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Get in the Ring: Wrestling Music Songwriter Sues the WWE

Papa Berg claims he's owed royalties "Badstreet USA"

Songwriter Papa Berg has some fightin’ words for World Wrestling Entertainment (the WWE). At some point when video game manufacturers THQ were creating the 2009 game WWE: Legends of WrestleMania — which featured classic wrestlers like André the Giant, Hulk Hogan and, uh, the Rock as playable characters — they reached out to Berg, requesting permission to use a song he cowrote, “Badstreet USA.” It had been used in the ’80s as entrance music for the wrestling tag team the Fabulous Freebirds, which contained the song’s cowriter, Michael Hayes, and has since been covered by the punk band Antiseen and something called Cocknoose. Before Berg and THQ came to an agreement, though, the video game company discovered that the songwriting credits belong to WWE and licensed it through them instead.

Now Berg is ready to throw down with the WWE, by suing them over “a systematic pattern of errors and omissions by WWE personnel that effectively misappropriated Berg’s musical works and deprived [him] of royalty payments.” In a lawsuit filed in a Dallas court (read the PDF here), the songwriter, who also wrote wrestler entrance themes like “Johnny B Badd,” “Mr. Bang Bang” and “Don’t Step to Ron,” alleges the company registered the songs to someone named James Alan Johnston or re-registered them to Johnston or Hayes, who are both named as defendants. Since then, Berg alleges the WWE used “Badstreet USA” on a DVD, aired it in classic wrestling matches on TV and licensed it for cell phone ringtones. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Berg is requesting an injunction, the seizure of all infringing works and monetary damages.

Watch the video for “Badstreet USA” below and make up your own mind about whether Berg should be reaching for a chair to throw: