Ashley Massaro
Image via BBC.com

The WWE Universe woke up to the news that former WWE superstar and Playboy cover girl Ashley Massaro had passed away earlier today at the age of 39. Massaro has been away from WWE for more than a decade but was still close to many members of the WWE Universe since she stated that she often returned and received fan mail.

Ashley won the 2005 Diva Search before later becoming an integral part of the Women’s Division and the feud between Mickie James and Trish Stratus that reached a climax at WrestleMania 22. A year later Massaro received a Women’s Championship shot of her own at WrestleMania as she challenged Melina in a losing effort.

The following year, Ashley requested her release from WWE so that she could look after her sick daughter, who was just seven years old at the time and it was granted. In the years that have followed, Ashley has struggled with depression and spoke out about some of the long term injuries that she suffered whilst working for WWE.

“I attribute these issues to my work-related injuries sustained while working for the WWE, and specifically to the routine repetitive blows to the head, I received in the ring over the course of my career which were not properly diagnosed or treated.” Massaro strongly believes WWE failed to live up to its obligations, and “as a result, it has caused me severe and ongoing pain and suffering, emotional distress and financial hardship.”

According to a report by The Blast, the former Playboy Cover Girl was discovered unconscious this morning after failing to show up for work at a local radio station. After 911 was called, CPR was administered on the way to the hospital but sadly there was nothing that the paramedics could do to save the star.

Her longtime friend and fellow former WWE star Ariel released a statement via The Blast earlier today where she revealed that Ashley’s cause of death was suicide.

“My best friend from the wrestling business died from suicide two days after responding to 300+ fan letters. She was the happiest I have seen her in years, so stoked that people still cared about her 11 years after her career was over. There are no signs. It comes without warning. If you are going through the worst shit in your life, just know that you are not alone. PLEASE seek help.”