In 1994, former Minnesota Governor and WWE Hall of Famer Jesse "The Body" Ventura won a lawsuit against what was then the WWF. The basis of Ventura's lawsuit was a claim that Vince McMahon and the WWF were cheating him out of video cassette royalties every time his commentary, face and likeness was used on WWE tapes. Although the official amount was never publicly disclosed, it is believed that Ventura was awarded over $800,000 in royalties. Not to be outdone, Vince McMahon decided that in order to not have to pay future royalties to Ventura, his image and likeness would be dubbed over in future VHS or DVD projects.
Fast forward 18 years later, and former AWA Tag Team Champion, "Pretty Boy" Doug Somers is filing a similar lawsuit. Although Somers was never an official WWE employee, Somers believes that Vince and Linda McMahon have been getting away with stealing and using his image for years upon WWE's acquisition of the AWA tape library. In a recent Interview with BDSIR's PerfectPlex Radio show, Somers sat down with hosts, Mike Knoxxx, Chris "Spotface" McClain, and Mr. Lopez to explain the suit in depth.
"The lawsuit is very simple. No one has the right to my name or my image and that means you can't put my name on major DVDs and sell them without compensating me and for 12 years that's exactly what they did until I got real pissed and I decided to sue them. Now Shawn Michaels gets royalties Marty Jannetty gets royalties. Sheri and Buddy are passed God bless their souls but I'm not and they owe me my due. They owe me for 12 years of DVD production of all Shawn Michaels' major CDs out there and that's what it is all about. When you work for somebody, you get paid. When they use you and don't get your permission, they owe you."
Knoxxx then went on to ask Somers about WWE's rights to use all of AWA's footage since they now own the tape Library. Somers responded:
Does Doug Somers have a case against Vince and Linda McMahon and the WWE?
"He may own the AWA rights but he doesn't own me. Nobody owns me. If he wants me he can put me on all the DVDs he wants but he's gonna pay me my royalties. and Vince McMahon, the billion dollar jerk thinks he can get away with it, I'll sit around and I got two sons and my sons will carry on this suit and Vince McMahon will lose. He will lose this suit."
While Somers has stated that he can not state the amount he is suing for in the interview, he believes that the amount he is asking for is fair and is confident that he will win once this goes to federal court.
"I can't say that right now (the amount he's suing for) but it's good and it's fair and as soon as Vince McMahon straightens up his act and realizes that Doug Somers and his lawyers aren't going away, we're in federal court. It is in court right now. Mr. McMahon needs to straighten up his act, along with his wife, she was marketing distributing and selling the DVDs for 10 years in 168 countries and, let me tell you, that comes up to a lot of change."
Somers contends that he is in the right and that although McMahon may own AWA's Tape Library, they are not allowed to repeatedly use his image in videos without paying him royalties. When Knoxxx asked him about his ultimate goals that he hopes to accomplish with the lawsuit, Somers said "They are going to try and hold out and that's fine, but the longer they hold out the more I am gonna get. The bottom line is they stole my name and my image and nobody has that right to steal my name or image and no one has the right when they buy a company to take your name and bring it along. If it's not (your name) on a contract, guess what? They don't have any rights."
As for the last year of his life, Somers, who turns 62 this September, states that he has had three cage matches on the independent scene within 18 months "I was wrestling til November of last year when I got hurt real bad in a cage match and half a dozen doctors examined me for 9 months and what I ended up with was retrograde amnesia and Parkinson's and I had strokes in the ring and didn't know it and I had severe concussions in the ring and I didn't know it. They were happening at the time I was doing things in the ring and I really didn't know what the hell I was doing until I knocked myself out in the ring, I really didn't have any idea but that was almost a year ago" said Somers.
Additionally, Somers stated in the interview that he recieved a letter from President Bill Clinton, who supports him on the matter. Will Somers body-slam Vince and Linda in court? Only time will tell. If past lawsuits are any indication, the WWE will fight this case tooth and nail.
There is probably not a year that goes in which the WWE does not get sued. The fact that Somers has a lawyer that is even willing to take this court means that the suit has at least some traction. According to the Citizen Media Law Project website, "In most states, you can be sued for using someone else's name, likeness, or other personal attributes without permission for an exploitative purpose."
It will be up to the courts to decide whether or not the McMahons have been exploiting the name of Somers. Meanwhile, Somers believes he has enough to prevail. Somers states:
"My suit will go to court, I will beat Vince McMahon and until hell freezes over I am going to be on his ass like a bad day. It would be better for Vince McMahon to stand up and be a man and try to resolve this in the best manner, because if he doesn't we go to court; we go to federal court."
In addition to the lawsuit, Somers talks about breaking in Shawn Michaels and Marty Janetty, 1980s wrestling vs. today's, and how he was broken into the business.