I mentioned to a friend of mine I was writing for this website and she was ribbing me about it. I came to find out that a friend of hers is a big WWE fan, she’s actually seen a few PPV’s and has been to a live event. She said that she couldn’t really enjoy the action because in the back of her mind she was worried about someone hurting themselves. I tried to explain to her the choreographed nature of the matches, the training that goes into it, the practice, etc, but I couldn’t in all good conscience assuage her fears. It’s happened, broken bones, joint and ligament tears, a senseless death due to a senseless stunt in the middle of the ring. She went off on a mini-rant about why the wrestlers don’t get healthcare and basically shorten their lives for such a little payday. Preaching to the choir homie.
Whenever this subject comes up about how wrestlers in the WWE aren’t considered employees, but rather “Independent Contractors”, I remember a quote from “The Body” himself in his book:
“All through your wrestling career, remember, you’re an independent contractor. You’re paying out enormous amounts in taxes. There’s no pension, no health benefits. And the moment you’re not making that draw, the promoters couldn’t care less about you. You’re a piece of meat. I knew guys that had worked hard for twenty years or more and still retired with nothing. Wrestling operated under some of the most unfair working conditions in the country. I don’t know how they got away with it for so many years.”
— Jesse Ventura, I Ain’t Got Time To Bleed
The guys in Stamford aren’t dumb, they understand that by classifying wrestlers as “Independent Contractors” by classifying workers as independent contractors, it allows the E to avoid paying health insurance, Social Security and Medicare contributions and unemployment insurance. Not to mention workman’s comp, which would probably be astronomical considering the injury rate. There are full-time employees on the business and television/production side of the company, but none of the performers. It feels almost like a slap in the face for the men and women that are putting their bodies on the line every time they hit the ring. Why would a production assistant or accountant get the kind of benefits that could mean the difference between being able to retire at 40 and having to drag their broken 60 year old bodies around to gymnasiums all over the country to cheering crowds of literally dozens of spectators?
While the idea of a “wrestler’s union” has been floated a time or two, I’m simply asking why the WWE does not at a minimum provide healthcare to its workers? The WWE could purchase a “Group Health Insurance Plan” or “Employer-sponsored Health Insurance” that would cover the wrestler at a minimum or even their immediate families. If you’re wondering just how expensive something like that would be, consider that a couple of years ago the average premium for single coverage is $521 per month, or $6,251 per year. The average premium for family coverage is $1,462 per month or $17,545 per year. Obviously wrestlers would be considered in a “high risk pool” so to speak, so in a worst case scenario you could almost double those numbers. Let’s say that it would cost $1,000 per month per wrestler and their families aren’t covered. We’re talking about $12,000 per year to give these peace of mind and allow them to put some money in the bank for their inevitable retirement. For these guys it’s not about what they make, it’s about what they save.
Normally employers and employees split the cost of insurance, with the employer on average kicking in 83%, so $9,960 annually. The rest being covered by the employees through payroll deductions. Let’s assume that everyone on the main roster, and a majority of the NXT workers that work televised matches are also given health insurance. It wouldn’t be prudent for the E to provide trainees health insurance, especially since one would assume untrained or undertrained wrestling students would be at a vastly higher risk of injury than veterans. Let’s assume 150 wrestlers are covered, we’re throwing in the UK and Cruiserweight guys as well. That means it would cost a little less than $1.5 Million a year to provide healthcare to the workers. For a company the size of the E, that seems like a drop in the bucket, I mean, that’s probably what it costs to get a handful of appearances by a Brock or Goldberg,
It’s always been surprising to me that a publicly traded company like the WWE can get away with this sort of behavior. Back when Linda McMahon ran for office in Connecticut, this was briefly brought up by her opponent but then quickly faded. Now that she’s the Secretary of Small Businesses, one would think this would have been brought up again. I mean, how much higher does a McMahon have to go before they are called out on the carpet on this?
