Pro wrestler sexually assaulted female wrestler after 2018 event in Summit: suit

Samantha Tavel — who wrestled under the stage name “Candi Cartwright” — alleges that World Wrestling Entertainment’s Matt Riddle forced her to perform a sex act while the two were on a bus leaving a wrestling event in southwest suburban Summit.

SHARE Pro wrestler sexually assaulted female wrestler after 2018 event in Summit: suit
Samantha Tavel, who wrestled under the stage name “Candi Cartwright,” has filed a lawsuit alleging she was sexually assaulted by World Wrestling Entertainment’s Matt Riddle.

Samantha Tavel, who wrestled under the stage name “Candi Cartwright,” has filed a lawsuit alleging she was sexually assaulted by World Wrestling Entertainment’s Matt Riddle.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

A female professional wrestler was choked and forced to perform oral sex upon another wrestler after an event in southwest suburban Summit in 2018, a new lawsuit alleges.

Samantha Tavel — who wrestled under the stage name “Candi Cartwright” —alleges that World Wrestling Entertainment’s Matt Riddle forced her to perform the sex act while the two were on a bus leaving the wrestling event on May 19, 2018.

While Tavel and Riddle were in a relationship at the time, Tavel said she was not comfortable having sex on the bus because other wrestlers — who were also there to perform at the wrestling event — were on the bus as well.

Professional wrestler Samantha Tavel announces a civil lawsuit against wrestler Matt Riddle for a series of alleged sexual assaults.

Professional wrestler Samantha Tavel announces a civil lawsuit against wrestler Matt Riddle for a series of alleged sexual assaults.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Once she said no, Riddle put his hands on her neck and said, “What if I just made you?” Tavel recalled at a news conference Thursday at the Union League Club, 65 W. Jackson Blvd.

“I never thought he would do anything to hurt me and, in that moment, I was terrified,” she added.

Tavel’s attorney, John Chwarzynski, said the May 2018 incident was just one in the “multitude of sexual assaults committed by Matt Riddle against my client, Candi Cartwright.”

“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.”

Attorney John Chwarzynski details the basis of of the lawsuit during the announcement of a $10 million dollar lawsuit against wrestler Matt Riddle for a series of sexual assaults, at Union League Club at 65 W. Jackson Blvd.

Attorney John Chwarzynski details the basis of of the lawsuit during the announcement of a $10 million dollar lawsuit against wrestler Matt Riddle for a series of sexual assaults, at Union League Club at 65 W. Jackson Blvd.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The suit, which was filed in Cook County Circuit Court, alleges that Riddle committed a series of assaults against Tavel that began in 2017 and lasted through January 2020.

Riddle and a co-founder of Evolve Wrestling, also named as a defendant, could not be reached for comment.

In an emailed statement, a representative for the WWE, also a defendant, said: “WWE has not been served with a lawsuit by Ms. Tavel. However, if served, we will vigorously defend ourselves and contest it.”

In July, after Tavel first spoke out about the alleged assaults, Riddle issued a blanket denial, saying: “I have never, in my entire life, sexually assaulted a man, woman or anybody, and that includes Samantha Tavel, [known as] Candi Cartwright,” according to TMZ.

Chwarzynski said he plans to give a copy of the lawsuit to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office and the Summit 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.

In May 2018, Tavel was employed by Evolve, a partner of the WWE that sometimes served as a proving ground for performers hoping to advance their careers.

In January, after Tavel refused to continue “performing forced sexual acts” upon Riddle, she was effectively fired by Evolve. She claims Evolve said she was terminated due to “issues with talent.”

Tavel said she got involved in wrestling 10 years ago when she was 17 years old. She said that speaking out about the alleged assaults “has, essentially, ended my career,” but added that “some things are more important than a career.”

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