Major League Wrestling has slapped rival WWE with an antitrust lawsuit, accusing the pro-wrestling behemoth and its CEO Vince McMahon of forcing Tubi to scuttle a streaming deal with MLW.
The lawsuit, which was filed on Tuesday in California, also accuses WWE CEO Vince McMahon of intimidating Vice TV, which had a programming deal with MLW, out of airing more content from the upstart wrestling league.
“WWE has been wrongfully depriving its competitors of critical opportunities for many years, but its latest conduct has been even more unconscionable,” MLW CEO Court Bauer said in a statement. “I think we speak for the rest of the professional wrestling world when we say that this anti-competitive behavior has to stop.”
In its suit, MLW says it entered in a lucrative deal with Tubi, the free advertiser-supported streaming service owned by Fox. The lawsuit states that after WWE found out about the Tubi deal — Fox had aired WWE’s “SmackDown” since 2019 — the company “threatened” Fox that if Tubi did not cancel its deal with MLW “WWE would cease doing business” with Fox. MLW says that soon after their deal with Tubi was canceled which resulted in “substantial losses” to MLW.
Last May, MLW agreed to deal with Vice TV to air archival footage from MLW matches and were talking about Vice airing additional MLW programs. MLW states that once WWE found about the MLW-Vice deal, WWE senior vice president Susan Levinson called Vice to let them know that McMahon was “pissed.” The lawsuit states that WWE had “considerable leverage” over Vice’s programming given the network’s core audience were wrestling fans (Vice’s “Dark Side of the Ring” docuseries is among the network’s most popular programming).
“WWE’s interference resulted in VICE withdrawing from negotiations over airing new MLW content and in VICE airing only a single MLW program,” the lawsuit said.
In a response to the suit, a WWE spokesperson said: “WWE believes these claims have no merit and intends to vigorously defend itself against them.”