Between the heating up discussion on independent contractors and fan complaints falling on deaf ears, WWE follows a broken system that is long overdue for a change.
"I can’t see the ring!"
When you go to a show, folk should be able to see the ring. That’s Wrestling 101.
Yet at WrestleMania 35, there were a plethora of irate fans who were not only subjected to intense, glaring lighting but many whose view was also obstructed.
One photo after another showed a giant red pillar blocking the middle of the ring during WWE’s April 7, 2019, WrestleMania 35 event at Met Life Stadium.
The anger and disappointment of fans were palpable. Some were even requesting refunds to a seemingly deaf corporate ear.
"The ‘walk-in’ price right now on StubHub is $500 for an obstructed view seat." said one voice.
"I’m in section 233 and a column is blocking our view of the middle of the ring. There’s no mention on our tickets of these seats being obstructed view. Very disappointing!" bemoaned another.
"Most of us in section 121 want a refund. Literally have to look away from the ring," said yet another customer irked by the lighting.
One fan said between a $575 ticket, airfare, hotel and meals he was out $2K. He watched the show- which culminated in a disappointing botched ending main-event- on a giant screen. Hey, he simply couldn’t see the ring.
Randy Orton apologized for the blinding views, yet WWE did not. I assumed the IWC would be irate. Yet, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
"The tickets said obstructed view," many assumed, although some ducats did not indicate that whatsoever.
"They knew what they were getting into when they bought the tickets," raged other corporate apologists.
“Does a wide-eyed kid with a dream, with a contract in hand, truly grasp what he or she is going to feel like on that first cold, damp day twenty or so years down the road when those bumps take their toll?”
This reaction harkened me back to the highly debated WWE independent contractor scenario. This heated up yet again when HBO’s John Oliver took WWE to task for not giving their wrestlers pensions, 401Ks and health benefits. You would think most fans who love the sport would have sided with the athletes. But so many instead turned on Oliver, some literally cursing him.
Ryback is just one of only a few former WWE employees making a public stink about the way workers are treated within the company yet, for the most part, he’s being met with criticism from the fans.
"You knew what you were getting into when you signed the contract."
For the people who write such things, WWE is their "religion" as many have publicly stated. They shan’t ever speak ill of them.
Despite it all, Ryback keeps a positive attitude about the critics. “There are more people supporting this than against it,” Ryback wrote to us on Twitter. “It’s just the ones against it like to be louder.”
But how about the wrestlers coming up in the business? Do they honestly know just what they’re signing up for? Does a wide-eyed kid with a dream, with a contract in hand, truly grasp what he or she is going to feel like on that first cold, damp day twenty or so years down the road when those bumps take their toll? Does that kid realize that they’re one botched move away from permanent injury? Does that youngster with stars in his eyes really think about one bad bump leading to the first of possibly many concussions and the toll that can take on his memory and health? Or that at any given moment he can be "future endeavored" for no reason beyond "creative doesn’t have anything for you?" And do they REALLY understand what they’re getting paid in comparison to what they’re truly worth as a prime-time TV star with merchandising to boot?
Shouldn’t a corporation which brought in $930.2 million in 2018, owned by a man worth 3.5 billion dollars take care of their wrestlers who sacrifice their bodies for them? Triple H, with his multi-million-dollar salary, made fun of his Executive Vice President title at the WWE Hall of Fame, but he didn’t need to hawk his autographs at WrestleMania weekend at conventions like some of his buddies on stage with him. Maybe, they, too, deserved to be taken care of better. And can they similarly take care of their fans who at a WrestleMania deserved to- at a bare minimum- see the ring?
“It’s worth noting WWE talent are NOT paid for Axxess signings and never have been,” Ryback wrote in response to an early edit of this piece.
Ryback continued, “WWE tells the talent that Axxess doesn’t make them any money so that they aren’t required to pay the talent for their time. If it was free of charge and they didn’t sell MERCH in there that’s one thing, but they do.”
WWE does great things for charity, and even on occasion, put on some great professional wrestling matches; their NXT TakeOvers are as good as it gets in this business. But like any huge corporation, they are open to criticism without their fans going on a kneejerk attack. Many WrestleMania attendees couldn’t see the ring. Seems to me many WWE fanatics can’t see the big picture either.