Wrestling Rumblings #15
May 16, 2009
By: Jose Marrero of WrestleView.com

Hey everyone?I got to tell you I really am going into this week’s column with a virtual blank. You see for the last month or so I have been feeling the economic crunch like everyone else. Of course my previous month started out on vacation from my regular job and enjoying Wrestlemania 25 live and in person. It was a great experience and one that I will always treasure. Of course mid way through my vacation I received a phone call from someone’s secretary telling me my position which I was on vacation from was going to be terminated. So I have spent the last month trying to find work and dealing the politics of doing business the right way. So to say I?m a bit disoriented is putting it mildly as since May 13th I am now unemployed. Of course while thinking about this situation and the column I couldn?t help but think of the similarities of my current situation to that of those you hear about in wrestling and well I think if there is one thing that gets lost sometimes by the fans is that wrestlers are just like us. They are people that go through everyday things. So if you have the patience please join me on my month long trip to where I am at now as I compare my situation with that of some wrestlers?you are reading ?Wrestling Rumblings?.

Why am I telling you all this? Well it’s a simple answer for me. I believe in being honest with all the readers that take stock in knowing that you are going to get a quality effort for me every week so if you feel this is not the week for me rest assured there will be much more sunnier days ahead. Of course let’s do my story at the beginning I got the news of being laid off on the telephone while I was on vacation from a person at HR. It was something similar to the story that you always hear from Steve Austin about getting fired from WCW when he said Eric Bischoff had his secretary call her secretary to call him and tell him he don?t have a job no more. It was very similar as someone dropped the ball and I was informed while I was on vacation that in X amount of time I wouldn?t have a job anymore. Needless to say it was a tough pill to swallow of course I went through all the motions of calling people and piecing together what happened and got the usual red tape. How many wrestlers have we heard over the years that were promised things from one guy but had it blamed on another who blamed it on another? It is the exact same thing in real life and well I was experiencing it firsthand. After speaking to my boss I was informed basically he dropped the ball but would make it right for me and he outlined what my severance package would be and told me to enjoy the rest of my vacation?.right.

Lets sidebar for a moment. How many wrestlers do you hear about who get released and they get the 90 day no compete? Many well of course that’s there severance plan. They get paid for those 90 days and the company requires them to do nothing other than not compete for a competitor. These agreements are ironclad and usually court enforceable but of course there are times when WWE reneges or changes the terms and a wrestler does not have the financial capability of fighting them so they are forced to accept the terms they are dealt with. Well that is something similar to what happened to me I was told over the phone that I would have a month severance pay and on top of that would be paid a week for every year I had been employed?I had been there for three years so that’s 7 weeks pay coming my way. Of course there are conditions those conditions were that if I took a position somewhere else within the institution I would not be granted my severance pay since I would be left on the payroll. So we got that right? Fine, I was laid off on a Tuesday and back to work that Monday needless to say my vacation was hell I mean how can you enjoy yourself when you know you will be on permanent vacation very soon? I march into the office Monday determined to put my best foot forward and see this situation as an opportunity to do other things. Never mind the fact that I was let go over the phone by someone who didn?t know me and wasn?t really authorized to do so but just jumped the gun because my boss was gun shy in saying the truth I was determined to turn the page and be a professional. Of course my boss made me wait almost 3 hours to speak with him instead of dealing with me first thing in the morning like I felt he should have and proceeded to lay out the severance agreement which lo and behold all of a sudden changed. Of course just like those wrestlers I mentioned I don?t have the resources to fight anything so I had to take the hand I was dealt needless to say I am now getting about 2 and a half weeks severance. A far cry from the 7 weeks I expected but on the flip side I figured maybe I can land something somewhere else in the institution. After all HR had been in touch with me and the Woman I spoke to regretted her role in the situation and informed me not to worry because she was ?very good at her job?. I dealt with it what else could I do. I had a month to get employment in the institution or my summer of heartache would begin.

