WWE Files New Argument Against MLW Antitrust Lawsuit

WWE filed another argument for a court to dismiss the antitrust lawsuit brought against the company by Major League Wrestling (MLW), according to a report by PWInsider.

World Wrestling Entertainment filed its first motion to dismiss the lawsuit in March, and MLW argued against the motion in April. In response, this latest filing by WWE argues that MLW has failed to provide any evidence that WWE has “monopoly power” over the professional wrestling industry. It also states the allegation that WWE interfered with MLW’s contract negotiations is not supported by facts.

An excerpt from WWE’s court filing reads:

“First, MLW’s monopolization claim(s) remain unviable. MLW has not and cannot plead the core elements of a monopolization claim: (1) a relevant product market, (2) monopoly power, (3) anticompetitive conduct, and (4) antitrust injury. Confronted with WWE’s motion to dismiss and the deficiencies of its own Complaint, MLW now tries to reframe its Complaint through its opposition (Opp.), asserting that WWE’s exclusive contracts with Fox and NBCUniversal foreclose MLW from the “market” by cutting off its access to key distributors or purchasers. However, MLW’s complaint is silent on (1) WWE’s use of exclusive contracts, (2) whether these exclusive contracts substantially foreclose the proposed market, or (3) the existence of “key” networks, cable, and streaming services that control access to this proposed marketplace.

MLW originally filed its lawsuit in January, alleging WWE’s “ongoing attempts to undermine competition in and monopolize the professional wrestling market by interfering with MLW’s contracts and business prospects.” Part of WWE’s most recent argument against MLW’s monopoly claim is that WWE is just one of a vast amount of programming options available to its broadcast partners:

“There is no allegation, nor could there be, that all networks, cable, and streaming services derive 83%, 8.3%, or 0.83% of their revenue from WWE content. NBCUniversal and Fox, combined, only purchase three WWE television programs out of the presumably hundreds (if not thousands) of programs that their networks air per week. Critically, it is never alleged that, if the WWE were to withhold its product, the television networks would stop broadcasting or “go dark.” Instead, and logically, they would fill that “dark time” with alternative programming over whose production WWE has no control. The notion that WWE has monopoly power over some of the largest companies on earth is an economic absurdity, is not supported by allegations in the Complaint, and could never be supported by good faith allegations.”

WWE also argued against MLW’s “cost barrier” claims by comparing the company to All Elite Wrestling (AEW):

Specifically, the Complaint alleged that MLW and AEW both entered the market and produced programming that networks, cable, and streaming services could purchase.

Further, the Complaint alleged that AEW, within a year of entering, sold its broadcast rights for tens of millions of dollars and captured an average 2020 rating of 0.344 compared to WWE Raw’s 0.5075 in the key 18-to-49 demographic. MLW’s own Complaint thus depicts a market with aggressive players vying for market share and finding successes. These allegations alone undercut MLW’s conclusory allegations of monopoly power.”

MLW’s lawsuit claims a WWE executive warned Vice TV in early 2021 that WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon was upset with Vice for airing MLW programming, and that Vice should stop working with MLW. MLW is seeking compensatory, treble, and exemplary damages, an injunction barring WWE from “inflicting further irreparable harm through its anticompetitive and tortious conduct,” and legal costs.

“They’ve got some pretty flippant predatory tactics, and it shouldn’t be tolerated,” MLW owner Court Bauer said during an exclusive interview with Wrestling Inc.’s Raj Giri earlier this month. “It’s incredibly damaging and disruptive to my company, to other companies, to the fans, and the industry as a whole, which is why this is important now.”

Source: Wrestling Inc.