In case you’ve been living under a rock, we’re on the road to Wrestlemania 38. But for the WWE, the road just got a bit bumpier, or more Royal Rumblier, if you will.
WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon has time and again choke-slammed attempts by his independent contractors (also known as “wrestlers,” “entertainers,” or “fake athletes”) to unionize and dropped the leg on multiple concussion-related lawsuits.
But this time, the WWE is facing a federal lawsuit by MLW Media LLC, a smaller wrestling company known to wrestling geeks as Major League Wrestling. This pinning predicament could be harder to kick out from.
WWE Flying in From the Top Rope
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, accuses the WWE of threatening to hand out tombstone piledrivers to media companies that aired MLW content.
Ok, in non-kayfabe terms:
The lawsuit alleges that WWE (it’ll always be the WWF to us) threatened VICE TV upon learning it was in talks to air new and archival MLW programming. Specifically, WWE Senior Vice President Susan Levison told a VICE executive that McMahon was “pissed” about the MLW deal and wanted them to stop. The VICE executive responded that “I think that this is illegal what you’re doing,” and maybe an antitrust violation. VICE, however, soon broke off talks with MLW after this alleged conversation.
The lawsuit notes how VICE, which airs other wrestling-related programming, relies on WWE cooperation to air archival footage and interview wrestlers under their WWE contract.
WWE allegedly scuttled another potential MLW media deal, this time with Tubi, a streaming service owned by Fox, which airs WWE programming. You can view the original complaint below:
A History of Rolling Up the Competition
In a statement, MLW CEO Court Bauer said that the WWE’s “anticompetitive behavior has to stop.” Bauer is a former WWE employee.
“WWE believes these claims have no merit and intends to vigorously defend itself against them,” WWE responded in its own statement.
The sports entertainment titan will undoubtedly have to expend energy to defend itself from this lawsuit. If you’re uninitiated into the Sport of Kings, however, you may not know that WWE — and McMahon in particular — is notorious for wrapping up competing pro wrestling companies in the sharpshooter until they tap (look up WCW, ECW, AWA, and WCCW, just for starters).
One of the most notorious examples: in the early days of pay-per-view, McMahon threatened cable companies that if they aired a competing event, Jim Crockett Promotions’ “Starrcade,” those companies would not have access to Wrestlemania IV.
It’s actions like this that MLW says allowed WWE to gobble up the industry’s top “talent” and 85% of television market share.
Will the WWE be able to drop the stone-cold stunner on MLW? As they say, tune in next week (and the week after that, and the week after that, and the week after that) to find out.
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