WWE is no stranger to lawsuits, but the latest one has started to turn some heads. Former WWE Superstar Billy Jack Haynes is suing WWE for alleged mistreatment of talent and wrestler safety. Interesting enough, WWE has run into similar issues in the past. However, it appears Haynes is trying to capitalize on what former NFL football players did a while back by suing the company due to head injuries. The NFL paid millions of dollars to former players but many feel they had no need. The reason being, everyone knew what they were getting into when they signed up and any injury they sustained on the field came with the territory.
Due to the medical knowledge we have today, there are things that sports and wrestling once did that they no longer do. In WWE, they have made it a priority to make their talent safe. Not only have they instituted the Wellness Policy to help with any potential drug problem, but they have also changed their style to a less impactful one. This is why people such as Daniel Bryan, who was known for impact, hard hitting wrestling had to change up his style to fit with WWE.
He didn’t do it as much as he should have, which could be why he is out with an injury right now. WWE wants to make things safe, but in the past there was less knowledge than there is today. While WWE can take away the option of head shots with chairs for talent to follow today, they cannot take away what is done. However, a talent signs an “independent contractor” contract. That means WWE is not responsible for medical insurance and many other things that happen inside a WWE ring. WWE does pay for a lot of surgeries that talent have to go through, however, as long as they happen during a match.
This is why many are puzzled when it comes to Haynes lawsuit. He claims to be filing the suit for about 500 workers who suffered injuries while under contract with WWE.
The details of the lawsuit filed by Portland-based lawyers Steve D. Larson and Joshua L. Ross of Stoll Stoll Bernie Lotking & Schlachter are as follows…
“Under the guise of providing ‘entertainment,’ WWE has, for decades, subjected its wrestlers to extreme physical brutality that it knew, or should have known, caused long-term irreversible bodily damage, including brain damage. For most of its history, WWE has engaged in a campaign of misinformation and deception to prevent its wrestlers from understanding the true nature and consequences of the injuries they have sustained. WWE’s representations, actions, and inactions have caused its wrestlers to suffer from death, long-term debilitating injuries, lost profits, premature retirement, medical expenses, and other losses as alleged herein.”
Talking about personal battles, the lawyers claim…
“As a result of the head trauma he sustained while wrestling in WWE, Haynes suffers from depression and exhibits symptoms of dementia.”
“(During the time he wrestled) Haynes claimed he wrestled for several days at a time, with little time off and no off-season. He had at least 15 concussions, and numerous other injuries, using drugs to handle the pain. He also contracted Hepatitis C from blows to the head from chairs, chains and other weapons.”
They go on to name moves that could be an issue to wrestlers…
“Brain Buster” — a front facelock combined with a vertical suplex in which the victim lands headfirst;
• “Bulldog” — a wrestler grabs his opponent’s head and leaps forward, so that the victim’s face is driven into the ground;
• “Cobra Clutch Slam” — a wrestler places the opponent in a hold called the cobra clutch, lifts his opponent, and then jumps into the air, landing his opponent on the ground;
• “Facebreaker” — a knee to the face, including many variants involving throwing an opponent down onto one’s propped up knee, headfirst;
• “Jawbreaker” — a move in which the opponent’s jaw is slammed into the wrestler’s body, usually the knee or elbow; and,
• “Powerslam” — a move in which the performer falls face-first into his opponent.
As previously mentioned, WWE has valid claims to fight this lawsuit. Number one, Haynes last worked for WWE in 1988. Understand this – 1988! He only performed with WWE from 1986 to 1988 and was released due to controversial reasons. One story goes that he refused a job in his hometown and quit on the spot. Another is that WWE wanted him to lose a tag match and he reportedly said no, then was fired. The Hep C issue was said to not have happened in WWE either.
Refusing to do business has never gone over well with WWE. It never will either. Haynes wrestled until 1996, eight years after leaving WWE. While he claims concussions, there are no other reported injuries and if he never said anything, WWE would expect him to perform. In 2013, Haynes was hospitalized due to an aortic aneurysm along with liver and kidney issues. He was released a short while later and has not been back.
In 2009, during a shoot interview with RF Video, Haynes criticized Vince McMahon for the deaths of several WWE wrestlers. He went as far as to blame McMahon for the Chris Benoit double murder and suicide and claiming that Daniel Benoit was actually McMahon’s son, causing Benoit to commit the crimes after making the discovery. Which is a crazy claim in it’s own right.
Interesting enough, McMahon and Chris’ wife Nancy never really had enough time to get acquainted in that way as she had been retired for some time from wrestling business by this period of time. In fact, she never appeared with Chris in WWE despite doing so in WCW.
The lawsuit seems to be something that an older, retired wrestler with little to no money is doing in order to take advantage of a major company with a lot of money of whom he holds bitter feelings toward. He is using the guise of other talent due to his case not being strong enough to be filed alone. Meanwhile, we do not know of any other name that Haynes happens to also be fighting for. Yet there are around 500 that are said to be getting pay out of this if he wins.
WWE used to allow talent to do whatever they wanted in the ring, like Independent promotions do today. This turned out to be a bad thing as many did not know when to stop if they were hurt, and many ignored signs of problems and went out to wrestle anyway… never informing WWE of any issue. Many didn’t report anything out of fear that they might “lose their spot” to another talent. This was one reason we rarely saw people go out with injury compared to today.
WWE Legend Mick Foley has claimed that after his brutal Hell in a Cell match in 1996 with The Undertaker, Vince thanked him for what he went through. He then told him that he never wanted to see that again. Foley could have stopped the match after the accidental cell fall. Yet he kept going, risking injury.
This is something WWE would never allow today. They have even taken precautions with the cell so that no one can fall through now. Foley also told Vince of random memory problems he was having and Vince told him that he wrestled his last match due to this. Foley had to pass tests with doctors in order to come back, but did end up coming back, wrestling very part-time. Today, he is not allowed to wrestle a match at all in WWE.
The fact is, the lawsuit is trying to capitalize on past issues that were not in the control of WWE in some ways, but rather the talent. Also, a company cannot be held responsible for any drug that a talent may take to help with pain. WWE does not allow many drugs, and anything with a prescription is outlawed today. This is the reason for suspensions of talent such as Rey Mysterio and Randy Orton, both tested positive for banned substances without a proper prescription. WWE has lost around 10 wrestlers while under contract. The biggest and most impactful being people such as Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero. Ultimate Warrior passed away recently, although he had been retired from wrestling for years and was simply under a Legends deal.
WWE wanted to prevent any major injuries or problems in the future, which is why they have focused on safety that they didn’t do before. WWE did not pay attention to drugs men and women took, and the lack of being informed on a talent’s injuries hurt them. They were also not informed as much today on head injuries. While the NFL has refused to fully acknowledge that they did not know of anything from the past that hurt one’s head, WWE has been vocal about protecting the head and brain. They even went as far as to talk about why they take precautions with the head in the past.
So in the end, can WWE be sued for something such as a freak injury when a talent knew going in that it was a risk? Could they be blamed for drugs that a talent used? Could they be blamed for bodily damage sustained over time at all, seeing as wrestling has always been known to be tough on the human system? In the end, it is doubtful Haynes’ case sees much light. WWE has some great lawyers, so good luck to him and his fight. He will need it.
[IMG Credits: aw-edition.deviantart.com, Forbes.com, WWE.com, RF Video]