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Text from the Razor/Diesel/NWO lawsuit


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THE LAWSUIT

 

Professional wrestling promoter (Vince McMahon) brought action against rival promoter (Eric Bischoff), alleging copyright infringement, trademark infringement, tortious interference with contract and violations of Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices, in connection with rival's employment of two wrestlers who portrayed copyrighted characters.

 

THE FACTS AS STATED IN THE COMPLAINT Titan Sports, Inc., etc., ("Plaintiff") is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Connecticut. Plaintiff promotes live, and on cable, syndicated, and pay-per-view television, professional wrestling under its registered service mark "World Wrestling Federation" ("WWF"). TBS is a Georgia corporation which owns and operates several cable networks, including Turner Network Television ("TNT") and WTBS. WCW is a Georgia corporation and a majority owned subsidiary of TBS.

 

WCW competes directly with WWF in televising professional wrestling, associated merchandising, and licensing programs. Bischoff is a citizen of Georgia, an officer and employee of TBS, in charge of WCW's operations and serves as a television announcer for WCW programming. Plaintiff contends that success in the professional wrestling business depends upon the development of interesting wrestling characters and story lines. Characters must have names, personalities, histories, relationships, personas, and visual appearances that appeal to consumers. Plaintiff alleges that WWF programming combines character-driven story lines with skillful wrestling while WCW has no reputation for creativity. TBS proposed interpromotional matches in order to associate WCW with WWF, but Plaintiff rejected this idea.

 

After wrestling unsuccessfully with WCW, Scott Hall contracted to wrestle for Plaintiff. Plaintiff created a wrestling character for Hall called "Razor Ramon," alias "The Bad Guy," with a distinctive Hispanic accent, slicked back hair in a ponytail with a curl in the front, a toothpick in his mouth, a vest, and multiple chains around his neck. Plaintiff registered the service mark "Razor Ramon" with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The contract provided that Plaintiff retained exclusive ownership of the character's name and likeness and the exclusive right to distribute copyrightable materials based on the character. Hall warranted that he would not enter other agreements conflicting with Plaintiff's contract rights.

 

Plaintiff developed Razor Ramon into one of its most popular characters. He has appeared in television broadcasts, live events, a two-hour videotape, several magazines, and is the subject of merchandise devoted to the character. He won WWF's Intercontinental Championship at least four times. The character is well-recognized by wrestling fans.Plaintiff developed another character using wrestler Kevin Nash who wrestled unsuccessfully with defendant WCW. Nash and Plaintiff entered into a contract with provisions similar to Hall's contract. Nash's character was "Diesel," alias "Big Daddy Cool." Diesel's trade dress included a goatee beard and moustache, black leather pants, a black leather vest decorated with silver studs and tassels, a black low cut tank-top shirt, a black fingerless glove on the right hand, black elbow pads, black wrist bands, sunglasses, and black leather boots. Diesel is visibly different from the characters previously portrayed by Nash at WCW.

 

Diesel was added to Plaintiff's story lines and appeared in television broadcasts, commercial videotapes, magazines, and became the subject of merchandise. Like Razor Ramon, Diesel also became widely recognized and popular, winning the WWF Heavyweight Championship in 1995.In 1993, Plaintiff promoted Razor Ramon and Diesel on its "Monday Night Raw" television program, which was broadcast weekly at 9:00 p.m. EST. In 1995, defendant TBS began broadcasting a competing program "WCW Monday Nitro" at the same time. Plaintiff alleges that TBS's broadcast continually disparaged WWF, while WCW agents circulated false rumors of Plaintiff's impending bankruptcy in order to lure wrestlers to WCW.In 1996, enticed by WCW's promise of lucrative, guaranteed contracts, Hall and Nash contracted to wrestle with WCW.

 

After the contracts were executed, Plaintiff alleges that defendant Bischoff planned to capitalize on the goodwill of the Razor Ramon and Diesel characters. Hall and Nash were to appear on WCW's broadcast as Razor Ramon and Diesel, supposedly representing WWF in an interpromotional battle. Before the broadcast, WCW's 900 hotlines told consumers that Razor Ramon and Diesel were considering leaving WWF for WCW, although in reality, they had already done so. Defendants expanded the introductory broadcast to two hours, starting before Plaintiff's competing broadcast. Hall appeared in the persona of Razor Ramon, although the broadcast did not refer to him by name. The end of the broadcast falsely conveyed that interpromotional matches would thereafter air on TNT. Fans sent letters evidencing their presumption that Hall was performing as Razor Ramon for WWF on TNT. Plaintiff attempted to dispel the rumors by broadcasting that Hall and Nash were no longer associated with the WWF. Nevertheless, Hall appeared on two further WCW broadcasts, perpetuating the false presumption. Bischoff also indicated that the interpromotional matches would be seen on an upcoming pay-per-view program. Hall and Nash did appear on the pay-per-view program as the characters Razor Ramon and Diesel. Defendants, however, did not refer to them by any name.

 

Titan Sports, Inc. v. Turner Broadcasting Systems Inc., 981 F.Supp. 65 (D. Conn. 1997)

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"Plaintiff alleges that WWF programming combines character-driven story lines with skillful wrestling while WCW has no reputation for creativity."

 

Ha!

 

Also, interesting that "Diesel is visibly different from the characters previously portrayed by Nash at WCW" was only said about Nash, and not Hall.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Diesel's trade dress included a goatee beard and moustache, black leather pants, a black leather vest decorated with silver studs and tassels, a black low cut tank-top shirt, a black fingerless glove on the right hand, black elbow pads, black wrist bands, sunglasses, and black leather boots. Diesel is visibly different from the characters previously portrayed by Nash at WCW.

It says this was filed in 1997, but, I wonder if this notion was the reason for Nash initially switching to all red for most of his '96 WCW appearances. If so, good thinking on his part.

 

And yeah,

 

"Plaintiff alleges that WWF programming combines character-driven story lines with skillful wrestling while WCW has no reputation for creativity."

 

pretty much owns.

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  • 2 weeks later...

As part of the lawsuit, the WWF wanted WCW to say the following every week on television. Can you imagine the damage to the NWO angle if WCW had been forced to say this on TV every week?

 

Scott Hall and Kevin Nash are both under

contract to the WCW and all of their actions since May 27, 1996 have been

at the direction of WCW. Any statements made by us, or suggestion made by

us that Hall or Nash were affiliated with the WWF were false and

misleading. The WWF was not, and has not been in any way affiliated with

the portrayal of Hall and Nash since May 27, 1996 and there will not be any

matches between WWF wrestlers and WCW wrestlers on Nitro, on any of our

shows, or on any of our pay-per-views. Any statement or suggestion to that

effect by WCW and TBS personnel was false. If you wish to view WWF

wrestlers, you should watch the WWF's programs, including Monday Night Raw,

which airs on USA Network Monday nights at 9 p.m. EST.

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Scott Hall and Kevin Nash are both under contract to the WCW

That would have been great, had WCW been forced to put the article before their name! Typical WWF arrogance to include it in the text (assumung it wasn't a typing error by Herb), especially considering how indignant McMahon was about what Kroenke's staff wanted him to say.
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