EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.
Friday, June 11, 1998
Sable lawsuit worth $1.99
Something of this magnitude, of course, could not possibly escape being the subject of this week's column.
If you haven't already, I suggest you read up on the lawsuit here. Someone was nice enough to send me (what seems to be) an actual copy of the suit, so I have access to a bit more detail, but the facts are basically the same.
What's basically going on here is that Sable is suing the WWF for some combination of sexual harassment and manipulative business practices.
As soon as the lawsuit hit the net, Sable was trashed left and right. The lawsuit was seen as ill-timed, given the recent happenings in wrestling, and seemed frivolous more than anything else. Lawyer-types and lawyer-wannabes have been saying that it won't stand up in court and that the WWF should fight it, while others have been saying that they will probably settle because of the bad press.
How often do I agree with the consensus?
I admit that I would probably be going against the grain for the sake of going against the grain if I agreed with Sable and stated that her lawsuit was justified. A hundred million dollars? Because she doesn't like that a wrestling organization wanted her to wrestle, and that she chose to do so because she didn't want to walk away from that much money?
Of course I disagree with her. The lawsuit is ridiculous.
But what caused it, its motivations -- they are worth looking into.
You see, for years, wrestlers have been a quiet bunch. By that, I mean that they've never had much of a say in their business. Do what you're told and go home, that's been the modus operandi of wrestling organizations. Whenever we hear about the prima donnas who try to do their own thing, well, that doesn't last long, does it, Sable? Hogan? The Clique? Sid? Ultimate Warrior? At least it doesn't last long in the WWF, which could probably be considered a more traditional organization than WCW from a promoter's stand-point.
My foil for wrestling, the comparison from which I can make statements like this, is professional sports. I think that pro wrestling and pro sports are nearing similar levels of success nowadays, as the money in wrestling is starting to creep up, as is its exposure.
That said, it seems that wrestlers, that is those who actually wrestle, seem to be getting a raw deal compared to their counterparts in competitive sports. In every major sport, the participants have some say in what they do. In some sports, that say is perhaps too much. I think it's safe to say that a wrestler who choked a coach (or a promoter, let's say) out of the script might get more than a year's suspension. He might get more along the lines of fired immediately and prosecuted. And whereas some athletes can get away with doing basically whatever they want to, wrestlers are kept on a short leash, and there are consequences when they don't follow the rules.
Some of these consequences are perhaps unorthodox, as Sable's lawsuit demonstrates nicely. If you don't follow the rules in wrestling, if you don't do what your booker says, then any number of retributions might take place: the loss of a title, a heel turn, mocking from the commentary team, awkward programs requiring embarrassing actions or words, or even a suspension or dismissal. And that's just for not doing what the 'coach' says. And don't get me started on what might get put on your bags by your fellow athletes once you start to get a rep as a free-thinker. If you're a wrestler, that is (and if you believe what you read on the Internet). The worst a hockey player can expect is to be benched for one game. In football or basketball, you'd probably just get a fine. I don't think they'd even bother chastising a baseball player - no one would notice or care.
Back to my point.
Sable's allegations are silly. The things the WWF wanted her to do, I think, are reasonable given what she does for a living. I don't see her winning a penny if it actually goes to court. Arguably, perhaps, the retribution was unfair. What I mean is that I think that given that this is Sable and given what she's been willing to do in the past, asking for her to have her top 'accidentally' slip off a little bit (as happened to Jacqueline in England) probably isn't the biggest deal in the world. I think it wasn't out of line for them to ask. But I also think it wasn't out of line for her to say no. What happened as a result - her losing the title to Debra - that also doesn't seem out of line, to me. Asking her to wrestle? It's a wrestling organization. It can only further her own career. And again, she can say no. If you're going to refuse to wrestle, though, maybe it should be after you graciously accept wrestling for the women's title. Maybe you should stay away from titles altogether if wrestling isn't your thing.
My point here is that while none of this is really earth-shattering news, the lawsuit was framed and phrased to basically make the WWF look bad, which to its fans, it probably didn't. To the public, I'm sure it did, given the recent bad publicity. My other point is that the kind of respect Sable is asking for is common in acting, modeling, and other professional sports. It is simply absent from wrestling.
If you want to know what my opinion is here, it's a little bit of one, a little bit of the other. I think that given the context of wrestling, Sable's lawsuit is frivolous and should be thrown out of court. In the context of professional sports as a whole, the lawsuit has some merit but probably says more about wrestling than it does about Sable. In the context of simple fairness, it's hard to say. Depending on what side of the fence you are, either she asked for it by doing what she's done in the past and working for the WWF, or her basic rights were trampled on by the manipulative WWF bookers. I believe it's probably more or less a little bit of each.
But if I were on that jury, if there ever is one, then without having heard any of the evidence, I think I'd have to say that I'd find in favour of Sable, out of principle, for the amount of one dollar and ninety nine cents. That would cover the cost of the paper the lawsuit's written on, and that's all it's worth.
No mailbag today, because I have no mail. I'd like to know what you guys want to hear about in the coming weeks though. As always, my readers are always my main source of inspiration and motivation, to take to those keyboards and tell me what you want to read. Want to know a little bit more about the history of wrestlers' rights, or lack thereof? Want another Benner Bio? More general musings? Would you like me to write a poem about wrestling? I'll write whatever people want to read, so let me know. [Editor's note: That's our Eric, The People's Writer.]
As always, have a great week and thanks for reading. I'll see you in seven.
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