What’s appalling to me is that Owen Hart not only died in the ring during an unnecessary stunt, but he was not covered by the company for life insurance. It is also likely that in his contract he had a very common clause which would sever the obligation of the company from providing the proceeds from any use of his likeness to his estate, family, or designees. The fact that wrestlers sign exclusive contracts and are unable to take additional work on, either for other wrestling companies, television, or movies roles, makes it feel as though they are already official employees. The E does this to protect the way that their wrestlers are promoted and marketed, making sure it’s not detrimental to how the E wants them to be presented. While there are some confidentiality agreements or non-compete agreements that some independent contractors are made to sign, that shouldn’t include ventures that have no direct competition or involvement with their current employer. I’d argue that the wider ranging limitations that the E’s contracts require go far beyond that. Heck, in some cases the E even takes a percentage from the performers as part of a “management fee”. Outrageous, right?
Let’s be honest, here, it’s not like the E is just going to dip into their profits to provide healthcare out of the goodness of their hearts, right? After all they have the shareholders to think about. But, what if it’s not just a matter of Vince taking one for the team and giving up a little scratch? What if the shareholders vote to allow a small portion of their dividends to go towards providing healthcare, and what if we as fans were willing to pay another $.15 per ticket? There’s an easy way to find the money to make this happen. Heck, if we can start with such an essential benefit as healthcare, who knows? Maybe retirement plans are next? I’m not talking 205, I’m talking 401K.
- Okada vs Omega is being billed as the present day “Flair vs Steamboat”, although with the roles obviously being reversed. I can see the parallels for sure in the mic work and quality of matches, and if it wasn’t for that one glaring inversion in characters it would be a mirror image of that feud. Cuz’ Okada is a Face, but he’s the one wearing the gaudy robe. Wait…what did you think I was gonna say? Racists.
- PJ Black, aka Justin Gabriel reportedly broke his leg and lost a finger because of a base jumping accident. I kind of think he’s taking this “Dare Wolf” gimmick a little too far. He needs to understand that not every risk is a risk worth taking, be more selective. Maybe a name change to “Double Dog Dare Wolf”.
- This Big Show/Enzo/Big Cass love triangle can obviously only end one way…SWERVE and Enzo ends up teaming with Big E. I didn’t realize Enzo was such a “Size Queen”, why else would he constantly be drawn to guys with “Big” in their name.
- Rosemary and Allie are running an odd, near Lesbian type angle on IMPACT. I’m not sure how Braxton Sutter feels about where this is going, but he might want to call Tommy Dreamer for advice. Is Braxton “Hardcore”?
- TNA/IMPACT is announcing their newest Hall of Fame class soon. I think we all know who that should be, it’s just a no-brainer at this point. Clearly the most impactful, valuable, and biggest contributor of talent into TNA/IMPACT has been….The WWE’s “Future Endeavor” Statement!!
- Tanahashi’s IWGP Intercontinental Championship win was both a surprise and a disappointment. I’ve enjoyed the ring work and character of Naito, and his gimmick has been a real eye opener.
- Now that Hideo Itami is showing aggression and looks to be entering a feud with Kassius Ohno, this feels the like the perfect time to bring back an old Puro tradition. Hopefully NXT can Capitalize on heel ITAMI.
- Rumors of Cena’s return to take the belt off Jinder Mahal have been largely drive by speculation that the E is trying to capitalize on the latest fad and Cena will debut his new Fidget Spinner belt.
- Rumors are floating that Bray Wyatt is in the middle of a messy divorce and his soon to be ex-wife is blaming an affair with Jo Jo. This sort of makes sense after Jo Jo was spotted backstage numerous times wearing booty shorts with “Whole World” printed on the back.
- Bray’s ex-wife claims she first had her suspicions when Bray started working out rigorously every day for the first time in years. Suddenly changing your diet and getting into shape? That’s usually a tell tale sign of cheating, I mean look at the guy, he used to be Husky.
- Another rumored relationship was between Braun Strowman and Nia Jax. Could you imagine what a leaked sex tape might look like between those two? It would have to be shot in panoramic.
- If the rumor was correct it would make sense that Braun would want a BBW like Nia. Could you even imagine how logistically it would work for Braun to hook up with a regular-sized diva? He’d have to roll Alexis Bliss over his dick like a condom.