Pro-wrestling is big business. Big contracts. Big money. And apparently big injuries.
More than 50 former wrestlers, with stage names like Road Warrior Animal, the Crippler and the Bezerker, have sued World Wresting Entertainment Inc. over head injuries. At the heart of the case is the allegation that the wrestlers were misclassified as independent contractors. If the courts agree, the wrestlers may be eligible for workers’ comp benefits. WWE calls the claims “patently false” and “ridiculous.”
Many of the wrestlers say that repeated blows to the head and concussions left them with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative brain disease which has been cited in other sports cases, like the quits against the NFL. No telling when this video was shot, but the WWE says it banned head blows ten years ago. The wrestlers in the lawsuit say their injuries preceded that ban:
Thanks for the SafetyAlert Website for this story. Safety Alert points out that disputes over whether workers are independent contractors are tricky, whether they take place in the office or the ring. On the one hand, wrestlers sign contracts that explicitly state that they are independent contractors. On the other hand, courts have held that one test of employment is whether the hiring entity determines how the job is done. So what about wrestling, where, as the lawsuit claims,
“WWE wrestling matches, unlike other contact sports, involve very specific moves that are scripted, controlled, directed and choreographed by WWE … as such the moves that resulted in named plaintiffs’ head injuries were the direct result of WWE’s action.”
The case will have to go through the courts. When I was a kid, pro-wrestling was held in school gyms or anywhere else the promoters could get a crowd. Recently, the WWE was valued by Forbes magazine at about $1.5 billion. So WWE has a lot of money to spend fighting the lawsuits, but there is also a lot of incentive for retired wrestlers to look for their share.