Let’s bring this back to wrestling because as much as I am venting right now this is a wrestling column. How many times have we seen wrestlers throughout the years be put in awkward situations by promoters it can even extend to the front office personnel in wrestling? If any of you have ever had the chance to read JJ Dillon’s book ?Wrestlers are like Seagulls? there is a story in there where JJ mentions his time working as one of Vince McMahons top people in the office. In the story he mentions a house that he and his wife were skeptical of buying and Vince McMahon loaned him some money because he wanted JJ and his family to ?have roots? to the company. At the time everything was good in WWE for JJ and he thought nothing of it on the contrary he was touched by the gesture and took McMahon up on the loan and as the story goes further you learn that later on during McMahon’s steroid trial McMahon cut the pay of several key front office people in WWE one of them being JJ Dillon of course JJ was now on the hook to Vince McMahon because well he owed him money on this house that with his new salary he couldn?t even really afford to live in. Basically Vince trapped him in employment. It was a smart business move by Vince as JJ Dillon really does have a great mind for wrestling but a really horrible personal thing to put someone through. Coming back to my situation I now have to be in this job that I am losing in about a month and basically have to pull through my mental situation and leave everything right and burn no bridges or else I won?t get what is coming to me which has already been dramatically reduced from what is promised. I should mention how before all of this happened there was a position opening up in our office that I personally petitioned for numerous times with positive feedback of course upon sit down with my boss I outlined how we could redelegate responsibilities with that position absorbing some of my current role as a way to not only help myself out but to help improve productivity in our office. My impression of my proposal at the time was that it was strongly received and after speaking to the person who oversees that position I would be talked to in a few days. A few days turned into weeks and needless to say I was not spoken to. On the contrary my boss as well as that positions boss played a kids game of ?keep away? with me barely saying two words to me. Kayfabing me so to speak while they were lining up other prospective applicants for this position behind my back. It didn?t bother me that I was not going to get this job but the lack of feedback and lack of opportunity to interview did disturb me and needless to say will always bother me. It doesn?t help to say that I was barely getting two words from people who would usually always go out of their way to talk to me. Things were not looking good to say the least.

Let’s bring this back to wrestling. Wrestlers are independent contractors. They are self employed but they are dependent at the same time on an employer confusing isn?t it? When you tell someone they are an independent contractor you are essentially telling them that they are a self sustaining business who provides you the promoter a service and you in turn provide him with whatever is the terms of your agreement nothing more and nothing less. Being a independent contractor should entitle them to provide those same services for anyone else outside of the time that is allotted to you of course we all know that is not the case in wrestling. You are an independent contractor but only for the very convenient things such as consistent medical coverage, paid vacation and having to pay your own taxes. Everything else and you are treated as a regular employee. You are even drug tested. All other forms of sports are not labeled this way but yet wrestling is but if you ask the powers that be in wrestling they will tell you that wrestling is entertainment but well you have SAG members who get benefits and other coverage so why not wrestlers? Because it’s just the way it is and if you want to be involved in the business you take it.

Bringing this back to my situation I got into this particular line of work because I felt there was security in it and well I wanted a career as opposed to a job so in dealing with this mess I am just taking it because well what else can I do. So I try to do the little bit of networking I can and open up some doors for myself since HR is not really coming through for me at the moment and I come across this position that is just about custom made for me and throw my hat in the bag. I go on the interview and just blow everyone away and take the skills assessment tests and just about murder the tests so at this point even though I am going through the mess that I am at my job I and the sands are slipping through the hour glass on my employment I am optimistic as I feel there is no better candidate than me for this job. I deal with the cloak and dagger games that are being played with me by certain individuals and concentrate on being the best professional I can be and leave with my head held high. Of course at the same time I feel like I am being a bit baited into having false hope in some of these leads in the hope that I will work harder but I push on through and determined to do my job to the best of my ability I go to work with a heavy head every day for the duration of my employment. I deal with this throughout the month and as I am leaving my office with one more day to go on my countdown I get an email telling me I didn?t get the job. Of course I am disappointed but at the same time I know there is nothing more I could do to get that job and am determined to have a great last day. Upon coming back for my last day I learn through close sources that I was in fact the best candidate to get that job and of course someone who wasn?t ?half? of what I am got the job because of who they knew. I was screwed over by politics. Even though I had been part of the institution for 3 years without a single black mark to my name and was the best qualified applicant for the position.

