A lawsuit was filed against World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) on January 11 by Major League Wrestling (MLW). 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.
“WWE has been wrongfully depriving its competitors of critical opportunities for many years, but its latest conduct has been even more unconscionable,” Bauer, MLW’s CEO, said 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 complaint claims that in mid-2021, after MLW entered into a “lucrative” agreement with the Fox-owned streaming service Tubi, WWE called an executive at the media company and asked it to terminate the deal. If not, WWE threated to stop doing business with Fox and pull WWE programing. Just days before MLW content was to begin airing on Tubi, the contract was ended, the complaint said. MLW stated in the complaint that this led to event cancellations and delays, “resulting in a 40 percent drop in ticket sales within weeks.”
WWE agreed in 2018 to a five-year, US$1 billion deal with Fox for the broadcast rights to “Friday Night SmackDown,” and reached a deal with the company to air select old WWE pay-per-views during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition, according to the complaint, WWE interfered in another potential business relationship, when then-WWE senior vice president Susan Levison called a VICE executive to say McMahon was “pissed” that the network was entering into an agreement in May 2021 to air MLW programing and that it should end that relationship. The VICE exec then told Levinson that they thought what she was doing was “illegal” and “was probably an antitrust violation,” according to the suit. The claim alleges that the call resulted in VICE withdrawing from negotiations and only airing one MLW program: “MLW Fightland” on October 2.
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