WWE: Claims in Lawsuit Against Company Are Still Relevant Today


In the face of high-profile lawsuits, the WWE continues to promote a safer work environment: But has anything really changed?

In somewhat unintentional irony, Mick Foley limped out to the ring during the opening segment of last night’s Monday Night RAW, rehashed his old catchphrases and went on to tout the greatness of the WWE’s past eras. Hours earlier, though, over 50 WWE performers from those bygone eras were named as plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the famed wrestling company which claimed the WWE intentionally avoided being held liable for wrestlers’ injuries by defining them as “independent contractors” rather than regular, full-time employees.

The brunt of the lawsuit focuses on head injuries, with WWE Hall of Famers Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, Joseph Laurinaitis (Road Warrior), and Paul Orndorff. While the case will likely not be a major news story surrounding the WWE, the significance of the names and the number of names on the lawsuit are substantial.

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It’s hard not to look back on matches from WWE’s most popular eras and not groan with disgust at the physical lines the company crossed by putting its wrestlers in danger. Of course, there was a “war” going on and the company and its employees independent contractors were doing everything they could, physically or mentally, to outdo World Championship Wrestling. But watching a match like Mankind vs. The Rock at the 1999 Royal Rumble and you sit there asking yourself, why? Why did Foley, the same man who hobbled to the ring and could barely remember his few lines last night on RAW, have to take so many chair shots to the head in that match?

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Seventeen and a half years after that match, the reminders of Mick Foley and Daniel Bryan stood together in the ring – two former WWE performers who can no longer perform, per neurologists requests. You can still ask the same types of questions today that we’re still wondering about the golden age of the WWE: Why does the WWE consistently demand too much from their wrestlers? Why aren’t they protecting their wrestlers? Why does a superstar have to be on the road and take bumps nearly every night of the week with no physical break? Late last month, even WWE Champion Dean Ambrose had to wrestle five times in a week, all across the country, including two title defenses in one day.

Yes, the WWE is making strides to improve its policies in major, trending topic areas: The company’s wellness policy is working well enough to take down even the company’s top star in Roman Reigns, and the WWE has undoubtedly become a safer in-ring environment since banning chair shots to the head in 2010. And, of course, the WWE has stuck by its goal to eliminate blading and in-ring bleeding despite the contention from most fans who remember the blood-soaked Attitude Era and battered Ruthless Aggression Era. Yet, all of those decisions have alternate motives. What corporation wouldn’t make decisions based on what’s best for business? But that’s the problem that’s never been exterminated from the WWE, despite every public effort by the company to make its workplace a safer environment: The WWE doesn’t make decisions based on what’s best for its wrestlers.

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“WWE placed corporate gain over its wrestlers’ health, safety, and financial security, choosing to leave the plaintiffs severely injured and with no recourse to treat their damaged minds and bodies,” Monday’s lawsuit read.

Sound familiar? That’s because handfuls of former WWE wrestlers have complained about the company’s treatment of its employee’s health after leaving the company. Few wrestlers speak up, though, with the threat of losing momentum in the creative storyline if they rub someone the wrong way. But for wrestlers like CM Punk, who claimed to see the cracks in the WWE’s system and spoke out in maybe the most memorable lawsuit against the company in recent years, the WWE’s “New Era” still looks the same as the previous eras the wrestling juggernaut so emphatically parades around.

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On screen, there’s no doubt things continue to change dramatically for the better, with opportunities for a new crop of superstars to stake their claim on the WWE’s main roster popping up seemingly every week. But off screen, the WWE’s past mistakes and oversights in regards to taking care of its wrestlers still haunt them while new issues keep the company putting one step forward and taking two steps back, making fans nervous that the WWE’s stock in its wrestlers’ health only lasts as long as their in-ring careers.