Three former professional wrestlers, including Hall of Famers Mr. Fuji and Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, have been diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy or a variation of the disease, according to a court document filed on behalf of more than 60 retired performers who are suing World Wrestling Entertainment over injuries they allegedly suffered on the job.
The filing in US District Court in Connecticut states that CTE, a degenerative neurological disease associated with repeated head blows, also was discovered in Timothy Smith, whose best-known ring names were Rex King and Timothy Well.
WWE issued a statement that said a lawyer for the retired wrestlers, Konstantine Kyros, “has been repeatedly admonished by the court for presenting false and misleading information, and no medical report was included in this filing.
“We will review the medical reports when they are made available to us and respond appropriately via the judicial system.’’
Kyros responded in part, “This case is not about the messenger. It is about the injured wrestlers.’’
The most recent findings bring to at least six the number of deceased professional wrestlers who reportedly have been diagnosed with CTE. The others are Chris Benoit in 2007, Andrew “Test” Martin in 2009, and Jon Rechner, who performed as Balls Mahoney, in 2016.
In addition, Brian Knighton, whose ring name was Axl Rotten, was found to have had early stages of CTE after he died in 2016. CTE can be diagnosed only at autopsy.
Mr. Fuji, who was born Harry Fujiwara, was a 2007 inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame. He played a villain and gained fame in part by throwing salt in the eyes of his opponents to temporarily blind them.
He died in 2016 at age 82, about 10 years after he was diagnosed with dementia.
The court filing states that Fujiwara was diagnosed postmortem as having had Alzheimer’s disease and chronic traumatic myeloencephalopathy, which is described as a form of CTE that involves the spinal cord.
Snuka, a 1996 inductee into the Hall of Fame, died in January at age 73 after neurologists diagnosed him with brain damage, according to the court filing.
Snuka entertained audiences with his Superfly Splash move, which involved soaring from a top rope or turnbuckle and landing on his flattened opponents.
His career was marred by the death of a girlfriend, Nancy Argentino, in 1983 when she was 23. Snuka was found civilly responsible for her death in 1985.
Thirty years later, he was charged with third degree murder and involuntary manslaughter.
The charges were dismissed in January after a judge found Snuka mentally incompetent to stand trial. He died 12 days later, and a postmortem exam showed he had both Alzheimer’s disease and CTE, the court document states.
Six days before Snuka died, Smith died at age 55. The lawsuit asserts Smith had suffered CTE symptoms such as memory loss and “severe suicidal depression’’ and was reported to have had CTE.
Though Smith never attained the fame of Snuka or Mr. Fuji, he was seen by large audiences on the popular prime-time cable program “Monday Night Raw.’’