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The Most Notable WWF/WWE Lawsuits (1990 - 2018)

posted Jun 3, 2018, 6:42 AM by Wrestling Scout
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The currently ongoing defamation lawsuit by WWE doctor Chris Amman against CM Punk and Colt Cabana (pictured) based on their 2014 "Art of Wrestling" podcast is one of a long line of lawsuits involving the WWE.  This one is not the WWE directly, but Amman is being backed by the company and people are always curious about where this might put CM Punk as his 0-1 UFC career has not been a success.  The court appearances have clearly impacted his training going into his second fight on June 9th against journalist/fighter Mike Jackson.

The legal issues involving the WWE are too numerous to mention and in recent years have included everything from TNA preventing Matt Hardy using his "Broken" character, TNA suing because a former employee revealed information to the WWE, a tattoo artist suing because Randy Orton's likeness contained their work which has a copyright and, of course, the multiple concussion-related lawsuits.  The history of lawsuits around intellectual property rights, contract abuse, injuries and negligence have all lead to some intriguing courtroom battles and shocking returns afterwards.

60+ Performers vs. WWE - "Concussion Lawsuit"
A combination of former performers (wrestlers and referees) and their families (several wrestlers have recently deceased or deceased since the lawsuit began) have joined up under a class action lawsuit following several prior attempts based on the CTE development.  While the statute of limitations on this one thing, the fact that many of these competitors competed in multiple organizations.

Among those listed on the lawsuit (and the list has grown): 
2 Cold ScorpioOmar Atlas, BarbarianRon BassJim BrunzellKing Kong BundyBryan Clark, Demolition (Ax & Smash), Shane DouglasMike EnosMr. FujiHenry Godwinn, Sue Green, Sylvain Grenier, Chavo GuerreroChavo Guerrero Jr., Muhammad Hassan, John Heidenreich, The Hebners (Dave & Earl), Marty Jannetty, Jazz, Mark Jindrak, Johnny the Bull, Ahmed Johnson, Don Leo JonathanKamalaRex KingBalls Mahoney, Judy Martin, Angelo MoscaOne Man GangButch ReedKen PateraJim Powers, Princess Victoria, John Nord (The Berzerker), Paul OrndorffRoad Warrior Animal, Axl Rotten, SabuPerry Saturn, SlickTracy SmothersJimmy SnukaWarlord, Boris Zhukov

Raven, Kanyon and others vs. WWE
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The WWE is dubious for considering their talent to be "independent contractors" and it has been called into question by many, but Raven was the first to take a legal stand.  The idea that the company was still not providing health insurance and other benefits as well as not handling many of their accommodations on the road while still holding them to employee level standards.  Unable to get more people onboard and on the grounds of statute of limitations, the lawsuit was thrown out.  Many feel this issue is bound to come up again and with the WWE's massive television rights deals they recently inked - they might be willing to make the change.

Brock Lesnar vs. WWE
Image result for brock vince mcmahonLesnar is one in a long list of wrestlers who have had legal battles with the WWF/WWE, but are eventually brought back into the fold.  After four years working the intense schedule, Lesnar was burned out and looking for a way out.  He left, but there was a looming no-compete clause that would prevent him from any pro-wrestling activity until 2010.  He went to work in Japan and the WWE was unable to stop him.  Lesnar found his way into MMA and after being a box office hit for the UFC, the WWE brought him back for loads of money.  The no-compete clause continues to raise eyebrows, especially with the current climate of pro-wrestling (there is not a competitor on the level of the WWE) and the talent being "independent contractors."  Some, like Alberto Del Rios and Rey Mysterio, have managed to skirt around contract issues by going to Mexico, but most have just sat out the 90 days to avoid any issues.

Related imageThe World Wildlife Fund and the World Wrestling Federation had shared the "WWF" name since 1979.  In 1994 an agreement was reached that the pro-wrestling company basically needed to not use the WWF name outside the US, but in 1994 they violated that agreement during the Attitude Era.  They lost a decision and in 2002 re-branded themselves the WWE.  The two have come to another agreement so the WWE no longer needs to censor and alter previous broadcasts. 

Martha Hart vs. WWF
Image result for martha hart wwfThe widow of Owen Hart filed a suit against the company that created a deep divide within the Hart family.  One side, which included Bret Hart, saw the WWF as acting negligent and costing Owen his life in an unnecessary and dangerous stunt.  Many family members opposed it, feeling the WWF was not at fault.  That group was maligned by the other as looking for jobs with the company.  One of them, Davey Boy Smith, did go back to the WWF for a short run.  In 2000, a settlement was reached and the WWF gave $18 million to the Hart family.  Bret eventually returned to the WWE as well and while a shocking return, it was horribly booked.  Many feel Martha has prevented Owen from going into the WWE Hall of Fame or his legacy being recognized.

Warrior vs. WWF
Image result for warrior vinceThere is perhaps no more interesting and bizarre legal battles in pro-wrestling history than that of the man formerly known as Jim Hellwig and the WWF.  After leaving the company the second time, in 1993, Hellwig legally changed his name to "Warrior," seemingly to maintain some legal control of his character.  Courts have backed him up on this, so his signature facepaint, mannerisms and the name (minus the "Ultimate") he has been able to monetize.  In 2005, the WWE release the ill-conceived "Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior," which he sued them over.  The attempted to make his own documentary, but it painted him in a negative light as well, because of his extremist views, so he turned on those producing it.  The WWE brought him back as well and inducted him into their Hall of Fame right before his sudden death.  Since then they have given a Warrior Award as part of the HOF and folks still roll their eyes because of the tumultuous history between the two parties and the outrageous commentary made by him before his return. 

Demolition Ax vs. WWF
Related imageThe WWF/WWE has a long history of rebranding stars so they can "own" their name and likeness.  The nWo was a success initially because it was perceived that WWF talent was invading WCW and the WWF went after them legally feeling the characters of Diesel and Razor Ramon were their intellectual property.  That lawsuit has its own history, but the company's litigious past over IP ownership.  Ax of Demolition had a drawn out legal battle with the WWF over the gimmick, which he claimed to have created and unquestionably developed.  The company tried to settle and bring him back as an agent, but he declined and eventually lost the lawsuit.  This is probably the reason many have been cautious about using their WWE personas after leaving the company.

Image result for jesse ventura vinceThe former color commentator sued the company in 1990 for royalties he felt he was owed.  He amazingly won.  This allowed for he and many other talents to receive the money they were owed due to sales of WWF Home Video releases.  Ventura has since mended fences with the company with some appearances that shocked many.  The WWE Network has changed the game though in recent years and some feel the company is using that shift as a way to avoid those royalties.