Facsimile of WWE Talent Contract

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January 7, 2010
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January 8, 2010

Monday – Senate Candidate Linda McMahon Has No Good Answer to This Question

Tuesday – WrestleMania 1991 Early Deaths 1-3 (Dino Bravo, Kerry “Texas Tornado” Von Erich, Davey Boy “British Bulldog” Smith)

Wednesday – WrestleMania 1991 Early Deaths 4-6 (John “EarthquakeTenta, Michael “Road Warrior Hawk Hegstrand, Ray “Hercules” Fernandez)

Thursday– WrestleMania 1991 Early Deaths 7-10 (Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig, Ray “Big Boss Ma n” Traylor, Brian “Demolition Crush” Adams, Sherri “Sensational Sherri Martel” Russell)

[Thursday P.M. — Sorry, Make That 11 Dead Performers from 1991 WrestleMania]

TODAY – Facsimile of WWE Talent Contract

Saturday – “Two Words: Public Relations” – Vince McMahon on Why WWE Now Underwrites Drug Rehab for Ex-Wrestlers

A World Wrestling Entertainment performer recently shared with me a copy of his contract, vintage mid-2000s. The relevant page for the purpose of this post can be viewed at http://muchnick.net/wwecontract.pdf.

Insiders tell me that the language here is boilerplate. Other wrestlers are invited to confirm this by sending me copies of their contracts. You can contact me discreetly at tips@muchnick.net.

I also will be talking with experts in entertainment law, liability waivers, and occupational health and safety. But first I want to discuss this contract from a layman’s perspective.

I have seen my share of contracts, mostly in publishing, where there can be extraordinary one-sidedness. For example, some newspaper and magazine publishers force freelance contributors to sign agreements in which they give away all future rights, trumping the defaults of copyright law. To give this power play that little extra oomph of knife-twisting  comprehensiveness, such a clause might even specify “all rights in any medium or technology now existing or hereafter invented, in this or any other universe.” You know, the kind of thing that inspired Dick, in Shakespeare’s Henry the Sixth, Part 2, to say, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

But I’ve never seen anything quite like the WWE talent contract.

Oh, sure, I expected Section 9.11, where the wrestler is responsible for all federal, state, local, and Social Security taxes, as well as contributions to private retirement programs and the like. Ditto for liability and worker’s compensation insurance, After all, these are not employees. They are independent contractors. We all know that.

But try wrapping your ironic detachment around Section 9.12(b):

“WRESTLER acknowledges that the participation and activities required by WRESTLER in connection with WRESTLER’s performance in a professional wrestling exhibition may be dangerous and may involve the risk of serious bodily injury. WRESTLER knowingly and freely assumes full responsibility for all such inherent risks as well as those due to the negligence of PROMOTER, other wrestlers or otherwise.”

And Section 9.12(c):

“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.”

“… resulting in serious or permanent injury … or resulting in … death …” Well, I guess that covers most of the contingencies.

(In case you’re wondering, this is not Chris Benoit’s contract, which I have not seen. His father, Mike Benoit, did quote to me nearly identical language. Where Mike cited death was in 9.12(b), not 9.12(c); here the wrestler acknowledges risk of “serious bodily injury, including death [emphasis added].”)

This clinic in ruthlessness comes courtesy of the All-American company that has gifted Connecticut-style democracy with the U.S. Senate candidacy of Linda Edwards-McMahon.

Irvin Muchnick




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