Let’s compare that to a wrestling situation. How many wrestlers have you heard over the years be told to ?do business? maybe work with a guy and put someone over and be promised bigger and better things only to be told something changed and the push that they were promised was no longer there even though they fulfilled their end of the bargain? Of course the flip side of it is if they initially refused to do the things that were promised they would either be let go or just have the label of someone who was difficult to work with. How many times have you seen a wrestler who you thought had all the potential in the world be denied what his talent said he deserved simply because another person didn?t like him and it was over something stupid as a handshake? How many wrestlers have we seen throughout the years that we have questioned why they get pushed? You know the guys who seem like they can?t work, can?t cut a promo and well you just don?t even watch any segment with them but you find out that someone in the office really liked them or they are dating someone and that’s why they not only have a job but that’s why they are getting elevated over someone who has been in the business 10 years didn?t kiss anyone’s ass but just did their job. For Christ sake Shane McMahon has been in the main event picture for the past few months even though he has never been a regular performer and in the opinions of many is not marketable as a main event wrestler simply because he is Vince McMahons son. Politics oh how I hate them so.

So after all of this you can imagine I am pretty stressed out. I?ve been played from day one and denied my dream job and unemployment is now a mere 8 hours away. Just a few hours into my day HR contacts me. Mind you I should mention that HR never contacted me throughout the month even though I sent a hundred emails asking me if I was ?interested in a temporary position? my answer to that was a very brief well explained no. At this point I was done with the place after all if I couldn?t get a job that I was the most qualified applicant for that I liked why would I want to work a temporary job that I didn?t want? Especially when because I am there I am stuck unable to explore other opportunities that exist outside of that job. The best part is no one even said what it was just that it was temporary so why should you get geeked up because of it? The short answer is because they want you to and since I didn?t I got a call about 20 minutes from a Labor Relations executive telling me how if I turn this down I will lose any severance pay promised to me. Severance pay remember that? You know the agreement that was supposed to be 7 weeks and then inexplicably got changed to 2 and a half? Well they weren?t going to give me what they originally promised and if I didn?t agree to become an indentured servant for them they weren?t even going to give me what they were comfortable at the time giving me. I should also mention just to sweeten the deal it was going to go down as if I quit the institution which would mean they would also block me from getting unemployment. So as much as I try not to use profanity in these columns (even though I use 4 letter words in most of my sentences in everyday life) I was .ed. I had to email this HR person back and under duress profess interest in a position I didn?t even want. Rest assured my day gets better. She informs me that she will have a description of the position later on in the day and just to hang tight so with no other option I proceed to do that. It should be pointed out that I am probably as ticked off as I have been all month about having my back up against the wall and being forced to do something I am not comfortable doing because someone is threatening to take food off of my table. Still though there are people that rely on me in my office that I would be doing a great disservice to by tanking my day so I still try to make the last few hours count for something. After all just because I am dealing with snakes and hyenas shouldn?t make me less of a professional.

Ever hear the saying people love to kick a person when he is down? Guess what it’s a 100% true and well it couldn?t be truer in the wrestling business. Take a situation like Kurt Angles all he wanted was rehab and a reduced schedule. Which when you take into consideration the money he helped make WWE over the years and the fact that he has a legit broken neck you figure would be easy to give someone. Of course what seems logical almost never is and he wound up having to negotiate a release instead. The company rather than just let him part and be done with it had to of course work up their own smear campaign on it and say he was a drugged out lunatic who didn?t want help even though according to Angle (there are 2 sides to every story) he asked for rehab and was denied and told he was a Olympic Gold Medalist and didn?t need it. Look at Devon Storm AKA Crowbar how many times have I seen Tazz bash him on WWE Classics History of ECW program? Devon Storm has pretty much been out of the business for years now aside from the occasional indy appearance and yet he gets targeted and attacked from someone who he never said a cross word about. Everyone loves to see someone fall remember that.

