To fans of professional wrestling, Vince McMahon literally and figuratively appears to be on top of the world, and he’s been there for at least the past 35 years. What they may not realize is that in rare cases, it’s actually pretty tough to be the biggest fish in any given pond, as power typically breeds plenty of enemies. McMahon’s irascible personality has had that same effect, leading to plenty of wrestlers and other former WWE employees to hold grudges against him.
This isn’t that big a deal when they simply badmouth McMahon during interviews, but some of them have tried putting Vince’s money where their mouths are by taking the matter to court. Like most certified billionaires, Vince has also been the focus of many lawsuits involving the way he conducts his business, with the federal government and countless former employees of his thinking he could’ve done a better job at that more than once throughout his career. Typically, McMahon and those who stick with him come out on top, yet each lawsuit is nonetheless a questionable part of his past he probably wants forgotten.
From a legal standpoint, these cases are indeed all dealt with and over with, and thus McMahon can push them out of his mind forever and move on. That said, Vince McMahon is a crazy guy who does weird things, as are many wrestlers who’ve tried suing him for one reason or another, leading to some interesting and bizarre courtroom stories fans may be interested in reading all about. If that describes you, keep reading for 15 of the strangest lawsuits involving Vince McMahon.
15. Nicole Bass Sues, Meets A WWE Fan On The Jury
Despite how her career in the industry turned out, one thing that can’t be denied about Nicole Bass is that she looked like a pro wrestler in every way possible. Bigger, bulkier, and buffer than even Chyna, Bass was the most physically impressive female ever to work for WWE, yet she didn’t spend a whole lot of time there; nor did she manage to accomplish much when she was around. It’s not that WWE didn’t have any plans for the woman but rather that she felt the general locker room attitude was toxic, citing Triple H, Billy Gunn, and Steve Lombardi, aka The Brooklyn Brawler, as some of the worst perpetrators of childish behavior that bordered on sexual harassment.
While the wrestlers were the people named in her suit, Bass would later claim during interviews the real target was always Vince McMahon, as he was the one who harbored an environment where such actions were commonplace and “acceptable.” Unfortunately for her, juries never believed the story and threw the case out immediately, meaning victory for WWE. Perhaps, part of the reason related to a tainted jury pool, with one juror allegedly asking for Stephanie McMahon’s autograph during the trial, something that probably should’ve caused concern to the judge.
14. Billy Jack Haynes Files A Class-C Lawsuit
Before we get too far into this one, let’s set the scene just a little bit and remind anyone who doesn’t know that midcard ‘80s wrestler Billy Jack Haynes is totally bonkers. The man once claimed Vince McMahon was responsible for Chris Benoit’s highly publicized death, amongst other absolutely outrageous claims. Getting to the point, it was slightly less crazy when Haynes suggested in court that WWE was responsible for him contracting hepatitis C during a match. At the same time, however, it was a completely unprovable statement to make, considering his admission he had Hep C for so long he couldn’t pinpoint when the disease was contracted. Nonetheless, Haynes tried claiming it was definitely WWE’s fault, as the company had forced him to bleed in one match or another, thus causing the disease to transfer. The only problem there is that no other wrestler working for WWE at the same time Haynes was there has gone on record as having Hep C, making his claims highly dubious at best. WWE responded to the accusation by pointing out Haynes was a whack job, and the whole thing was quickly forgotten about.
13. Martha Hart Tries To Erase Owen From WWE
One of the darkest days in WWE history came on the night of Over The Edge 1999, when Owen Hart tragically fell to his death in a stunt gone horribly wrong. Over the next few weeks, months, and perhaps even years, every single fan of professional wrestling naturally extended great sympathy over the loss to Owen’s widow, Martha Hart, along with their children. Until, that is, they learned Martha basically wanted her husband erased from WWE history because of the painful memories that were now associated with his career.
