This Week in ‘E – Death of a Giant (Gonzalez) and the Women’s Title with WWE Owen Hart Lawsuit News

Another wrestler gone too soon, divas mourn the death of the Women’s Title and more on the lawsuit regarding Owen Hart’s legacy. But hey, at least no Matt Hardy this week.

Opening Witty Banter
I hope everyone out there in Internet-land is having a phenomenal day/week/life/whatever. Things have actually been rockin’ ‘n’ rollin’ for me over the past week or so and without jinxing myself here’s hoping it continues. Time for the fake news.

Let’s take some ‘E…

The News of the Week
According to Argentinean news outlet Impulso Baires, former WWE and WCW wrestler Jorge González passed away on Wednesday in San Martina, Argentina. He was 44.

According to those in González’ hometown, El Colorado, confirm that he was taken to San Martin after “suffering a decompensation.”

The legit 7’6 giant had been in bad health for years due to kidney failure and had been confined to a wheelchair. He was scheduled for a wrestling convention this past May in New Jersey but was forced to cancel due to his health.

González was originally a basketball player and was drafted to the Atlanta Hawks in 1988, but he lacked the natural ability an coordination for basketball so Hawks owner Ted Turner brought him into World Championship Wrestling, a franchise he also owned.

He debuted in May 1990 after a year of training using the moniker El Gigante. He was a top card fan favorite while in WCW and allied with other top stars like Sting and The Steiner Brothers against Ric Flair, Sid Vicious and the other top villains of the day.

He left WCW in 1992 and jumped to the World Wrestling Federation. He made his debut at the 1993 Royal Rumble where he attacked The Undertaker. Using the new moniker “Giant Gonzalez” and wearing a full body suit, he embarked on an eight month long feud with The Undertaker, culminating in a “Rest in Peace” match. After the match he split with his manager Harvery Wippleman and embarked on a brief run as a fan favorite before leaving the company in October 1993.

The big man then worked in New Japan Pro Wrestling until 1995 when he officially retired as an active wrestler. He also did some small acting roles, but moved back to his native Argentina as he grew older.

Rest in peace, big man. Between his recent death, alongside Luna and Mike Shaw’s, the roster from the WWF in 1993 is looking more and more morbid by the day.

Speaking of deaths, please, please read this awesome interview done with Trevor Murdoch where he talks about his relationship with the late Lance Cade.

This was a truly great article and interview and gave great insight on the inner workings of Cade and Murdoch both.

Many of the WWE’s top divas over the past decade have given their thoughts in regards to the Women’s Championship being retired and unified into the Divas Championship.

First is Trish Stratus, from an interview with Diva Dirt:

“I have mixed feelings. It’s one of these, ‘Is the glass half full or half empty?’ [situations]. Instead of looking at it as the belt is being retired or put to bed, I’m thinking, let’s just focus on this and build this different thing. Building a new legacy, building a new division, building some new women and I think that’s how you have to look at it. First of all, the two belts was just not necessary… ever. It’s kinda like, ‘Get one… let’s move forward.’ [Laughs] But I don’t know, I’m kind of like okay with it. I feel like it’s a different time, a different generation. I feel like we did some great stuff with that belt and maybe it don’t get no better than that? Maybe it’s one of those things? It’s like, let’s just leave this here. It’s pretty perfect and has a perfect legacy behind it, and let’s start this and we’ll start to build this from because it’s definitely a different time. There’s probably the biggest group of women that could potentially all work matches [right now]. Most of them can work matches and potentially you could have everybody, I mean that’s a pretty big division, if you could build everything properly. So I think looking at it like that, it’s almost like okay, this is the new thing, this is the women’s division of today and let’s build it. It’s not a bad thing.”

Melina, from her Twitter:

“Maybe I will get in trouble 4 saying this but it never stopped me before,right? A lovely friend once told me, whenever u feel down about yourself & your career, just look at this http://www.wwe.com/inside/titlehistory/women/ . I did. From Fabulous Moolah to this year…. So many incredible women who are true Champions…. Hall of Famers!!! Pioneers held that title! When I looked at that page…. It was an incredible honor to see my name up there with all of them. People who I am a fan of & have memories watching when I was younger.

