Is WWE Smackdown dead?

In a turn of events almost as bizarre as the pseudo-sport itself, wrestling giants WWE have filed a lawsuit against THQ - who possess the licence to publish WWE-based games until December 2009, which includes the hugely successful Smackdown series.

The suit alleges that a former WWE licensing and merchandising boss received bribes from toy manufacturer Jakks Pacific in 1998 to ensure that a joint venture between Jakks and THQ would be given the rights to produce WWE videogames - even though there were "superior" proposals at the time from other publishers, including Activision. There are also charges of racketeering and money-laundering. Crikey.

As well as damages, WWE are also looking to have their deal with THQ declared as being void. Whatever the outcome though, THQ's latest incarnation of the Smackdown series - Smackdown vs Raw - will be released next month for PS2 as planned. However, the future of the money-spinning series, as well as THQ's GBA, Cube and Xbox WWE titles, have to be in doubt.

However, THQ have today released a statement which reads, "THQ is committed to preserving its rights under the videogame licence with WWE. As THQ is not directly accused of any wrongdoing in the complaint - rather the complaint alleges wrongdoing on the part of Jakks Pacific and others of which THQ was and is unaware - THQ is not in a position to comment on these allegations. In any event, either there is no basis for terminating the videogame licence or THQ expects to be made whole by those whose conduct is eventually found to be unlawful."

So, what does all this legalese boil down to? If WWE do manage to terminate their agreement with THQ, they'll have no difficulty in striking a deal with another publisher (our money would be on EA). Whether the Smackdown series would continue apace or new brands would be created in its place is open to speculation. As for where this would leave THQ also remains to be seen. After losing the WWE (then WWF) licence in 1998, Acclaim failed to pick up franchises of a similar profile and the company recently shut down after racking up massive debts.

WWE Smackdown vs Raw will be suplexing its way on to PS2 on 19 November