Look, we totally get the struggles of a grieving widow, and it was probably hard for Martha to see archival footage of Owen’s face in a wrestling ring, knowing how his life ended. That said, the solution of completely cutting Owen out of all WWE DVD releases and presumably, the WWE Network from there, seems like a drastic measure to take simply so she doesn’t need to be reminded of his sad death. Martha didn’t see it this way, though, taking Vince to court and demanding she gets what she wanted. Ultimately, the case was settled out of court, with WWE paying Martha a little hush money so she would let Owen’s likeness remain on occasional WWE releases.
12. Vince Has A Problem With The Pandas
Shortly before Vince McMahon took control of the WWE Universe from his father Vince, Sr., the company decided to slightly tweak its name. When it was founded, WWE was known as the “Worldwide Wrestling Federation,” or “WWWF,” a term that eventually started to feel like a mouthful when all other mainstream wrestling companies were starting to use just three letters. Therefore, they dropped a “W” and started going by the more popular name “WWF.’ What the McMahons either didn’t realize or didn’t care about is that in changing to this shorter name, they would draw the ire of the World Wildlife Fund, a charity organization focused on animal conservation. For many years, the two WWFs existed in relative harmony, until the advent of the Internet, when they began feuding over the rights to WWF.com. Eventually, the pandas took the issue to court and won, causing Vince McMahon to change the company’s name for a second time, to WWE.
11. Jerry Lawler Wins A Lawsuit And A Job For Life
Nine times out of ten, when a person sues Vince McMahon, they’re pretty much signing off on the fact they’ll never work for him again. As for how that other 10% somehow winds up in Vince’s good graces, well, it’s good to be the King. The original King, anyway, as the whole point of Jerry Lawler’s lawsuit against Vince McMahon and WWE in the 1980s was that he was the only wrestler who actually held a trademark to such a royal moniker. This was a problem for WWE, as the company recently created the King of the Ring tournament, and was promoting former NWA Champion Harley Race as another wrestling “King.” Lawler didn’t mind so much when they did this in New York, but when Race was set to wrestle in and around Memphis, Tennessee, Lawler took legal means to ensure he was the only King allowed in town. The strange thing here is that unlike usual, Vince McMahon never seemed to hold a grudge about things, treating it all like water under the bridge when Lawler started working for him several years later.
10. The Government Thinks Vince Is Handing Out Steroids With Contracts
In retrospect, the most sensational fact about the infamous WWE steroid trial may well be that the US government really didn’t have anything against Vince McMahon, in particular, when creating their case. Yes, it was unquestionably true that Dr. George Zahorian had been handing out steroids to select pro wrestlers like it was candy, and it was also a fact that Zahorian had spent a fair amount of time as a WWE ringside physician. It’s also possible, albeit not proven, that Vince McMahon could’ve been aware the guy was selling his wrestlers steroids on the side. Either way, the point is there was absolutely no direct proof McMahon had specifically hired Zahorian to hand out steroids, and he certainly wasn’t paying for them directly and then doling them out to the wrestlers, as the lawsuit essentially claimed. For this reason, all WWE had to do to defeat these charges was hire a competent lawyer to shoot down all government witnesses, a feat they accomplished with brilliant legal mind Jerry McDevitt.
9. Does Vince McMahon Pay His Taxes? Uh, Yeah, He Does.
Matching Vince McMahon’s own drive to succeed in the business world, the United States government doesn’t give up easily when they think someone is breaking the law. The whole steroid trial was actually the second attempt by federal agents to bring down McMahon’s empire, as he had long struggled with the Internal Revenue Service, an organization that believed he didn’t pay his taxes well before that became an issue. The longstanding suspicion that the McMahons weren’t paying what they owed began way back in the 1950s, when Vince, Sr. failed to report earnings on a fixed boxing match, a fact that forever made them people of interest. The strange thing here, though, is that Vince, Jr. has never had any serious tax problems on record, whether it came to not paying enough of them or failing to report them. The government simply said he did and offered little proof on the matter, again making it remarkably easy for crack attorney Jerry McDevitt to expose the accusations as baseless and false.
