Ashley Massaro’s cause of death remains unknown, but a picture has emerged of a turbulent final few years of the WWE Diva’s short life marked with health troubles, including reported brain injuries she reportedly suffered as a result of her work in the ring.
As Fox News reported, the former wrestler and Survivor contestant died early Thursday after being rushed to a hospital near her home in Suffolk County, New York. Officials did not release an official cause of death, but they said it was being treated as “non-criminal.”
While the cause of death remains a mystery, it was well known that her final years were filled with health struggles related to her time in the ring. The 39-year-old former WWE Diva made headlines in 2016 when she joined an existing lawsuit against the company claiming that she suffered brain injuries and was sexually assaulted during her time representing the WWE. As Sportskeeda reported, Massaro claimed that she was sexually assaulted on a U.S. military base in Kuwait while she was part of the “Tribute to the Troops” program.
Massaro claimed that she was examined by a doctor upon returning to the United States, but was pushed to bury the incident and not speak out about it.
In the lawsuit, Massaro also claimed that she suffered significant brain injuries through her career with the WWE, leaving her suffering from depression, anxiety, memory loss, and migraine headaches, the Sportskeeda report noted. Those are symptoms normally associated Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease found in people who have suffered repeated head trauma.
A number of former athletes — especially those in high-contact sports like football — have suffered CTE. The disease can only be officially diagnosed through an autopsy.
Massaro claimed that she suffered a series of concussions during her time in the WWE, including one that left her unconscious for a full five minutes. The former WWE star said she received inadequate medical care, and instead was told to “shake it off” afterward, Sportskeeda reported.
There were a series of other injuries for Massaro, including a fractured spine and two herniated discs. She also suffered an ankle fracture that required metal supports to be surgically implanted.
Massaro’s lawsuit claimed that the neglect came straight from the top.
“She also blames the WWE Chairman Vince McMahon for his negligence,” the report noted. “Vince McMahon allegedly ordered the backstage crew to saw a cast off Massaro’s hands that she had been fitted with due to a shattered knuckle.”
The relationship appears to have been mended, as the WWE released a statement mourning her passing on Thursday.
We are saddened to learn of the tragic death of former WWE Superstar Ashley Massaro. WWE offers its condolences to Ashley’s family and friends. https://t.co/PqHSRbOGso
— WWE (@WWE) May 17, 2019
Despite the injuries, Massaro was attempting to make a wrestling comeback in the final weeks of her life. In March, she announced that she would be returning to the ring for an event with the New York Wrestling Connection (NYWC). In a message on Twitter, Massaro made note that the company was “super safe” and made her feel comfortable about returning to the ring.
Gonna be bumping around the ring starting next week at @NYWCWRESTLING ???? ???? super pumped n ready to see what I got left in these ole boots of mine! Those guy are the best super safe and make me feel so comfortable-if u live in tri state area n want to train-THIS IS WHERE ITS AT!
— ☆ Ashley Massaro ☆ (@ashleymassaro11) March 21, 2019
There was no indication whether the brain injuries or any other injuries suffered while in the WWE had a role in the former Diva’s death.
Officials have still not released Ashley Massaro’s official cause of death. It is not yet known when a medical exam could take place.