Amended WWE Lawsuit Alleges “Predatory Conduct” & “Irreparable Harm”

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In January of 2022, independent promotion MLW filed a lawsuit against WWE alleging that the sports entertainment giant was in violation of anti-trust laws and was causing harm to its competitors.

The original filing specifically called out WWE for interfering with a media rights deal with the streaming service Tubi as well as interfering with a potential deal with VICE TV.

The original lawsuit was dismissed in mid-February as the court determined MLW had not provided sufficient information, but the dismissal included a provision for MLW to amend the lawsuit within 21 days.

Now, as reported by PWInsider, MLW has amended its filing and re-submitted the lawsuit with added evidence and violation claims.

MLW Calls WWE “Predatory And Unfair”

The amended lawsuit continues to allege that WWE is in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, focusing specifically on the company’s influence when it comes to other wrestling companies forming media deals. Major League Wrestling recently hit another hitch when it comes to streaming as their streaming partner REELZ formed a deal with Peacock, with whom WWE has exclusive streaming rights, and this was added to the lawsuit.

MLW alleges that WWE controls 92% of the wrestling industry with AEW controlling 6%, leaving only 2% market share for other companies to fight over. The lawsuit also clarifies that professional wrestling is in a position to provide a unique entertainment service to its audience as an ongoing scripted drama, separating it from the likes of MMA or other combat sports.

Part of the filing reads:

“In sum, WWE’s predatory and unfair anti-competitive conduct in the Relevant Market is multi-faceted, with the intent and effect of expanding and maintaining its market power. This conduct includes, but is not limited to: (1) substantially foreclosing the Relevant Market through maintaining exclusivity agreements with major media companies and interfering with competitors’ media rights deals; (2) substantially increasing barriers to entry in the Relevant Market by raising rivals’ costs and restricting their access to the critical and scarce inputs required for professional wrestling programming, namely athletic performers with the requisite physical skills, acting talent, and marketability to be professional wrestlers, including by hiring away rivals’ wrestlers and not using them and by threatening to never hire talent that previously signed with rivals (“blacklisting”); and (3) blocking and foreclosing the access of rivals to professional wrestling venues, which are necessary for the production of professional wrestling programming. The combined effect of the conduct is that WWE has maintained its dominant market power.

Through its predatory and exclusionary conduct and abuse of its market power, WWE has substantially harmed competition in the Relevant Market by depriving MLW and other competitors of access to key media distribution platforms. Its conduct has harmed purchasers of media rights for professional wrestling programming by depriving them of programs and enabled WWE to impose and maintain supracompetitive prices, and in turn has harmed wrestling fans by reducing their choices and quality of professional wrestling programming and increasing their costs of consuming that content.

As a result of WWE’s anti-competitive and predatory conduct, MLW and other professional wrestling promotions have suffered and will continue to suffer substantial monetary damages and irreparable harm.”

WWE Is Also Accused Of Talent Tampering

In addition, the amended lawsuit alleges that WWE has been guilty of tampering with talent deals. Specifically, it accuses former executive Canyon Ceyman of encouraging Swerve Strickland to get out of his deal with MLW to sign with WWE.

The lawsuit also points to WWE’s hiring of Davey Boy Smith, Jr. (real name Harry Smith) back in 2021 but failing to utilize him except for one dark match in July of that year. According to the lawsuit, Major League Wrestling believes the sports entertainment giant had no intention to use the star, but instead wanted to keep him from being featured and built up on MLW television.

It’s also pointed out that AEW has been in contact with WWE regarding talent tampering in the past year.

In addition, the lawsuit claims that WWE has not only tried to block Ring of Honor from running a show in Madison Square Garden, but they also prevented AEW from running shows at the Heritage Bank Center in Cincinnati, OH in both 2019 and 2020.

The lawsuit also accuses WWE of intentionally running shows opposite other promotions to harm their business.