I held that title and was always picturing all these women holding the same title. It was a dream come true knowing my heroes touched this championship too. Now it’s gone?

What a shame.

I’m a person that honors the past bcuz it’s made me who I am in the present. It’s a legacy to pass down for the future! Hall of Famers made that championship what it is. I feel like a piece of me as well as the memory of all the women who contributed to it’s greatness is being put to rest with it. It’s very heartbreaking. None of these women will EVER be forgotten in my heart. NEVER.”

Mickie James, from her Twitter:

“The retirement of the Women’s Championship breaks my heart. The nostalgia and the legacy built off the backs of every woman who paved the way for women like me… Who gave it credibility… Honor… Prestige… & Truth! For every woman who’s carried the championship through the generations… Who know the power & history you feel in holding it high above your head.. That can never be replaced by anything in my mind… In my heart… I am truly honored and forever grateful to be among the women who have graced its presence… Thank you…”

Beth Phoenix, from her Twitter:

“It saddens me to see the historic Women’s Title moved into retirement, but I am so grateful to have had the honor of holding it. My sights remain on the Unified Diva’s Championship.”

As someone who has never been a big fan of women’s wrestling I can’t say I put a lot of thought into this, but it’s obviously affected a lot of former Champions. The Women’s Tiitle lineage is still there and I imagine it will be brought back again. This isn’t the first time that particular championship went dormant.

More Twittery goodness, this time from Shelton Benjamin, who finally breaks his silence in regards to his WWE release.

He Tweets:

“WWE never made me any promises just gave me an opportunity to make money. And I made a lot of money, so (they) fulfilled their end. I am not bitter or scourned and I’ve got too much pride, passion, and confidence in myself to cry like a baby because i was released. Do I think I should have been a World Champion, HELL YES!, was I underutilized, without a doubt, do I have issue with WWE, NO! I NEED TO BE AWAY FROM WWE so I can grow are a performer. There are many things about that company that SUCK, but i got no time to be crying about it. I am enjoying a good life now and if history serves chances are you haven’t seen the last on me in WWE even if I go elsewhere along the way.”

Remember like two years ago when no one had ever really heard of Twitter and no one used it? Now it’s a legitimate news source, I guess. Technology never fails to surprise me.

With SmackDown now moving to SyFy, the show will now become a priority creatively once again. The company now sees it on the same level as RAW now that is on a cable network in the NBC family. Naturally talent is expected to change brands to shore up the blue brand.

Thank God. It’s time for SmackDown to be awesome again. It’s been just dreadful all summer.

A lot more has come out in regards to Martha Hart’s lawsuit against The McMahons and WWE. Attorneys representing World Wrestling Entertainment (and Vince and Linda personally) have filed separate motions to dismiss the lawsuit brought against them by Martha Hart. The motions were accompanied by over 100 pages of documents. Here is the breakdown of the WWE’s dismissal claims, with full credit going to Pwinsider.com.

* Regarding Martha Hart’s allegation that WWE doesn’t own the right to use any of Owen Hart’s matches or footage, WWE pointed out that Martha Hart agreed the company did have those copyrights when she attempted and failed to get an injunction against the release of the “Hart and Soul” DVD documentary in Canada.

WWE’s attorneys also pointed out that Owen Hart, contractually, agreed to WWE retaining the rights to his footage in perpetuity, citing, “In clear and unambiguous language consistently ignored, the contract provides at least eight separate times that WWE is the exclusive and perpetual owner of the copyrighted works of WWE s programs on which Owen and other wrestlers performed (including, but not limited to, television footage and photographs), and that WWE s rights survived termination of the contract for any reason.”

