To tell the truth

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WILMINGTON, DEL.

Did Paramount's Kerry McCluggage lie on the stand? A Delaware judge came just short of that accusation in his decision permitting the World Wrestling Federation Entertainment to move from USA Network to Viacom-CBS'TNN.

The trial centered on a key provision in USA's contract for WWFE's hugely popular Raw Is War and other wrestling shows: USA's right of first refusal to match any rival's bid. In an attempt to prove that WWF and Viacom were acting in bad faith, USA's lawyers tried to show that Paramount Television Group President Kerry McCluggage and WWFE CEO Linda McMahon plotted to snatch wrestling away, even though USA still had matching rights to the four weekly shows.

But during a four-day trial last month, McCluggage insisted that he was ignorant of the clause much of the time he was wooing WWFE, that he and McMahon never discussed it, and that he never asked whether there were any restrictions on moving the shows.

McMahon gave the same story. Chancellor William Chandler did not believe them. "I find it incredible," Chandler wrote last week, that, in meetings and 10 phone conversations over three months, "WWFE did not once mention USA's right of first refusal." In addition, Chandler said, "I cannot believe that Viacom failed to inquire as to a contract restriction on the four series."

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