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Billy Jack Haynes wrestles WWE into federal court

Photo Credit: COURTESY OF WWE INC. - Portland native William Albert Haynes III - known as Billy Jack Haynes - was a WWF wrestler for two years in the late 1980s. He is suing WWE Inc. for damages he suffered in the ring, and hopes to lead a class-action suit against the wrestling entertainment giant.Billy Jack Haynes wants to give World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.’s head-smacking, money-making “soap opera” a federal court body slam because of what he says is the international sports giant’s disregard for wrestlers’ safety.

Billy Jack — 61-year-old Gaston resident William Albert Haynes III — is suing WWE in federal court for “egregious mistreatment of its wrestlers for its own benefit, as well as its concealment and denial of medical research and evidence concerning traumatic brain injuries suffered by WWE wrestlers,” according to the 42-page lawsuit filed Thursday, Oct. 23, in Portland’s U.S. District Court.

Haynes is also asking the court to grant class-action status for what his lawyers say could be 500 people who suffered injuries while wrestling or performing in the WWE ring.

“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,” according to the lawsuit filed by Portland attorneys Steve D. Larson and Joshua L. Ross of the firm Stoll Stoll Bernie Lokting & Schlachter. “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.”

WWE officials said Saturday that Haynes’ lawsuit did not take into account that the company has been “well ahead of sports organizations in implementing concussion management procedures and policies as a precautionary measure as the science and research on this issue emerged.”

Here is the WWE statement on Haynes’ lawsuit:

“Billy Jack Haynes performed for WWE from 1986-1988. His filed lawsuit alleges that WWE concealed medical information and evidence on concussions during that time, which is impossible since the condition now called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) had not even been discovered. WWE was well ahead of sports organizations in implementing concussion management procedures and policies as a precautionary measure as the science and research on this issue emerged. Current WWE procedures include ImPACT testing for brain function, annual educational seminars and the strict prohibition of deliberate and direct shots to the head. Additionally, WWE has committed significant funding for concussion research conducted by the Sports Legacy Institute (SLI), leaders in concussion research, and WWE Executive Vice President Paul Levesque sits on SLI's board."

No court date has been set for the case.

‘Cobra Clutch Slam’

Photo Credit: COURTESY OF WILLIAM A. HAYNES III - A photo from Haynes' 42-page lawsuit shows Billy Jack Haynes being bashed with a chain during a professional wrestling match.WWE of Stamford, Conn., is a publicly traded company that delivers wrestling action year-round through television programming, pay-per-view, digital media and publishing platforms. WWE programming reaches more than 650 million homes worldwide in 35 languages.

The company’s stock closed Friday at $13.27 a share on the New York Stock Exchange.

According to Haynes’ lawsuit, the company is “tightly controlled by a small group of related executives who manage both polices and the conduct of wrestlers during matches. Vince McMahon has been chairman of WWE since the retirement of his father, Vince McMahon Sr., in 1980.”

Haynes’ lawsuit alleges that the entertainment giant “claims that its wrestlers are independent contractors. Thus, WWE does not provide its wrestlers, past or current, with health insurance, disability insurance, or unemployment insurance. When wrestlers retire, they are effectively on their own.”

The lawsuit says "WWE calls itself an 'action soap opera.' Its matches are scripted, with preordained winners and losers, and it has a carefully written, ongoing plot. WWE predetermines much of the dialogue between the wrestlers and the winners of the matches, as well as many of the violent acts perpetrated by the wrestlers on each other."

Haynes' lawyers listed several dangerous moves used by 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.

Medical trust fund

Haynes wrestled professionally for more than a dozen years beginning in 1982. From 1986 to 1988, he wrestled with the World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.). During that time, 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, Haynes said.

“As a result of the head trauma he sustained while wrestling in WWE, Haynes suffers from depression and exhibits symptoms of dementia,” according to the lawsuit.

Haynes was hospitalized in March 2013 suffering from an aortic aneurysm, and liver and kidney issues.

Haynes’ lawsuit asked the court to force WWE to establish “a trust fund, in an amount to be determined, to pay for the medical monitoring of all wrestlers subjected to checks and hits, as frequently as determined to be medically necessary, as well as to pay to develop and research other methods by which the risk of those affected can be reduced.”

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