WWE then cited each and every point in Hart’s last signed contract before noting, “This avalanche of contractual rights in favor of WWE, all of which survive termination of the contract, is fatal to all of the Estate s stale claims challenging WWE s rights to produce and sell DVDs which include the name, likeness, and performances of Owen at WWE events.”

* In regard to Martha Hart’s claim that she alone owns the copyright to tell the life story of Owen Hart, WWE attorneys noted that Hart’s case failed to meet the standard under “heightened pleading” commenting that her complain features, “First Amendment problems driven by Mrs. Hart s erroneous view that she alone gets to tell the story of Owen s life and that neither WWE nor members of the Hart Family can speak about Owen without her consent. Insofar as the First Amendment is concerned, it is noteworthy that there is not a single allegation that WWE ever published a single falsity about Owen anywhere in its products or its packaging of products, and First Amendment protections are not lost unless speech involves falsity and reckless disregard for truth. WWE has the same First Amendment right to publish the story about the Hart Family as a program like 60 Minutes and, in telling that story, certainly can use its own copyrighted works to do so.”

* Responding to Hart’s claim that WWE used Owen’s Intellectual Property without Authorization, the company noted again Owen’s rights to his WWE material were contracted to the company and that in their 2000 Settlement with Martha Hart, Owen’s parents and his children, featured a “broad general release” that “all claims, debts, losses, liabilities, costs, expenses (including attorney’s fees), causes of action, lawsuits, and demands of every kind and nature whatsoever, whether known or unknown, from the beginning of time to the date of this Agreement, that the Releasing Parties had or may now have against any of them, as may have arisen or has arisen, in connection with any and all matters arising out of or relating to the death of Owen Hart.”

So basically, WWE is claiming that Martha Hart doesn’t have the rights to raise these issues in 2010 as she agreed to release them from any and all issues when they settled her original lawsuit in 2000. WWE also noted that if Hart had question over the rights, she could have raised them prior to the original settlement agreement. The motion noted, “Mrs. Hart did not claim then (or at anytime in the past decade), as she does now eleven years later, that Owen s death somehow eviscerated WWE s perpetual rights that expressly survived termination of the contract.”

* In regard to Hart’s claims that WWE has “impermissibly appropriate[d] Owen James Hart s name [and], likeness and that such unauthorized use of Owen James Hart s name or likeness or other Original Intellectual Property . . . falsely represents that they have been endorsed, sponsored, or approved by the Estate of Owen Hart and the Owen Hart Foundation”, WWE noted that at no time has the Owen Hart Foundation been referred to or mentioned in any of their 37 DVDs featuring Owen Hart matches, “let alone in some false or misleading way.” So, there could be no false representation on WWE’s part. WWE also noted that any reference to Owen Hart on their DVDs would be protected under the First Amendment.

“The DVD and the other videos are clearly expressive works, and no contention is made to the contrary in the First Amended Complaint. Owen s life is discussed in the DVD by others who knew him, including Hart Family members. Unquestionably, there is a connection between his name and the work. Likewise, the Plaintiff makes no allegation of an explicit statement by WWE on or in connection with the other DVDs that the Estate or the Foundation endorses, sponsors or approves those DVDs. Indeed, there is no allegation that either is even mentioned by WWE. Moreover, nothing about the explicit references to Owen in connection to the DVD or other videos is alleged to be false or misleading in any way, shape, fashion or form. To the contrary, Plaintiff does not dispute that all of WWE s packaging accurately describe the contents and that Owen’s recorded performances are, in fact, depicted in any DVD on which his name appears on the product packaging. Accordingly, the truthful references to Owen in connection with the artistic works of WWE are absolutely protected under the First Amendment and are not actionable under the Lanham Act.”

The Lanham Act prohibits a number of activities, including trademark infringement, trademark dilution, and false advertising. Hart is claiming WWE’s usage of Owen Hart has violated the Act in regard to the Owen Hart Foundation.

