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Wrestlers Shed Light on Industry’s Toxic Culture With #SpeakingOut

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WWE's Jordan Devlin makes his entrance

A growing movement on social media is shedding light on sexual, physical and emotional abuse inflicted by and upon members of the wrestling industry. 

Using the hashtag “#SpeakingOut” on Twitter, many prominent female wrestlers are commending those who have come forward to share their experiences.

At least three male WWE wrestlers have also been accused of misconduct against women. Jordan Devlin, who wrestles for WWE’s NXT UK brand and was WWE’s Cruiserweight Champion until travel issues related to the pandemic forced him to drop the belt, was accused of physical abuse by a woman who shared photos of her bruised body. 

“We take any allegation of this nature very seriously and are looking into the matter,” WWE said in a statement.

Candy Cartwright, an independent wrestler, accused WWE’s Matt Riddle of pressuring her into performing sex acts while in a van with other wrestlers in 2018. Riddle, in Twitter direct messages to a British YouTuber whom he had previously been interviewed by, denied the allegation and accused Cartwright of harassing him. Riddle said his lawyer and WWE were exploring the possibility of legal action against Cartwright. WWE’s statement on the allegations against Riddle was identical to the one issued about Devlin.

A third WWE wrestler was accused by a woman on Twitter of making repeated unwanted sexual advances at a 2014 New Year’s Eve party. 

Longtime wrestling personality Jim Cornette and his wife, Stacey, are also accused of acting inappropriately with wrestlers. Independent wrestler Phil Earley alleged that when Cornette was in charge of Ohio Valley Wrestling, then a developmental territory for WWE, novice wrestlers were pressured into performing sex acts with Stacey (“many times with [Cornette] watching”) in exchange for opportunities in OVW. Several former OVW performers backed up Earley’s allegations. (During an argument with Cornette on Twitter in March, All Elite Wrestling’s Joey Janela alluded to “a hot tub party. Like the ones you and your wife used to have with the OVW boys.”)

Other male wrestlers have come forward to say they were taken advantage of early in their careers. 

The majority of the wrestlers being accused of misconduct by women using the #SpeakingOut hashtag work in the U.K. On Wednesday, prominent independent wrestler David Starr (real name Max Barsky), an American who was a fixture in the British wrestling scene, was accused of sexual abuse by a woman he had been in a relationship with. Several promotions cut ties with Starr after the allegations.