No matter what business a person is in, when they start making millions and billions of dollars, chances are they’ll need a pretty good lawyer. As a certified billionaire, Vince McMahon is certainly in this category of businesspeople who have spent their fair share of time in the courtroom. For this reason, he’s hired an expert attorney in one Jerry McDevitt, whose legal wrangling has gotten Vince out of a serious number of binds throughout their long and storied partnership.
Of course, the mere fact McDevitt has an incredible track record with backing Vince up in court hardly means wrestlers are going to stop trying to take him down. In addition to former employees who aren’t all too happy with the McMahon family any longer, various censoring bodies like the Parent Television Council and regular old fans who were shocked and offended by things they saw on Raw or SmackDown have also taken WWE to task for allegedly obscene content.
For the most part, WWE has heavily dialled back the questionable content of the Attitude Era to present a family friendly product today, meaning that sort of legal attention is generally behind them. It’s not like people will stop suing him because of this, though, looking for whatever reason they can to take a couple thousands bucks out of his gigantic bank account. On top of that, there will always be a small portion of the TV audience that just doesn’t like wrestling, and will take any excuse they can to try and get it off their screens. To learn which wrestlers have given WWE the most courtroom trouble, keep reading to learn about 15 pro wrestlers who forced Vince McMahon to keep his lawyers on speed dial.
15. Jesse Ventura – Vince Lied About Royalties
From the wrestling ring to state government, Jesse “The Body” Ventura was always an outlaw, ignoring history to carve his own unique path to success. Ventura was also a trailblazer on the commentary booth where he spent the most important moments of his career, and it was because of this role he took Vince McMahon to court. During one of Ventura’s contract negotiations, McMahon outright lied to one of his top stars by saying only featured performers were entitled to money on video releases. In reality, everyone on the release could be entitled money, meaning the lie cost Ventura thousands of dollars in residuals every time his voice appeared on a WWE release. Naturally, as the best commentator in the company, Ventura’s voice was on virtually ever single tape the company put out, so when he took McMahon to court over the matter, juries awarded him a cool $800,000 for his losses.
14. Sable – Claims Of Harassment
Long before WWE proudly championed a women’s wrestling revolution inside the ring, female superstars in the company first needed to fight for respect in the backstage area. The battle began the instant a female wrestler achieved fame and popularity that could be on par with the men, something many male superstars refused to accept, mocking and pranking her every step of the way. The vanguard female athlete in question was Sable, who may not have been all that great in the ring, but still didn’t deserve the harassment some of her co-workers, including X-Pac, have openly admitting to giving her. Whether or not Vince McMahon had anything to do with the general treatment Sable received, as the owner of the company, he was the man she had to sue in order to set things straight. Originally, Sable wanted $110 million for what she had gone through, though she eventually settled out of court for a smaller, undisclosed sum.
13. Brock Lesnar – Wants Control Of His Contract
With the amount of money Brock Lesnar is given, coupled with the incredible amount of freedom his contract allows, it’s hard to imagine Vince McMahon and the Beast Incarnate having a single conversation without a lawyer or two present on either side. This is true whether the two are working together or against one another, and the battles and legal wrangling is just as intense no matter how well they’re getting along. That said, the most difficult challenge from McMahon’s perspective was ensuring Lesnar wouldn’t start working for other wrestling companies after he first left WWE in 2004. In fact, it was so hard for Vince to keep controlling Lesnar’s contract after he quit that WWE lost the case, and Brock was given the freedom to work wherever he wanted, making his New Japan Pro Wrestling debut shortly thereafter. Things don’t get that heated anymore, but Vince still needs to call up his lawyers just about every time Brock makes an appearance on TV just to make sure it happens.
12. Bret Hart – From Montreal To The Courtroom
Of all the names on this list, Bret Hart earned more sympathy in his many lawsuits against Vince McMahon than any other. This is because McMahon very publicly betrayed Hart’s trust in a once considered irreparable way, “screwing” him out of the WWE Championship at Survivor Series 1997. However, the legal wrangling between the two of them had already started well before that point. If anything, the Montreal Screwjob was Vince’s reaction to months of contract negotiations between the Hitman and himself, as they were unable to agree upon a deal that would keep Hart in the company. When Bret decided to go to WCW, Vince did whatever it took to protect his championship, and his method of doing so left Hart bitter for a long time coming. Less than a year and a half later, WWE was also indirectly responsible for Bret’s brother Owen falling to his death, leading to more courtroom drama and strong feelings of bitterness.
