Daniel Bryan’s retirement has brought back an old argument that professional wrestlers always get the short end of the stick no matter who they are or how successful they’ve been because, by the end of their career, they’re left with nothing from the industry.
The way WWE and other promotions do business with their talent means that they sign as independent contractors, which means that the wrestlers are responsible for their own medical insurance, taxes, and there are no pensions for wrestlers after they call it a career.
They’ve done a lot to make the product safer for their talents by limiting dangerous spots, banning certain moves, and chair shots to the head. If you’re a big name in the industry, WWE will offer you a Legends contract or a desk job, and you’re all set, but what if you’re not a big name?
From a business standpoint, it would be a ridiculous amount of money to offer all WWE talents medical insurance, taxes, 401ks, and everything else.
It would cost a fortune, but then we’d know for sure that the wrestlers were taken care of after they leave the business. Guys like John Cena wouldn’t be able to have fifty cars. But WWE is considered a platform, so if you’re a big name, you can make money elsewhere too.
The ultimate problem is the WWE locker room would never be united enough for guys like John Cena, Randy Orton, or Roman Reigns to go on strike and leave their big money deals.
Also, a lot of talent would be fired, and WWE would just bring in independent wrestlers to fill the void. Establishing a union is too hard, but it’s not impossible.
It would ultimately come down to the collective bargaining agreement between the talent and the corporation, but Daniel Bryan’s early retirement has brought back the argument that professional wrestlers aren’t protected. They really aren’t.
On one hand, it’s the way it’s always been. Wrestlers take care of themselves, and they understand that it’s not about what you make, it’s about what you save.
It’s just a shame that WWE can’t legitimately take care of their talent that way they should. The entire industry would be so much better if getting signed by WWE meant being protected as much as making money.
Maybe, someday soon this will become a reality, but it’s a pity to watch pro wrestlers continue to sacrifice themselves for the industry that doesn’t take care of them at the end.