Home > Uncategorized > Grudge match: Jerry Lawler challenges Corey Maclin to legal showdown over Memphis wrestling footage

Grudge match: Jerry Lawler challenges Corey Maclin to legal showdown over Memphis wrestling footage

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Smeared campaign: Is a vote for Corey Maclin a vote against Jerry Lawler?

When I was managing Jerry Lawler in 1996, I was surprised when the King called me very early one Saturday before we were going on the air to see if I had the classic footage of his impromptu NWA World title match with Ric Flair from the WMC-TV 5 studio on Aug. 14, 1982. When I told him I’d have to look through my 150-plus VHS tapes to find it, he asked about several other angles that I’d grown up watching over the years. I replied, “Yeah, I’ve got all that stuff…don’t you?” He explained that he and Jerry Jarrett didn’t foresee the value in the footage, so they didn’t have much of anything, especially before 1984, which was why they frequently replayed the same classic clips over and over. Even the WMC-TV station archives didn’t include wrestling footage. Longtime Memphis announcer Lance Russell recently told Dave Meltzer they didn’t keep the shows, in part, because they simply “didn’t realize we were doing anything special.”

Much like Georgia Championship Wrestling (according to Ole Anderson) and other territories from the kayfabe era, the Memphis promotion simply taped over the shows as a cost-cutting measure. While that’s somewhat understandable before the introduction of the home VCR, it’s amazing that no one–other than zealous fans–wanted to preserve these shows, even after the VHS format had outlasted Beta, which resulted in the popularity of the machines exploding in the early ’80s as the price gradually dropped and movie rentals became a staple of home entertainment. I believe other promoters, like Bill Watts and Fritz Von Erich, wised up and started archiving complete shows around 1981.

Longtime Memphis wrestling fan Jim Cornette bought a VCR in 1979, shortly after the first Tupelo, Miss., concession stand brawl and reportedly maintained master tapes of Jarrett and Lawler’s weekly televised mayhem ever since (from the Louisville feed). Over the years, Cornette made copies from those Memphis masters for close friends, who in turn made copies and circulated them throughout the tape trading community, with varying degrees of quality.

Lawler has pulled down the proverbial strap over Corey Maclin's Classic Memphis Wrestling DVD series.

At one point, Jarrett also gave copies of the Memphis arena footage he did maintain to Angelo Poffo to replace the show for the now-defunct ICW promotion for numerous stations around the Mid-South after sons Randy Savage and Lanny Poffo started working for Memphis. Despite not owning the rights, Poffo then sold those tapes to Kit Parker Films, which marketed the Memphis footage (mostly from 1984) as part of the “Wrestling Gold” video series.

Now, Jerry Lawler is suing former USWA employee and business partner Corey Maclin, who somehow managed to arrange a deal with Highspots.com to market a series of “Classic Memphis Wrestling” DVDs, with most of that footage likely 2nd-, 3rd- and 4th-generation copies of tapes originating from Cornette and other tape traders. (Again, nearly all of the footage has been available for trade for years and has not been professionally remastered, but they do come with OK-looking slipcovers produced by Highspots.)

Appropriately enough, WMC-TV reports:

“Somehow, Corey sold for apparently $20,000, the rights to all my copyrighted video library, and these guys he’s sold it to have produced a 20 volume DVD set and are selling in on the Internet around the world,” Lawler said Friday.

In response, Lawler filed a civil warrant against Maclin this week.  But Maclin’s attorney questions Lawler’s motives.

“What proof does he have that he owns these rights that he’s asserting?” attorney Ed Bearman asked.

Bearman said Maclin, who is running for Shelby County Clerk, claims Lawler’s actions are political.

 

“Mr. Maclin is running for office, and he wants to make sure that he’s associating with the right kind of people,” Bearman said.

Bearman thinks Lawler’s legal filing is a return punch for a cease and desist letter Maclin sent to Lawler last month.

“He (Maclin) didn’t want him to use his likeness or recordings that exist, that are being a part of Mr. Lawler’s new wrestling show,” Bearman said.

Lawler says he helped Maclin get his start in wrestling, and now he feels like he’s being stabbed in the back by a friend.  Meanwhile, Maclin says he wants to distance himself from Lawler because he’s doing business with people he’d rather not be associated with.

Who owns the rights to the footage is the real question here. Jarrett gave up his rights when he sold out to Lawler, who later became embroiled in his own legal battle when he sold the USWA in the late ’90s under questionable circumstances. Because of the subsequent legal controversy over the sale of  the USWA and how it was conducted, the rights to the footage appear to be a tangled mess, although Lawler for years has sold his own DVDs of Memphis action on his Web site.

The rematch that never was: Hogan puts the squeeze on Lawler in Florida in 1981.

Lawler was reportedly at a fan convention earlier this year when he noticed a Highspots booth selling a series of videos titled “Corey Maclin Presents Classic Memphis Wrestling.” When he questioned a booth employee regarding their right to sell footage of his former promotion, including several where he was the featured name on the slipcovers (e.g., “Jerry Lawler vs. the Champions”), they produced a contract signed by Maclin. Jimmy Hart, who also amassed a large collection of Memphis wrestling over the years, allegedly may have benefitted financially from the deal as well, but he was smart enough not to have his name appear on the document or on the DVD cases. (It is thought that Hart may have introduced Maclin to the Highspots rep.) Knowing how Hart hates to rock the boat, I can imagine that he didn’t want to upset Jarrett or Lawler, who gave him his big break, if he’s even involved at all.

