Bobby Fulton, who performed in the NWA, AWA, WCCW and is perhaps best known as one-half of the tag team The Fantastics, recently spoke to WrestlingINC.com regarding a series of statements he posted online last week. On his personal Facebook page, Fulton indicated that he believes that WWE should compensate him for use of his likeness and his performances. He expounded on these assertions in our exclusive interview.
Bobby explained that he first became aware that WWE was using footage from his old matches after the release of the The Triumph and Tragedy of World Class Championship Wrestling DVD.
"A friend of mine said, 'I bought your DVD at Wal-Mart,' Fulton recalled. "I said, 'You did what?'"
Fulton indicated that he reached out to WWE a number of times before posting his recent comments on Facebook, recalling that he ended up speaking with WWE's Vice President of Legal and Business Affairs, Scott Amann, in November 2014.
"I spoke to Scott Amann once. I may have spoken twice; I can't remember. The gist of the conversation was, I said, 'Scott, I want to be paid for my stuff that you're using… I want to be a team player. You guys pay me what I'm due and you can utilize it even more. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to play the game. But, at the same time I want to be paid for the use of my likeness.' "
Bobby advised that Amann was not terribly sympathetic to his feelings on the matter.
"[Scott] said, 'You don't understand. We paid millions of dollars for that footage,'" said Fulton. "I said, 'Yes. But you didn't pay the right people, because you don't have any signatures or anything… You don't have my consent.' He said, 'You're exactly right. We don't have nothing.' He said, 'I'll tell you what; you go ahead and sue us. You'll beat us on a state level but we're going to beat you on a federal level.' I said, 'Look-I'm not trying to cause no trouble. I just want to be compensated for what's been on DVDs.' "
He recalled that his feelings eventually boiled over when he saw that Vince had made the cover of a magazine, prompting him to vent his frustrations publicly.
"Vince was on Muscle and Fitness at 69, jacked up on all the juice," Fulton said. "We're not ignorant. This man is ripped at 69. He knows a thing about ripping people off. He's been ripping off wrestlers for while now and it's time to pay up, Vince. He could spend all that money on the XFL. He could spend all that money on the WBF. He could spend all that money on his wife running for political office."
Bobby explained the general principles behind his grievances, adding some historical context to the discussion.
"We deserve that money because what a lot of people don't understand is that we were the first infomercials–well, not the first but one of them–meaning we would go do television because we knew we would go to different towns and cities and we would be paid for our performance," Fulton explained. "If I wrestled on Dallas TV, that meant I was going to be booked in Dallas or other cities, Fort Worth and so on and so forth that I was going to be compensated for that. Meaning that whenever that aired, I should be compensated. They would send our matches to St. Louis, for example, and then we would go wrestle in St. Louis or Kansas. We were the product that was being sold. And then we would go to those different towns. Once that was shown, we would receive our payment. If I was shown in Israel, I was booked in Israel and I was going to receive payment from that."
"You know, I've been on the Mid-South DVD, the World Class DVDs, different tag team DVDs, featured on the Network and everything," Fulton continued. "My thing is this: that if they're going to use my likeness and my intellectual property which is the matches, then they need to compensate me and the referee of the match because this is entertainment, by the way–Vince told us that. We're performers, and that is our performance. Not only that but the announcers, the enhancement guys, everybody. I'm not just saying this about me. I'm saying it for everybody that has jeopardized their lives to drive to those towns; that have lived the lifestyle, that have sacrificed their well-being and their health to produce those wrestling matches."
He said his claims are not without precedent, noting that other wrestlers have received compensation for the use of their matches in WWE releases.
"This is a business at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day," Fulton noted. "And Vince McMahon is a businessman. My thing is this: It's time for Vince to pay up. He had to pay Jesse Ventura, right? He's had to pay other people. And other people are getting checks right now. There's one guy in particular–I'm not going to tell you who–he told me he gets $10,000. He said he never worked for the WWE. It's from a Stone Cold Steve Austin video in which he never appeared but for some reason... this is what this thing says, if [WWE] plays $10,000 worth of units, then he gets that check. Vince has hand-picked paying some. If you can handpick playing some, then it shows they are due royalties from something. He sets a precedent right there. He could've played as I wanted to play, saying, "Look, pay us something." You see, with their big pockets and their attorneys, they think that they're the kings of the world. But there's no corporation that is the king of the world."
Fulton suggested that Vince's attitude towards other wrestling promotions has influenced his business practices, specifically in regard to how he uses their footage.