8. 53 Wrestlers Get Concussed, Still Keep Their Heads Straight
These days, one of the biggest issues facing the WWE Universe and sports entertainment, in general, is how wrestlers deal with concussions. This is because a disease was recently discovered linking multiple concussions with some very serious issues later in life, called CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The disease has been receiving a great deal of mainstream attention these days, mostly in relation to football players, but wrestlers, too, are definitely suffering the consequences. The thing is, WWE isn’t exactly responsible for this fact, and there are a number of reasons why. For one, it’s hard to blame them for causing a disease no one knew existed twenty years ago. Secondly, WWE never implicitly told wrestlers to go to the ring and do things that would give them concussions, but rather, what usually happens is that wrestlers themselves make questionable choices during matches that have horrible results. Nonetheless, 53+ former WWE employees have tried suing the company over the stress of repeat concussions, all banding together with lawyer Konstantine Kyros to do so. Thus far, their efforts have been without success, and it’s unlikely this will change anytime soon.
7. Who Was Rita Chatterton?
In June 2017, WWE recently made the “historic” announcement they had hired their first-ever full-time female referee in a former independent wrestler named “Jessika Heiser.” We haven’t even got to the lawsuit part, and this is already perhaps the strangest entry on the list because this so-called “landmark” hiring is actually a lie two times over. At best, Heiser is only the third female referee in WWE, with the prior two simply getting ignored. Quite frankly, we have no idea why the company has retconned away WWE Hall of Famer Jacqueline’s brief stint as a zebra, but the logic behind forgetting all about Rita Chatterton is a whole lot easier to understand.
Chatterton was a referee for the company in the 1980s, and according to her, Vince McMahon believed that during the original wrestling boom, this alone could’ve made the woman a star. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened at all, as Chatterton left the company in mere months, never to return. The official story is that she simply wasn’t as good at being a referee as WWE wanted her to be, but Chatterton counter-argued she was fired for refusing Vince McMahon’s sexual advances, taking him to court over the matter. However, she had absolutely no proof to back up her claim, and as per usual, Jerry McDevitt got the case thrown out in short order.
6. Independent Contractors Fight Back Against Robber Baron McMahon
Quite frankly, the strangest and most surprising thing about this next lawsuit is how long it took for wrestlers to finally stand up and demand it happen — well, that and the fact they lost what should’ve been an open and shut case. Oh, and that no one else has tried to do something similar since, with a little more preparation. Getting to the point, since the beginning of WWE, wrestlers have been classified not as “employees” but rather “independent contractors,” a very important legal designation that dictates whether or not Vince McMahon has to pay for their healthcare and various other benefits.
For whatever reason, wrestlers have simply accepted this for decades, treating it like a flaw of the industry they have no control over. Of course, they do have control over it, as they could take McMahon to court and demand those benefits en masse should they choose to do so. Bizarrely, only three wrestlers in Raven, Chris Kanyon, and Mike Sanders have tried doing this. Truth be told, the latter two didn’t have much of a chance, having barely worked for Vince, but Raven had both the knowledge and the longevity such that he could’ve done something. Unfortunately, the hands of justice are anything but swift, and the statute of limitation gradually wore out on his claim before the lawsuit moved forward.
5. Jesse Ventura Learns Vince Is A Liar
It should be no surprise to wrestling fans that Vince McMahon has occasionally lied to his talent or otherwise treated them in highly disrespectful manners. Luckily, sometimes, the wrestlers realize Vince is trying to screw them over and fight back, which is what Jesse Ventura did back in the 1980s to nearly get himself blackballed from WWE for the rest of his life. Apparently, back when Ventura signed with the company, Vince had lied and told him only “feature” performers could earn money on video releases when, in fact, anyone who appeared at all had the legal right to compensation. Unfortunately for Vince, he failed to cover his lies in Ventura’s contract, which was worded in a manner that allowed The Body to later take him to court over this issue, arguing McMahon thus owed him millions for the various video releases he appeared on as a commentator.
