WWE announced Thursday evening the death of former WWE performer Ashley Massaro, who wrestled for the company for three years after winning a 2005 “Raw Diva Search.” Massaro competed for the WWE Women’s Championship at Wrestlemania 23 back in 2007, and recently appeared to be gearing up for a return to wrestling:
Massaro sued WWE in 2016, accusing the operation of a whole range of health and safety abuses and oversights, including the alleged mishandling of a sexual assault incident during a company trip to Kuwait in 2006:
During the trip, as a civil war raged in neighboring Iraq, Massaro—then known as Ashley, a WWE diva—was sexually assaulted at a US military base, she alleges in a lawsuit against the WWE.
Massaro, who became a Playboy cover girl and “Survivor: China’’ contestant during her WWE tenure, says she was examined by a company physician after she returned from Kuwait. She alleges the doctor reported the incident to WWE executives, who met with her “to apologize for their negligence, but [they] persuaded her that it would be best not to report it to appropriate authorities.’
Massaro reportedly connected the physical punishment sustained during her three-year stint with WWE—including numerous concussions and, according to a Boston Globe report, “a hairline fracture of her spine, two herniated disks, and an ankle fracture that required the insertion of a five-inch metal plate to repair”—with post-career bouts of depression, anxiety, and an unspecified drug addiction. Her lawsuit accused WWE of concealing the dangers of repetitive head injuries, according to the Globe’s report.
According to TMZ, Massaro was taken from her Long Island, New York home to a local hospital, where she died “early Thursday morning.” No cause of death has been made public, but officials have reportedly described it as “non-criminal.” Massaro was 39 years old.