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Raw: WWE’s humiliation of The Revival is not ethical

On the most recent episode of WWE Raw, The Revival were involved in a humiliating segment that was aired for the sole purpose of embarrassing them in the midst of a recent contract stand-off. This is yet another example of unethical business practices from the most powerful pro wrestling promotion in the world.

The Revival’s murky contract situation with WWE began in mid-January when Fightful.com’s Sean Ross Sapp broke the news that people in the company feared that Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder were prepared to leave. This came shortly after All Elite Wrestling emerged as a company and four months before the new promotion’s inaugural show on May 25.

Since then, Sean Ross Sapp has reported that The Revival “have yet to accept” $500,000 contracts from WWE, with BodySlam.net reporting the figure at $550,000. If this is indeed the case, then it is bold for The Revival to turn down such a large sum of money, but that may speak to the health of the industry with AEW joining the fray, as well as the duo’s own convictions about their subpar booking in WWE.

Unfortunately for the former Raw Tag Team Champions, who lost the titles at WrestleMania 35 to Zack Ryder and the previously 0-269 Curt Hawkins, their booking continues to worsen.

One of the best tag teams in the world, The Revival are now comedy characters and last week’s “Manscaping” segment turned out to be a hidden endorsement opportunity. Meanwhile, this week’s segment with The Usos didn’t have such a silver lining, as it was simply embarrassing for all parties involved.

The Usos and The Revival should be having a rivalry for the ages on Raw to finally elevate this tag team division, whose demise has reportedly been a big reason for The Revival’s strong issues with WWE management.

In this latest segment, The Revival used “Ucey Hot”, a sort of spoof on the Shaq-advertised “Icy Hot” patches. They apparently used this – I’m assuming it’s a capsaicin-based product, but I don’t know how much WWE knows about chemistry – cream on their genitals and it led to an, um, reaction that they were forced to sell.

This was a waste of time that also made The Usos look less like elite champions and more like a pair of dumb teenagers. Beyond that, it was more insidious than just poor television. This was WWE flexing its $6.63 billion market cap on a pair of wrestlers apparently worth a combined $1 million – a seemingly hefty sum that is merely a drop in the bucket to the powerhouse that is WWE.

There is a massive imbalance in power between WWE and its wrestlers. WWE are abusing that power with segments like this. WWE isn’t even transparent about this, writing in the Raw preview before this segment that last week’s “Manscaping” skit would be “the first humiliation of many”. Few could have seen WWE stooping this low, but perhaps we should have.

WWE has been known as having a toxic work environment and they even use this belief to further their own segments; Sami Zayn has brought up WWE’s toxicity in recent promos. This culture of in-fighting and bullying has led to wrestlers like Sasha Banks, Dean Ambrose and Luke Harper to request releases, leading to a huge amount of turnover in WWE Creative lately.

The Revival are under contract until Apr. 2020, which means they may have to deal with this type of mistreatment for a year. Or more, because per Fightful, Dash Wilder had two extra months tacked onto his contract. WWE has done this with Harper and may attempt to do this with Banks, too. Sadly, this is a standard industry practice that even the thoroughly-disliked Eli Drake could reportedly fall victim to at Impact Wrestling.

Given how much WWE is worth and their power in the entertainment industry, they have no reason to hold wrestlers hostage like this. These contracts are farcical in themselves, given that pro wrestlers are classified as “independent contractors”, yet are restricted by contracts that can be arbitrarily lengthened with the sole purpose of preventing said wrestler from finding work elsewhere. As independent contractors, they shouldn’t have to go through all this, especially since, as John Oliver documented, they don’t get any important benefits.

Worse yet, The Revival have done their best to create agency for themselves by trying to leave and by negotiating a better deal. But during the negotiations, they are punished on-screen by WWE for not bending over to Vince McMahon’s wishes and agreeing to whatever has been presented to them at the bargaining table. This is a prime example of coercion, especially since The Revival are contractually obligated to do whatever WWE asks.

Since nobody holds WWE accountable, which seems to be their favorite turn-of-phrase for heels criticizing their fan base, they can continue to humiliate The Revival with their booking. These disgusting tactics are designed for WWE to show its power over its wrestlers, who, again, aren’t classified as true employees. WWE can treat them however they want, attempt to mobilize public opinion against wrestlers for not agreeing to lucrative contracts and bully them while they negotiate on their own terms.

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To say the playing field is uneven would be an understatement. It is important for fans to understand that what’s unfolding before their eyes is more than just poor television or embarrassingly low-brow “comedy”. These are unethical business practices at their finest implemented by a powerful organization that knows they can get away with just about anything.

Though this may not seem like a huge deal compared to their other unsavory dealings, such as their deal with Saudi Arabia or their history of racism and misogyny, it is a current example of how WWE operates on its own terms. It is dangerous, it is disturbing and it is saddening how the people labeled “Superstars” are the ones hurt by these horrible practices.

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