WWE tag team legends The Hart Foundation
Reported by Mike Aldren’s Wrestling Globe Newsletter:
Deep South Wrestling, owned by Joe Hamilton, who was a star for years as the Masked Assassin, filed a lawsuit against WWE on 4/20 which is pending in Fulton County, GA. Hamilton is being represented by James D. McGuire, of Atlanta-based McGuire, Crohan, and Klinger. He is seeking damages for breach of contract, and intentional interference with contractual and business relations.
Hamilton says that when WWE dropped Deep South as a developmental group in 2007, it left him in the hole. When asked to comment on the suit, Hamilton said: “Deep South isn’t going to roll over and play dead, and I’m not either. It’s time to fight back.”
The general feeling in talking to friends of Hamilton is that although they feel he has somewhat of a case, based on knowledge of the situation, it’s doubtful there is enough evidence to support his suit, and fight the mighty WWE machine. One friend of Hamilton said: “I get why he’s doing what he’s doing, but as a realist, I am skeptical it will go how he wants it.”
WWE severed ties with Deep South just over two years ago. The group ran as WWE developmental from 2005 to 2007. It didn’t come as a real surprise at the time. Several sources said Hamilton was too old school, stubborn, out-of-touch, and occasionally just ignored what WWE asked him to do.
The talent would often complain about the boot-camp style training sessions, led by Bill DeMott, who learned that style under Dwayne Bruce (‘Sarge’) the one-time head trainer of the infamous WCW Power Plant. Bruce ran his camps like a drill sergeant with more focus on stamina than on basic wrestling skills.
The Power Plant was exposed for just that in the late 90s. While researching professional wrestling for a BBC documentary, journalist Louis Theroux visited the facility in Atlanta. He volunteered to take part in some training in an effort to show some respect for the business, but as he had asked Bruce some questions about kayfabe, he was forced into extreme exercise drills. At one stage, Bruce encouraged all the other trainees to call him a cockroach while Theroux was laid out of the floor struggling for breath. Theroux was later shown vomiting on camera.
DeMott was eventually fired and replaced in Deep South by Tom Prichard in January, 2007. This infuriated Hamilton as he couldn’t see why WWE had fired his friend, and after the firing he dug his heels in when it came to following WWE’s mandates.
The final straw came shortly after John Laurinaitis sent Bruce Prichard to scout talent. His report back wasn’t very favorable noting that even though the training camps had improved the group was beyond repair. At the time there was nobody ready to put on television, although several who passed through Deep South did eventually make it, such as The Miz, MVP, and Michelle McCool. Laurinaitis fed Prichard’s report back to Vince McMahon and, of course, all hell broke lose. He ordered that Deep South was shut down.
Talent was divided between OVW in Louisville, KY and Steve Keirn’s school in Tampa, FL which is the only remaining WWE developmental group alive today. A week or so after Vince made the call, Laurinaitis and Mike Bucci (Nova) showed up at the Deep South offices. They came with a ring truck and removed the WWE ring that Deep South had been using.
Hamilton at the time said he didn’t see it coming. Laurinaitis had separate meetings with both the talent and trainers informing them of what was going to happen. Hamilton was furious as he had spent money advertising shows that weekend which he had to cancel.
When contacted earlier today, WWE attorney, Jerry McDevitt, said the company was unaware of any suit and they have yet to be served papers. He said: “WWE has not been served with any such suit. If he did file a suit, he hasn’t served it on WWE yet.”