wrestling / News

Details on MLW’s Anti-Trust Lawsuit Against WWE, WWE Comments

January 11, 2022 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
MLW WWE Image Credit: MLW/WWE

UPDATE: More details have emerged about MLW’s anti-trust lawsuit filed against WWE on Tuesday. PWInsider has obtained a copy of the 19-page lawsuit, which alleges intentional interference with contract relations, intentional interference with prospective economic relations, and a violation of the Sherman Antitrust act among other things.

The lawsuit notes that WWE has maintained control of 85% of pro wrestling since buying WCW in 2001 and alleges that the company is “maintaining its dominance through unfair and anticompetitive business practices, including poaching talent, misappropriating confidential information, interfering with competitors’ contracts and cutting off competitors’ access to their viewing audiences.”

The lawsuit tacks WWE’s decline in popularity over the last five years as “due to, among other things, inferior content” and says WWE has taken aim at MLW with “unlawful predatory conduct, including airing without authority MLW wrestling footage, inducing MLW wrestlers under exclusive contracts with MLW to terminate those contracts, and encouraging MLW wrestlers to breach their contracts with MLW by disclosing MLW’s confidential and proprietary business information.”

The company notes two major examples of WWE unlawfully interfering with their business, namely causing the death of a “lucrative agreement” with Tubi, which is the free ad-supported streaming service owned by FOX. They claim they signed a deal with Tubi in mid-2021 but WWE got involved and had the deal killed. MLW had teased a major announcement at that time, but it never happened. They allege the deal “would have had a profound impact on MLW’s business by giving it exposure to Fox’s broad television and NFL football audience, further positioning MLW for future media deals.”

According to the suit, when WWE found out, they “contacted a Tubi executive located in Tubi’s headquarters in San Francisco and threatened that if Tubi did not terminate the MLW contract, WWE would cease doing business with Fox and would pull important WWE programs from Fox platforms.” The suit says that soon after “and just days before MLW content was to begin airing on Tubi,” the contract was terminated “resulting in substantial losses to MLW and harm to consumers, including in California.” They allege that the loss of the deal led to MLW live event cancellations and delays at that time and led to a“40% drop” in MLW ticket sales within weeks, along with a “substantial decline” in the company’s overall value.

They also allege that WWE caused the end of their negotiations with VICE TV in 2021 after MLW entered into an agreement with the network in May of last year to have VICE are archival footage, with “negotiations to expand the agreement to include the broadcasting of new licensed programs.” The first of those was the October 2021 Fightland special.

The lawsuit states:

“When WWE found out about the MLW/VICE agreement, its Senior Vice President, Susan Levison, called a VICE executive to tell him that WWE’s owner, Vince McMahon — notorious for his aggressive business tactics — was “pissed” that VICE was airing MLW content and wanted VICE to stop doing so. The VICE executive told Levison that “I think that this is illegal what you’re doing” and that it was probably an antitrust violation, to which Levison responded that she could not control Vince McMahon. WWE had considerable leverage over VICE because professional wrestling was an important part of VICE’s programming and wrestling viewers were an important part of VICE’s audience. VICE therefore needed WWE, as the overwhelmingly dominant wrestling company, to ensure the success of VICE’s wrestling-related programs, which included a series, Dark Side of the Ring, often focused on WWE storylines based on input from WWE. WWE’s interference resulted in VICE withdrawing from negotiations over airing new MLW content and in VICE airing only a single MLW program.”

According to PWInsider, WWE also attempted to poach MLW talent and aired footage of one of their fighters without authorization or consent in 2020, and also allegedly tried to induce MLW wrestlers to breach contracts and reveal “confidential and proprietary information” regarding MLW’s business. The lawsuit argues that WWE’s “pattern of predatory and exclusionary conduct has hampered competition in the U.S. wrestling market by depriving MLW and other competitors of distribution channels, and its conduct has harmed consumers by depriving them of content and keeping prices high.”

The suit claims that due to WWE’s “wanton misconduct, MLW has suffered and will suffer monetary damages and irreparable harm, resulting from, among other things, continued loss of brand recognition and valuable talent, posing a serious risk that its business will be destroyed.”

MLW is asking for a jury trial and has asked for, per the site:

*A judgment in favor of MLW and against WWE.

*An award of actual damages and all damages that were a natural result of WWE’s tortious conduct, in an amount to be calculated at trial, inclusive of any pre-judgment or post-judgment interest accrued under California Civil Code.

*An award of exemplary damages for WWE’s oppressive and malicious tortious conduct, pursuant to California Civil Code.

*A declaration that WWE’s unlawful and predatory interference with MLW’s access to the media markets and wrestling talent was and is decreed a violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

*Injunctive relief to prevent WWE from engaging in anti-competitive and unfair business practices towards MLW pursuant to California Business and Professions Code.

*Injunctive relief to prevent WWE from engaging in anti-competitive and unfair business practices towards MLW pursuant to Sections 4 and 16 of the Clayton Antitrust Act, 15.

*An award of treble the amount of MLW’s damages resulting from its antitrust injuries to be proven at trial in accordance with Section 4 of the Clayton Antitrust Act.

*An award of MLW’s costs and expenses of litigation, including attorneys’ fees and expert witness fees, in accordance with Section 4 of the Clayton Antitrust Act,

*Interest.

*Such other relief as the Court deems just and proper.

WWE issued a statement to PWInsider which read:

“WWE believes these claims have no merit and intends to vigorously defend itself against them.”

ORIGINAL: MLW has filed a lawsuit against WWE, alleging that that WWE has been interfering with their contracts and business prospects. MLW sent out the following press release, announcing that the lawsuit was filed on Tuesday.

The lawsuit alleges that WWE attempted to “[disrupt] every level of MLW’s business, including a major streaming deal for MLW which would have been transformative for the company.” It also alleges that in 2021, a then-WWE executive tried to pressure VICE TV into not working with MLW because Vince McMahon was “pissed” about it.

You can see the full press release below, including a statement by MLW CEO Court Bauer:

MLW Files Anti-Trust Lawsuit Against WWE
Professional wrestling company Major League Wrestling (MLW) (MLW Media LLC), filed a lawsuit today against World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (WWE). The federal court antitrust lawsuit is based on WWE’s ongoing attempts to undermine competition in and monopolize the professional wrestling market by interfering with MLW’s contracts and business prospects.

As described in the complaint, WWE pressured third parties to abandon contracts and prospective relationships with MLW. WWE’s misconduct included disrupting every level of MLW’s business, including a major streaming deal for MLW which would have been transformative for the company.

MLW also allege in the complaint that in early 2021, after MLW announced that it was in talks with VICE TV to air MLW programs on VICE TV, a then-WWE executive warned VICE TV that WWE owner Vince McMahon was “pissed” that VICE TV was airing MLW programs, and that VICE TV should stop working with MLW, the VICE TV executive responded that WWE’s conduct was illegal and an antitrust violation, with the WWE executive responding that she could not control McMahon.

“WWE has been wrongfully depriving its competitors of critical opportunities for many years, but its latest conduct has been even more unconscionable,” said MLW CEO Court Bauer. “I think we speak for the rest of the professional wrestling world when we say that this anti-competitive behavior has to stop.” WWE’s ongoing misconduct has hurt fans of professional wrestling and competition in the professional wrestling industry. Through this lawsuit, MLW seeks to recover its losses due to WWE’s interference and to enjoin WWE from future interference. The case is captioned MLW Media LLC v. World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. MLW is represented by Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP.

article topics :

MLW, WWE, Jeremy Thomas