In 2003, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) created the Diva Search concept (which is now referred to as the WWE Superstar Search). The winner of the first Diva Search received a photoshoot for an issue of the now defunct WWE magazine. In subsequent Diva Searches, the winner received a one-year contract worth $250K.
In 2005, Ashley Massaro met a WWE casting director at a swimsuit pageant. At the time, the idea of the Diva Search was to bring in women perceived as attractive who weren’t necessarily from the professional wrestling industry. This conversation eventually led to Massaro being cast in the Divas Search. Her background was primarily in modeling and acting.
Massaro would go on to beat out numerous other women to become the 2005 WWE Diva Search winner. Just a couple of weeks after the episode of her winning the Diva Search aired, she made her in-ring debut.
While in WWE, she had the opportunity to work with Trish Stratus, Torrie Wilson, Mickie James, Michelle McCool, Beth Phoenix, Natalya and Maria Kanellis-Bennett, among others.
Massaro’s tenure in WWE came to an end in July of 2008, after she asked to be released from her contract to care for her daughter.
In November of 2016, Massaro became one of 60 professional wrestlers to join a class action lawsuit being litigated by Attorney Konstantine Kyros against WWE. The lawsuit alleged that WWE was responsible for neurological injuries suffered inside the ring.
In September of 2018, the lawsuit was dismissed with a strong denial of any wrongdoing by WWE. U.S. District Judge Vanessa Bryant stated the claims were frivolous or were filed after the statute of limitations expired. She also criticized Kyros for failing to comply with court rules and ordered him to pay WWE’s legal fees.
Kyros vehemently disagreed with Judge Bryant’s ruling. He claims the allegations were not frivolous and the claims were not filed too late because many of the wrestlers’ claims, which includes dementia and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), were diagnosed posthumously, or years after they left the ring. He appealed the judge’s ruling and has a new court date of July 8th, 2019 in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.
On March 20th, 2019, Ashley Massaro teased a return to the ring for New York Wrestling Connection, an independent professional wrestling company. Her post on social media interestingly noted they were super safe and made her feel comfortable.
Less than two months after teasing her return, police were called to Massaro’s home and found her dead. Her death was ruled a suicide. She was only 39-years-old.
WWE acknowledged her death on social media, and with a graphic before their Money in the Bank PPV.
Attorney Konstantine Kyros believes the WWE has attempted to discredit him and cover up CTE in professional wrestling through their funding of Christopher Nowinski’s Concussion Legacy Foundation. Nowinski is a former WWE Superstar whose career ended prematurely after suffering from post-concussion syndrome. WWE executive Paul Levesque (aka Triple H) was elected to the Concussion Legacy Foundation’s Board of Directors in 2014, which opens the door to the potential of a conflict of interest.
A spokesperson for WWE alleges that Massaro contacted them last year to apologize for her part in the class action lawsuit against WWE. The email was provided to the New York Post.
“I accept my part of the responsibility and just want to formally apologize and express my regret,” the email said. “You all changed my life and I couldn’t be more grateful.”
The email claimed she was “poached” by Kyros and the legal battle “got out of control fast.”
Kyros said he was unaware of any such email, and reinforced she never withdrew from the case, and he continued to represent her.
“It’s not a credible statement that she sent an email refuting the case,” he said.
Brad Shepard of Pro Sports Extra reached out to Kyros to discuss the situation.
Kyros provided Shepard with the 15-page affidavit (which was filed in 2017), a statement on the relationship between Massaro and WWE, and the original email Massaro allegedly sent him requesting his services.
The affidavit alleges that Massaro was hired to be the face of the women’s division, and instead was required to wrestle four to five days per week.
It also states that she had no wrestling training at the time, was never provided with any, and was denied the request to train on her own time within her first two weeks in the company.
It stated she was never permitted an appropriate amount of time off to allow her body to heal between injuries. An example was provided where WWE CEO Vince McMahon allegedly ordered her cast to be sawed off so she could wrestle at a show, even though she was suffering from a shattered knuckle and the physician requested the cast to be on for several more weeks.
It was reported that Massaro suffered from numerous untreated head injuries, and suffered from CTE symptoms, including but not limited to depression, for which she took medication; migraine headaches; and severe short-term memory loss.
The affidavit also mentioned Massaro was instructed by WWE not to report that she was raped in Kuwait while on an overseas tour. She was allegedly drugged and rendered helpless as someone who was suspected to be in the U.S. military raped her, while a female soldier guarded the door. She alleges Vince McMahon told her to keep the incident quiet because it would ruin the relationship between WWE and the U.S. military.
He allegedly advised her not to let one bad experience ruin the good work they were doing. Traumatized, and fearing for her job, she complied in keeping the incident confidential, although she did tell a few people initially, including Jimmy Hart, Ron Simmons, and current WWE Superstar Maria Kanellis-Bennett.
Shepard reached out to Kanellis-Bennett to discuss the situation but has yet to receive a response as of press time.
You can read the full affidavit here: https://wweconcussionlawsuitnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/FILED-LAURINAITIS-SAC-11.3.2017.pdf
According to Kyros, below is the original email Massaro sent to him requesting his help.
In a statement to Shepard, Kyros wanted to share the following message.
Shepard has reached out to WWE with the information he received, asking for a public comment on the situation, but he has yet to receive a response as of press time.
UPDATE: WWE issued the following statement to Brad Shepard of Pro Sports Extra on this matter:
“WWE is saddened by the death of Ashley Massaro, and we reiterate our condolences to her family. However, we regret that her attorney Konstantine Kyros, who filed multiple cases against WWE, lost all of them, and was sanctioned multiple times by the Court for repeated misconduct and false allegations, is using Ashley’s death to further his malicious campaign against WWE by releasing an affidavit that she submitted to the Court and later apologized to WWE for being involved with, so we wish to make certain things crystal clear.
At no time was Vince McMahon or the management of WWE ever informed by Ashley Massaro or anybody else that she had been sexually assaulted, drugged, raped or sodomized by a military doctor with a nurse standing guard while on a goodwill tour in 2007 to U.S. military bases in Kuwait. In fact, if she ever articulated such a claim to WWE, we would have reported it immediately to the Base Commander.
At no time was there ever a meeting with Vince McMahon, Kevin Dunn, John Laurinaitis or other company executives in which she told them of such a claim and was instructed to keep it quiet.”