Attorney Max Petrunya, who is defending G-Raver as well as William Molnar of the wrestling shirt company, Indy Connection, has filed a motion to dismiss a federal lawsuit filed by Cornette.
Cornette filed a lawsuit in December 2019 over a t-shirt with his likeness being stabbed that said "Fuck Jim Cornette." The motion to dismiss focuses on protecting the actions of the defendants’ First Amendments rights. Petruyna states that case law supports their efforts.
Petruyna, who wrestles under the name “The Gavel” David Lawless, sent the following statement to Dominic DeAngelo of WrestleZone.
MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF MOTION TO DISMISS
“This is a classic case of “I can dish it out, but I cannot take it.” Plaintiff James “Jim” Cornette has made a living in the professional wresting business through his character being a derisive “thorn in people’s sides.” Plaintiff brings the instant action related to a t-shirt that was sold and distributed by Defendants in response to Plaintiff’s death wish on Twitter of professional wrestler “G-Raver” (Defendant Brandon Graver). For all the forgoing reasons, Plaintiff’s claims should be dismissed in their entirety pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
Currently, Plaintiff Cornette generates income from his wrestling character by writing, podcasting, YouTube videos, social media, a website, autograph signings and appearances, and selling merchandise and memorabilia on his website jimcornette.com. The Jim Cornette character has always been controversial designed to get under people’s skin. Accordingly, while some of the comments made by Plaintiff Cornette on broadcasts, in private, and on social media are despicable and beyond all bounds of human decency, his behavior is not surprising. Plaintiff’s behavior on social media is the reason this lawsuit was filed and sets the stage for the most ironic part of this 58-year-old’s decision to file this specious Federal lawsuit, which is the epitome of “I can dish it out, but I cannot take it.”
FJC T-shirt: Defendants no longer sell the shirt and Plaintiff is selling the FJC t-shirt on his own website.
FJC Trademark Application: Defendants have abandoned the trademark application and the trademark for Jim Cornette, FJC, or any other iteration of Jim Cornette. All are currently available for registration.
FJC.com website: Defendants are currently in the process of working with GoDaddy.com to relinquish the domain name for public sale. At the time of filing this lawsuit, Defendants have not used the website for any purpose, commercial or otherwise. This fact is crucial for this Honorable Court’s analysis of the domain name at issue in this matter.
Developments with Plaintiff James “Jim” Cornette regarding “Brand Dilution”
Plaintiff claims that the alleged actions and items by Defendants have “diluted his brand” and damaged his reputation. See ¶ 70, 75, and 79 – 84 of Plaintiff’s Complaint. While it is impossible to prove how the actions of Defendants have “diluted” Plaintiff Cornette’s brand or ruined his reputation, since the creation of the t-shirt and registration of the website at issue, Plaintiff Cornette has done more than enough himself to dilute his brand and damage his reputation in the entertainment industry. More specifically, on November 20, 2019, Plaintiff Cornette was forced to resign as a commentator from “NWA Powerrr,” a YouTube wrestling show broadcast on the internet, due to a racist, culturally, and/or socioeconomically insensitive comment Cornette made on air.
Regarding Plaintiff Cornette’s “brand”, it is unclear the last time Plaintiff participated in a managerial and/or in-ring role in professional wrestling. It is clear though that as an individual who has anointed himself an “expert” on all things professional wrestling and as a wrestling commentator, losing a job due to such comments is the pinnacle example of Plaintiff Cornette engaging in his own brand dilution. For the sake of clarity, Plaintiff Cornette’s resignation from this paying job is in no way connected to the actions of Defendants. Accordingly, should Plaintiff survive on any of his claims in this matter, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for any witness, lay, expert, or otherwise, to provide any credible testimony to prove how the actions of the Defendants have diluted Plaintiff’s brand or caused him any damage. Given the state of the items at issue in this case, coupled with Plaintiff Cornette’s actions subsequent to the t-shirt, trademark, and website issue, this Honorable Court should dismiss this matter in its entirety. Leaving this request aside, Defendants’ First Amendment right to free speech warrants this Honorable Court dismiss this action in its entirety in the pleading stage.
In this case, Plaintiff Cornette’s character found it appropriate, and possibly his duty as wrestling’s self-appointed “gatekeeper,” to wish death on another wrestler because he doesn’t appreciate or endorse deathmatch wrestling. If Plaintiff is entitled to provide such criticism and commentary, then wrestlers in general, or the wrestler who is criticized specifically, are entitled to expose the weakness of Plaintiff Cornette’s opinions and values through parody. In this case, the vehicle of choice for this parody was an image of bloodied Cornette (similar to how deathmatch wrestlers bleed during matches) with tattoo needles sticking out of his forehead (a signature weapon used by Defendant Graver in his deathmatches). Constraining Defendants’ ability to engage in such parody and satire is unconstitutional and unduly restrictive as “[i]n order to effectively criticize society, parodists need access to images that mean something to people, and thus celebrity parodies are a valuable communicative resource.”
“While it is impossible to imagine how anyone could think that Plaintiff Cornette endorsed a shirt with his picture and tattoo needles sticking out of his forehead, Plaintiff’s claims should be dismissed because Plaintiff is currently endorsing the production his own website by selling it, and the Defendants are no longer selling the shirt. Thus, all of Plaintiff Cornette’s claims are moot.”
In the claim of Cornette's likeness being used, Petruyna cited “Transformative Use Test,” meaning “even literal reproductions of celebrities can be ‘transformed’ into expressive works based on the context into which the celebrity image is placed.” So in Cornette’s case, the X’s over his eyes, the needles in his head and the tape over his mouth renders his likeness so transformed “that it is not the ‘very sum and
substance of the’ Cornette character that it deserves protection.”
Fightful will continue to provide updates on the story as it unfolds.