11. CM Punk – Made Questionable Statements On A Podcast
Only a few years prior to Vince McMahon and CM Punk winding up on opposite sides of various defamation lawsuits, Punk joked on an episode of Raw that one of his contract’s demands was the return of WWE ice cream bars. Unfortunately, it wasn’t really so simple. For quite some time, Punk felt WWE wasn’t taking his health problems seriously, repeatedly forcing him back into the ring when he desperately needed time to heal. Coupled with creative differences, this problem became so severe Punk walked out of his WWE contract in January of 2014 and has yet to look back. Later in that same year, he appeared on former friend Colt Cabana’s Art of Wrestling podcast to tell all about his injuries and how WWE doctors ignored them. This brought Punk and WWE to the courtroom once again, when WWE head medic Chris Amann, who Punk named in the interview, felt they were slanderous.
10. The Ultimate Warrior – Wanted “Hulk Hogan” Money
Despite all the whitewashing that took place in the days prior to The Ultimate Warrior’s untimely death, his relationship with WWE had been extremely strained for many years leading up to that point. As a matter of fact, the time frame during which Warrior was considered an insane pariah lasted a whole lot longer than he was ever in Vince McMahon’s good graces. The relationship came crashing down almost immediately after Warrior’s meteoric rise, when he started demanding huge pay increases to match WWE’s top superstar, Hulk Hogan. That may have been reasonable if Warrior was an equal draw, but the reality is he just wasn’t, with ticket sales and ratings going down dramatically the second he beat Hogan for the WWE Championship. Although that little tiff over money was eventually settled, Warrior would repeatedly ask for more money and freedom each time he made a sudden comeback, bringing Vince’s lawyers back in the mix to settle their issues.
9. “Superstar” Billy Graham – Openly Lied For Attention And Money
Win or lose, most of the wrestlers on this list were in the very least out to prove something when they repeatedly demanded Vince McMahon see them in court. Not so for “Superstar” Billy Graham, who openly admitted most of his claims against WWE were lies he hoped the company would make go away with some quick hush money. This first happened during the steroid scandal of the early ’90s, when Graham first claimed Vince personally demanded he get on the juice, only to later admit he made the story up. Soon thereafter, Graham also invented allegations about having witnessed backstage abuse, again in the hopes WWE would give him money so he’d stop talking. Amazingly, Vince forgave Graham for both of these indiscretions with a Hall of Fame induction years later, only for Graham to turn around and start insulting the company again during Linda McMahon’s Senate campaigns.
8. Jerry Lawler – Can’t Stop Being Offensive
After over 25 years, one might have assumed a person in WWE would have finally realized Jerry “The King” Lawler is the last person who should be given a live microphone. Granted, unlike all other names on this list, Lawler and Vince McMahon have never wound up in a courtroom as a team or against one another since the King signed with WWE. They did once square off in legal battle years before the fact, but Lawler has remained happy with his position since, and McMahon has likewise been pleased with the King’s work. Less happy are legions of WWE fans who have long found Lawler’s commentary boorish and offensive, especially when he’s talking about women of foreigners of any kind. When people call WWE content adult or immature, what they meant was the guy at ringside cracking racist and s*xist jokes for decades on end. How Lawler doesn’t get singled out for this more often is somewhat of a mystery.
7. Raven – Wanted Healthcare For Everyone
For whatever reason, Vince McMahon was never all that big a fan of ECW superstar Raven. Some say it dated back to Raven’s stint as Johnny Polo, when he would take Shane McMahon to all night parties, causing an obnoxious scene each time they returned home. There’s also the possibility the old and outdated Vince simply doesn’t “get” Raven’s character. In any event, the point here isn’t that Vince doesn’t like Raven, but that Raven doesn’t like Vince, either, having taken the man to court multiple times since leaving WWE for the last time in 2004. First, Raven teamed with Mike Sanders and Chris Kanyon to challenge WWE’s longstanding policy of treating wrestlers as independent contractors, thus eschewing health care benefits. When that failed, Raven tried again, now with Buff Bagwell, looking for royalties related to the WWE Network. Unfortunately for him, that case was deemed for the birds, as well.
