The use of kayfabe lawsuits and criminal complaints in professional wrestling always has been quite laughable. After all, it’s difficult to inject legal principles into a business where arguments are settled with the use of folding chairs.
The Steve Austin/Brian Pillman home invasion comes to mind as a scenario that provided a somewhat logical basis to suspend reality, as it occurred outside of the wrestling environment. Unfortunately, we’re all-too-often asked to invest in a storyline surrounding some sort of legal action that occurs within the confines of the arena.
Attack and injure a wrestler from behind with a lead pipe? Shocking, but not criminal.
Lay your hands on Paul Heyman in the middle of the ring? You better have your attorney on speed-dial.
WWE once again has thrust itself into the legal realm with the current storyline involving the Big Show and the recent update that criminal charges for trespass and assault are being pursued by the Pittsburgh Police. This situation is kayfabe and somewhat absurd in the world of wrestling, but is it at least logical and legally sufficient? Do the circumstances present a picture that separates itself from the run-of-the-mill criminal activity that takes place every Monday night on Raw?
Because these actions occurred in Pittsburgh, we need to turn to Pennsylvania statutory law as a guideline. Our first stop is Section 3503 of the PA Crimes Code, which provides the likely charges that would be brought for criminal trespass in a real-life scenario:
***Warning*** ***Beginning Legalese*** ***Skip below to avoid headache***
The section explains that an individual is guilty of a felony of the third degree if he, without permission or license to do so, “enters, gains entry by subterfuge or surreptitiously remains in any building or occupied structure or separately secured or occupied portion thereof.” 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3503(a)(1)(i).
The section also explains that an individual is guilty of a felony of the second degree if he, without permission or license to do so, “breaks into any building or occupied structure or separately secured or occupied portion thereof.” 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3503(a)(1)(ii). The term “breaks into” is defined as follows: “To gain entry by force, breaking, intimidation, unauthorized opening of locks, or through an opening not designed for human access.”
In layman’s terms, these statutes tell us that a person commits criminal trespass when he is unauthorized to be present in a building, yet gains access or remains in that building in one of two ways. If you do so secretly, you’re guilty of a felony of the third degree. If you do so by utilizing force or intimidation, you’re guilty of a felony of the second degree.
Under this framework, the question is whether or not Big Show committed a logical offense even in a world filled with over-the-top criminal antics. The simple answer is yes.
When Big Show was “terminated” on Monday night, his license or permission to remain in the business had been revoked. His permission to enter and remain in the Consol Energy Center was contingent upon his employment with a company that was licensed to operate in that building on that night. Once he was ejected from the building, he certainly could have attempted to regain a license to enter the building through a ticket purchase. However, any such ticket contains restrictions regarding the areas of the building that can be accessed. The ringside area certainly is included within such restrictions.
The only remaining question is how he entered or remained in the building. Did he hide in the back or sneak back in, or did he use force or intimidation to enter? In either case, Big Show would be looking at a felony charge for criminal trespass in a real world situation.
With criminal trespass in the mix, the possible assault charges somewhat speak for themselves. Sanctioned combat that occurs with the consent of the parties involved operates as an exception to criminal assault charges. If we stretch our imagination and assume that the kayfabe privilege of being a WWE employee requires consent to attack or be attacked by any other WWE employee, it is easy to see that Big Show lost this exception to the law when he was terminated.
While I could break down the differences between simple assault and aggravated assault, I think it’s pretty safe to say that by now, many of the readers have resorted to ogling the Bella Twins and Eva Marie in the links below (you’re welcome Crave).
In any case, the ultimate take-away from this column is the fact that you can breathe easy and take solace in the fact that Big Show’s pending “criminal charges” are no more absurd than the average wrestling storyline.
I wonder if they make ankle bracelets large enough to fit the Big Show?
***Nothing in the preceding column is intended to be construed as constituting legal advice***
***Adam Gorzelsky is an attorney licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania***