WWE allegedly interfered with possible MLW negotiations with VICE TV and the Tubi streaming service, according to an antitrust lawsuit filed by MLW.
According to the lawsuit, MLW had an agreement with Tubi but that agreement was canceled under pressure from WWE, which threatened to yank SmackDown from FOX because FOX owns Tubi. WWE SVP Susan Levison allegedly called VICE officials to cancel the agreement to display archival material that was struck in May because Vince McMahon was “upset” that VICE was airing MLW content, according to MLW.
According to a new report from PWInsider, WWE filed a motion on January 5 in an effort to obtain a protective injunction that would “halt” the company’s duty to give MLW the sought materials.
Despite WWE’s pending Motion to Dismiss, MLW seeks to impose broad, costly discovery on WWE. In anticipation of the originally scheduled October CMC, the parties complied with the Court’s standing order and engaged in a Rule 26(f) conference on October 6, 2022. Although the Court adjourned the CMC to December 15, 2022, MLW used the Rule 26(f) conference to argue that discovery is open and served its First Set of Requests for Production (“RFPs”) on October 17, 2022.
The RFPs total 47 and almost all of them are overbroad, burdensome, and improper requests for information. Indeed, it appears that MLW is utilizing the RFPs to improperly obtain highly sensitive, competitive information far outside the scope of the Complaint’s allegations and with no clear connection to MLW at all.
By way of just a few examples:
-MLW has not alleged any relevant product market for professional wrestlers and has not alleged a single professional wrestler with which it could not do business because of unlawful conduct by WWE. Nonetheless, it seeks “all documents” related to WWE’s “efforts to source, locate or hire professional wrestlers”, all contracts with professional wrestlers that contain any exclusivity provisions, all performance evaluations and disciplinary records for not just every WWE professional wrestler, but for every WWE contractor and employee (RFP 16), and “all documents” concerning the termination or resignation of any professional wrestler from January 1, 2020 to present .
-MLW has not identified a single professional wrestler that WWE supposedly “poached” and has not brought a single claim for tortious interference with the contract of any professional wrestler. Nonetheless, it seeks “all documents” related to the “outreach, solicitation or hiring” of multiple professional wrestlers.
-MLW has not alleged a relevant product market for the booking of venues or explained why a wrestling promotion must book specific venues in order to sell its broadcast rights. Nonetheless, it seeks “all documents relating to WWE’s efforts to prevent competitors from booking arenas or venues”
-MLW alleges no facts related to any other legal proceeding. Nonetheless, MLW seeks “all lawsuits, claims, or complaints, threatened or actual,” made by “any third party” relating to tortious interference of any kind from January 1, 2012 to present.
Similarly, MLW seeks documents from “all lawsuits, claims, or complaints, threatened or actual,” made by WWE’s employees (not just professional wrestlers) in connection with WWE employment or contractor agreements.
In addition to seeking highly sensitive, competitive information outside the scope of its complaint, MLW asserted that it intends to impose on WWE an obligation to collect, search, and produce documents for a minimum of sixteen initial custodians. Based on MLW’s initial disclosures, one of those “custodians” is the entirety of WWE and one is WWE’s outside counsel in this case, Jerry McDevitt of K&L Gates, LLP.
Of the remaining fourteen proposed custodians, only four are even named in the Complaint. It is clear from MLW’s actions that it hopes to force its competitor to spend millions of dollars in responding to discovery (in a case that may be dismissed), all while accessing WWE’s most sensitive, competitive information. For these reasons, a protective order should issue.