AS I SEE IT 1/26: Bad WWE PR

Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets

So it turns out that it’s not just ONE WWE performer with cancer that was released…very quietly at that…but two. As mentioned last week in this column, referee Mickey “Jay” Henson was among those recently released by WWE. But his name was not publicly announced. Now we know why.

Henson had taken a leave of absence due to a diagnosis of lymphoma, a type of cancer. Henson had not publicized the condition except for a few friends within WWE, as well as John Laurinaitis and Vince McMahon. It has been reported that WWE promised Henson employment while he fought this condition, since Henson didn’t have health insurance. This promise was apparently broken and Henson was among those released. While Matt Cappotelli had been retained on some sort of downside guarantee long after his cancer diagnosis, its a fact that both his release and Henson were kept quiet and never given the usual “future endeavors” sendoff on

The circumstances surrounding this termination also touch on the legal question as to whether or not WWE talent should be considered employees or independent contractors. While employers in the United States are not required to offer health insurance, it is more common to do so for a company that is the size of WWE (in high-paying positions). However, since WWE has chosen to class its talent as independent contractors, they do not offer health benefits to in-ring talent, nor do they take out payroll deductions for federal or local taxes, unemployment, or Social Security; leaving talent on their own to meet these obligations. As was reported in a recent Wrestling Observer, currently contracted talent that takes advantage of WWE’s much-publicized offer to send to rehab is also required to pay back the company for its cost.

In other news this week…a story began circulating on January 21 that there would no longer be professional boxing, wrestling, or other events at the New Alhambra Arena (aka the ECW Arena). This occurred as the result of a story on the Philadelphia Inquirer’s website reporting on Joe this link

After many wrestling websites speculated that this statement referred to the whole property, as opposed to the space within it rented by the Joe Hand Boxing Gym…and some websites attempted to report it as fact, the venue issued the following release:

“A new boxing promotion is working at the building and had a successful debut show this past Friday night. Professional wrestling and other events (martial arts, concerts, private parties) WILL CONTINUE to be held in the building. The only thing that will probably be changing at some point is the name of the Arena & the fact that the facility will be going back more to its wrestling roots.

The Alhambra Arena is making some MAJOR changes and 2009 will be an exciting, ground breaking year with great new additions to the building. Joe Hand’s Gym which is located right next to the arena will be moving it’s operations and live events to a new location, making room for a new, state of the art fitness and training center along with a children’s educational facility.

During this renovation and expansion, the Alhambra will continue to host pro boxing, pro wrestling, mixed martial arts, concerts and other live regional and national events! Upon completion of this expansion project The Arena will be home to Philadelphia’s best sports and entertainment, along with providing a premier training and educational center for the surrounding community, right next door.”

In short, Arena management is taking the space rented by Joe Hand Boxing Gym and expanding into warehouse space immediately adjacent to the venue that houses wrestling, boxing and other events (for longtime ECW fans, this appears to be the area where we remember ECW sneaking in surprise guests for shows, with the big metal door) . The renovation will have no effect on events at the venue, which include continuing CZW, Ring of Honor, and Velocity Pro Wrestling shows, as well as the three-day CHIKARA Pro Wrestling King of Trios Tournament, to be held in March.

A new boxing promoter Xtreme Productions, with cards called “Boxing Ringside” ran its first event at the Arena on January 16, with another card scheduled for March 13.

Long prior to recent events, I do know that Roger Artigiani, who runs the Arena for owners Stein and Silverman (a Philadelphia law firm), has talked about adding educational facilities for the adjoining neighborhood…actually, pretty much from the first day he started running the venue. I’d also heard from at least one source back in December about what is planned for the Arena…with most of the details identical to what’s been reported, with the only exception being no mention of the departure of Hand/Peltz (the source in question isn’t tied into the boxing scene, so may have heard the information and not understood the significance).

In something very interesting that relates to the statement “the name of the venue may well be changing”; a new URL with a very familiar name has been set up through the Tucows registry by Arena management in recent days at this link. The link with a very familiar name will then take you to the existing New Alhambra link, at the moment referred to in its header as simply “The Arena”.

Until next time…

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