As the never ending string of lawsuits/potential lawsuits against Lucha Underground have shown, lucha libre has just as many legal happenings as it does in ring. That doesn’t just apply to the bigger promotions though, as legal battles in lucha come in all shapes and sizes. Over the past few days, Lucha Central has learned of such a story, featuring two promotions that seem to be on their way to a messy battle in court.
On April 2nd, Dennis James Balsamo, the CEO of Cen-Cal Professional Wrestling and Planet Lucha, filed a lawsuit against wrestler/promoter Billy Blade (real name Billy Traughber), owner of Vendetta Pro Wrestling/Pro Wrestling Unplugged. All three promotions are known for their use of lucha libre stars; names like Damian 666, Bestia 666, Mil Muertes (El Mesias/Ricky Banderas), the original Psicosis and Último Dragón are scheduled to work a Lucha Planet show on May 19th, while well known luchadores like Bestia, Damian, Rey Horus and Extreme Tiger have frequently worked for Vendetta Pro in the past. Balsamo’s lawsuit is claiming defamation of character on the part of Blade, after Blade publicly accused Balsamo on Facebook of trying to take the name Vendetta Pro Wrestling away from him.
This lawsuit appears to be the latest episode in a long running feud between Blade and the Balsamo family. Lucha Central has obtained what appears to be a now deleted Facebook post from Dennis Balsamo’s son, Dominick, who is listed as Cen-Cal’s CFO (chief financial officer) and Secretary on Cen-Cal’s statement of information provided to the state of California. The post, which goes for nearly seventeen pages, both gives the Balsamo side of the story. After going over his beginnings in wrestling (including training at Vendetta Pro wrestling), the younger Balsamo details the formation of Cen-Cal in 2015, along with his father (who Balsamo states is a lawyer and former police officer) coming on as CEO. Soon after this, Dominick admits that Cen-Cal registered the name Vendetta Pro Wrestling as a fictitious business after discovering Blade hadn’t trademarked the name; a quick search on the Trademark Electronic Search System shows Blade did in fact attempt to trademark the name in May of 2015 but was forced to abandon the claim two years later. Dominick claims that Blade had been harassing Cen-Cal members after the promotion launched and that registering the Vendetta Pro name was to be used as a “tactical nuke” against Blade should he continue said behavior, though he also claims Cen-Cal had no desire to shut Blade or Vendetta Pro down.
The post goes on to reveal that there was a brief period where things were smoothed over between Blade and the Balsamo’s, leading to the next chapter in this story. After working together for a brief period, the younger Balsamo says Blade approached Cen-Cal about getting the rights to the Vendetta Pro name. Dominick and other members of the Cen-Cal family agreed and brought a deal to the table, only for it to be blocked by Dennis Balsamo, who as CEO of Cen-Cal had final say. Dominick’s explanation for Dennis blocking the deal is that it would’ve stripped Cen-Cal of their power over Blade should he ever try to harass them again; he also claims that, because Blade wasn’t giving anything up in the agreement (stating that a contracted agreement requires offer, acceptance and consideration from both sides) that Cen-Cal was well within their right to withdraw the decision.
While both parties continued to be civil in the immediate aftermath of that incident, the younger Balsamo claims that Blade turned hostile again after Cen-Cal started to promote Planet Lucha shows in Santa Maria, California (where Blade and Vendetta Pro frequently ran shows); this was despite Cen-Cal reaching out to Blade prior to the shows. From that point, according to Balsamo, Blade began harassing Cen-Cal yet again, tried to dissuade several workers from working with them and began promoting a Vendetta Pro show the day before a Cen-Cal show and two days before Planet Lucha’s first show with much of the same roster in order to mess with them. At that point Cen-Cal once again threatened to block Blade from using the Vendetta Pro name, leading to a meeting between Blade and Dennis Balsamo where a peace accord was offered. The younger Balsamo claims Blade would’ve received the rights to the Vendetta Pro name after nine months if the two sides remained civil (see update below for more details). He further claims Blade took a copy of the contract to show advisers and never spoke to Cen-Cal on the matter again. Dennis Balsamo has since clarified for us that Blade informed him after the meeting that Blade had no intention of signing.
