fan financed gofund me accounts to pay medical expenses (shows one for Perry Saturn).

This is a MUST WATCH for anyone following the lawsuit and everyone concerned for wrestlers. Millions of people now have a clue about what we have all been fighting for. This is a transformative moment, for the first time a major blow for the truth about pro wrestling has been delivered by a major media outlet. Not since the Chris Benoit story has there been this much attention to the plight of wrestlers. Thank you John!

Oliver lays siege on the the Unconscionable contracts challenged in the lawsuit.
Here is the full Video.

FULL Vindication and expose of the myriad legal claims made by former WWE wrestlers in the lawsuits filed by Kyros Law.

Konstantine Kyros on WWE Lawsuit: The Cover-Up of CTE Science in Wrestling, Decades of Exploitation & Violation of Employment Laws

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

Read the FULL PDF of Appealed Lawsuit here: Exposes Decades of WWE Wrestler Mistreatment with details in Wrestlers’ own words.

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. The discussion includes WWE’s Misclassification of wrestlers as independent contractors, lack of health insurance, or even workers’ compensation leading to a full blown health crisis with a staggering death rate.

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

Appeals Court Showdown: WWE Seeks to Block Wrestlers Appeals- Oral Argument Date Rescheduled. McMahon Sells $264 Million of Stock for XFL.

March 27, 2018 The Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York Placed the WWE’s motions to dismiss various wrestlers appeals on the Court’s Calendar for Oral Argument by the attorneys on April 16, 2019 in New York City at The Thurgood Marshall Courthouse. [Updated as of 3/29- the Court has apparently rescheduling this date.](Incidentally the same day- 3/27/19 Vince McMahon sold 3,204,427 shares of WWE stock ($264+ million worth) to finance his new XFL league. Hmmm $264 million dollars to fund a new football venture- ZERO money to help wrestlers struggling to pay bills with broken bodies who struggle with long-term neurological injuries like CTE- but I will not go further lest I digress into frivolous inflammatory irrelevance.)

The Issues to be argued on at the hearing when it occurs are whether a March 2018 US Supreme Court Decision in Hall V. Hall foreclosed the wrestlers’ appeals. The wrestlers argue that the District Court in Connecticut consolidated the cases for all purposes- including the Right to Appeal (A position supported by the Second Circuit when Billy Jack Haynes and Russ McCullough, Matt Wiese and Ryan Sakoda Appealed earlier back when their claims were tossed out in 2016). The WWE’s lawyers in court filings and public comments derided the wrestler’s efforts to oppose the WWE motion to dismiss and actually bring their substantive appeal for their legal rights under the US Constitution as “frivolous.” The wrestlers argue that they have human rights and should be allowed to Appeal their cases.

The issues presented are somewhat complicated but addressed to the non-lawyer reader on this Blog here.

The 3/27/19 Appeals Court notice of the Hearing is here. (as of 3/29 a New notice apparently to be issued)

One of Mr. Kyros’s Oppositions to WWE’s Motions that summarizes the issues can be read here (11 pages).

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.