4. The Ultimate Warrior Thinks He Deserves More Respect
Here’s the thing about acting like an absolute whack job in and out of the wrestling ring: after it’s all said and done with, people are totally allowed to say you acted like an absolute whack job. Somehow, the Ultimate Warrior believed his legacy in the wrestling world overruled this reality, and thus, he attempted to punish WWE for daring say he was kinda next level bonkers crazy sometimes in their now infamous DVD, The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior. Throughout the course of that release, various WWE superstars spoke at length about how Warrior was completely clown shoes most of the time, spouting off nonsense and embarrassing the wrestling world on a regular basis. This is damning stuff, but it was all true, as Warrior’s persona was always highly eccentric, and his success makes little sense in retrospect. Nonetheless, he was a real person, and his feelings were hurt by this depiction, so he tried suing WWE for libel. Again, though, they were totally within their rights to call him crazy, what with the fact he acted totally crazy, so courts tossed the lawsuit out after little deliberation.
3. Sable Sues, Vince Forgives And Forgets
Considering the number of lawsuits that have been levied against Vince McMahon over time, he pretty much has to forgive some of the more frivolous ones, lest he end up with absolutely no friends in this world. That said, some of the lawsuits he’s been through were incredibly tough on him and his family, so it’s surprising he’s often quick to give second chances to people who wrong him the most in court — like, for instance, Sable, who, in 1999, sued Vince for $110 million dollars, claiming sexual harassment and unsafe working conditions. Later stories would later confirm she was talking about wrestlers constantly bullying and mistreating her behind the scenes, which isn’t entirely Vince’s fault, but he did harbor the environment in which it was possible. Perhaps, for this reason, McMahon and company settled out of court with her in about two months, presumably for less than $110 million. Even so, Vince gave Sable a lot of money to shut her up…and yet, three years later, he hired her back like nothing had ever happened. Why the change of heart? We genuinely have no idea—neither party has said or done anything to explain it.
2. Vince Gets Tan For The Royal Rumble
Based on his character’s behavior inside the wrestling ring in relation to just about every female he’s ever employed, it’s easy to assume Vince McMahon doesn’t have the most respect for women’s personal boundaries. However, there’s a huge difference between being flirty with a subordinate and actually sexually harassing a random stranger, which is what Vince was accused of doing at a Boca Raton tanning salon in 2006. A female worker at the salon claimed McMahon had exposed himself to her and had made sexual remarks, something far worse than asking a younger woman to make out with him on TV as part of a character she was playing. That said, it also seems highly unlikely, or even impossible, that this event actually took place. Typically, we’re the type to believe the victims and not the accusers, but this particular victim had a pretty weak argument due to the fact Vince’s alleged harassment took place the same general time as the Royal 2006 Rumble—an event that took place in Miami, almost 50 miles away from the tanning salon. Once police realized this, it was only a matter of time before they decided not to file any charges.
1. Making It Clear The nWo Weren’t Working For The WWE
In every way the Attitude Era was a thrilling time to be a wrestling fan, it was also a torturous period for Vince McMahon and his rival wrestling executives, most notably WCW Vice President Eric Bischoff. The two organizations were genuinely at war every Monday night, and their battles weren’t only taking place on TV and in the wrestling ring. There were also a great number of lawsuits between WWE and WCW during this time, usually due to contract disputes or gimmick infringement of some kind. Easily the strangest such lawsuit was when WWE forced WCW to admit on camera they weren’t working together, a fact deemed necessary during the nWo storyline when some fans believed Scott Hall and Kevin Nash were legitimately still working for Vince McMahon and invading WCW on his behalf. WCW soon filed a similar lawsuit against WWE over the Fake Diesel and Razor Ramon characters, alleging they were promoting then WCW talent in Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, but this time around, the whole point was that they obviously weren’t what they were claiming to be, and thus, the lawsuit was thrown out in short order.
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