Wrestling Rumblings #94
October 22, 2010
By: Jose Marrero of Wrestleview.com
You know, I have no problem admitting that I am a lifelong WWE fan. If it wasn't for WWE I probably would have never been introduced to the world of professional wrestling. It all started with Hulk Hogan having the cross ripped off his chest by Andre The Giant on Piper's Pit and well I've been infatuated ever since with all things wrestling. I could go on and on and tell you how much old WWE footage I have, how I could name every WWE world champion ever, and can even detail the history of such defunct titles such as the original WWE United States championship, WWE International Heavyweight Championship, and others. I'll also freely admit that I am a big fan of Vince McMahon. I've often said it growing up most kids wanted to be Hulk Hogan and I wanted to be Vince McMahon because I knew even back then who was really pulling the strings and making the WWE Empire possible. It would be a dream come true to get any type of employment from WWE and I make no bones about it. Still with all that being said I am not going to "Stand up for WWE"...you're reading "Wrestling Rumblings."
Let's face facts there are many in the wrestling business who are just not being taken care of right now and the few improvements that have been made over the past 5 years have really been due to political pressure not because of a genuine concern for the problems of those in the industry by its caretakers. We have heard the numbers many times throughout the years. Insanely high numbers of individuals who have at one point taken part in the wrestling industry who were dead before the age of 40. I don't like to blame WWE or any company for the death of any individual as I do believe in individual responsibility but at the same time I do think WWE and other companies foster an environment that doesn't necessarily help to protect its athletes. With that being said why should anyone "Stand up for WWE"? Instead I call on all of you who are wrestling fans to "Stand up for the Wrestlers".
I once read a book a long time ago where someone tried to compare the NFL to a modern day form of slavery with the owners being compared to the plantation workers and the athletes of the NFL being compared to slaves the only difference is they were getting paid. This argument at the time was made to show the financial disparity between owners and players with the argument being that owners take too much of the pot and are not giving players their rightful due. If anyone out there does agree with that sentiment than what is there to be said about professional wrestling? There is really only one major company out there and well they pretty much beat you like a dog and when they are done with you euthanize you in a sense. At least the NFL has a union that not only protects its players while they are active but takes care of them when they are no longer playing. What does wrestling have? A system that prevents them from uniting since everyone is after a top spot in the company for financial security and a body that has been battered and bruised with no pension, benefits or healthcare when it is all over. I can make the argument that everyone who partakes in the industry is aware of the pratfalls of all of this but that's like saying the President is aware he can be assassinated at any point in time. It doesn't make it right and it shouldn't be acceptable.
I think we as a society are at times pretty insensitive to the problems of those who we have given celebrity status to. "They have money" we argue "We would kill to have their problems". My favorite statement amongst those is "Those guys doing bad is us doing great, we should do that bad". With most celebrities that sentiment is usually pretty accurate but with the men and women who traverse the roads of the wrestling business it's usually the other way around. Not everyone can be John Cena and Randy Orton and make millions of dollars that if they are smart will take them beyond their professional careers. What about those undercard guys? What about the talent that is in WWE developmental. It's a known fact that some of the FCW guys make 300 to 500 dollars a week and well they are still having to pay day to day expenses and having to handle healthcare, travel and other things that some people who may make similar money and shrug these guys concerns off don't have to put up with. Let's not forget they also are labeled independent contractors and as such have to pay their own taxes and are not entitled to any type of workers compensation. There is no vacation and there are untold demands on a talent's personal life and body that really most people can't wrap their heads around unless they have been through it themselves.