I was told that Lawler wasn’t upset that Maclin brokered the deal; rather, he was furious that Corey denied his involvement when he called him about it and refused to cut him in. I have to question why Highspots felt that Corey Maclin’s name would help legitimize the series of bootlegs instead of dealing directly with Lawler, whose name would have certainly mattered more in promoting the DVDs. If Corey really did receive $20,000 despite having no clear possible claim to the video rights, then that’s incredible, because from a marketing standpoint, Maclin’s name has little value to most wrestling fans outside of Memphis (much like me…and I would have “sold” Highspots the footage for as little as $5,000). Legally, Corey likely has done nothing wrong, per se, since I doubt anyone can prove they own the footage, but I was a little surprised that he didn’t cut Lawler in on the deal.

Then again, maybe Maclin feels justified with the King dropping out of Maclin’s ill-fated show with Hart and Hulk Hogan at the FedEx Forum in Memphis a few years ago when Vince McMahon refused to allow Lawler to appear out of spite over a grudge with the Hulkster. Lawler had initially promised Maclin and Hogan that he’d appear “even if Vince tries to fire me” but quickly reneged when McMahon put his foot down. Maclin reportedly lost thousands of dollars on the show but later reached a settlement with WWE after filing a lawsuit.

Though, really, that’s small change compared to the money that Jarrett and Lawler would have made if only they had archived all TV shows following their split from Nick Gulas in 1977 and the move from WHBQ to WMC.

(Without further ado….SCOTT BOWDEN PRESENTS…CLASSIC MEMPHIS WRESTLING products!)


  1. Tape fan
    July 13th, 2010 at 11:23 | #1

    I was actually going to buy those DVDs until you pointed out that they have Corey Maclin’s name on the cover. I can’t stand that goof. Plus, I think I’ll wait a few years before trying to add all of these to my library. When Wrestling Gold first came out it had some $120+ price tag for the 5 disc set. I bought it new from Barnes & Noble last xmas for a cool $9.99 :)

  2. David Fullam
    July 13th, 2010 at 13:50 | #2

    Corey Maclin? Didn’t the Moondogs kill him?

  3. Wagdaddy
    July 14th, 2010 at 05:35 | #3

    Scott,
    Thanks for another great article……I have oftened wondered who really owned that footage. I have talked to Jerry Jarrett about it, who said he didn’t know but felt as though he didn’t own it (and he also mentioned to me that he should have kept tapes from all of the shows they did).

    The footage of Memphis wrestling which I own & watch, I got from a web site I learned of from you…..70s-tv.com. I have loved the stuff I got there and most of it looks so much better than the stuff that Highspots sells. I have been to conventions and seen them air footage on monitors, trying to sell them and they look pretty bad.

    -I appreciate your blogs, please keep writing them.
    -Wagdaddy

  4. July 14th, 2010 at 08:04 | #4

    WOW! What a story happening. Thanks for putting this into perspective, Scott… really enjoyed this one. Many thanks to you again for mentioning my site and to Wagdaddy for the business! Glad you enjoyed them. Have the New 1985 Season set up too. HA!

    Rick

  5. PG-13
    July 14th, 2010 at 09:46 | #5

    haha Scott, when I was in Memphis last week I saw one of those Maclin billboards and meant to take a picture of it and send it to you

  6. David
    July 14th, 2010 at 16:45 | #6

    Two questions:
    Why did it take Lawler so long to file his lawsuit? These DVDs have been coming out for almost 2 years now. I always found it strange that Maclin’s name was associated with these DVDs. I figured something was wrong.

    What do you think, Scott? You had some contact with Corey. I always thought he was kind’a shifty, and his promotion, despite building some momentum with Terry Funk, was the worst Memphis ever saw… until Lawler’s new promotion! Anyhoo, do you think Corey had the rights to sell that stuff?

  7. July 18th, 2010 at 16:46 | #7

    Did Cornette continue taping the shows after he got into the business (or have his mom do it)? I have a Louisville tape from ’84, when he would have been in Mid-South.

  8. David
    July 19th, 2010 at 13:26 | #8

    I know for sure he was taping the shows while he was appearing on them… he’s got them for sale on his website, claiming Jerry Jarrett gave him permission…

  9. admin
    July 20th, 2010 at 08:18 | #9

    Lawler doesn’t pay attention to the Internet (unless it’s porn), so he likely didn’t realize the Memphis DVDs were out there for nearly a year until he stumbled upon them at a highspots booth at a show. There’s no way Corey has the rights to them, but the question of who exactly does own the footage at this point is up in the air, so I don’t blame him if the deal fell in his lap. Again, I think highspots acquired the footage on their own and approached Jimmy Hart, who didn’t want to create ill will with Jarrett or Lawler, about marketing the DVDs. Instead, Hart may have referred them to Corey, who was more than willing to license his name to the DVDs for the money, especially after Lawler burned him with the Hulk Hogan show at the FedEx Forum. The real question is why highspots didn’t make a deal directly with Lawler to begin with. I’m pretty sure Cornette continued to tape the Memphis TV long after he left the area. I’m interviewing him soon, so I’ll ask him.

  10. January 19th, 2014 at 03:42 | #10

    If ownership isn’t known then I’m just gonna knock up a bunch of bootleg DVDs and sell them for my own financial gain. Who’s gonna sue? Lawler? Jarrett? Maclin? Those hillbillies can’t decide between themselves who owns it so that means none of them do. The owner of the footage would realise they own it and sell the DVDs wouldn’t they? How do you own rights to fotage and not know? Unless you’re rich and have dementia.

  1. July 13th, 2010 at 23:01 | #1
  2. July 16th, 2010 at 22:44 | #2