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By Mike Johnson on 2010-02-01 15:27:53
Dragon Gate USA will have to change their plans and lineups for their Phoenix, Arizona shows scheduled for Wrestlemania weekend and they aren't happy about it.

As I discussed over the weekend in my Elite audio update, TNA sources indicate that both TNA and Generation Me/The Young Bucks received legal letters last week stemming from TNA's decision to pull the Bucks from the scheduled DGUSA events in Phoenix.  One source noted that DGUSA warned that if they did not hear back by 2/5, a lawsuit would be filed, based on the premise that The Bucks had entered into a "verbal contract" with DGUSA prior to signing their TNA deals and TNA would have no rights to supersede that agreement since the Bucks were set and advertised many months before their TNA deal.

The legal letters followed rumors of a phone conversation between Gabe Sapolsky and TNA Director of Talent Terry Taylor several weeks back that ended with Sapolsky screaming at Taylor and allegedly getting hung up on. Sapolsky denied that story to me, but it has been making its way around the TNA Nashville offices in the last week.

Dragon Gate USA is expected to pursue Davey Richards in a similar fashion after Richards, who was the top American star for the promotion, opted to sign a new deal with Ring of Honor.  The belief is that when Richards informed DGUSA's Gabe Sapolsky he was signing the new deal and would be working for ROH in Phoenix as opposed to DUSA, Sapolsky then announced Richards was removed from all future DGUSA and EVOLVE events. 

Richards had been announced as a partner in EVOLVE, something of a sister promotion run by Sapolsky and Sal Hamoui, although he had no financial interest in that company. Richards main evented the first EVOLVE show, defeating Kota Ibushi.

It appears DGUSA will use a similar "verbal contract" stance in pursuing legal action against Richards for not appearing in Phoenix, although nothing has been filed yet.  It does not appear at this time DGUSA will pursue Ring of Honor since they would likely have no legal leg to stand on, since Richards was under an ROH deal to begin with. How DGUSA could pursue Richards for breaking a verbal contract when he was under a physical signed deal with ROH is something the courts will have to decipher if the issue ever gets that far.

Dragon Gate USA was extremely upset by Richards' decision to back out of the Phoenix date, going as far as to leak emails and texts to different media outlets showing Richards' original explanation to Ring of Honor that he would be choosing to work DGUSA that weekend and later texts that he was being "forced out" of the Phoenix DGUSA dates. 

There has also been talk from the DGUSA side that Richards misinformed them on his ROH contractual status, and that Richards had claimed in interviews with outlets he wasn't signed to a deal. I don't know where those interviews may have taken place, but when I interviewed Richards last year in the Elite section last year and we discussed the political minefield of being an ROH contracted talent who was working for former ROH booker Gabe Sapolsky, Richards commented that until he was being paid a salary that didn't require him to work elsewhere, he was under contract yet still considered himself an independent contractor.

Richards' face was used on the actual ticket for one of the Dragon Gate USA events and he was scheduled to face DGUSA champion BxB Hulk during the course of the Phoenix weekend.  DGUSA was upset that put Richards over on their last PPV after they claimed they had assurances he was on board going forward with the company and would be able to work for them, despite potentially signing a new deal with Ring of Honor.  DGUSA was angry that Richards, "broke his word."

ROH sources indicate that before they signed Richards to a new deal, they agreed to let him work double shots that weekend for both companies, even though they could have technically barred him from appearing to begin with even under the terms of his original deal. Gabe Sapolsky denied this to me in a phone conversation, but another DGUSA source, who asked not to be identified, did confirm that offer was made but shot down by the Japanese office as there are strained relations between ROH and Dragon Gate Japan over money DG alleges they are owed by ROH over the company's last Japanese tour.

Wrestlers I spoke to over the weekend felt that Richards was simply tired of being caught in the middle of the two sides and opted to re-sign with ROH for a slight raise and guarantee of a certain amount of dates.  I believe Richards came to terms with ROH on Friday after sitting down with company management, but it may have been sooner, possibly at the last set of ROH TV Tapings.

The irony here is that DGUSA announced both the Bucks and Richards months ago in an obvious attempt to get a jump on Sapolsky's former employer Ring of Honor, who will also be running Phoenix over Wrestlemania weekend, but right now, it appears won't have any of those talents.

DGUSA sources did comment that since the draw of the promotion are the Japanese talents, they did not feel the departures would have any negative effect on the company, but a major sticking point was The Bucks and Richards not at least "finishing up" (i.e. doing jobs) on the way out.

There were a lot of wrestlers from both ROH and PWG at WrestleReunion over the weekend who felt any legal threats from DGUSA towards the Bucks or Richards were ridiculous with the basic feeling being that it's independent wrestling and there are no contracts.  There were definitely people who felt sympathy for Richards for being in a hard place, but obviously DGUSA isn't going to see it from that point of view.

While there were a lot of people who have had sympathy for Gabe Sapolsky after ROH fired him in 2008, there was a feeling from many I spoke to that going after talents legally wasn't going to endear anyone to the idea of working there in the future. There were also wrestlers soured on the fact that private emails had been leaked to the media. I want to note that made the decision not to re-publish material that had been leaked out of respect for the parties involved.

We'll have further details as the story continues to develop.

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