wrestling / News

Kelly Klein Has No Regrets Regarding ROH Statements, Joe Koff Addresses Concussion Protocol, How Klein’s Injury Was Handled

December 5, 2019 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Kelly Klein ROH

Sports Illustrated published an article this week on the recent controversy surrounding Kelly Klein and the medical policy for Ring of Honor (ROH), which raised questions for how ROH handles wrestlers suffering from concussions. Previously, former ROH talent and Women of Honor champion Kelly Klein claimed that the promotion didn’t have any sort of concussion protocol in place.

Klein suffered a concussion during an ROH match in the UK on Oct. 26. According to Klein when speaking to Newsweek, there was no protocol or doctor in place to check on her after she suffered the concussion. Also, she claimed “nothing happened” after she suffered a head injury in ROH in April 2018 in New Orleans.

Speaking to Sports Illustrated, Kelly Klein said she had no regrets in regards to speaking out. She stated, “I do not regret speaking out. I wanted to build something positive at Ring of Honor, I wanted to make improvements. I loved it there and I wanted to create change to make the environment safer.”

She once again reiterated that no medical personnel were ringside or in the immediate backstage area to give her medical assistance after she suffered her last concussion injury in Newport, Wales. Klein said, “No medical personnel were ringside. No medical personnel were in the immediate backstage area.”

While ROH COO Joe Koff has maintained that ROH does have a concussion protocol, Kelly Klein claimed there is none and no one has seen it or had any training regarding a protocol. She added, “The issue was not my opponent or the referee. The issue is that no one received training or protocol to recognize what to do when something is wrong. The problem is that no one has the protocol, no one has seen the protocol, and no one is in charge of making sure the protocol is followed.”

Later on, Koff responded to Klein’s comments to Sports Illustrated. In the previous Newsweek story, an ROH spokesperson claimed that ROH has had a concussion protocol in place since 2016. Regarding transparency on the issue, Koff stated to SI.com on the protocol and Klein’s injury, “It is not posted, we don’t share documents like that publicly. When [Klein suffered her concussion injury] on October 26, there was a medic there, hired by Ring of Honor, and she got immediate attention once it was known she was feeling anything.”

He continued, “The protocol is just this—we recognize the dangers that are inherent in professional wrestling. More specifically, the possibility exists of a wrestler suffering a concussion during a match, and we take all injuries very, very seriously. When we are alerted or when we feel there is an injury, we immediately defer to the medical professional on staff.”

On her part, Kelly Klein has expressed frustration in requesting the see the protocol multiple times, saying she is still yet to see it. She went on, “It’s impossible to follow something we’ve never seen. I have asked, at minimum three times, to see the concussion protocol. I still have not seen one, so I don’t know if one even exists.”

Joe Koff noted that he was not present in the UK when Klein suffered her injury. But he stated that Klein received “immediate attention” after she reported she had a concussion. Koff stated on the Oct. 26 card, “I wasn’t there, but I was made aware that Kelly did not realize she was concussed until sometime after the match. That hour could very well be a true lapse of time. But as soon as she reported she was concussed, she received immediate attention. Kelly declined the option to go to the hospital at that point.”

He added, “Ring of Honor had management present at the event, including the hired operating agent for the tour. I will tell you that as soon I learned about it, I texted her and she told me she appreciated my text and told me she was fine.”

Additionally, an ROH spokesperson stated the following on the company’s medical policy: “Talent reports any injuries or symptoms to a match agent or producer. Medical attention is then provided immediately.” The spokesperson continued, “Referees and other producers are always on the lookout for potential injuries in a match and follow up immediately.”

The article does note that concussion symptoms may not be immediately recognizable and can be subtle. This could result in someone suffering a concussion and not realizing it. This would explain why Klein was not able to realize she initially had a concussion. Klein also stated: “I remember a moment in the match when I hit my head. I remember laying on the mat and thinking, ‘Can I get up?’ I did continue, and I remember moments where I was looking at my opponent and not knowing what was next, and not being able to communicate that or know where I was. I remember taking an elbow to the face because I wasn’t quick enough to protect myself.”

She continued: “Then I remember being in the back after the match and trying to talk with people, but I couldn’t get through one thought. I laid down on the floor and I didn’t feel well. I couldn’t recognize people’s faces. I didn’t think much time had passed, but I was later told that I was sitting on the floor for an hour before I received help.”

Koff reiterated that the ROH concussion protocol was followed the way it was “designed.” He added: “I think it was followed the way we have it designed to be followed. Once a performer indicates they are concussed or have any kind of injury, it goes immediately to the medical professional on-site. If you feel any recognizable symptoms, including headaches or neck pains that do not go away; difficulty remembering, concentrating, or making decisions; slowness in thinking, speaking, acting, or reading; getting lost or easily confused; lightheadedness, dizziness, or loss of balance; nausea; increased sensitivity to lights, sounds, or distractions; blurred vision or eyes that tire easily or ringing in the ears, they are to seek medical attention immediately.”