The Vendetta Pro, Cen-Cal and Planet Lucha shows would all go as planned; Dominick further claims that Blade’s mother harassed staff at the Planet Lucha show and even threatened to picket the event, but later admits that both shows were generally unaffected by Blade’s event and actions. After that, Dominick goes on to state that Cen-Cal sent Blade a cease and desist order to Blade, leading to more hostility between the two sides and, according to Balsamo, a Facebook argument between him and Blade. The last straw however was Blade’s own Facebook post; Lucha Central cannot confirm which of Blade’s posts was the one that led to Dennis Balsamo suing for defamation of character but the most notable post naming Balsamo is dated March 9th. The post, which is short and only mentions Balsamo at the beginning and end, basically states Blade’s belief that Cen-Cal stole the Vendetta Pro name from him and have tried to ruin his reputation. Further posts on Blade’s wall from his mother and girlfriend are also very critical of Balsamo, accusing him of referring to mini wrestlers working Vendetta Pro as “carnies who are vertically challenged with disabilities” and threatening to sue them if they don’t remove their posts. Blade officially changed the name of Vendetta Pro Wrestling to Pro Wrestling Unplugged on March 19th.
Update: Lucha Central has obtained a copy of the defamation of character lawsuit against Billy Blade and it reveals he’s not the only one being sued. In addition to Blade, his mother, Cindy Bolding, and girlfriend, Kari Rockwood-Robinson, are also named as defendants. The lawsuit states both Bolding and Rockwood-Robinson are employees and agents of Blade’s (with Bolding also serving as his financial backer) and that they too have made deragatory remarks against Cen-Cal under the guidance of Blade.
Lucha Central has also obtained the “peace accord” that was presented by Dennis Balsamo to Blade during their meeting. Titled the “NO HARASSMENT & LIMITED LICENSING AGREEMENT”, the accord (should both parties have agreed to it) featured six requirements that each party needed to agree too. The requirements were as followed; neither party could not prevent workers from working either promotion, could not speak ill or untruths about the other, could not instruct others to speak ill or unturths of the other, could not interfere with any business relationships the other might enter into, could not alter or deface any advertising the other might do and could not communicate with shareholders nor Blade (who had kept his promotion private) in a way that could be considered harassment. The agreement would’ve become void if either Blade or Cen-Cal violated the agreement; had Blade violated it he would’ve forfeited his rights to any claim of Vendetta Pro Wrestling, while Cen-Cal would’ve immediately granted the rights of the name to Blade should they have committed a violation. The agreement allowed for Blade to continue using the Vendetta Pro Wrestling name during a nine month period; if both sides held up their agreement during that time, Blade would’ve then been granted ownership of the name. As Lucha Central previously stated, the agreement was never reached.
Dennis Balsamo has responded to Lucha Central with the following statement. “”He (Billy Blade), his mother and girlfriend repeatedly accused me of committing the crime of theft and casting false aspersions about my talents as an attorney. I asked them to stop and retract the false accusations. They refused and just posted more defaming statements, so to protect my good name I had no choice but to file a lawsuit against them.”
Dominick Balsamo has also responded to Lucha Central with a statement. “Here’s the bottom line: We didn’t want any of this. When we started our company, it was not about Billy. We just want to run our shows, create awesome events, tell our stories, and entertain our audiences our way. Billy made it about Billy, and he’s been a thorn in our side ever since. Talking trash is one thing, but the prolonged harassment and interference in our business is another thing entirely. We have thousands of dollars invested in this company, not to mention the time, blood, sweat, and emotional investment. He has repeatedly attempted to fundamentally damage what we are trying to create, and we have had to take steps to protect our interests. He started doing it from the moment the company was announced, and only stopped and played nice when he thought he could get something out of us. When he realized that we weren’t just going to kowtow to his whims, he went right back to the old behavior. As long as he comes after us, we will defend ourselves. We will not be bullied or intimidated by him or ANYONE ELSE; and we certainly will not be gas-lit into feeling guilty for defending ourselves. That’s the very definition of an abusive relationship, and we will not be a part of that. All he has to do to bring peace back to the Central Coast is STOP. Stop attacking us, stop harassing us, and stop interfering in our business. He can go his way, we will go ours, and the rest will be history. But, as long as he persists in attacking us, we will always fight back and use all legal means at our disposal to protect our investment. That’s business.”
Lucha Central has also reached out to Billy Blade for comment; we have not received word from him at this time. This is a developing story and Lucha Central will continue to provide coverage as it becomes available.