The infamous travel issues WWE faced in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia after the 2019 Crown Jewel event have been back in the headlines recently, mainly owing to a lawsuit which has been issued against WWE by Kansas City Firefighter’s Pension Fund. The suit alleges that their brand has been damaged with the Saudi partnership as WWE misrepresented their business prospects in the Middle East.
WWE’s lawyers have now responded with their own statement, focusing on the two of the lawsuit’s confidential witnesses: a former WWE wrestler who experience issues at the airport following Crown Jewel, and a Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC) executive who testified over licensing and broadcast rights in the region.
“The only sources cited in the CAC are two confidential witnesses (neither of whom interacted with the Individual Defendants, participated in negotiations over the MENA rights deal, or worked at WWE’s corporate offices), declarations provided by Defendants prior to filing the CAC, and a series of ‘news reports’ that consist almost exclusively of unsupported content cherry-picked from wrestling websites founded on multiple layers of hearsay and unverified statements from Twitter. The allegations are all based on ‘speculation’ from ‘news reports,’ such as ‘a wrestling-focused website’ that itself is based on statements by a ‘WWE Spanish commentator’ (who is not employed by WWE and who based his own story on another unnamed party)*
“The so-called ‘media reports’ also include other unidentified ‘wrestling-focused websites’ that cite to ‘an individual’ who was supposedly ‘in contact with sources in the WWE’ that stated ‘the [Saudis] come up short’ by a couple million dollars every show (i.e., the three done so far)quotes in the CAC are from the Twitter page of a self-proclaimed wrestling journalist.
“Even if these websites and Twitter cites could be deemed ‘news sources,’ none of these unverified, non-particularized hearsay allegations supports that any payments breached a contract or indicates a relationship so tattered that no deal could be done.
“Finally, Plaintiff’s allegation that the WWE-Saudi Arabia relationship was strained by the activities surrounding the 2019 Crown Jewel event (i.e., the supposed “cut feed” and alleged incidents related to travel back to the United States) are also conclusory and do not establish any falsity or scienter. As Plaintiff acknowledges , WWE and the charter airline company released statements explaining the mechanical issues with the plane. Ex. 21 (Forbes, 11/01/19). In contrast, Plaintiff relies on the same speculative so-called “news outlets” and Twitter accounts described above, as well as a former wrestler (CW-2). The CAC also cites an article that acknowledges WWE’s description of the mechanical issues, while also citing a radio commentator who (without any explanation or sources) offered his own contrary opinion on his radio show and Twitter.”
In relation to the former wrestler:
“As to CW-2, most of the allegations he raises are innocuous or completely irrelevant to issues of falsity or scienter, such as CW-2’s observation that persons boarding an airplane ‘appear[ed] to be ‘in a hurry,’ a flight attendant made a colloquial statement about not taking off, CW-2’s opinion that the pilot’s voice sounded “distressed,” and CW-2’s observation regarding the presence of armed security at an airport.
The most specific item CW-2 provides—the hearsay that a WWE Senior Director of Talent Relations informed him that Defendant McMahon cut the live feed and got into an argument with the Crown Prince as to late payments—is directly contradicted by Plaintiff’s own allegations and items Plaintiff relied upon. KSA made the $60 million payment before the Crown Jewel event began, as was publicly disclosed earlier that day on the earnings call. It thus does not make sense, logically, that this payment (even accepting the conclusory allegation that it was ‘late’) would have prompted Defendant McMahon to temporarily ‘cut’ and then shortly thereafter resume a live broadcast feed.”
Stay tuned for further updates.