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MLW responds to WWE's motion to dismiss antitrust lawsuit

MLW continued to say there is legal merit to their lawsuit against WWE.

MLW has responded to WWE's March motion to dismiss the former's antitrust lawsuit against the latter.

In a statement filed last Friday in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California, MLW asserted they have "properly pleaded all of its claims for relief" in their initial January lawsuit when they alleged WWE put pressure on third parties to abandon relationships with MLW.

The suit specifically is pointing to a failed deal with Fox-owned Tubi TV where MLW is claiming Stephanie McMahon pressured Fox and Tubi executives “to deny MLW a time slot that would compete head-to-head with WWE’s NXT programs” and “to terminate the agreement (with MLW) in its entirety.”

In the response, MLW said that for the antitrust claim under Section 2 of the Sherman Act, they only needed to allege that WWE both possession monopoly power in the relevant market and wilfully acquire or maintain that power.

"Here, MLW unquestionably properly alleges both elements. First, MLW has pleaded the relevant market—broadcast rights for professional wrestling programs —and such a single professional sport or form of entertainment can, as courts have repeatedly recognized, constitute a market where, as alleged here, it attracts a unique audience limiting the number of economic substitutes. MLW also alleges that WWE has monopoly power because, among other things, it holds 85% of the relevant market and has reduced the output of professional wrestling broadcasts.

Second, MLW has pleaded that WWE has willfully acquired and maintained that monopoly power by preventing MLW from distributing its programs through Tubi and VICE, by locking up wrestling talent and key networks with exclusivity agreements, and by other conduct to constrain competitors and competition. WWE argues that MLW’s claim is insufficient because, WWE contends, it does not allege facts “suggesting that WWE could possibly hold any power over the dozens, if not hundreds, of networks, cable, and streaming services with which WWE has no commercial relationships.”

Later in the response:

"MLW has also properly alleged that WWE intentionally interfered with prospective economic relations by alleging that WWE’s threats to VICE led that company to abandon its negotiations with MLW to air new MLW content. WWE incorrectly contends that MLW must also allege that WWE knew specifically that the parties were negotiating the airing of MLW’s new content. Under California law, however that is not so—MLW need only plead, as it clearly does, that WWE knew that its actions would interfere with VICE and MLW’s economic relationship. As to MLW’s UCL claim, MLW has statutory and Article III standing because it alleges that WWE’s conduct was directed at harming MLW’s relationship with Tubi, a California resident, and MLW seeks to enjoin WWE from continuing to undermine MLW’s business. Accordingly, and as shown further below, the motion should be denied in its entirety."

WWE has until Monday, May 16th to reply to MLW's response, and the court will make a ruling. No hearings are set for the case until Thursday, September 29th.

When WWE filed the motion to dismiss, lead attorney Jerry McDevitt was quoted in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter regarding the lawsuit.

“If Tubi breached, then sue Tubi. As to Vice, WWE has no commercial relationship with them or for that matter any of the other dozens of content distribution entities with whom MLW could do a deal with if they had a commercially viable product. They put a show on Vice, if my memory serves me correctly after one of the Dark Side shows and lost most of the audience. I think I read they got 40,000 viewers. No wonder Vice did no further deal.”

Dave Meltzer also noted this about WWE's response: