wrestling / News

Update On Lawsuit Against WWE By Raven and Buff Bagwell

September 26, 2017 | Posted by Joseph Lee
Raven - WWE

PWInsider has several updates regarding the lawsuit by Scott “Raven” Levy and Marcus “Buff” Bagwell over royalties they claim WWE owes them due to using their work from WCW, ECW and WWE on the WWE Network. They claimed that WWE breached their contracts by not paying direct sales royalties and not paying within a 90-day window for each financial quarter.

The lawsuit was recently amended and keeps the claim that Bagwell’s WWE contract allows him to have his own independent accountant audit WWE and WCW’s books, “for the purpose of verifying the accuracy thereof, during WCW’s normal business hours and upon reasonable notice. Such audit shall be conducted in a manner that will not unreasonably interfere with WCW’s normal business operations. Wrestler shall not audit WCW’s books and records more than twice during any calendar year and no such audit shall be conducted later than one (1) year after the last statement of royalties is given, delivered or sent to Wrestler. Each audit is limited to seven (7) days in duration. Statements of royalties may be changed from time to time to reflect year-end adjustments, to correct clerical errors and for similar purposes.”

The lawsuit states that Bagwell tried to do that in June 2016 and was told it could happen in late July or early August of that year, only to be told later by WWE’s counsel K&L Gates that it wouldn’t happen because Bagwell’s accountant “asserted a pretextual and invalid audit request to attempt to stealthily obtain that information (WWE network royalty audit)” and that since Bagwell isn’t paid WWE Network royalties, “there is nothing to audit.” Since WWE has stopped his attempts to audit, he claims they forfeited any claim that Bagwell didn’t meet their prerequisite actions contractually before filing the lawsuit.

The lawsuit adds that WWE violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act “by failing to account for millions of dollars in owed WWE Network royalties and failed to pay royalties due within 90 days following the end of the quarter.” In doing so, WWE was “immoral, oppressive, unscrupulous, and caused substantial injury” to Bagwell, Levy and other wrestlers with similar deals.

It also claims that WWE Network, Inc. (a subsidiary of WWE) licensed video material to others without the knowledge of Levy and Bagwell, which was a breach of contract regarding their royalty payments. During a case conference on August 30, it was mentioned that some of these allegations were withdrawn by the plaintiffs, but it’s unknown if they actually have been. Levy and Bagwell also changed their legal teams during the summer, which slowed the case down. The former lawyers refused to release things that the two would need for the case.

The two claim they are filing on behalf of other wrestlers, as they say they’re owed around $5 million and want a jury trial. Documents filed yesterday suggested that would include another 243 former WWE wrestlers who may fit the criteria. Bagwell and Levy want details on “the amount of money collected or received by WWE for video product royalty payments made and the methodology for the calculation of those royalty payments, and the amount of money actually paid to Performers with the applicable kind of booking contracts for video product royalties and the methodology for calculating those royalties.”

WWE has provided over 4,600 pages of materials and said that they would be willing to hand over material related to the plaintiffs but not every performer who may or may not meet the criteria as they are not yet part of the lawsuit. Releasing that material was “outside the scope” of what the court allowed in the Discovery portion of the suit. WWE made a filing yesterday and added that the material would be confidential, “for your eyes only” releasing and likely not able to be released publicly.

Bagwell and Levy say that the information for the other performers is necessary because they are trying to file a class action lawsuit against WWE. They say the information would be “relevant to demonstrate the requisite commonalty and typicality of the class.” A major portion of the filing yesterday dealt with WWE’s stance on why certain information was not needed for the lawsuit, including the organization of the WWE Network regarding executives and those who work on advertising and marketing. WWE added that the amount of information was too large.

Levy and Bagwell’s legal team requested that WWE release all contracts that included “all versions of standardized or prototype contracts entered into between You and Performers where the definition of Video Products includes “other technology, including technology not yet created” language as set forth in Levy’s 2000 Booking Contract.” WWE, in return, said that they released 12 contracts with similar criteria as part of the case but would not release any more. They said a request for contracts “made available or offered to any Performer” was overbroad and needless.

WWE also claimed that asking for records for every year they provided royalties to performers, including the money that was paid out was “overbroad, unduly burdensome and not limited to information or documentation that is relevant to any party’s claims or defenses and not proportional to the needs of the case” because it would include all records from 1996 to now. WWE has records related to how talents were paid royalties for video products. They said that there were no contracts related to the “payment of royalties” to WWE talents “for any revenue generated by the WWE Network” because WWE never agreed to pay those royalties.

PWInsider adds that this lawsuit may have an effect on the WWE Network. WCW Thunder, for example, was set to debut in the Network’s VOD vault this month but the month is nearly over. The episodes have been prepared and are “sitting there, waiting to go.” Instead, WCCW episodes were uploaded, seemingly in Thunder’s place. WWE may be holding off on content that would feature Bagwell as it would strengthen his claims if the case doesn’t go in WWE’s favor. This may also be why any future plans for Sunday Night Heat, which featured Raven quite a bit, may not happen. It could also apply to material from the GWF (with Bagwell as the Handsome Stranger and LEvy as Scotty the Body). There is still material from the pair on the Network in the form of TV and PPV for WWE, WCW and ECW.

WWE previously decided not to use Stampede Wrestling content when they found out that Bret Hart owned the rights to his matches from that library. While WWE owns the physical library, they would have to work out a deal with Hart to use footage of him. WWE pulled several hours of the programming that was uploaded and now only uses specific matches that don’t include Hart.

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Raven, Joseph Lee