"When Vince [moved from the WWWF to the WWF], he acted like there was no other wrestling in the world," said Fulton. "When Harley Race walks in the ring, [he'd say] "Well who's this guy? Never heard of him!" When Terry Funk and Dory Funk walked in the ring, they called Dory Funk 'Hoss Funk.' They acted like they'd never heard of the guys before. The NWA was not allowed to be mentioned. [It] was the oldest governing body... His dad was a member of that... Yes, Vince bought up all of these libraries but with the libraries he did not buy the likenesses of the people that appear on the tapes."
"Vince goes around harassing these little fan fests and these other little wrestling promoters about pictures and stuff like that," Fulton also said. "He sends out people trying to harass you, almost like a monopoly on the wrestling business. See, that's where the problem is, because Vince is not professional wrestling. He is sports entertainment."
Fulton indicated he's heard from a number of wrestlers who support his position including Velvet McIntyre, adding that the list is growing. But he has also faced some backlash for his online statements and Fulton has no qualms about directly responding to his critics.
"I'm not saying this is an insult, but I'm going to tell like it is," he began. "A lot of times wrestlers have a slave mentality. Now I'm going to tell you I am saying that. Bob Cook made a statement on my Facebook saying, 'You ought to just be lucky that you had a chance to be used. That you had a chance to do what you got to do. You shouldn't get a dime.' Now that's a fellow wrestler... He was an enhancement talent. He must've been dropped on his head a few times by the Steiners to end up thinking in that way, because here's the deal–if Bob wasn't a good enough enhancement guy who would've only been used one time and they wouldn't have booked him anymore. If I wasn't good enough to be put in a top level spot or as a tag team champion, if I was handed the ball and wouldn't have been able to run with it, I would not of been used a further. Therefore, the slave mentality is: just consider yourself lucky to have had the chance to have been used. And I use that word 'used' in big capital letters: U-S-E-D."
"Somebody else said this: 'What about the NFL, when they play their old games?' Well, we know that they take care of themselves and, not only that, people have been compensated. But also at the same time, that is a newsworthy sporting event. We are strictly an entertainment field and it's always been that way. So when I got out there and I did a monkey flip, I was entertaining the crowd. That was because I didn't have a writer telling me to do that. That's what I did in my match. That was my intellectual property... So that is the intellectual property that Vince McMahon has stolen–our likenesses and our image. He owns the physical, celluloid film. He owns that, there's no doubt… Just because he's Vince McMahon and just because we're in our 30s and 40s and 50s, that doesn't mean that he's entitled to rob us continually for the rest of our days. There are a lot of guys who are crippled there are a lot of guys who've been heard in car accidents. They've lost their families for the professional wrestling business. They deserve to be compensated."
Fulton also said that some wrestling fans have directed harsh words at him for publicly criticizing WWE. He has responded by suggesting that they should have a better understanding of pro wrestling's history as well as WWE's current business practices.
"Now a lot of young people who are WWE fans have made comments on my Facebook and they have used very foul language. And I tell them, 'You know what, I know it's hard for [some] folks to show a little class when you don't have any.' But here's the thing, do you realize when they sell the DVD with my likeness–do you know who that helps pay? The Undertaker! He gets money from Vince, doesn't he? Not only that–John Cena! See, here's where they're robbing us even more so. Vince lost $350 million for some reason. Always got a get that money from somewhere, so he digs over here in this coffer. 'Oh yeah, I sold all these DVDs and this and that and everything. I'm going to pay John Cena with this.' I'm just giving you an example. Whether you realize it or not, I was a John Cena in my day. I was a Triple H in my day. I wrestled the Undertaker in his first match. As a matter fact, the Ultimate Warrior thanked Tommy Rogers and me in his Hall of Fame speech. [Warrior] made statements before his death saying that it's [about] everybody."
Bobby said he doesn't harbor any resentment towards promoters or companies who sold their libraries to WWE, advising that it's McMahon's actions that are problematic.
"I don't have hard feelings towards them," Fulton said of the old-school promoters. "Vince can show [their tapes] in his man cave all he wants. I bought for Clint Eastwood movies the other day. I can legally bring them home and play them. But I can't make copies and sell them anywhere. And that's what Vince McMahon, in essence, is doing. The reason I say this is that the game has changed. It's time for renegotiations. Kevin Von Erich sold it. [Bill Watts' ex-wife] Ena Watts sold it. They owned the physical tapes, but they didn't own the people that were on them."
Bobby maintained that he isn't just interested in serving his own interests by bringing his concerns into the public eye, stating that he's convinced that compensating wrestlers for their previous work is the right thing to do even if his claims don't withstand legal scrutiny.
"It's the right thing to do," Fulton asserted. "I'm not crying out just for me. But I am taking a stand for each and every one of us, and they know who they are."