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By Mike Johnson on 2021-07-13 18:44:00

Independent wrestler Samantha Tavel aka Candy Cartwright informed the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois yesterday that she was dropping her lawsuit against WWE star Matt Riddle.

The filing reads as follows:

Plaintiff Samantha Tavel hereby voluntarily dismisses this matter with prejudice under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A)(i), with each side to bear their own attorney's fees and costs. All future dates, if any, should be stricken.

Respectfully submitted,

Samantha Tavel 

Tavel announced during a Chicago press conference on 10/18/29 that she was filing a lawsuit against WWE Smackdown star Matt Riddle, World Wrestling Entertainment, the now-defunct EVOLVE promotion and Gabe Sapolsky.  With the exception of Riddle, the court had agreed with the other defendants that there was no bearing for them to be part of the case.

The lawsuit, which sought $10 million against each of the defendants, stemmed from Cartwright's allegations (which became public during the Speaking Out movement online) that Riddle allegedly choked and forced her to perform oral sex on her in May 2018.    According to The Chicago Sun-Times' article, Tavel was allegedly approached for sex by Riddle (who she was in a relationship with) but said she was not comfortable having sex on the bus because of the other wrestlers being present.  The article cited:

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.

John Chwarzynski, Tavel’s attorney, stated during the press conference that the alleged incident was among a “multitude of sexual assaults committed by Matt Riddle against my client, Candi Cartwright.”  The lawsuit alleged Tavel was assaulted multiple times between 2017 and January 2020 by Riddle.

“The WWE has painted a picture over the course of the years that female performers are to comply with certain rules,” Chwarzynski said when the lawsuit was filed. “The WWE, since its inception, has hyper-sexualized female performers and they’ve profited from male aggression against these female performers.”

WWE did not have Riddle under contract during the time frame of the allegations and were not involved in the EVOLVE events, one of the reasons they were dismissed by the Court as an defendant.

In December 2020, Riddle filed his own motion to dismiss the lawsuit.  In that filing, Riddle stated that he and Tavel entered into an extra-marital affair in April 2017 after meeting while performing for EVOLVE at an event in New York City.  They continued to maintain that relationship until Riddle's wife learned of it, at which point, Riddle claims he ended his relationship with Tavel.  In his filing Riddle alleges, "Ms. Tavel had a hard time accepting the end of the relationship, and Mr. Riddle changed his telephone number more than once to avoid her calls. Mr. Riddle had no control over any employment relationship Ms. Tavel had with Evolve or WWE."

Tavel remained working for EVOLVE in some fashion until the promotion shut down in the wake of financial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic leading to the cancellation of their Tampa, Florida events Wrestlemania 36 weekend.  WWE purchased the assets of EVOLVE, Inc., including its tape library.

In regard to Tavel's accusations, Riddle's December 2020 filing, denied any wrongdoing on his part, stating, "Mr. Riddle emphatically denies Ms. Tavel’s torrid tale. He and Ms. Tavel had a nearly three-year affair during which they engaged only in consensual sexual activity. In July 2019, Mr. Riddle ended the affair after his wife learned of the relationship. In June 2020, Ms. Tavel tweeted an accusation that he sexually assaulted her in a van while other wrestlers were asleep."

Riddle's motion claimed that Tavel's lawsuit should be dismissed because it fails to establish that the Circuit Court of Cook Count has jurisdiction over Riddle to begin with and that Tavel's specific allegations also fail to meet federal pleading requirements that bring them beyond speculation.  Riddle's attorneys argued that the lawsuit fails to claim that Riddle's, "allegedly tortious activities were purposefully directed at residents of the forum" as Tavel is not and has never been a resident of Illinois.  Riddle's attorneys also argued that since he does not live or own property in Illinois, he cannot fall under their jurisdiction. 

The motion to dismiss also argued that while Riddle was in Illinois performing for EVOLVE and that the alleged incident happened "on a bus leaving" the venue, therefore those duties would have been completed by the time he was alleged to have assaulted Tavel, so any professional connection to the State of Illinois had been completed.  It also claimed that Tavel cannot claim any connection to her "alleged injuries" (from Riddle's alleged sexual assault against her) and the State of Illinois.   For all those reasons, Riddle's attorneys are claimed the lawsuit against him should be thrown out, as they are not strong enough under Illinois law to move forward and that neither party should fall under Illinois jurisdiction in court.

The filing made mention of two different alleged incidents:

"Ms. Tavel pleads two specific alleged assaults – one in April 2017 and one on May 19, 2018 – but no facts that tie these alleged injuries to Illinois."

The April 2017 alleged incident is referenced in Riddle's motion, noting, "Mr. Riddle believe [The April 2017] allegation refers to a consensual sexual encounter the couple had in a car on or about April 23, 2017 in New York City after an Evolve event. Mr. Riddle was not in Illinois in April 2017 and did not purposefully direct his activities at any Illinois residents in April 2017."

Riddle also specifically responded to Tavel's allegations that he assaulted her on 5/19/18 in Illinois following the EVOLVE 104 event.  In his response, Riddle stated that he did perform that evening at EVOLVE 104 in Illinois and that Tavel was at the event as well.  Riddle stated that a videographer named Joseph M. Ranta transported numerous performers from the venue to their hotel in Michigan in his van (Tavel's claims have made reference to a bus, but her initial Tweet referred to a van with sleeping EVOLVE wrestlers), as there was another EVOLVE event in Livonia, Michigan the next day. 