Vince McMahon wants fans to stand up and picket for his company but when was the last time he went out of his way to stand up and help a former talent? It was not all that long ago that the late Dr. Death Steve Williams was basically out there begging for help for a voice box. Sure some of those in the industry may have donated some items to be auctioned off for him, some may have even given some money but are you telling me that Vince McMahon or for that matter any other promoter who Steve Williams worked for couldn't have just said here is the money? I'm a big Bret Hart fan and I am very happy to see Bret back in the good graces of the company but it wasn't all that long ago where Bret was comparing the life of a wrestler to an old race horse. I'm sure he would probably say something different now as he is back in the company but I would like him to really think that if WWE felt they couldn't make any kind of money off of him would they have reached out to him for so many different things throughout the years? I doubt it, after all this was the same company that was aware of Tony Atlas being homeless and didn't lift a finger at the time to help him get over his addictions and get back on his feet.
What unfair accusations are being levied against WWE that fans should feel composed to stand up for them? That the company has encouraged steroid use amongst its athletes? OK maybe the choice of words there is incorrect as I really doubt in recent years if anyone was told directly to get on the gas but I sincerely doubt that WWE has dissuaded the practice of steroid use either. There are many in the company who are still pushed on look, despite of talent or fan approval and I can't help but notice the number of changing physiques around Wrestlemania time. That WWE doesn't value it's employees? Well I recall a story in JJ Dillons book "Wrestlers are like Seagulls" where he recounts being an office employee of WWE who was pressured into moving and buying a house that he wasn't sure he could afford because he wasn't sure as to the stability of his employment only to have his pay cut because the company was struggling. Mind you his pay was cut after he purchased his home with a loan from Vince McMahon. Are you telling me Vince didn't have an idea that the pay cut was coming? He basically lured JJ into a false sense of security and pearl harbored him into remaining an employee for an extended amount of time for less money than JJ would have preferred. Way to value your actual employees. What about the allegations of racism and sexual harassment that have been levied throughout the years? Ranging from employees like Micheal Hayes, Batista, Randy Orton and others? How has that at times been fair to other employees/contractors?
I'm not saying WWE is the worse company in the world to work for as many of these problems do exist in other companies but what I am trying to say is there is nothing to stand up for right now. The men and women who work for WWE do at times get a bum deal and the company does come across at times to be very heartless towards them once they feel they cannot make them anymore money. Vince McMahon has often said he treats his wrestlers like family well in some of those cases if I had family who treated me that way I'd disown them. I also want to say that if WWE does many of these things TNA definitely is not off the hook but this is an industry wide problem and I'd love to see much reform in the industry as I think it would really help but it should also be acknowledged that WWE is the industries leader and I believe change should always start from the top and trickle it's way down. So don't "Stand up for WWE" they are a billion dollar company that will continue to print money for many years to come regardless of what happens after this election year. Stand up for the men and women who entertain you every week on TV, who drive up and down the roads, fly from country to country and sacrifice so much so that we can enjoy ourselves. They need benefits, a pension and better job security. They need more from an industry that doesn't always give them enough. Stand up for that and nothing else.
OK it's time to wrap this column up but of course I have to give the people reading this something to do. This Saturday is UFC 121 with former WWE Champion and current UFC Champion Brock Lesnar defending his title against Cain Velazquez. I'm a big MMA fan and I imagine there are many that are reading this that are fans also however if you are not a fan of MMA I still have something for you. Go Fight TV in preparation for its live WSU PPV on November 6th is showing WSU's Uncensored Rumble 3 for free which is headlined by WSU Champion Mercedes Martinez defending her title against former champion Alicia. If you like women's wrestling it's worth taking this free look at WSU and if you are on the fence about this November 6th show here is a chance to see a show absolutely free and determine if this is the right product for you. Another thing I want to plug that may happen this weekend, if not it will happen soon is another Wrestleview column that will be put out by yours truly. This one will be called "The Eye Gouge" and will be a column dedicated to book reviews and possibly even DVD reviews. I've looked at my book case the other day and have over 75 wrestling books in my collection and am nearing 2000 DVD's in my collection also. So it should be a fun little project that I hope to get into soon.
Of course I would love suggestions for things to review and for that matter any publisher, promoter out there with a book or DVD to review would also be welcome to contact me. You can do that at firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm looking forward to the emails I get regarding this as I tackle this project. That's it for this week, next week I will try to do better and until then, I am out.