Archive for June 22nd, 2010

What Matters About Owen Hart’s Widow’s New Suit Against Linda McMahon and WWE

The latest intrusion of reality into Linda McMahon’s wrestling-scripted Senate candidacy in Connecticut is a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Hartford against Linda, her husband Vince, and their World Wrestling Entertainment for appropriating the likeness of the late WWE wrestler Owen Hart in a new DVD compilation.

A few comments.

  • Nearly a decade ago Martha Hart, Owen’s widow, settled a wrongful-death lawsuit against WWE for $18 million. Owen Hart had plunged to his death from the arena rafters in Kansas City in 1999 when his harness failed during a stunt entrance. (WWE later collected around half the settlement sum from the harness manufacturer.) But this new piece of litigation is about intellectual property — and nothing gets in the McMahons’ kitchen quite like the notion that IP might be for thee, as well as me.
  • Of course, campaign watchers might actually use the occasion to reflect on the death itself. Owen Hart not only was a source of ongoing intellectual property; he also was a a disposable independent contractor. See “’The Question – Senate Candidate Linda McMahon (Still) Can’t Answer It,” January 10, https://wrestlingbabylon.wordpress.com/2010/01/10/%E2%80%98the-question%E2%80%99-%E2%80%93-senate-candidate-linda-mcmahon-still-can%E2%80%99t-answer-it-complete-7-part-series-as-a-single-post/. See especially this passage in the standard WWE talent contract: “WRESTLER, on behalf of himself and his heirs, successors, assigns and personal representatives, hereby releases, waives and discharges PROMOTER from all liability to WRESTLER and covenants not to sue PROMOTER for any and all loss or damage on account of injury to any person or property or resulting in serious or permanent injury to WRESTLER or resulting in WRESTLER’s death, whether caused by the negligence of the PROMOTER, other wrestlers or otherwise.”What a wonderful model of political leadership and accountability.
  • Owen Hart’s fatal accident occurred at the start of a pay-per-view show, which went on. Vince McMahon later explained, ludicrously, that he feared a riot by fans if the show were canceled. Eight years later, in June 2007, McMahon had no such fear as he gave the green light to a live TV tribute to Chris Benoit. With deadpan tears, McMahon shielded his own wrestlers and his audience from knowledge – which became public before the broadcast was over – that Benoit had garroted his wife, snapped their seven-year-old son’s neck, and hanged himself.
  • In the So What Department, Martha Hart may or may not be pure as Ivory soap. The brilliant memoir by Owen’s brother Bret Hart describes this wrestling clan’s implosion and bickering over money and responsibility following the gruesome industrial death of patriarch Stu Hart’s youngest son. In the book, Bret aptly and honestly compares his family’s and his own behavior to that of panelists on the Jerry Springer Show. (My  review of Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling can be viewed at http://muchnick.net/hitmanreview.pdf.)
  • Unfortunately, Bret Hart, like almost all of them, needed to be back in Vince McMahon’s good graces more than Hart needed to tell the truth. When he returned to WWE for the honor of making Vince (and himself) more money – this time in a script of beating up his once and future boss at WrestleMania – the wrestling commentary site Cageside Seats called Hart “a conflicted sellout.” But even before that, Hart was a wrestling carny with a wrestling carny’s instincts. See, for example, his apologist’s stance in his appearance with me on CNN’s Nancy Grace after the murder-suicide of his close friend Benoit – the lead clip at my YouTube channel (http://youtube.com/WrestlingBabylon).

Irv Muchnick

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Two New Takes on Linda McMahon: The $$$ Analyst and the Frother

The Connecticut Mirror’s Deirdre Shesgreen has combed the personal financial disclosures of Linda McMahon, Richard Blumenthal, and Peter Schiff, and concluded: “No matter who wins this race, any of these candidates would likely rank among the top ten richest lawmakers in Congress in terms of household wealth.” See “U.S. Senate candidates disclose assets,” http://www.ctmirror.org/story/6515/blumenthalmcmahonfinances.

All good info. What is missed here, and probably not intended, is a question above and beyond whether super-rich politicians can relate to average voters. The Linda McMahon challenge involves whether a self-funded candidate is performing an act of civic hygiene, or simply of personal vanity, when she uses her wealth to short-circuit conventional means of building a campaign and claiming a constituency.

Meanwhile, an online publication called American Thinker has published a loopy essay headlined  “Linda McMahon and the Triple-Damn Stinger Splash.” See http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/06/linda_mcmahon_and_the_tripleda_1.html.

The author, Stuart Schwartz, teaches in the School of Communication at Jerry Falwell-founded Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. The school’s website describes its mission as striving “to educate competent, committed Christians in the art,  theory and technology of communication.”

Professor Schwartz’s piece is best described as the sort of thing the Hartford Courant’s Kevin “Don’t Call Linda McMahon My Mouthpiece” Rennie might have turned out during a night of debauchery with Timothy Leary. “Triple Damn Stinger Splash”? It’s hard to top an aging born-again hipster. Linda, apparently, woke up one morning and spontaneously realized that she had both a precise vision of what ails the nation and the precise skills to fix it. And any deviation from this tidy narrative is elitist. If nothing else, the money-grubbing kitsch queen of Campaign 2010 may have found her Teddy White.

Irv Muchnick


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