I guess not everyone is a fan. There’s no real argument against WWE being the biggest wrestling company in the world. That has been the case for the better part of thirty five years (save for a few years in the mid 1990s). With dominance like that, you can imagine that the company has a bit of control that other companies aren’t going to be able to maintain. As it turns out, there are some major issues that go along with this.
These is a lot of stuff here and it doesn’t look great. Check out the full segment from last night’s show:
WWE was the focus of a segment on Last Week Tonight With John Oliver on Sunday. The main point of the segment was on WWE’s lack of caring for its employees, with a major focus on its lack of benefits to the wrestlers, such as healthcare, due to the wrestlers officially being independent contractors. This included an explanation of the definition of an independent contractor according to the IRS, which says that an independent contractor can work whenever or wherever they want, which wouldn’t apply to WWE. Also, someone is likely not an independent contractor if their success is vital to a company’s success.
Oliver: “I guess the question there: are wrestlers critical to the success of World Wrestling Entertainment?”
One of the biggest focuses of the piece is a look at so many wrestlers dying younger than average people. Most of this is blamed on their lack of healthcare provided by the company and the lifestyle they are forced to lead due to being on the road for so long. While the specific causes of death aren’t mentioned, the deaths of some wrestlers such as Randy Savage, Eddie Guerrero and Chyna are mentioned.
A large portion of the blame is placed on Vince McMahon for allowing his talent to be treated in such a way, mainly due to the WWE holding a monopoly over the industry. Various interviews from wrestlers are included, such as Bret Hart, Roddy Piper and CM Punk, talking about how they are forgotten once WWE no longer needs them and they have no bargaining rights, forcing them to work through injuries or after they should have been out of the ring for good.
The WWE contracts are also looked at, with various clauses such as WWE being able to terminate a wrestler’s deal after missing six weeks due to injury and the WWE being released from liability due to injury, even if the company is at fault, are discussed. This goes back to the lack of health insurance, and McMahon taking no blame for the wrestlers dying early despite working for him for upwards of two hundred nights a year.
Oliver does look at the other side as well, including the upgrades in the Wellness Program and the company’s offer of free rehab for any former employee who requests it. While these changes are praised as a good move, they fail to address the underlying issues such as a lack of healthcare or the work schedule that often helps cause the addictions in the first place.
At the end, Oliver talks about the fans having made a difference in the past, referencing the Give Divas A Chance campaign which led to a women’s match main eventing WrestleMania and the fans rejecting Roman Reigns as a top star. Oliver then calls on the fans to make their voices heard this Sunday at WrestleMania 35 by chanting for healthcare and benefits, as the audience won’t be able to be muted on Sunday. The segment ended with a video promoting the need for healthcare in the style of a WWE ad, which fit the overall tone: a serious topic with humor included, such as various clips of McMahon being hurt over the years.
Opinion: This is a situation where fans already know that these things are happening but it’s still rather sobering to hear it all in one place. The WWE stars are treated as big deals on TV and in the media but behind the scenes, things aren’t all that great. As Oliver mentioned, the independent contractor status doesn’t hold up, but I have no idea how WWE would manage with all the benefits that are recommended here. I’m not sure how much change this is going to cause, but the masses knowing about it will put some pressure on the company. I’m not sure how much good it will do, but it’s coming, at least at some level.
The other positive thing I can say here is that this was well put together. While some of the clips were older and might have needed some more context, the segment covers both sides and does show that WWE has made at least some efforts to improve conditions. This wasn’t a hatchet job of the company, but rather a way of pointing out how ridiculous some of their practices really are. There are a lot of improvements to make, but without major competition or some kind of intervention by a government authority, I’m not sure how many changes can be made.
What did you think of the segment? Will it lead to any major changes? Let us know in the comments below.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his Amazon author page with 28 wrestling books. His latest book is the the Complete 2000 Monday Nitro and Thunder Reviews Part 1.
Get the latest and greatest in professional wrestling news by signing up for our daily email newsletter. Just look below for “GET EXCLUSIVE UPDATES” to sign up. We are proud to offer our popular Wrestling Rumors app and encourage you to download it for an optimized user experience. It is available for Android and also on iOS. Thank you for reading!