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Billy Jack Haynes Sues the WWE

On the eve of its Hell in a Cell pay-per-view on Sunday, word has come out that the WWE is being sued over mistreatment of its wrestlers and the safety of those who have performed for Vince McMahon in his circus up in Stamford, CT.

Former WWE Superstar Billy Jack Haynes is suing WWE for alleged mistreatment of talent and wrestler safety. Interesting enough, WWE has run into similar issues in the past. However, it appears Haynes is trying to capitalize on what former NFL football players did a while back by suing the company due to head injuries. The NFL paid millions of dollars to former players but many feel they had no need. The reason being, everyone knew what they were getting into when they signed up and any injury they sustained on the field came with the territory.

This according to a story in the Portland Tribune.

The WWE immediately published a statement with regard to the 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.

Due to the medical knowledge we have today, there are things that sports and wrestling once did that they no longer do. In WWE, they have made it a priority to make their talent safe. Not only have they instituted the Wellness Policy to help with any potential drug problem, but they have also changed their style to a less impactful one. This is why people such as Daniel Bryan, who was known for impact, hard hitting wrestling had to change up his style to fit with WWE.

In 1986, Haynes went to the World Wrestling Federation and feuded with Randy Savage over the Intercontinental Championship and then with Hercules Hernandez over who was stronger, more muscular, and who had a better version of the full nelson (their mutual finishing maneuver). Their feud in the WWF peaked with what was dubbed “The Battle of the Full Nelsons” at WrestleMania III, where the two men battled to a double count-out. After the bell, Hercules’ manager Bobby “The Brain” Heenan kneed Hayne in the back while he had Hercules in a full nelson out on the floor. Haynes chased Heenan into the ring where Hercules blindsided him with his trademark chain, hitting Haynes multiple times and (Kayfabe) cutting his forehead (in reality, Haynes had bladed himself with a small razor hidden in the taps around his wrists after the first hit. He was actually seen on camera taking the razor out of his wrist tapes while chasing Heenan around the ring).

In the months to follow, the two had a series of “chain matches,” where they were attached at the wrist by a foot long chain which could also be used as a weapon during the match. Haynes later teamed with fellow Oregon native Ken Patera who had returned to the WWF. Haynes saved Patera from a beating at the hands of Hercules and “The King” Harley Race after Patera’s return match. The pair would later feud with Demolition after a television match where Demolition left Haynes, Patera, and Brady Boone (who played Haynes’ cousin) beaten and lying in the ring.

Haynes’ departure from the WWF has been a subject of controversy considering dramatic changes in the story as Haynes repeated it. In one version, he says he quit the WWF after refusing to do a job in his hometown of Portland, Oregon. Another account of the same incident reported that he actually wrestled the match with the finish reworked and then fired afterwards. Finally, in a shoot interview, Haynes claims the WWF wanted him to lose the tag match in Portland, but when he said no, the WWF fired him.

Billy Jack has a long road ahead of him. He isn’t the first to try and challenge the WWE’s claim of independent contractor in court. Former WWE wrestlers the late Kanyon, Scott Levy, and Mike Sanders had their lawsuit against the WWE dismissed in 2009. I can’t help but think that any claims Haynes would have had have expired due to a statute of limitations.

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