WWE Sued by Major League Wrestling; Lawsuit Alleges Antitrust Violations

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIJanuary 12, 2022

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 11:  A WWE logo is shown on a screen before a WWE news conference at T-Mobile Arena on October 11, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was announced that WWE wrestler Braun Strowman will face heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury and WWE champion Brock Lesnar will take on former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez at the WWE's Crown Jewel event at Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on October 31.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Major League Wrestling has filed an antitrust lawsuit in San Francisco federal court against World Wrestling Entertainment, alleging that the company has made "ongoing attempts to undermine competition in and monopolize the professional wrestling market by interfering with MLW's contracts and business prospects."

Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful relayed a statement from MLW regarding the matter:

Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful.com @SeanRossSapp

More on MLW suing WWE, per MLW statement <a href="https://t.co/53xJlgpuOJ">pic.twitter.com/53xJlgpuOJ</a>

MLW alleges that a former WWE executive warned VICE TV that Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon was "pissed" regarding the network's plans to air MLW programming. The statement also said that WWE told VICE to stop working with MLW.

A VICE TV executive allegedly responded to WWE by saying that the promotion's behavior was illegal and constituted an antitrust violation.

The statement also accuses WWE of putting pressure on third parties to break deals and potential relationships with MLW, whose current iteration has been in business since 2017.

MLW states that the WWE's misconduct and interference led to the "disruption" of a streaming deal that the organization says would have been "transformative" for the company.

Jonathan Stempel of Reuters provided more detail on that front:

"The Mamaroneck, New York-based plaintiff said WWE's interference in 2021 caused Vice TV to end talks to air new MLW content, and led to a 40% drop in ticket sales after Fox Corp's (FOXA.O) Tubi streaming service abandoned a licensing agreement the night before it was to be publicly announced.
"MLW also accused Stamford, Connecticut-based WWE of inducing MLW wrestlers to break exclusive contracts and airing MLW footage without permission, to combat a five-year decline in the popularity of its own programs."

MLW states that the lawsuit's goal is "to recover its losses due to WWE's interference and to enjoin WWE from future interference."

Per Stempel, an emailed statement from WWE said it believes MLW's claims have no merit and that the promotion intends to "vigorously defend" itself in court.