The lawsuit has been dismissed.
MLW noted in their initial filing that their antitrust lawsuit is based on WWE’s attempt to undermine competition and monopolize the professional wrestling market by interfering in MLW’s contracts and business prospects.
The following is from the latest filing:
WWE does not dispute the geographic market of the United States. WWE does, however, argue that MLW has not plausibly alleged facts supporting its proposed product market, particularly due to the lack of allegations about the structure of the television and streaming industries, the production of professional wrestling programming, and the unavailability of reasonably interchangeable alternatives to professional wrestling content.
In response, MLW asserts that it is not required to include express allegations regarding the cross-elasticity of demand or the absence of reasonably interchangeable products, that products with potentially interchangeable substitutes can nonetheless constitute a relevant antitrust submarket, and that WWE’s arguments “at most raise factual issues that cannot be decided on a motion to dismiss.”
MLW’s argument that it need not “allege cross-elasticity of demand and the absence of ‘reasonably interchangeable alternatives’ to professional wrestling programming” is unavailing.
The Court finds that MLW has not included sufficient facts to plausibly allege a relevant antitrust product market. Regarding the proposed market, the complaint alleges only that there are four competitors in the “United States professional wrestling market”; that the “business of
promoting professional wrestling as sports entertainment is fundamentally a media industry, with revenues and business valuation[s] driven largely by fees obtained from broadcasting rights deals”; and that corporations such as NBCUniversal and Fox Sports “purchase broadcasting rights in the [proposed market] for their various distribution channels such as broadcast networks, cable and satellite services, streaming networks, and film production companies.”
These facts, as pled, are not sufficient to provide an understanding of the characteristics of the relevant market, including the existence or lack of substitutes.
For example, there are no allegations addressing why other “sports entertainment” or “media” content for which broadcasting rights might be sold to distribution channels are not appropriate substitutes. MLW is correct that a single sport may constitute a relevant market, but there are no facts alleged in the complaint to support that legal conclusion. Additionally, the complaint uses multiple formulations to describe the proposed market, which further complicates the question of the market’s boundaries and the reasonably interchangeable products contained within.
MLW argues that the existence of reasonably interchangeable substitutes is a factual issue inappropriate for resolution on a motion to dismiss, relying on Reveal Chat Holdco, LLC v. Facebook, Inc., 471 F. Supp. 3d 981 (N.D. Cal. 2020). That reliance is misplaced. In Reveal Chat Holdco, the court expressly noted that “Plaintiffs need to clearly define the boundaries of the market.” The court rejected defendant’s argument that the proposed data market did not “encompass all economic substitutes” as requiring a “more developed factual record” because plaintiffs’ allegations supported their arguments that specific characteristics distinguished the data products at issue from other types of data.
For the reasons above, the Court finds that MLW’s allegations are insufficient to plausibly allege a relevant product market. Accordingly, the Court GRANTS WWE’s motion to dismiss MLW’s Sherman Act claim.
MLW CEO Court Bauer issued the following statement to PWInsider and told the outlet that his legal team is already working on amending the complaint.
Our legal team is already at work on amending the complaint. We have every intention to continue pursuing our case against WWE.
Major League Wrestling is going to have 21 days to file an amended complaint to resurrect their claims against WWE.