WWE Defends Lawsuit from Video Producer Over 'Real' Attack

WWE World Wrestling Entertainment Logo - H 2012

WWE World Wrestling Entertainment Logo - H 2012

When an entertainment company spends years winking to its audience about the staged nature of its reality programming, what happens when someone attempts to convince a judge it's too real?

Last month, Andrew Green sued World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., over alleged injuries he suffered at the hands of wrestler Paul D. Wight, Jr., aka the "Big Show." Green was employed by the WWE as a road producer for digital production and was responsible for conducting interviews with wrestlers after their matches. Green says that he suffered "physical and mental injuries" at last January's pay-per-view Royal Rumble when the Big Show, coming off a staged defeat in the wrestling ring, attacked him while he was trying to get an interview.

Late last week, the WWE had the lawsuit removed to a federal court in Arizona and pointed to a release and waiver that Green had signed in the course of his employment. The defendant says that Green's claims arise out of the exploitation of the video footage posted online.

The WWE's move to move the dispute to its preferred legal ring follows Green's filing of a complaint in state court with all sorts of causes of action.

Green's lawsuit (read in full here) showcases the WWE's artful blend of reality and fiction.

Yes, "WWE wrestling events are staged and the outcome of matches is predetermined," says the complaint, but the Big Show "was not feigning his emotional outburst" during the alleged assault.

Green says that when he approached the Big Show for an interview, the wrestler laced into "profanely indecent language" and "grabbed Green by the collar and throat, striking Green in the face and backing him up against a trunk while declaring, 'You son of a bitch... Are you having fun right now ... Don't ever come up to me again. I don't give a sh-- who you are.'"

Then, the interview happened a second time at Big Show's prompting, where the wrestler asked that he be filmed just walking away from an interview request -- and then, a third time, at the behest of Triple H, a wrestler who doubles as the executive vp of talent and live events at the WWE. According to the lawsuit, Triple H liked the raw emotion of the first interview but not Big Show's use of profanity.

Ultimately, WWE executives are said to have chosen the first take with the profanity omitted.

"At the time WWE caused the Attack to be posted on its website, WWE knew or should have known that the Attack had not been staged," says the lawsuit.

Green is suing the Big Show for negligence, assault, battery and infliction of emotional distress. He is suing the WWE for negligence, invasion of privacy, infliction of emotional distress, commercial appropriation of his likeness, unjust enrichment, as well as negligent hiring and retention and supervision. The plaintiff, represented by attorney George Mueller, says he's been humiliated and is seeking punitive and exemplary damages.

In response, the WWE is first focusing on the allegation of alleged injuries such as exploitation of Green's likeness caused by the posting of the video footage. The company says such claims are "completely pre-empted by federal copyright law," saying that whatever he shot was a "work made for hire."

Additionally, the WWE, represented by attorney John Gilbert, says in its notice of removal, "Plaintiffs’ state law claims involve nothing more than an attempt to interfere with WWE’s exercise of its exclusive rights under § 106 of the Copyright Act in violation of the express Intellectual Property Release and Waiver that Mr. Green signed."

After the venue is determined, the parties eventually may get around to discussing the expectations for Green's employment and pull back further on the curtain that is WWE theater.

E-mail: eriq.gardner@thr.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner