The devastating after-effects of concussions have been felt throughout the sporting world, and now the issue has come to professional wrestling. Two ex-wrestlers are suing World Wrestling Entertainment, home of The Rock and Hulk Hogan, for ignoring concussions that gave them serious brain injuries.
One, 50-year-old Vito LoGrasso, sounds more like he gives concussions under one of his stage names, Skull Von Krush. The other is a 22-year-old who wrestled under the name of Adam Mercer and who says he is now disabled from the brain trauma he suffered from moves such as flying headbutts and taking chair shots to the head—which the WWE has banned a few years back as it strives to be more family-friendly. The organization said this lawsuit is without merit.
The WWE’s lawsuit comes after more than 4,500 former football players accused the NFL of fraud for its handling of concussions—a settlement in that case was approved in July, removing a cap that could see the total payout exceed $1 billion. And after a series of incidents where players played on with obvious head injuries, England’s Premier League set new rules on dealing with concussions in soccer.
But wrestling itself has a long and sad history of its performers dying from the physical and emotional strain of performing every night. One of the worst was in 2007, when the former world champion, Chris Benoit, murdered his wife and child—the latter with a version of his wrestling finishing move—and then killed himself.
One former wrestler, Chris Nowinski, told the New York Times that Benoit was ”one of the only guys who would take a chair shot to the back of the head, which is stupid” and believed untreated concussions might have been the cause. Harvard-educated Nowinski left the WWE after developing post-concussion syndrome and has founded a sports concussion non-profit.
And recently, one of the WWE’s biggest superstars left the company last year amid allegations of working with concussions and through injuries. CM Punk recalls getting injured during a match:
I roll under the fucking corner and I motion to Doc, I go ‘I have a concussion.’ And he was like ‘what do you want me to do?’ And I just started laughing and I was just like ‘Doctor, you are one of the most worthless pieces of shit I have ever met in my entire life.’
Punk left to join the brutal and very real world of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. You know something is wrong when fighting for your life in a cage is a better alternative to your current occupation.