VOL. 123 | NO. 8 | Friday, January 11, 2008
Memphis Promoter Files Suit Against WWE
By Bill Dries
It's the back story that counts in professional wrestling. The matches and interviews advance story lines and rivalries that lead to more matches with more hype and thus more fans in the seats and watching on pay-per-view television.
As a result, it's sometimes hard to determine what is real and what is being done to advance the story line.
That was the case in April when Memphis wrestling legend Jerry "The King" Lawler was a no-show for a FedExForum press conference to announce a match between him and Hulk Hogan.
Hogan fumed on cue several times over for the cameras about Lawler trying to dodge the showdown in the ring.
Lawler sent word that his contract as an announcer for World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. prevented him from going through with the match.
Paul Wight, a mammoth-sized wrestler with the moniker Big Show, was drafted as Lawler's replacement. Wight renounced what he termed his WWE "slave name" and was billed as Paul "Great" Wight.
It appears, however, the contract dispute was real. The promoter, Corey Maclin, recently filed a claim for damages in Shelby County Circuit Court against the WWE and Vince McMahon, its president and CEO, according to The Daily News Online, www.memphisdailynews.com. Maclin claims the WWE violated section two of the federal Sherman Anti-Trust Act.
Rivals at odds?
Maclin, who is a dominant local promoter in a city with a rich heritage in the world of wrestling, is alleging a very real rivalry between Hogan and McMahon led to the cancellation.
Lawler, who is not a defendant or plaintiff in the lawsuit, said in a written statement at the time of the cancellation that the problem was Hogan's VH1 reality television series. Producers of the show would have followed Hogan with their cameras to the Memphis showdown. Lawler would have been on VH1, a business rival of NBC-Universal, the media conglomerate that airs and markets WWE matches, pay-per-view events and other television programs.
Maclin claims in the suit that McMahon pressured other WWE-connected wrestlers to avoid Maclin-promoted matches in the Memphis area. The result, according to the lawsuit, was that Maclin lost a contract to do weekly wrestling promotions at Sam's Town casino in Tunica.
Maclin declined comment on the lawsuit on the advice of his attorney.
The lawsuit alleges the WWE and McMahon "took these actions because of a long-running feud with Hogan and in an effort to continue its extensive market control of the wrestling market by not allowing Maclin, a competing promoter, to have a successful and popular promotion."
The lawsuit does not specify a set dollar amount in damages being sought. It seeks "punitive damages and all additional damages allowed" under common law.