Getting back to my situation I?m about as down as I could be at that point and I am about to get kicked. I get a call from the Labor Relations executive and he asks what happened with HR and informs me that I should call HR immediately at which point even though I am very unhappy with the situation I proceed to do so. Of course the first thing this person asks me is how am I doing? How am I doing? How would you be doing if all of this happened to you? Exactly so my reply to this is a very serious ?not so good but what choice do I have?? at this point I am tore a new one over the phone while I am basically dealing with someone who is power tripping and wants me to fall down and worship her for the crumb she is giving me that I don?t want. After trying to calm this raving power hungry lunatic down over the phone I am hung up on and dismissed like a child and the worst part is there is nothing I can do about it because well if I say one cross word it may cost me everything. How many times have we seen wrestlers in the business just sabotaged and not able to do anything about it? While I can?t say this is definitively true we have heard many stories of HHH and even before him Hulk Hogan and entities such as The Kliq cutting the knees out from under some talent and them being very much made aware of it and them not being able to do a damn thing. There is an old story about Scott Hall talking to a very new to WCW Chris Benoit and during the course of the discussion openly whipping out his junk and urinating on Benoit. I don?t know about you but that’s a fight on my block and of course Benoit who just wanted to keep his job took it and stood pissed on and pissed off.

So here I am now my first day of being unemployed and I am a wreck. I have HR calling me and now they have told me about this position and not only do I not really want the job but I don?t even feel I could do it properly which of course puts me in the position of interviewing for it, getting the job and getting fired leaving me to collect squat no severance pay, no unemployment, do not pass go and don?t even think about collecting 200 dollars. Of course I should mention that in one day of being unemployed I have opened the door to several possibilities of course since nothing is a given and the powers that be at my old institution are threatening to take away what is rightfully mine I can?t even realistically entertain them at the cost of losing what I am already promised. So I am stuck between a rock and a hard place. Sort of like Paul Heyman being sent home and given nothing to do and not being given the opportunity to do something else or be sued in breach of contract. There are many guys in WWE who have had similar situations I don?t know how many of you know how WWE contracts are structured but they have downside guarantees which means that no matter what happens a wrestler is guaranteed to bottom out with his earnings with X amount of money now what you don?t hear about is if a wrestler fails to earn enough money via, merchandise, house shows, TV and PPV’s to even earn his downside guarantee he still gets it but he owes the company the difference between what he earns and what he was paid. In other words if I was in WWE and you had me on a 250G a year downside guarantee and took me off of TV because I wasn?t getting over with the crowd and took me off of the house shows while creative came up with a new gimmick for me I would now owe the company the money that I am getting paid even though they are the reason I am sitting at home. Of course if I was in TNA and was in the same situation where for the most part its pay pier diem and there is no downside and I just wanted to work elsewhere and make money they would take a booking fee out of my contract even though they didn?t necessarily help me secure the booking and well if you have a problem with it they will just sue you for breach of contract.

So here I am now’stuck unable to get my money from either my severance or unemployment because of the slave drivers that be and for what? I was let go because of budgetary issues in other words someone spent too much money. How come they still have a job? Fire that person. Wrestlers get let go all the time with the excuse ?creative didn?t have anything for you? well you know what the saying goes?fire creative. I?m being forced to navigate the system to feed my family the same system that we all from time to time must navigate the game that we all must navigate and I am trying I mean although it doesn?t get mentioned here I have some good people advocating on my behalf I just don?t know if that’s going to be enough. It’s just like those in the wrestling industry you are a slave to your profession.

For those who may have found this column unnecessary and boring this week I apologize. I needed the therapy and writing cures the soul sometimes. To those that enjoyed it I am glad my month of misery was able to provide some form of entertainment to someone. Either way you all know you can hit me up at wrestlingrumblings@hotmail.com. To those that have asked I haven?t posted anything on myspace in over a month pretty much because of the stress I have in dealing with this situation maybe I will this week more than likely I won?t. In the meantime I have been home and playing with looking at the VIP section and tossing around suggestions that can make it better and who knows if enough of you jump on that maybe I can do something on VIP and make myself some much needed cash. Next week I will try to do better and until then I am out.