6. Brian Pillman – Truly A Loose Cannon
When it comes to wrestlers “living their gimmick,” few came closer to the ideal than “Loose Cannon” Brian Pillman. This was both a pro and a con to any promoter brave enough to give Pillman a job, as his unpredictable behavior was just as irritating to lawyers and executives as it was exciting to wrestling fans. Pillman first proved this by getting out of his WCW contract live on television, but that paled in comparison to an insane stunt he pulled in WWE. During one of Raw’s most controversial segments, Pillman pulled out a gun on “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and fired recklessly as cameras faded to black. This single event caused WWE to receive a record number of angry phone calls and nearly got the show thrown off the air. Only because Vince McMahon was quick to legally wrangle with the USA Network did Raw survive. Believe it or not, he kept Pillman around for a while after that, even letting the crazy man keep being crazy as a commentator on Shotgun Saturday Night.
5. Neville – Doesn’t Want To Work For Vince Anymore
Theoretically, when a person sues WWE, or the company sees reason to sue their own wrestlers, this is a sign that individual won’t be working for the company much longer. Oddly enough, this isn’t always the case, as WWE’s current legal issues with former Cruiserweight Champion Neville have been proving each day. The whole point of their courtroom drama is that Neville doesn’t want to work for WWE anymore, although his contract is pretty much forcing him to stick around. Obviously, Neville hasn’t been on TV in months, a situation he’s probably okay with, since it would just have meant a half dozen more losses against Enzo Amore. Neville’s contract says he’s still a WWE superstar, though, and the company refuses to accept this, blocking his every attempt to quit with another trip to court.
4. Nicole Bass – Problems In The Women’s Locker Room
Big, bad, and dangerous, Nicole Bass was the one women who could make even the Ninth Wonder of the World Chyna look small. Impressive as that is on a physical level, it unfortunately didn’t bode well for Bass’ career, as fans often mocked and insulted her appearance while refusing to accept her as a threat in the ring. Backstage, Bass received all sorts of unwanted attention as well, or so she claims, having alleged various WWE employees harassed her while she was there. Included in her claims was an accusation that male talent would regularly walk into the women’s locker rooms or bathrooms unannounced as though it were some sort of joke. That sounds pretty horrible, but Bass was ultimately unable to prove it actually happened, with courts deciding in favor of WWE. Vince McMahon is less involved with this one personally than most others, but his son-in-law Triple H did testify at trial, saying he felt like Bass was “trying to make a buck.”
3. Matt Hardy – A Wake-Or-Break Lawsuit
In stark contrast to every other wrestler on this list, Matt Hardy actually kept Vince McMahon in the courtroom for a case where they were on the same side. Ever since Matt and his brother Jeff made their triumphant return to WWE at WrestleMania 33, the company has been dealing with copyright issues related to Matt’s previous gimmick in Total Nonstop Action. While Hardy was able to maintain the wacky hair and facial expressions in his jump, many elements of his “Broken” character were allegedly owned by various TNA personnel, meaning WWE couldn’t use that word or any of his terminology about “Deletion.” However, Hardy disputed the suggestion people in TNA created the gimmick, arguing it was mostly his own idea and that he had intellectual ownership of the trademarks it contained. The exact terms of the court’s ruling are undisclosed, but considering WWE has started calling Matt “Woken” and he’s threatened to “delete” Bray Wyatt, it’s clear who won in the end.
2. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin – Oh, Heck…Huh?
Controversial though the words and actions of Brian Pillman and Jerry Lawler often were, neither man holds a candle to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin in terms of causing controversy (or, should we say, raising hell). The poster child of the Attitude Era, Austin was directly responsible for the harsh language and violent themes of the time frame, brazenly flipping a double bird at any censoring bodies who dared call him unfit for TV. In addition to keeping Vince’s lawyers busy with audience complaints, WWE also had to take Austin to court personally in late 2002 when he walked out of the company. As always happens when a worker breaks their contract, this lead to a great deal of legal wrangling in bringing Austin back and making him pay for the losses WWE incurred when he disappeared. Around that same time, the Rattlesnake compounded his legal issues through a domestic dispute with his then wife, though that’s a different issue entirely.
1. Vince McMahon – Paying The Cost To Be The Boss
Pro wrestlers can occasionally take Vince McMahon to task or do offensive and questionable things that bring his whole company under fire, but none hold a candle to the controversial nature of the man himself. No one WWE employee has been more responsible for Vince McMahon repeatedly getting sued or taking other wrestlers to court than Vince McMahon. In virtually every case where a wrestler brought charges against WWE, it was directly due to Vince’s actions they were able to do so. When WWE turns around and sues a former talent, it’s because McMahon himself made the call it needed to be done. On a personal level, McMahon is also plenty controversial himself, with his Kiss My Ass Club surely causing a great number of offended callers to give USA Network a piece of their mind. In the end, though, it must not be a big deal to Vince when he upsets people to the point of legal action. After all, he can afford it.
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