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In a perfect world, Vince McMahon and former XFL commissioner Oliver Luck would settle their dispute in a steel-cage match like the once McMahon used at Madison Square Garden for epic professional wrestling matches involving Bruno Sammartino, Bob Backlund, and Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka.

Then again, watching the squabble in court between the two could be even more entertaining than seeing their case settled in the WWE’s squared circle. With $23.8 million potentially riding on the passcode to an iPhone, lawyers on both sides won’t be holding anything back.

The XFL collapsed in the early days of the pandemic

There was no way that National Football League owners were ever going to let Vince McMahon into their club, so the wrestling promoter founded the XFL in 2001 in partnership with NBC. McMahon and TV executive Dick Ebersol wanted to compete with the NFL, but they weren’t prepared to go head-to-head with the country’s most successful sports league.

Instead, they trotted out a schedule that kicked off after the Super Bowl and extended into the spring. The league made it through its inaugural season, but TV ratings dropped rapidly after the opening weeks, and attendance couldn’t overcome the mounting losses. The league folded before Year 2.

McMahon revived the XFL nearly two decades later, and version 2.0 made its debut on Feb. 8, 2020, after close to two years of planning by commissioner Oliver Luck and the league office in Connecticut. Even without big names, the XFL was off to a credible start until the COVID-19 pandemic shut down sports across the country.

The XFL filed for bankruptcy on April 13, 2020, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson led a group of investors that bought the remaining assets four months later. Johnson subsequently announced that the XFL will return in 2022.

Vince McMahon and Oliver Luck have been fighting

League founder Vince McMahon fired XFL commissioner Oliver Luck, the father of retired Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, shortly before the bankruptcy filing. Luck responded by suing the wrestling promoter for wrongful termination, according to Pro Football Talk.

That has set off an interesting back-and-forth that began with McMahon citing three reasons justifying the firing:

  • Luck left the league offices to return to his Indiana home on March 13 at the onset of the shutdown, removing himself from daily operations.
  • He allegedly signed a player with a questionable background in violation of league rules.
  • He allegedly used his league-issued iPhone to conduct personal business.

At stake is $23.8 million, which is the remainder of Luck’s $35 million contract to run the league. The Athletic reported that the fight is now focused primarily on McMahon’s attempt to acquire the passcode to Luck’s company phone.

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It may seem crazy on the surface that $23.8 million could be riding on the data stored inside Oliver Luck’s cellphone, but lawyers for the two sides are fighting over every detail. The Athletic reported that court filings show lawyers for Luck and Vince McMahon have convened four times in the past three months in meetings focused largely on the iPhone passcode.

McMahon is holding out hope that the data on the phone will show that Luck ceased work-related activities after returning to Indiana.

A federal district judge has scheduled a discovery conference for Dec. 17. He will have to decide whether a Connecticut law requiring employees to disclose passcodes applies since Oliver worked for the league and not McMahon, the defendant in the lawsuit.

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