Today In Wrestling History 6/22: Owen Hart's Widow Sues WWE, WCW Dresses Harlem Heat As Slaves, More

* 22 years ago in 1993, WCW held a WCW Saturday Night taping at Center Stage Theater in Atlanta, Georgia. Most of the taping was uneventful. In fact, the one notable that happened never made air.

Booker T and Stevie Ray, who had been signed after an impressive run for the GWF in Dallas, Texas as the Ebony Experience, were to be repackaged when they arrived in WCW. They didn't start as Harlem Heat, though. They debuted as The Posse, a chain gang in prison clothes managed by Col. Robert Parker. If you've watched WCW programming from the mid-1990s, then you're aware that Col. Robert Parker was Robert Fuller dressed up as a plantation owner. So when a plantation owner brought out two black men in chains in a city with a large black population at a venue that had a high percentage of black fans, the mood in the building was uncomfortable, to say the least. As noted above, someone had the good sense to nix this mess before it aired.

While The Posse didn't make it to TV, Harlem Heat's first TV match, which only aired in Germany, did feature them wearing prison uniform tops along with wrestling tights. Years later, when Steve Ray sued WCW, he mentioned The Posse in the complaint: "On one occasion, Plaintiff and his brother were led in chains into a match by a Caucasian performer whose stage name was Colonel Parkerů"

* 19 years ago in 1996, ECW's third annual Hardcore Heaven show took place at the ECW Arena in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was one of the better major shows of the ECW glory period from top to bottom, with several really good matches and a number of memorable moments, including:

Chris Jericho defeated Pitbull #2 (Anthony Durante) to win the ECW TV Title in an excellent match. While Pitbull #2 was, by reputation, the ":worker" of The Pitbulls to Pitbull #1 (Gary Wolfe) being the "talker," he didn't get many opportunities to show it. Here, he and Jericho meshed surprisingly well and had a match full of big moves that holds up surprisingly well. This was Jericho's first American title win.

Raven defeated a mystery opponent who turned out to be Terry "Bamm Bamm" Gordy to retain the ECW World Heavyweight Title in one of the most famous title matches in company history. Gordy had overdosed on a 1993 flight to Japan and suffered permanent brain damage in the process. Previously one of the very best wrestlers in the business and a prodigious natural talent, he was a shell of himself in the ring, though it was a miracle he had even re-learned to walk as well as he had. On this night, Raven put in a career performance where he looked to have resurrected the old Terry Gordy.

Taz defeated UFC fighter Paul Varelans in a quick match designed to get Taz's shooter gimmick over. Varelans was a guy who claimed a background in an alleged submission grappling sport or discipline named "Trapfighting" that may or may not have existed, but he did decently in early UFCs and was a name. He eventually balked at doing a clean job and the stories of what it took to convince him are the stuff of legend. In the end, he agreed to letting Taz beat him if Perry Saturn interfered first.

That just scratches the surface. The Brian Lee vs. Tommy Dreamer match where Lee chokeslams Dreamer out of the "Eagle's Nest" through multiple tables is one of Dreamer's defining moments in ECW. It's one of those moments that got repeated over and over in the opening montage of ECW's TV show every single week.

Shane Douglas vs. Mikey Whipwreck is actually an excellent match that's been overlooked historically. And Sabu vs. Rob Van Dam in the main event is one of the their best matches, a wild one where they do everything they can even though the ring is broken and the ropes are saggy.

* 6 years ago in 2009, WWE produced a live Monday Night Raw at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin, which was the big commercial-free show that they shot the angle for a week earlier when Donald Trump "bought the Raw brand." This was all part of plans with USA Network to boost the show's rating for the show (no commercials = less flipping away = high average rating) and thus USA's prime time average. Trump also refunded the money of all of the fans in attendance to forward the angle and set up Vince McMahon being desperate to buy back Raw.

The big match on the show to help draw a big rating was WWE Champion Randy Orton defending against Triple H in a Last Man Standing Match. They went to a double knockout when Triple H injured his knee hitting the Pedigree on the stage, so he looked like the rightful winner while Orton retained.

* 5 years ago in 2010, Martha Hart, Owen's widow, filed a lawsuit against WWE in United States District Court for the District of Connecticut (New Haven). WWE's release of the "Hart and Soul" DVD set was the catalyst for the lawsuit, but not the whole story. Martha did not keep up with wrestling in any way and had cut herself off from Owen's family, so she had no idea that since her wrongful death suit against WWE was settled in November of 2000, the DVD boom and the purchase of WCW put WWE on a path to monetizing their archives, including Owen Hart matches. It was only once she saw the DVD in stores with Owen's face on the cover that she realized what was happening.

WWE had not sent her royalty checks at all since September of 1999 when, on advice of her attorneys, she stopped accepting any payments due from the company. Since Martha was unaware that WWE was using Owen's image, she wanted what she was rightfully owed. She had also attempted to stop sale of the DVD on the grounds that she had full ownership of Owen's name and likeness, but that didn't get very far. Neither did claims based on use of photos that she owned the copyright of...but only because she bought the rights after the DVD was released.

So in the end, it came down to the royalties when the judge threw out the rest. While WWE's position as to why she was never sent royalties was somewhat understandable, it was just something that had to be made right, The case was settled in April of 2013, and while the terms are confidential, it seems likely that at the very least, Hart got the approximately $80,000 of royalties owed plus interest. In addition to DVDs, Owen was in the WWF Attitude video game (the company's last release from Acclaim), which was being completed when he died and released several weeks later. The finished product was the subject of a short delay, possibly to remove traces of the Blue Blazer gimmick, and featured a dedication screen when the game loaded.


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