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Judge dismisses MLW’s antitrust lawsuit against WWE

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MLW owner Court Bauer vows to fight back.

Thirteen months ago, MLW filed a lawsuit against WWE accusing the world’s largest professional wrestling company of violating federal antitrust law. The case involved allegations of wrestlers poaching and tampering with their contracts, but centerpiece were broadcast and live television deals that MLW claims WWE pressured Vice and Tubi-owned FOX to back out of.

Over the past year, attorneys for the two companies have gone back and forth as WWE sought to dismiss the case, mainly on the grounds that they do not have a monopoly on the wrestling market and therefore do not have the ability to do what MLW claims. Most recently in December of 2022, Judge Edward J. Davila of the United States District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose) ordered the case to proceed. However, he did request amended briefs (case updates that address issues raised in pretrial motions) before moving into the discovery phase of the trial, where each side will be required to share evidence and other documents deemed relevant to the case. The issue (In a recent motion, WWE argued that the information MLW requested was excessive).

Yesterday (February 13), Judge Davila granted WWE’s motion of denial. His nine-page ruling reads:

The court found that the anti-money laundering law did not contain sufficient facts to reasonably claim the relevant antitrust products market. Regarding the proposed market, the complaint only alleges that there are four competitors in the “United States professional wrestling market”; The business of promoting professional wrestling as sports entertainment is primarily a media industry, with revenue and valuation business[s] largely driven by fees earned from broadcast rights deals”; and that companies such as NBCUniversal and Fox Sports “buy broadcast rights to [proposed market] to various distribution channels such as broadcast networks, cable and satellite services, broadcast networks, and film production companies.

These facts, he undertakes, are not sufficient to provide an understanding of relevant market characteristics, including the existence or absence of alternatives.

While Judge Davila does not believe MLW’s existing case supports their claims, he has left the door open for the company to file an amended case within 21 days. Something MLW owner Court Bauer indicates he would do, telling multiple outlets:

“Our legal team is already working to amend the complaint. We have every intention of continuing to pursue our case against WWE.”

If Judge Davila determines that the amended complaint is not worth reopening the case, arguments over discovery will continue. If it doesn’t find the updated MLW’s arguments seem sufficient (or if they fail or choose not to provide them), then the case is closed.

MLW recently launched a new TV series on the Reelz network, episode two of which is airing tonight.

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