Riddle's response featured an affidavit filed by Ranta as well as photos of the exterior and interior of his van.   Ranta's affidavit stated that on the evening in question, then-EVOLVE talents Keith Lee, Anthony Henry and JD Drake were also in the van with Drake sitting in the front passenger seat, Henry and Lee in the center seats and Riddle and Tavel in the back seats.     The records from Ranta's GPS on the evening in question were also filed as evidence, noting they left the Summit Park District in IL on 5/20/18 IL at 12:26 AM,  They stopped for gas and left that gas station at 12:34 AM, then drove 33 miles to a Denny's Restaurant, arriving in Portage, Indiana at 1:22 AM (48 minutes later), stating that they entered Indiana 36 minutes into their drive, around 1:10 AM.   Ranta's affidavit stated that out of all the passengers, only Keith Lee fell asleep during the drive to Denny's and that the other four passengers were awake.   

Ranta's affidavit then stated everyone exited the Denny's at 2:35 AM, driving 2 hours, 37 minutes to Ranta's home in Mason, Michigan.   Ranta stated that Drake, Lee and Henry had all fallen asleep during that drive, with himself, Riddle and Tavel all being awake the entire ride.  Ranta stated he, Tavel and Riddle spent 12 minutes at Ranta's home before he drove everyone to The Comfort Inn Metro Airport near Detroit, Michigan where the wrestlers were staying.  The affidavit does not mention that any alleged assault took place, but also does not deny one happened. 

Riddle's filing featured the following claim, attempting to state that if any incident even happened, it most likely did not transpire in Illinois:

Based on Mr. Ranta’s GPS and Ms. Tavel’s June 19, 2020 Twitter post, the earliest time the assault could have occurred was during the 2.5-hour drive between the Denny’s in Portage, Indiana, and Mr. Ranta’s residence in Mason, Michigan. Therefore, it is impossible to state a claim under the IGVA for violence that did not arise in Illinois between nonresidents of Illinois.

Riddle's filing also claimed:

Even drawing the facts in a light most favorable to Ms. Tavel, the May 19, 2018 assault is inherently implausible and her right to relief is speculative at best. Mohammed v. Sidecar Technologies, Inc., No. 16 C 2538, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 156090, at *20 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 10, 2016) (dismissing claim where court could not draw reasonable inference that defendant violated the statute based on conclusory and speculative allegations). It is implausible that Mr. Riddle would ask to engage in sexual intercourse “in front of other members of Evolve while on a bus,” immediately after performing at a wrestling event, without any witnesses in a small but full vehicle.   If that did happen, no matter the size of the vehicle, surely, someone would have  noticed the assault and said something. Count I does not plausibly state a claim, and it should be dismissed.

Riddle's attempts at dismissing the case had been denied by the court.  He and Tavel were in the middle of the discovery period where each side shares with the other their evidence and planned arguments.  


In a Status Report filed by Riddle to update the court on 4/21, it was noted that Riddle's side had attempted to contact Cartwright's attorneys to file a joint status report but never heard despite attempts at contacts via email and telephone.  At that time, Riddle laid out the following plan:

Mr. Riddle proposes the following discovery plan:

(a) Electronically stored information (“ESI”) will be furnished in PDF or .TIFF format, unless another format is otherwise agreed upon. Prior to conducting any ESI discovery, the parties shall meet and confer on a list of custodians and search terms.

(b) The parties will seek, prior to the production of any documents, a protective order limiting the use of certain documents produced in connection with the litigation of the instant case, and mandating that each party will destroy all documents produced to it by the opposing party following the final appeal of the instant case.

(c) The parties will make all initial disclosures within 30 days of the Joint Status or by May 21, 2021.

(d) The parties do not currently anticipate calling any expert witness in this matter, but reserve the right to do so.

(e) Physical or mental examinations of any party whose mental or physical condition is in controversy are not anticipated.

(f) All discovery will be completed by December 31, 2021. Any written interrogatories or requests for production shall be served no later than thirty (30) days before the discovery cut-off, a date that allows the served parties the full thirty (30) days as provided by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in which to answer or produce by the discovery cut-off date. This does not limit the parties’ ability to demand that the other side fully respond to disputed discovery requests.

(g) No other matter is pertinent to the completion of discovery at this time

Riddle noted at that time that he expected to file a Summary Judgment against Tavel, basically a motion arguing why the case should be thrown out of court.  That will no longer be necessary.  It was also noted in the April filing that while Tavel is seeking a jury trial, Riddle does not believe one is necessary, which would mean he wants the presiding judge to rule over the case if and when a trial is completed.

Riddle's status filing in April stated that Tavel "demanded $10,000,000.000 to settle" and that he "would not consider a magistrate-led settlement conference at this time."

While Tavel's lawsuit was initially filed before Cook County in Illinois, World Wrestling Entertainment successfully moved to have the lawsuit removed to the Northern District of Illinois.   It was believed the earliest the two sides could go to trial would be May 2022, so there was a long process ahead.

The court officially closed the lawsuit yesterday, so as of now, there will be no further proceedings.  It should be noted that the lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed with prejudice, which means that Tavel could not resurrect it down the line.    There is no word why Tavel withdrew the lawsuit or whether the side sides came to some sort of private settlement on her claims.


If you or someone you know needs assistance, the National Sexual Assault Hotline is 800-656-4673


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