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WWE sued by former AWA star Pretty Boy Doug Somers for DVD royalties

Should Doug Somers have been paid for his appearance on this DVD?
Should Doug Somers have been paid for his appearance on this DVD?

Dave Meltzer broke the news via his news update today that former AWA star Pretty Boy Doug Somers is suing WWE for withheld royalties from appearing on their DVDs:

--Douglas Somerson (Pretty Boy Doug Somers) filed a lawsuit against WWE saying he's owed royalty rights for WWE using his name and matches in videos, most notably in Shawn Michaels compilations with the Michaels & Marty Jannetty bloodbath from Las Vegas against Somers & Buddy Rose. He filed suit last week in Fulton County (Georgia) Superior Court saying they used his name and likeness without making an attempt to compensate him and never signing him to a contract. The suit claimed Somerson is in bad health due to suffering what the suit claimed was 400 concussions and injuries to his neck, back, knees and foot.

Somers was most famous for his short-lived tag team with the late great Playboy Buddy Rose, which won the AWA World Tag Team championship on May 17th, 1986, before dropping the titles to The Midnight Rockers of Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannety eight months later. Their feud together was one of the sole highlights of the dying AWA promotion at the time and matches between the two teams have featured on three WWE DVDs: The Greatest Cage Matches of All Time, Shawn Michaels - Heartbreak and Triumph, and The Spectacular Legacy of the American Wrestling Association. He will also have appeared many times on WWE Classics on Demand subscription channel.

It's certainly an interesting case, not without precedent. Most famously, Jesse "The Body" Ventura won over $800,000 in withheld royalties from Titan Sports in the mid 1990s. More recently, Martha Hart sued WWE over withheld royalties and using her late husband's likeness without her approval last June, amongst other claims that were later dropped. It is unknown whether that case has since been dismissed, is still being contested or WWE quietly settled out of court. The difference here is that Somers, unlike Jesse and Owen, was never a WWE performer, so might be treated differently by the courts.

The lawsuit could have huge ramifications for WWE, as they are going full steam ahead with their plans to unveil their WWE network on April 1st, 2012, the same day as WrestleMania 28. If they lose this lawsuit, then they would have to pay countless other former wrestlers royalties for using their footage on their network or face more such legal action. It is genuinely surprising that there has not been more such cases in recent years, as I'm sure Somers wasn't the only old timer that they have used on their DVDs without paying a dime to.

On a closing note, with regards to Somers' health status, I'm sure he is in poor health and suffered a lot of head trauma from his days in the ring, but the claim of 400 concussions during his career seems highly exaggerated and exorbitant.

Correction: Mike Aldren of the Wrestling Globe Newsletter actual broke the story, but it wasn't clear from Meltzer's news update. Apologies to Mike for this error in my report.

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