Unions, Morality, and Billionaires: A response to WWE releasing talent

WWE, Vince McMahon (Photo by Mark A. Wallenfang/Getty Images)
WWE, Vince McMahon (Photo by Mark A. Wallenfang/Getty Images) /

Just a few days after being declared “essential business” in the state of Florida, WWE has announced that they were scaling back operations, furloughing several staff and releasing several talent.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, WWE announced to their investors that they were making several changes to their operations today to help reduce costs during this time as WWE looks to tape Raw, SmackDown, and NXT live every week from the Performance Center for the foreseeable future.

Wrestlers, please unionize.

The Facts

Among the changes announced was the announcement that several talent were going to be cut, that the board would be taking less compensation, operating expenses would be reduce, and any payments towards the new headquarters would be stopped for 6 months.

Soon thereafter, WWE announced several releases. Drake Maverick, Curt Hawkins, Karl Anderson, EC3, Lio Rush, Luke Gallows, Eric Young, and Heath Slater are all among the talent gone from the company immediately.

Several producers were also released, with Lance Storm being the most prominent. As I am writing this, several more have been released, with the number, so far, totaling 9 producers. Billy Kidman, Mike Rotunda, Dave Finlay, Pat Buck, Shawn Daivari, Scott Armstrong, Sarah Stock, Shane Helms, and Lance Storm have all been cut, with PWInsider promising that more are to come throughout the day.

The full list of talent released so far is as follows:

  • Drake Maverick
  • Curt Hawkins
  • Karl Anderson
  • Luke Gallows
  • EC3
  • Lio Rush
  • Eric Young
  • Heath Slater
  • Aiden English
  • Kurt Angle
  • Lance Storm
  • Shane Helms
  • Mike Rotunda
  • Dave Finlay
  • Pat Buck
  • Shawn Daivari
  • Scott Armstrong
  • Sarah Stock
  • Billy Kidman

There is likely more to come in the next few hours, but this coming just after WWE were able to have themselves declared as an essential business in Florida to keep running live shows reveals a lot about the character of Vince McMahon and the corporate culture he fosters.

In a time when WWE claimed to have 0.5 Billion (in their investors release) on hand to continue operations, cutting talent that will make up far less than that amount is nothing short of callous and cold.

Stop Supporting This Company

The reason for the cuts was speculated on by Brandon Thurston of Wrestlenomics Radio in this tweet:

If this is the case, it paints an even darker picture, as WWE looks to maintain the profit margin they promised to stockholders before a worldwide pandemic brought the planet to its knees. In doing so, they have put many people who need to take care of their families without work. WWE wrestlers are classified as independent contractors, so they are not employees and will get no severance pay.

They are left with no job, and no immediate income, though many will qualify for unemployment in the United States and elsewhere in the world, this is astonishingly tone deaf. Among the criticism levied at WWE during this time over taping live and putting talent in danger, WWE is now leaving many of the wrestlers they supposedly value without any income in the one of the worst pandemics the world has ever seen.

WWE, who admitted they have a reserve of 500 million dollars, can more than afford to pay all their talent during this, and then some, even with active income from live events. In fact, because WWE has been losing money on live events within the last year, they have actually eliminated a huge portion of the loss by having production reduced to being run at the performance center already.

There is no need for these releases, leaving many wrestlers with no income at all in the worst pandemic and economic downturn the world has seen since the Great Depression, a man, who is a multi-billionaire, has decided to put a higher profit margin ahead of taking care of his talent. WWE is not losing money overall. In fact, because of their TV deals, they are making a hefty profit during all of this.

They could run no shows at all for 6 months, and still be making money. The part that makes this so vile is that this wasn’t done because WWE is in danger of going into debt. This was done because they were going to have reduced profits. They were still making money, and a lot of it. But Vince decided that human lives do not matter more than the bottom line.

Those Doing this Right: Support Them

When you compare this to the response of Japanese wrestling companies to the virus, where 7 of the top stars from various promotions went to the government to talk about pro wrestling and financial aid for smaller companies that are struggling (not their own):

This finished with Hiroshi Tanahashi, one of the most popular wrestlers in Japan, and one of the biggest names in wrestling outside of WWE, pleading with the government to make sure that wrestling is the last to return to normal until the safety of everyone can be ensured.

NJPW has cancelled all their shows for the foreseeable future, haven’t fired any talent, and are still paying them all despite not running shows. They have significantly less financial muscle than WWE, and yet they are talking the right route in doing what is best for their talent and fans.

NJPW is just an example of one, where there are many doing the right thing in Japan. From DDT, AJPW, NOAH, STARDOM, TJPW and others all protecting their talent first, the rest of the wrestling world could go by their example.

While AEW and Impact are still running, they are pretaping events long in advance to minimize the time taping and the risks taken by avoiding having to fly in talent once a week to work. WWE is going live for 3 shows a week, flying talent in and out as they please. NJPW, AEW, Impact, ROH, Bellator (MMA), and several other companies are making no money, but they are still paying their talent all their guaranteed contracts. WWE is releasing people when they are still making a profit.

Support the companies that are looking out for the good of the talent and not the fans. Support companies that see their wrestlers as human beings and not as commodities to be exploited so they can line their own pocket.

Yes, this is a business and about making money, but there is no business without wrestlers and fans. Support the independent wrestlers that have no way of making money right now by buying their merch. Subscribe to IWTV and watch as much indie wrestling as possible.

Subscribe to NJPW World. Give the companies that take care of their talent your money. Because WWE doesn’t deserve it. They don’t care about you. They don’t care about their talent. They only care about the bottom line.

Show them that you value the wrestlers more than the brand. Show them that you care more about the health of the performers than your own entertainment. Support all the companies that are looking out for the good of their talent.

Next. WWE 2K21 is cancelled. dark

For more information about COVID-19, visit the CDC’s website or the website for your state’s Department of Health.