Sunday, March 18, 2012

Lawsuit: Sid Vicious vs John Laurinaitis

WWF Champion
At the WCW Sin pay-per-view event in January 2001, Sid Vicious (Sid Eudy, also known as Sid Justice and Sycho Sid in WWE) broke his leg in gruesome fashion.  Normally a power wrestler who occasionally showed off his agility with simple moves like kip-ups, he tried a jumping big boot off the second rope and all of his weight came down on his support leg, snapping it.

The injury itself happened off-camera during the actual broadcast, where viewers only saw Sid lying in the ring with his leg at a disgusting angle.  The next night on Monday Nitro on TNT, WCW made the somewhat controversial call to air the injury footage from various angles.

WCW's assets were sold to WWE two months later after a deal with an Eric Bischoff-led group that had been announced around the time of Sin fell through when TBS & TNT canceled WCW's television programming. Eudy's contract was not one of the assets WWE bought, as various top WCW wrestlers were technically contracted to other divisions of Time Warner in what was believed to be a creative bookkeeping move.

Over the next few months, his pay was reduced by the surviving Universal Wrestling Corporation.  This was a standard move in WCW if a wrestler couldn't work (it happened most infamously to Bret Hart), but obviously he couldn't work anyway once the company was sold and WWE didn't try to buy out his contract.  He was fired in June.

WCW Champion
Sid sued the UWC, its parent companies, and late-period WCW agent/current WWE Executive Vice President of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis on claims of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, tortuous interference with contractual relations, attorney fees, and unjust enrichment.  He initially lost a summary judgment on all but the last claim, and he appealed in 2005.

After an explanation of how Eudy felt he was entitled to his full pay because he was coerced into executing the move that he injured himself on, the details of his claim are explained:

"Eudy testified on deposition that he told Laurinaitis, the WCW employee who blocked the moves for the January 14, 2001 event, that he did not want to perform the final move, in which he was to jump from the second rope and land on his opponent. He testified that he said he was 'just not a rope guy,' being a big man. He was concerned about getting his timing right so he did not kick his opponent in the face, having just returned to the ring after shoulder surgery the year before.

But, Eudy said, Laurinaitis kept telling him he needed to do the move, eventually handed him a written script, and told Eudy that if he took the move out, Laurinaitis would have to redraft the script. Then Eudy admitted that he agreed to perform the move, thinking he needed to prove himself to the company's new owners because he had been unable to work for some time due to previous injuries.

Eudy argues that the actions of WCW made it impossible for him to perform his side of the contract, and therefore he was entitled to all of his compensation..."

Sid was obviously right to be apprehensive: He'd never done anything like that before, so it was a bad idea, and it had disastrous results.  I have no idea why Laurinaitis thought it was a good idea, but it was so far outside of Sid's wheelhouse that it is one of many things that can be used to impugn his abilities as a pro wrestling executive.

Eudy's claim of unjust enrichment (over WCW benefiting from the injury footage and a disability insurance policy they took out on him) was dismissed because WCW had full rights to the footage and the insurance policy reimbursed them for his pay while he was unable to wrestle for them.  The court upheld the previous dismissals as well, and that was the end of the case.

I think this is just ridiculous. Sid was one of the biggest names in wrestling and his career was ruined by an idiot that could never make it as a wrestler and thinks he knows everything. That same idiot is now working in the WWE and running Raw and maybe Smackdown as well after Wrestlemania. But it was WCW as a whole that screwed Sid. They forced him to do this move, they put him in this position, and after it backfired just like he said it would, they blamed him, reduced his pay, and fired him. He was probably one of the highest paid wrestlers at the time, and could have continued to make that money for years to come. Instead his career is over and they don't even have to pay him what they owe him? In my opinion WCW should have had to pay the full remainder of his contract, and then been sued for any future earnings they may have cost him (basically his current pay times the number of years he was expected to continue wrestling before he retired). I think this is one of the worst screw jobs in wrestling history!

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