Jesse Ventura – How He Sued Vince McMahon (and Won)

Jesse Ventura is one of only a few people to have taken Vince McMahon to court and won. As a result, Ventura’s commentary has been removed on most releases from WWE Home Video. On numerous occasions, McMahon has sworn that "The Body" would never appear on any WWF program again, yet Ventura has reappeared on WWE television many times since.

This is the story of the love-hate relationship between Jesse Ventura and Vince McMahon.

Once a dynamic duo on WWF commentary in the 1980s, Jesse Ventura and Vince McMahon have had a love-hate relationship over the years.
Once a dynamic duo on WWF commentary in the 1980s, Jesse Ventura and Vince McMahon have had a love-hate relationship over the years.

Jesse Ventura takes Vince McMahon and Titan Sports to Court

In 1987, while negotiating his contract as a WWF commentator, Jesse Ventura waived his rights to royalties on videotape sales when he was wrongly told that only feature performers received such royalties.

In November 1991, having learned that other non-feature performers received royalties, Ventura brought an action for fraud, misappropriation of publicity rights, and quantum meruit in Minnesota state court against Titan Sports.

With this, he asked for the amount of $2 million in royalties based on a fair market value share. Titan moved the case to federal court, and Ventura won an $801,333 jury verdict on the last claim. Also, the judge awarded him $8,625 in back pay for all non-video WWF merchandising featuring Ventura.

During this time, Vince McMahon swore Ventura would never appear on any WWF program again.

"Not many people have taken on Vince head-to-head and beaten him, but I have," Ventura opened up in an interview with Cult of Whatever.

"We left on bad terms because I’m very independent, and I wanted to market myself, and he wouldn’t allow me to do that.

"That is what caused our separation."

In 1990, Jesse Ventura worked out a deal to promote an upcoming Sega product. However, since Vince McMahon and Titan Sports had a relationship with rival company Nintendo at the time, Vince tried to put a stop to this.

"I had a deal outside of the WWF, and he wouldn’t allow me to do it. I told him he didn’t own me, to which he replied that if I did the job that was me done with the WWF, and I said, ‘Fine, I’m done,’ and moved on.

"I sued him, and I beat Vince McMahon in federal court because my likeness and voice were on 98 of his tapes. And now I’m paid royalties for everything that I participated in by the WWE, and there is nothing Vince can do about it because it is court-ordered."

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WWE tried to appeal this ruling, even going as far as taking it up to the Supreme Court, but the judgment remained the same. As a result, Ventura’s commentary is removed on most releases from WWE Home Video.

"Not only did I beat him in federal court, but the United States Court of Appeals also held it up. Vince took it up all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States, and they wouldn’t hear it – but in essence, that is them holding up the verdict.

"What I did was correct and lawful. I’m the beneficiary of it because I had the guts to put my money where my mouth was, and I took Vince on in federal court and defeated him. The federal government wasn’t even able to do that.

"Because he has to pay me for any tapes that I appear on, I guess out of spite; he felt that he would rather ruin the original broadcast and ruin the authenticity of it, by editing out my voice, which I thought was very foolish.

"I still get checks today, every three months. I laughingly call it my ‘wrestling retirement.’ And believe me, some of the checks are pretty healthy…"

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Vince McMahon: "Jesse Ventura will never work for WWE again!"

Despite the bad blood between Vince McMahon and Jesse Ventura and McMahon’s vow to never let "The Body" return, Ventura has since made numerous WWE television appearances.

Jesse Ventura puts a red bow tie on Vince McMahon during his appearance on Monday Night Raw as guest host in 2009
Despite Vince McMahon vowing that Jesse Ventura would never return to WWE, "The Body" has reappeared on WWE programming numerous times since.

In mid-1999, Ventura appeared for the first time back on WWF television during his term as Governor of Minnesota, acting as the special guest referee for the main event of SummerSlam held in Minneapolis that year.

Ventura would continue his relationship with the WWF by performing commentary for Vince McMahon’s short-lived XFL.

On June 4, 2001’s episode of Raw, which aired live from Minnesota, Ventura appeared to overrule McMahon’s authority and approve a WWF Championship match between then-champion Stone Cold Steve Austin and Chris Jericho.

On March 20, 2003’s episode of SmackDown!, Ventura appeared in a taped interview to talk about the match between McMahon and Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania XIX.

Less than a year later, he would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame class of 2004 on March 13, 2004, and the following night at WrestleMania XX, he approached the ring to interview Trump, who had a front-row seat at the event.

Trump affirmed that Ventura would receive his moral and financial support were he ever to re-enter the world of politics. Alluding to the 2008 election, Ventura boldly announced, "In 2008, maybe we oughta put a wrestler in the White House!"

On June 11, 2007’s episode of Raw, Ventura appeared to give comments about McMahon.

Ventura was also a guest host on the November 23, 2009 episode of Raw. He retained his heel persona by siding with the number one contender Sheamus over WWE Champion John Cena. This happened while he confronted Cena about how unfair it was that he always got a title shot in the WWE, while Ventura never did during his WWE career. After that, Sheamus attacked Cena and put him through a table. Ventura then made the match a Table match at TLC: Tables, Ladders, and Chairs.

At this Raw show, for the first time in nearly 20 years, McMahon joined Ventura at ringside to provide match commentary together.

YouTube video

"When I returned as ‘guest host’ on Raw in 2009, it was fun because everyone assumed that I’d come back and be a babyface, but I thought, ‘Hell no – I came back, and I was a heel that night.’ Even though I had been Governor and had been doing all these other things, I wasn’t going to change my wrestling persona.

"It was really like déjà vu for me. It gave me one night to turn the clock back and be the Jesse’ The Body’ Ventura of old, so it was a lot of fun, it was done as a cross-promotion for my TV show [Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura], and that is the only reason I did it… Otherwise, I would have charged Vince a whole lot more money!"

As we’ve learned time and time again, anything is possible in the cutthroat business of WWE. As proven here, even past litigation can’t get in the way of restoring broken relationships – especially when money is involved!

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JP Zarka founded Pro Wrestling Stories in 2015 and is the creative force behind the website as editor-in-chief. From 2018-19, he was the podcast host and producer for The Genius Cast with Lanny Poffo, brother of WWE legend Macho Man Randy Savage. His diverse career includes work as an elementary school teacher, assistant principal, and musician, notably as a singer-songwriter with the London-based band Sterling Avenue. Zarka has appeared on TV programs like “Autopsy: The Last Hours of” on Reelz (U.S.) and Channel 5 (U.K.) and has contributed research for programming on ITV and BBC.