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By Mike Johnson on 2023-03-07 14:05:00

I just finished reading the new 44-page Amended MLW lawsuit vs. WWE.  Some highlights:


MLW has added to allegations that WWE is violating the Sherman Antitrust act when it comes to the professional wrestling genre, now specifically closing in on how companies monetize content and that WWE's dealing clamp down on the competitors being able to do so.  As noted earlier, they added the Peacock-REELZ deal and the fact MLW could not be included due to WWE's exclusivity on NBC Universal's streaming service as preventing MLW from being able to make the most of their REELZ agreement. 

The crux of the argument is that for a pro wrestling company to be successful, they need to strike media rights deals and that WWE's actions have made that near-impossible and have hurt MLW and other potential competitors.  As noted previously, they are arguing that WWE has 92% of the market share for pro wrestling, while AEW has 6% and everyone else, including MLW, are left with a 2% share to fight over.  

The MLW Amended Lawsuit is also now arguing that professional wrestling brings a unique, specific audience for unique, specific scripted content, using comments from Jim Ross, Eric Bischoff and even Stephanie McMahon to help make the case for it.  Since professional wrestling is pre-determined, can run all year and can have it's drama scripted and controlled, other combat sports entities such as MMA are not legitimate substitutes for pro wrestling content, the Amended Lawsuit argues.

MLW has maintained their allegations that WWE involvement caused Tubi.TV (owned by FOX, which has a WWE deal for Smackdown) to cancel their contract with MLW the night before the official announcement and that ViceTV backed off on MLW content after a WWE exec told them Vince McMahon wasn't happy about the two sides working together.  The argument is that A&E owned a minority share in ViceTV and their connection to WWE could have hurt MLW's standing with Vice TV.  Only one MLW special aired on Vice TV and it didn't do well in terms of viewership.

MLW redacted all financials from their canceled Tubi deal and their currently ongoing REELZ deal in the lawsuit, but noted:

"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."


MLW also specifically stated that former WWE Talent Relations Exec Canyon Ceyman allegedly encouraged Swerve Strickland to get out of his then-existing MLW contract to sign with WWE.  Strickland was in WWE NXT and after being released just after a Smackdown call-up, moved onto AEW. 

MLW also alleges that WWE hired Davey Boy Smith Jr. away from the company but instead of utlizing him, only booked him in an untelevised dark match.  They claim that move made it clear WWE's intent was to "impair MLW's ability" to build up MLW by taking Smith away.  The lawsuit, however, does not identify Smith as a WWE legacy talent who had previously worked for WWE before MLW.  So, WWE could easily argue they were aware of Smith before he ever worked for MLW.

Regarding AEW, the lawsuit states the promotion "has yet to be profitable" and that AEW itself has reached out to WWE demanding they not tamper with talents.  That would be a reference to a talent meeting where Tony Khan stated that AEW's head of legal Megha Parekh had sent emails to WWE's Stephanie McMahon (who has since left the company) and Nick Khan requesting that WWE stop contacting their contracted talents.


A big part of the new filing was the rise and fall of professional wrestling in 2001 with WCW and ECW being acquired by WWE.  Interesting to note the lawsuit claims that WWE moving to TNN in 2000 when they signed an agreement with Viacom led directly to the death of the original Extreme Championship Wrestling and WWE acquiring 99% of their assets in bankruptcy court.


In addition to the allegations of Paul Levesque trying to block Ring of Honor from running Madison Square Garden for G1 Supercard over Wrestlemania weeekend in 2019, they also allege that WWE successfully prevented AEW from running Dynamite tapings at Heritage Bank Center in Cincinnati, Ohio in both 2019 and 2020. 

There is also an allegation that WWE has run events opposite AEW PPVs to try and prevent those shows from being as profitable as they could be.  I don't think anyone even remotely familiar with pro wrestling would be shocked at the idea of promotions running the same dates as each other.  Certainly WWE did that as far back as their war with Jim Crockett Promotions where the two companies would often run different venues in the same city or WWE would magically have scheduled the same market right before PPVs.


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