When asked if mistakes were made by ROH officials considering the amount of time that lapsed before Klein received any sort of medical attention, Koff stated, “I don’t have a comment. I wasn’t there, I didn’t see any of that. I can’t answer any of that.”

According to the report, ROH will reimburse Kelly Klein for medical bills related to her concussion injury. This is appears to contradict last month’s Newsweek story. That report stated that ROH did not offer to arrange to pay for her treatment for her most recent concussion. Instead, Klein has been using the private health insurance provided by her husband, former ROH wrestler BJ Whitmer, to help cover her medical costs.

SI.com did ask Joe Koff if the company could continue covering Klein’s treatments after her current deal expires on Dec. 31. Koff said, “I don’t think the precedent has been set, so we’re going to find out. My intentions are to make sure she’s whole through this.”

Former WWE talent Chris Nowinski, the CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, was asked about Klein saying she has not been able to view the concussion protocol. Nowinski stated via e-mail, “It is important to have talent educated on the risks of performing with a concussion and aware of the concussion protocol.” Nowinski himself is also reportedly looking into the situation.

The SI.com report notes that Klein was technically not “fired” for suffering a concussion, but she was told by Koff that her services would no longer be required by ROH while she was out rehabbing her injury.

Meanwhile, former WWE Superstar Adam Birch, aka Joey Mercury, maintained his belief that ROH does not have a concussion protocol in place. Birch quit his position with ROH a day before Klein suffered her latest concussion. Previously, he has publicly complained about the lack of a concussion protocol in ROH and negligence by company officials with regards to how talents are medically treated.

Birch stated on ROH, “I would have been made aware of a concussion protocol. They don’t have one. For ROH to claim they have a concussion protocol is ridiculous. When you’re in WWE as an agent, or a producer as they are now known, you need to be CPR certified. There is nothing like that in Ring of Honor.”

Klein also reportedly shared details on meeting Koff at ROH headquarters in November, where she hoped to view the concussion protocols and talk about increasing safety for wrestlers and the pay gap between genders in the company. Koff did confirm the meeting happened. This was before ROH notified her that her contract would not be renewed and talks for a new deal had concluded. Koff talked about being out of “alignment” with Klein due to her not apologizing or showing any remorse for the private e-mails that were shared. Koff stated the following:

“I met with her in Baltimore and we had a nice conversation. She made recommendations that I think were valid, but at no time did she show any remorse. Without remorse or without some kind of apology to me personally, I’ll just say this, we’re out of alignment. I exercised the right not to renew. I feel terrible that she was concussed. We’re not abandoning her, she’s still under contract.”

“We’ve always had a great dialogue with Kelly in the past. Issues could have been easily addressed with myself or Greg. That’s the truth. She chose to share private emails and information that was then used to denigrate this company’s image, which was a clear violation of her contract. Yet, through it all, and in empathy for what happened, we didn’t fire her or exercise a breach of contract, which we could have done. We just chose not to extend or renew her contract. I think right now, due to what has transpired—and I think this could have been settled with the normal way that we would settle with any talent, open door-open dialogue—it didn’t happen this way. I just feel we’re out of alignment right now. If there is a way to realign in the future, then the conversation opens up.”

Klein added on what took place, “I had hoped that management would take the opportunity to recognize some of the gaps and opportunities for improvement, and work to implement some positive change. But they chose a different route.”

Koff did comment on ROH reportedly blocking Klein on Twitter. Koff stated it was an administrator acting on their own and was “not a company decision” and apologized to Klein after it happened. He said on the incident, “That was not a company decision. It was a lapse of judgment from one of our administrators who emotionally wanted to prevent our company from further attack [from supports for Kelly Klein]. We never would condone this, and we apologized immediately privately to Kelly and remedied the situation as soon as I found out about it.” He added that he didn’t know if the relationship between Klein and ROH could be repaired.

Also, Kelly Klein added that she is grateful to support from fans and said her she wants to continue her goal of making wrestler both safer and better:

“Support from fans has really helped me and been something I’ve needed. I’m very grateful for that. My goal will continue to be to make wrestling better and safer. Talent needs to be educated and empowered. It’s important to educate ourselves to protect ourselves, and protect each other. Even if I’m not part of Ring of Honor, I still want it to be better for the people there. Even if Ring of Honor is letting my contract expire and excluding me from the company, I still want improvements for the talent there.”

article topics :

Joe Koff, Kelly Klein, ROH, Jeffrey Harris