* In regard to Martha Hart’s claims that WWE should not be allowed to use Owen Hart’s name on WWE DVD packaging, WWE responded, “Once again, it is significant that no allegation is made in the FAC that Owen s name or likeness was used on product packaging of DVDs in which he did not appear. Instead, Plaintiff now belatedly claims that the WWE cannot use Owen’s name or likeness on the packaging on DVDs even to truthfully inform consumers that the DVD contains recorded performances of Owen.”

WWE noted that any reference to Owen on packaging was made to accurately advertise the inclusion of his matches on those DVD releases and that those DVDs prominently featured WWE’s name and logo, leaving no question as to the source of the material, so there could be no confusion with the Owen Hart Foundation.

WWE also noted that in regard to photographs Martha Hart was calling into question, WWE owns the rights to any photos taken at their events and Hart did not own the rights to any childhood photos of Hart that were used on the DVD and/or its packaging at the time the DVD was produced and released. WWE also noted that Martha filed copyright claims on two Christmas photographs used in the DVD two weeks after the lawsuit was filed. Thus, her claims were without merit.

WWE also noted that under law, no one has the exclusive right to tell another person’s life story, which would give them the same rights, as any other media source or broadcast outlet, to tell their version of Owen’s life.

* In response to Martha Hart’s Right of Publicity Claim and Invasion of Privacy Claim, WWE stated they fail as a “Matter of Law.” WWE said that Owen Hart, when he worked for the company, “gave consent” to be publicized as a performer when he signed his WWE contract and those rights continue past the Termination of that contract. “Once Owen consented to having his performances recorded and to WWE s ownership of the copyrighted works, no further consent is required for WWE to exploit its copyrights.” WWE noted that Federal Law would support them in this claim and that there were no limits to the consent granted by Owen for future works.

WWE noted, “Accordingly, the publicity and privacy counts fail for the additional reason that the contract grants WWE the unqualified right to use New Intellectual Property in any commercial manner.”

WWE also noted that the use of Owen Hart’s name and likeness would not be actionable under current Connecticut Law.

* In regard to Hart’s claim that WWE needs to provide an accounting of money owed to the Owen Hart Estate, WWE stated that Hart was pointing to a point in Owen’s contract that wouldn’t be relevant to such a thing and that she “fails to allege any facts that would entitle her to the remedy of an accounting.” and that she has not alleged there is a “fiduciary relationship between her and WWE” or any “allegation of fraud.”

“Lacking any such grounds, Plaintiff attempts to convert Section 7.12(a) of the [Owen Haer] contract into a legal basis for the count. Plainly, that section sets for a procedure for auditing royalty payments and statements tendered to the WWE performer. The Amended Complaint admits and alleges that no such payments have been made or statements sent to the Estate. On its face, Section 7.12(a) is not applicable to a thirteen-year-old claim where no payments were made or statements rendered.”

* Hart’s complaint that WWE violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act: WWE again pointed out that Martha Hart did not own the exclusive rights to tell Owen Hart’s life story. “As a matter of law, therefore, WWE could not have misappropriated rights to Owen s life story since Plaintiff never owned such rights in the first place.” For the same reasons, WWE stated it could not have misappropriated Owen Hart’s Intellectual Properties.

Hart also claimed that by violating the CUTPA by “breaching a contract.” WWE responded, “Here, Plaintiff alleges two contract counts. The first is that WWE lacked contractual authority to use Owen s name and likeness after his death and has been previously addressed. The second count alleges that WWE breached the contract by not paying the Estate royalties when Owen s name and likeness were used. Under Connecticut law, it is well settled that a simple contract breach is not sufficient to establish a violation of CUTPA.”

So, basically, WWE is claiming that Hart doesn’t have the rights, after a decade and following a Settlement that released them of all issues, to bring these claims to light and that based on the original Settlement, Federal Law and in some instances, Connecticut Law, the suit should be dismissed.

I watched the crazy awesome Harts-Team Austin match from Canadian Stampede in July ’97 this past weekend, and it made realize how much I missed Owen, Davey and Pillman as a fan. The pop each Hart Foundation member got as they came out individually, each to their own music, was a thing of pure beauty. The smile and pure joy that appeared on Pillman’s face during his entrance and throughout the entire match was a sight to behold. Please don’t let Martha win this lawsuit so we as fans can no longer enjoy Owen Hart’s goodness.

