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Wrestler Wants WWE to Pay Royalties

(CN) — Pro wrestler Marcus "Buff" Bagwell slammed the WWE with a class-action lawsuit, seeking royalties for footage of his matches on the wrestling company's streaming network.

The former World Championship Wrestling grappler sued Vince McMahon's empire in Connecticut Federal Court on Tuesday, alleging claims of failure to pay royalties, breach of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment and unfair trade practices.

Bagwell added that the value of the class's matches, which are available on the WWE Network, exceeds $5 million.

"Defendant breached its early contract release with plaintiff by selling WCW video products (streaming videos on the WWE Network) of PPVs and non-PPVs without paying any royalties to plaintiff," Bagwell's lawsuit states.

Bagwell claims WWE denied his accountant's request to audit the WWE's financial records to determine his client's royalties.

"Because your client is not paid any such royalties (WWE Network), there is nothing to audit," Bagwell quoted the WWE letter as stating.

Bagwell, who lives in Woodstock, Ga., began wrestling for WCW in 1991 as a fresh-faced hero before turning "heel" and joining the New World Order stable in 1996. Sporting a top hat and striking exaggerated muscle poses, Bagwell reinvented himself with the catchphrase, "I'm Buff, and I'm the stuff!"

Bagwell worked for WCW until just before WWE bought the company in March 2001. When McMahon asked his fans whether they wanted Bagwell to wrestle in WWE, they cheered, but his WWE career only consisted of one match.

The wrestler took on Booker T in a critically panned match on Monday Night Raw in July 2001. He was released from his contract the following month.

In the last 15 years, Bagwell has wrestled occasionally on the independent circuit. He also appeared on the "Gigolos" series on Showtime.

Bagwell's WCW matches are currently available on demand on the WWE Network. The grappler claims that his 2001 contract calls for him to receive royalties for "video cassettes, video discs, CD-ROM or other technology, including technology not yet created."

The WWE Network launched in 2014, charging $9.99 per month for current and former pay-per-view events, along with other wrestling and talk shows.

Bagwell's lawsuit alleges that the streaming network reached an average of 1.29 million subscribers in the first quarter of 2016.

"In 2015, WWE Network purchasers watched an estimated total of 256 million hours of content, representing an average of 188 hours per household," the complaint states.

He also cited language in his contract that called for 5 percent of receipts from WCW video profits to "a talent royalty pool, from which WCW shall pay plaintiff and all other talent appearing in such WCW video products pro-rata among plaintiff and all other talent so featured."

Bagwell seeks restitution, compensatory damages, and punitive damages, as well as an injunction to keep the WCW pay-per-views off the WWE Network until the royalties are paid.

During his career, Bagwell won five WCW tag team championships. His mother, Judy, also won that title with Rick Steiner and was featured in a "Judy Bagwell on a Pole" match between Bagwell and his rival, Kanyon. Mrs. Bagwell was actually placed on a forklift during the match.

Bagwell is represented by Brenden Leydon of the Tooher, Wohl and Leydon law firm. Leydon also represented several former WWE wrestlers in a lawsuit last month regarding post-concussion syndrome.

The WWE called that lawsuit "ridiculous" at the time, adding that "a federal judge has already found that this lawyer made patently false allegations about WWE, and this is more of the same."

WWE did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment Thursday.

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