Wednesday, June 16, 1999
SLAM! Wrestling Guest Column
Trivial lawsuits threaten freedom of choice
Want to get rich quick? Why not just sue the WWF? Everyone's doing it. Sable, the Harts, some Kuwaiti TV host. I won't be surprised if another couple of lawsuits pop up within the next couple of weeks.
Everyone thinks that they've been hurt in some way (the Harts have a legitimate reason). Let's break down some of these lawsuits from an ordinary wrestling fan's perspective.
First, the Kuwaiti host....what is wrong with this guy? He says that the WWF showing the footage of him being ruffed up by Vader is a defamation to Arabic people and to himself. I've watched the WWF religiously for many years and don't recall anything of that nature. If it was shown, it wasn't notable enough to be remembered. It certainly wasn't any sort of slander against Arabic people. If he thinks that is a vilification of his people, he hasn't heard of the Iron Sheik.
Next contestant....Sable, err, I should say Rena Mero. Let's jump into the time machine and go back to when Mrs. Mero appeared on the WWF scene. She was originally a valet for HHH then was "rescued" by husband, Marc Mero. Going from evening gown to black vinyl and wielding a cat-o-nine-tails, Sable was born.
From there, Rena's career exploded. From the Slammy's to aiding Marc gain the IC championship, Sable made her presence felt. As her fame grew, her attire shrunk. Magazine covers, features, a video, posters, t-shirts, all were developed to be marketed to the Sable-crazed masses. During a live pay-per-view telecast, Sable stopped the hearts of millions of males around the world when she wore nothing but a bikini bottom, painted hands, and a smile.
Time passes and suddenly Sable, a non-wrestler, wins the rejuvenated Women's Title. TV and radio appearances were thrown her way and she loved every minute of it. After quite a while, through title matches that I bet turned the Fabulous Moolah's stomach, Sable turns heel. Then Rena appeared in one of the highest selling issues of Playboy Magazine. More TV roles were launched Mrs. Mero's way. Suddenly, Sable's appearances on television began to dwindle. How can a WWF champion have so few title defenses in such a long time? Bottom line, they can't.
After announcing another spot in Playboy, Sable is basically stripped of the Women's Title, and the rest (like Sable) is history. Next thing you know, here's a lawsuit popping up on the heels of the biggest tragedy in wrestling history...the death of Owen Hart.
People are saying that the WWF is distasteful, what about Mero's lawsuit. The suit could certainly have been postponed for a couple of weeks. Why wasn't it? Not because Mero wants out of the WWF within the next month or so, but because there is now the sympathy factor. Rena and her lawyers know that the WWF is at a vulnerable state and want to take full opportunity of the situation. What were to happen if the Harts were to file suit (which they have) and were to lose? Then where would poor, little Rena be? If a suit as profound as the Hart's wrongful death suit were to fail then how petty would a "everybody's always picking on me and I want to keep the name that gave me this nice meal ticket" seem? Bottom line, Rena crossed the boss and wants to jump ship with as much money as she can carry.
Last up to bat, the renowned Hart family. I've heard rumors of the suit being worth an incredible sum, probably in the nine digit range. Neither my parents, myself, nor my children will ever see that much money throughout all of our lives combined.
What happened to Owen was devastating to everyone. The Hart family, the WWF, the fans, everyone. Some people say that the fans should have been more respectful to Owen while he was alive instead of jumping on the bandwagon when he died. I think that the greatest compliment a fan can pay a wrestler is a strong reaction. Be it a cheer or a boo, a fan is helping the wrestler do his/her job. The worst thing that can happen to a wrestler is to have an indifferent crowd. A crowd that really doesn't care about what is happening in the ring. If Owen was being booed, it wasn't the man but the character that was being chastised. Even throughout a particularly vicious "Nugget" chant, Owen always had that sparkle in his eye. The sparkle that showed he was getting the reaction he wanted his persona to get. Owen could be one of the greatest heels of wrestling history because he made the crowd react to his persona.
In comparison, Owen's real life escapades made him the best face in the business. I can't think why his memory is being dishonored the way it is. A tragic accident is what happened. No conspiracy, no alterior motive. The lawsuit that the Harts are leveling at the WWF will accomplish two things if it is successful. It will make Martha Hart incredibly rich, and it will make everyone affiliated with the WWF suffer. This isn't about ensuring that other wrestlers are protected, it's about retribution. If the suit succeeds, the WWF's personel will lose money. The wrestlers, the crew, and their families will be affected. Some of these hard-working people may be laid off or take massive pay cuts, and let's face it, WCW won't hire them all. These people, many who worked many long, hard years in the Independents to reach the big time may be sent back to them. Loyal fans will have to shell out more money to try and compensate for the sudden losses.
But we're just fans, who cares? We're a dime a dozen. After all, it's our fault that the state of wrestling is so chaotic. That's what wrestling "analysts" say.
Well let them analyze this: Stay out of my life, let me watch what I wish, let me allow my children to watch what I want them to. Find something else to help your show get ratings...like real news perhaps? Leave religion and politics where they belong, allow me my own freedom of choice. And for everyone's sake stop all of these trivial lawsuits. Pretty soon someone could sue you for breathing their air.
John Paravicini is from Laramie, WY, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.