In more Canadiany goodness, Christian suffered a torn pec muscle and will be out of action for six months. He had successful surgery earlier this week and his attack at the hands of Albert Del Rio on this past week’s SmackDown was a way to take him out of the storylines.

Come back soon Christian! Truly the glue of the mid-card he will certainly be conspicuous by his absence.

The Road to…Hell in a Cell
Hell in a Cell Match for the WWE Championship
Randy Orton (c) v. Sheamus

Hell in a Cell Match for the World Heavyweight Championship
Undertaker v. Kane (c)

If Cena Wins Nexus Disbands, If Barrett Wins Cena Joins Nexus
John Cena v. Wade Barrett

expected matches
Natalya Neidhart v. one of LayCool (c) for the Unified Divas Championship
Daniel Bryan (c) v. John Morrison v. The Miz in a Submissions Count Anywhere Match for the US Championship

Wrestler of the Week
Week of September 20 – 27: The Undertaker
John Cena looked like a world-beater this past week on RAW and CM Punk should probably win this for single-handedly saving NXT this past week but in reality I have to give props to The Undertaker. I’m not the biggest Undertaker and have never professed to be, but I am a fan who has watched him in the WWF since literally day one. So this past week on SmackDown a serious wave of nostalgia ran wild over me when Paul Bearer popped out of that casket and the two men slid into their old roles, complete with Undertaker kneeling to the power of the urn. It was a really fun and cool moment and will play perfectly into SmackDown’s new home on the SyFy Network.

RAW’s On Tonight!
Tonight’s RAW is already in the can as it was taped last week in Indianapolis alongside last week’s show. This pay per view taping schedule is ridiculous as it’s already the go-home show for Hell in a Cell. It’s things like this why I can recite entire pay per view cards from twenty years ago but can’t remember the full card for shows less than a year old. Anyways, here’s a non-spoiler list of what to expect on tonight’s show.

John Morrison & Daniel Bryan v. The Miz & Alex Riley
A Divas battle royal to determine a number one contender for the Unified Divas Championship
The Great Khali v. Sheamus
Evan Bourne & Heath Slater v. Mark Henry & Evan Bourne
John Cena v. Edge
The Hart Dynasty v. Drew McIntyre & Cody Rhodes
Randy Orton v. Chris Jericho

On Last Week’s Episode…
Pulse Wrestling’s ladies Kelly and Chantal have all your SmackDown needs covered.

Evans and Kelly review the lamest Superstars episode since its return.

Ivan and Logan review maybe the greatest episode of NXT ever. It felt like watching an episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 with Cole and Punk’s absurd commentary. This show has to be just one giant inside joke right?

Marshall, Pruett and Wheeler bring the fall out from Night of Champions.

How They Rated
SmackDown! (9.10.10) –

Superstars (9.16.10) – .69

A.M. RAW (9.19.10) – .43

RAW (9.20.10) – 2.8

NXT (9.21.10) – .81

This is Boring, What Else is There to Read?
Ditch is awesome. I say it every week, but I mean it.

Logan revisits Monday Nitro from its beginning. It’s good stuff.

The newly taken Glazer is trying his new format of making The Backlash a daily occurrence, rather than a weekly one. The Friday post was the best as he lambastes TNA. Hey Glazer, you’re welcome. Hahaha…

Dr. TNA provides a refreshing outlook at TNA, someone who is a true fan of the company and is optimistic about its future.

Mark has been a columnist for Pulse Wrestling for over three years now, evolving from his original “Historically Speaking” commentary-style column into his current Monday morning powerhouse known as “This Week in ‘E.” He also contributes to other ventures, outside of IP, most notably as the National Pro Wrestling Examiner for Examiner.com and a contributor for The Wrestling Press. Follow me on Twitter here.

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