MLW files antitrust lawsuit against WWE, WWE responds

Originally published at https://www.postwrestling.com/2022/01/11/mlw-files-antitrust-lawsuit-against-wwe-wwe-responds/

Major League Wrestling files lawsuit against WWE.

A lawsuit was filed against World Wrestling Entertainment on January 11th by Major League Wrestling. The organization notes that their antitrust lawsuit is based on WWE’s attempt to undermine competition and monopolize the professional wrestling market by interfering in MLW’s contracts and business prospects. Below is the full press release from MLW:

 

MLW Files Anti-Trust Lawsuit Against WWE

San Francisco, CA – Jan. 11, 2022 – 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.

A WWE spokesperson gave the following comment to PWInsider in response to the lawsuit:

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

As more information concerning this story emerges, POST Wrestling will continue to provide updates.

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I guess that’s why WWE randomly decided to play nice with Impact.

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Interesting. There is private money behind MLW but I’d have to imagine they’d have to have great evidence to prove this. I’d love to see this go forward but if it does it means the goods will not be public. If it’s what is in the filing. WWE has ate some Ls on lawsuits recently and is part of my negative thesis on the stock. More litigation won’t be favorable for investors so maybe MLW is looking for a quick settlement… Otherwise it sounds like business as usual. I think the timing is great for this kind of “news” to drop with MLW doing 2 big shows soon. Sports Illustrated is covering it. Clicks. Going to get coverage in wrestling circles. Good PR. A+. Will keep my eye on who else picks up this story.

The obvious lawsuit I’m shocked nobody has filed is claiming misclassification of employment type. That seems more in line with the entire industry. This suit feels self serving with a quote acting like it’s somehow being done for all of the industry.

AEW is going to get a massive rights deal because WWE set the market. Any other promotion can get a huge deal too just produce ratings. By defending talent across the industry you do more good for all and probably can put the screws to WWE even more. Instead what are they hoping for? Payment for some lost deal they claim existed? Which will go to MLW investors?

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Probably a PR move, absolutely.

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There was a lawsuit, but it was dropped. My memory is fuzzy on it, but I googled it and found this:

From one of those links:
The matter in question - pertaining to performers’ status as independent contractors - was ultimately ruled in favour of Vince McMahon’s company on the grounds of the statute of limitations.

Regardless, you have a situation where over the last 2 years all these talents have been either released or went through unorthodox contract updates pertaining to individual income. I’m not lawyer but if ever a class action case could be brought it feels like now. Tie that in to monopoly like behavior with hoarding talent and limiting talent opportunity.

I am not 100% sure so no names or specifics, but I came to find out MLW (or an Indy company with many streaming deals) has private Wall Street money behind it. (Source was a finance podcast and the guest mentioned his private investment in a private wrestling company; I did the search thing and believe it’s MLW)

This latest move feels like a way to recoup losses on the investment by hoping WWE pays them to go away. If there was enough firepower behind it I would argue this is the selfish losing play, and the winning play that generates long term good will is a Talent class action.

Hey does anyone remember when Andrew Yang used WWE to stay relevant? Shame that never went anywhere either.

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Ok, I didn’t realize statute of limitations was a factor. Like I said, my memory was fuzzy lol.

I don’t disagree with you, class action feels like it could happen, though I think the monopoly part would be very hard to prove, especially with AEW now being around.

See my post under the Cena news update.
I’ll post the same Yellowstone inspired Picture This (no spoilers, just the theme of this analogy):

  • A rancher has more money than everyone in town.
  • He hires every cowboy for 5-7x avg salary.
  • Nobody can afford that and lose their cowboys.
  • Now rancher who has only product in town sells Crop for 3x. Everyone is stuck with one source. Gotta pay. They are the market now.
  • Then cowboys get tired of only having one place to work in town. And it’s getting worse, the ranch now is taking money cowboys make at the card games in town. It is blatant overreach with no fair alternative for workers.
  • After a few seasons rancher decides it’s enough and fires half the cowboys.
  • But competition can’t even afford to hire the staff back. They shed customers all the while, and were left to play in a market dominated by the Ranch with all the resources. Hard to survive much less compete fairly. And now workers are being punished because while demand may be high the pay scale rug has been completely pulled from under them. Because one company could control the entire market (from inputs like talent to only product in town for anyone to buy). It’s not like the ranch shared all its profits with the Cowboys. In fact once they Cowboys helped them achieve their status they fired them and left them to find jobs in a depressed marketplace.

Is this anti-competitive behavior to rig a market ?

I’m not going to read this, but not because I am upset or dont agree, its because I was going to start Yellowstone and I feel like this may have spoilers lol.

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No spoilers at all. I just used the ranch/cowboy example to present the argument I’d start with as an analogy that pains the situation in a light out of Wrestling so people can thing about it in simpler terms without the cloud of what everyone presumes or thinks about WWE/Wrestling. @kliq

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Lol, had I read like 2 more lines I would have seen “no spoilers”. Ya I see your point.

In court though, I’m sure WWE lawyers would point to AEW as an example of how its not a monopoly. 3 years ago, different story. It would be interesting to see it play out.

Agreed. My counter to that if I was the defendant was that the barrier to entry to the market was so high it took a multibillionaire to invest tens of millions if not hundred million into AEW to just compete. It strengthens the case WWE has acted as a monopoly for a long time because who could possibly afford to compete when they controlled the labor force. You go back to 2016 and the money invested in signing top draws from any competition. It paid off in spades by the 2018 TV deal. AEW didn’t come along until after that behavior crushed the market from a talent perspective.

I think under the hood an examination of how they manipulate talent for their monetary benefit but retain total control of what and who is pushed and how that plays into talent classification highlights how the harm was not just to competitors but to the labor force of the industry.

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You need someone with standing to serve as a lead plaintiff in the contractor/employee suit. Need a current or recent employee, otherwise you end up with statute of limitations issues, which, IIRC, spelled the end of the last round of such lawsuits and concussion/CTE lawsuits…

Source: I am a litigator.

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