As noted back in mid-September, WWE SmackDown Superstar Matt Riddle filed a civil lawsuit against the woman he previously had an affair with, Candi Cartwright (Samantha Tavel), who previously accused him of sexual assault during the “#SpeakingOut” movement earlier this year. You can click here to read that report.
Now Cartwright has filed a lawsuit against Riddle, WWE, EVOLVE and an un-named EVOLVE co-founder (Gabe Sapolsky), according to the Chicago Sun Times and Fightful. The suit was filed in Cook County Circuit Court and alleges that Riddle committed a series of assaults against her, which allegedly began in 2017 and lasted through January 2020.
Cartwright is seeking $10 million per defendant. The suit cites actual damages, damages from emotional distress, punitive damages, attorney’s fees and costs.
The lawsuit alleges that Riddle began sexually assaulting Cartwright in April 2017 in the parking lot after an EVOLVE event. It also claims Riddle bragged about this to Sapolsky, and that the two entities and WWE tacitly approved of Riddle’s alleged sexual violence towards Cartwright.
Cartwright claims she was choked and forced to perform oral sex on Riddle after an event in southwest suburban Summit, IL in 2018. As Cartwright has said before, the suit alleges that the assault took place while the two were on a bus leaving the indie pro wrestling event on May 19, 2018. Cartwright says while she and Riddle were in a relationship at the time, she was not comfortable having sex on the bus because other wrestlers were also on the bus.
Cartwright claims that once she said no, Riddle put his hands on her neck and said, “What if I just made you?” Cartwright recalled the incident at a press conference her attorney, John Chwarzynski, hosted earlier today.
“I never thought he would do anything to hurt me and, in that moment, I was terrified,” she added.
Chwarzynski said the May 2018 incident near Chicago was just one in the “multitude of sexual assaults committed by Matt Riddle against my client.”
Regarding WWE being listed as a defendant, Chwarzynski accused the company of hyper-sexualizing their female performers and profiting off male aggression against the female performers.
The lawsuit also mentions how misogynistic culture created by the defendants have encouraged this behavior, and that WWE has condoned sexual assault in the workplace for more than 30 years. It further lists toxic misogyny and the company’s duty to refrain from assisting and encouraging the alleged conduct as a complaint towards the defendants. There is also a mention of how pro wrestling is a male-dominated sport and that “in recent years, females have begun to perform for WWE and EVOLVE.” There is also a mention of higher beauty standards for men, and a dangerous culture for women.
“The WWE has painted a picture over the course of the years that female performers are to comply with certain rules,” Chwarzynski said. “The WWE, since its inception, has hyper-sexualized female performers and they’ve profited from male aggression against these female performers.”
Cartwright says she was employed by EVOLVE in May 2018 when the bus incident happened. She says in January of this year, after she refused to continue “performing forced sexual acts” on Riddle, she was effectively fired by EVOLVE, according to the charges. She claims EVOLVE said she was fired due to “issues with talent.”
Cartwright also claims that she had bookings with WWE and EVOLVE on or about January 31, 2020, and that before that Riddle forced her to perform sexual acts under the threat of losing the bookings if she did not perform the acts. She claims she refused to continue, and that Riddle informed WWE and EVOLVE that he did not want her working with the companies. That’s when she says EVOLVE fired her for the “issues with talent” to prevent the bookings.
Cartwright said she got involved in wrestling 10 years ago when she was 17 years old, and that speaking out about the alleged assaults “has, essentially, ended my career,” but added that “some things are more important than a career.”
Chwarzynski said he plans to give a copy of the lawsuit to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office and the Summit, IL Police Department.
“We can only hope the state’s attorney’s office will do the right thing and open an investigation into this matter and press charges against Matt Riddle,” he said.
There are also some notable errors in the suit. It lists Riddle as being employed by WWE by the time of May 19, 2018, but he hadn’t signed with the company for over a month beyond that point. EVOLVE Wrestling Inc. also did not exist for several months beyond May 19, 2018, notes Fightful.
Riddle has previously issued a blanket denial on any sexual assault allegations.
“The lawsuit was filed against each defendant seeking $10 million each. There’s an issue with each defendant and it needs to be addressed within professional wrestling. WWE has profited from toxic misogyny since its inception,” Chwarzynski told Fightful when reached for comment.
Sta tuned for updates on the case.