An article by Mike Mooneyham
Published in March 1994
Missy Hyatt, WCW’s former “First Lady of Wrestling,” has fired the first salvo in a battle with her ex-employer that could lead to the courtroom.
Hyatt, who for the past five years has served as an announcer and manager for the Ted Turner-owned company, on Wednesday filed a federal sexual harassment complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The complaint alleges that she was frequently harassed by WCW personnel and was paid substantially less than other “equally or less qualified” employees at WCW. The complaint officially lists sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, violation of the Equal Pay Act and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Hyatt plans to sue in federal district court and will demand back pay and monetary damages for the alleged emotional distress.
“I’m asking for back pay and front pay,” said Hyatt. “Reinstatement is not going to be acceptable at this time.”
Hyatt, who last week moved from Atlanta to New York City to embark upon an acting career, said she has no plans to return to the wrestling business.
[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]“I’ve been tainted by the business,” said Hyatt, who was once married to wrestler Eddie Gilbert and for two years was romantically linked with former “Wonder Years” star Jason Hervey. “Nine years in wrestling is a long time for a woman. They (WCW) had me believing that I was too fat on TV. I had to get surgery and I was bulimic for two years. My shrink knows about this, my friends know about this. What they put me through wasn’t worth it. I liked the money, but I didn’t like anything else that had to do with it. Now that I’m out of it, I feel like an entirely different person.”
Hyatt, whose contract was not renewed by the company in February, had been with WCW since the group was bought by Turner in late 1988. Hyatt, who most recently served as manager of The Nasty Boys, was a top merchandising and hotline draw at WCW.
“They still owe me money for my hotline, calendar, comic books and cards,” said Hyatt. “They thought that I was just a dumb blonde.”
Hyatt said women at WCW are referred to as “skirts” and called the organization an “all-boys network.”
“Turner Broadcasting is a great place to be if you’re a tree, but not a woman,” she said. “They treat women there like crap.”
Hyatt cited numerous instances in which she claims WCW employees harassed her. Hyatt also said WCW supervisors made demands for sex.
“One of the final instances leading up to her termination resulted from a picture that was taken while Melissa was doing a pay-pay-view event,” said Hyatt’s attorney, Allyson Baum. “Her breasts were exposed and they hung that photograph in the CNN photo studios beside the TBS and CNN anchor shots. She ripped the picture down, and much to her dismay, no corrective action was taken, and none of the employees were reprimanded.”
“The photographer for WCW and TBS took a giant color photo with my breasts exposed, and it was displayed on the wall with all the CNN anchor head shots,” said Hyatt. “They thought it was funny, and I ripped it down off the wall. I asked (WCW executive producer) Eric Bischoff for the negatives, and he laughed about it.
Hyatt says Bischoff, reportedly upset that she went over his head to renegotiate her contract, fired her.
“The reason I got fired is because I went over his head and talked to Bob Dhue about my contract … In the Turner handbook, it says that if your first supervisor doesn’t handle the situation, go to the next higher up.”
“They’re claiming that they were looking for new talent and that’s why they got rid of her,” Baum said. “But it’s pretty obvious from the magazines and upcoming pay-per-view events that her name was on it and she would be doing events as far as May, so that would not coincide with their story. It just doesn’t make sense. They would never forecast that far in advance.[ad#MikeMooneyham-468×15]
“We’re sad to see her go. Everyone here loved her. She was really treated poorly by these people. She unfortunately had to withstand it for five years because, like anybody else, she needed the money. But then the final straw was the photograph, the subsequent sexual comments made by her supervisor, and then finally his firing of her.”
Baum said she hoped to get the case in front of a jury as soon as possible.
“It’s her allegations, and they have a right to refute them, but a lot of names are going to be named in the lawsuit,” said Baum. “I’m not just going to sue WCW and Turner Broadcasting. I’m going to name each one of these people individually as well.
“There’s a lot that’s going to be exposed from this lawsuit. We gave them the chance to go away quietly; they didn’t take that chance. I kind of enjoy this `David and Goliath’ approach. I’ve gone against many Fortune 500 companies and have had great successes. They think they’re invincible, but the bottom line is they’re not. My offer is always to provide them with utmost confidentiality at the outset, to see if we can’t resolve it, and then take it from there. And we’re at the point of taking it from there.
“The latest comment was that they wanted to see something in writing. Well, I sent them a five-page demand letter, and it was in writing, so I don’t know what they’re talking about. But I guess they’re referring to the lawsuit that is going to be filed. They put the ball back into our court, so we’re running with it. It’s so blatant.”
“It’s not in our interest to comment at this time,” WCW public relations manager Alan Sharp said Thursday. Sharp said company lawyers were aware of the EEOC complaint.
Hyatt also said she will be meeting with the Drug Enforcement Agency to discuss “widespread steroid abuse” in WCW.
“They think Vince McMahon is a bad guy? The WWF is small fish compared to WCW,” Hyatt said.
“Vince is just the one who got caught. Some of the things they got Vince for that’s over five years old is stuff we know about with WCW that can be verified with arrest documents, police documents and those kinds of things – all within the last few years. I don’t like or dislike Vince. But all they care about is getting (WWF headquarters) Titan Towers. That’s all they want. Why don’t they come down here and take CNN Center?”