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WWE is being slammed by a rival that accuses it of violating antitrust law by monopolizing the professional wrestling market.
Major League Wrestling on Tuesday sued WWE for “unlawfully interfering with MLW’s access to media markets.” The competing professional wrestling outfit alleged WWE pressured third parties to abandon contracts and prospective relationships with MLW.
“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 in a statement. “I think we speak for the rest of the professional wrestling world when we say that this anti-competitive behavior has to stop.”
The lawsuit, filed in California federal court by attorneys from Kasowitz Benson Torres, mentions two deals that were allegedly broken by WWE’s tampering.
MLW claims that it entered into a lucrative agreement with streaming platform Tubi in July that was killed when a WWE executive pushed Fox to terminate the deal by threatening to pull popular programs. Tubi is owned by Fox, which airs WWE Smackdown.
“WWE’s wrongful interference with the Tubi/MLW agreement reversed the momentum the company had been generating with fans, cutting off MLW’s access to a broader fan base and leading to event cancellations and delays, resulting in a 40% drop in ticket sales within weeks and a substantial decline in MLW’s valuation,” reads the complaint, which is embedded below.
MLW also argues that WWE interfered with prospective deals it had with Vice TV. WWE senior vp Susan Levison allegedly “warned VICE to stop airing MLW programs, saying that Vince McMahon was ‘pissed’ that VICE was airing MLW content and wanted VICE to stop doing so.” A Vice executive responded that WWE’s threat was illegal and likely a violation of antitrust law, but Levison replied that she could not control McMahon.
Vice airs WWE content, including Dark Side of the Ring, a series focusing on WWE storylines.
“As a result of WWE’s interference with MLW’s ability to retain media rights, MLW’s brand recognition has declined and will continue to decline, it has lost and will continue to lose its valuable talent, and its business will be destroyed,” the lawsuit states.
WWE has a history of acquiring competitors, including Extreme Championship Wrestling and World Championship Wrestling, only to shut them down.
WWE said in a statement, “WWE believes these claims have no merit and intends to vigorously defend itself against them.”
The lawsuit claims intentional interference with contractual relations and prospective economic relations as well as violations of federal antitrust law. It seeks an injunction to bar future interference by WWE.
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