Long-time WWE legal counsel Jerry McDevitt has discussed how his long association with Vince McMahon came to be and it’s all down to a WWE Hall Of Fame tag team and the FBI.
McDevitt’s association with WWE stretches back to 1987 and he has been a constant presence in the company ever since. Perhaps his most noticeable spell as legal counsel to WWE came during Vince McMahon’s steroid trial in 1994.
Now in a rare interview with The Hannibal TV Jerry McDevitt looks back at how he came to be involved in the murky world of professional wrestling and all started with a chance encounter on a flight with The Hart Foundation:
“My first time was WWE came in 1987. Back then, Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart and Bret Hart were the Tag Team Champions, as I would learn, and they were flying in the Pittsburgh one night to perform up at the Civic Arena in January of 1987.”
“At the end of the flight, the FBI went on the plane and arrested Jim and charged him with a federal felony of interference with a flight group. The allegation being that he had supposedly punched the flight attendant in a dispute over drinks.”
“At that time, I had been working on a case out in Colorado, with a fellow who was then representing Vince and Linda in the early days of the WWE by the name of Ted Dinsmore. So when Jim got arrested, Vince and Linda called Ted, Ted, in turn, called me and asked me if I would be willing to represent the guy.”
“I knew absolutely nothing really about WWE at the time, I guess I probably had heard of it, but I really wasn’t a fan, hadn’t watched it, whatnot. And so I said come see me in the morning.”
The Anvil did go and visit McDevitt the next day and his appearance was quite a surprise for those at McDevitt’s law firm. This is when McDevitt also first heard of the almighty “Vince” and why Neidhart was so scared to tell him of the trouble he was in:
“So again, keeping in mind my law firm was sort of white-shoe dress-down corporate people. Jim shows up the next day with these wraparound shades, a ZZ Top beard, I’m sure you guys know who he is. He was one of the scariest-looking people you’ll ever meet in your life, but he turned out to be a hell of a nice guy.”
“What I remember most about it was the day he came in, he was in abject terror that he was gonna have to call this guy named ‘Vince.’ I kept thinking to myself, Christ almighty, what’s this Vince guy like if this guy scared of him for Christ’s sake?'”
“So he did, he had to call Vince and tell him about the trouble he was in and all the rest of that, got his butt chewed out and all the rest of that. In any event, though, I went on to represent Jim, and he was acquitted of all those charges.”
Jerry McDevitt wasn’t done there, however, as he then went on the offensive and brought cases against US Air and the flight attendants involved for bringing false charges against Neidhart:
“The next day, I brought a malicious prosecution case against US Air and three flight attendants who had caused him to be arrested for charges that turn out to be categorically false. He didn’t do anything like what they said he did and ended up getting him a couple of $100,000 fines for the troubles over that. I think that kind of got Vince’s attention a little bit because I don’t think he had a great love affair for lawyers at that point still doesn’t, as a matter of fact.”
McDevitt then explained why he thinks his and McMahon’s relationship has withstood the test of time and explains his approach to legal matters, saying they will always defend themselves:
“Probably because we’re both you know, A-Type personalities. I think Vince is kind of like – I have this view: if you haven’t done anything wrong, then face up and defend yourself. A lot of these people nowadays, if you’re sued and somebody accuses you of something, then that the natural tendency is to deny, hunker down, and pay somebody to go away, but we just don’t do that. We’ve never done that.”
“If something has been gone wrong, it’s going to be done wrong in error, not by intent, usually. If you’ve done something wrong, then you try to fix it, but if you haven’t done anything wrong, then you defend yourself.”