Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com is reporting that TNA has dropped a legal bombshell on WWE regarding their former office worker Brian Wittenstein. TNA allege that Wittenstein passed on confidential information to WWE about their contracts while working for WWE's talent relations department earlier this year and that despite firing him that they have used that illegally obtained knowledge to their advantage since then:
TNA filed a lawsuit yesterday in court in Nashville against WWE and former TNA and WWE office worker Brian Wittenstein for interference with existing contracts, conversion, breach of contract, civil conspiracy, unfair competition, and violation of the Tennessee Uniform Trade Secrets Act. They are also suing Wittenstein for breach of duty of loyalty.
TNA's lawsuit alleges that that Wittenstein, who worked for the company for three years before departing in 2011, provided WWE with inside information on TNA contracts and other matters from his time working in TNA's talent relations and live events departments....
Wittenstein was hired by WWE earlier this year and worked briefly under Michael Hayes as an assistant before being let go. According to the suit, WWE fired Wittenstein after he presented them with insider TNA information. However, TNA claims that WWE did not approach them with that information until 5/7, several weeks after they let Wittenstein go.
TNA's lawsuit claimed that WWE is now trying to poach contracted talent from TNA, using inside information from TNA contracts to their advantage....
An injunction was issued earlier today demanding that WWE and Wittenstein each return whatever confidential material Wittenstein retained from his time working for TNA. They were specifically instructed not to "destroy" any of the material.
I am told a hearing regarding the case is already slated for next month.
TNA's main complaint regards Ric Flair, who missed several scheduled TNA dates earlier this month. There was speculation that TNA had sent Flair home over finally getting fed up of his inappropriate drunken behavior in public and asking them to pick up his bar tabs, but this is clearly not the case, even though there was probably some truth to those stories. Instead, Flair just decided to stop showing up for work after informing TNA that he wanted out of his contract in order to return to WWE.
Where it gets messy is that TNA did not file a lawsuit against WWE when WWE announced that The Four Horsemen would be inducted into their 2012 Hall Of Fame with advertising that would suggest that Ric Flair would appear at the event. Instead, TNA came to an agreement with WWE for Flair to attend the event and even allowed his induction speech to be shown on television. It's hard for TNA to complain about contract tampering when they rolled out the red carpet for Flair to speak with WWE management at WrestleMania weekend. It may just be a coincidence that Wittenstein gave WWE inside information around the same time, as it was well known that Flair was not happy working for TNA and was likely looking for a way to escape his contract.
The same may be true of Alex Shelley whose TNA contract is expiring and has given his notice to the company to possibly jump to WWE. Despite being one of the most talented workers in the X-Division, he was strangely put on the back burner when his Motor City Machine Guns partner Chris Sabin was injured last May and hasn't been used very prominently since then. According to Dave Meltzer, he was already thinking about quitting the company before WWE came calling to work in Japan and for Dragon Gate USA.
TNA's best case for contract tampering seems to be Matt Morgan, who was well pushed and seemed to be content in TNA until recently, but even there that might be difficult to prove, as in an interview with PWTorch.com editor Wade Keller this April he made it public that his contract was coming due soon and that he wouldn't rule out a return to WWE.
We'll keep you informed at how this lawsuit turns out for TNA, but on the surface it seems like it will be a tough battle for them to win.