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  June 13, 1999

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Sable suit sends signals

Dirty laundry case could wash out World Wrestling Federation

By MIKE JENKINSON -- Edmonton Sun
  Lesbian lust. Naked breasts. Torn evening gowns. It's not the plot to Bubbles Galore. It's the contents of the lawsuit known as Rena Mero vs. Titan Sports. You'd know it as Sable vs. the World Wrestling Federation.
 The blond bombshell filed a massive $110-million-US lawsuit against the WWF just over a week ago, charging that North America's most successful wrestling company engaged in a campaign of intimidation and humiliation in order to have her get cozy with other women and expose herself on national TV.
 Gosh, who knew that under all the makeup, silicone and postage-stamp-sized outfits, the former Playboy centrefold was such a prude?
 There's not much left of Sable that wrestling fans haven't seen, thanks to her being the main pictorial in the biggest-selling issue of Playboy ever.
 That's why it is so strange that Mero would turn around and file a lawsuit against the WWF complaining about some of the very things she seems to have done so willingly.
 For instance, she alleges that during the evening-gown match last month in which she was to lose her WWF women's title, her breasts would be "accidentally" exposed. She refused to do it.
 Yet it didn't appear Mero had any qualms about appearing on a WWF pay-per-view event (appropriately called Fully Loaded) last July in a bikini contest. Her bikini top consisted of nothing but painted hands covering her nipples.
 Dave Meltzer, editor of the Wrestling Observer newsletter, says friends of Mero have told him that she had a change of heart after Fully Loaded. "She regretted it and said she would never do it again," he says. "But she still dressed pretty revealing up to her last appearance (in the WWF) so to complain about it is kind of hard to take."
 Mero complains in her suit about the increasingly "obscene, titillating, vulgar and unsafe" world of the WWF, despite her being front and centre of its new, sexually driven direction. Meltzer points out it was the WWF's focus on sex, and not wrestling, that made her a star.
 That point certainly hasn't been lost on his readership. "I haven't seen much, if any, sympathy towards her," says Meltzer.
 Most wrestling fans think that the lawsuit is naked opportunism (pun intended), having been launched shortly after Calgary's Owen Hart plunged to his death at a pay-per-view card in Kansas City, Missouri. Meltzer discounts that, saying the lawsuit would have been launched anyway because all Mero really wants is to get out of her WWF contract and keep the rights to the name Sable.
 What a lot of wrestling fans do not want to do, however, is admit that once you strip away the lawsuit's talk about lesbian storylines and bodice ripping, the legal documents paint a damning picture of the world of professional wrestling outside the ring.
 You think the stuff on TV is bizarre, just look at what she says goes on in the dressing rooms: male wrestlers cutting holes in walls to watch the women wrestlers dress; feces being smeared in her gym bag; other female wrestlers threatening her with disfigurement and concerns about being seriously injured inside and outside the ring by other wrestlers suffering from "roid rage" - the term given to the psychotic outbursts often associated with heavy steroid use, which the lawsuit asserts is rampant in the WWF.
 It's all very disturbing. Whether it's worth $110 million in damages is dubious.
 Mero's lawsuit probably has more legal merit in the unsexy allegation that the WWF breached her contract by forcing her to wrestle when she was contracted to only be a valet.
 She complains that WWF officials pressured her into entering the ring as a woman grappler, which she was reluctant to do. (She worried about taking a face-first fall on her breast implants. Really.)
 Dave Scherer, of the wrestling Web site, says while he finds a lot of the suit "comical and unfounded," the WWF should not take it lightly.
 "If this goes to court, it could be damaging," says Scherer, who is also editor of the Wrestling Lariat newsletter. "She knows a lot about things that the public does not, many of which she alleges in the lawsuit. She could air the kind of dirty laundry that the WWF does not want aired."