Should Wrestling Be A Unionised Industry? - Triple Threat POV | Smark Out Moment

Should Wrestling Be A Unionised Industry? - Triple Threat POV

Posted by Dallas Allsopp Thursday, July 8, 2021

Welcome to another edition of Triple Threat from Smark Out Moment, where three of us get together to discuss three questions based on one big topic going down in the week of professional wrestling.

This week, Dallas Allsopp, Matt Morgan and Greg Coleman discuss whether or not it would be beneficial for wrestling as an industry to unionise.

Wrestling has been perceived by many to be an industry crying out for a union. But would such a change be more beneficial or detrimental to the industry as a whole?

Question 1: Do you agree with WWE referring to it’s wrestlers as Independent Contractors?

ALLSOPP: I don’t, but that’s purely down to how inconsistent WWE are with their employment practices. The entire concept of being an independent contractor should allow WWE wrestlers more freedom to accept other bookings, have a presence online, and basically give themselves more opportunities than they have. But unless you are called Roman Reigns or Brock Lesnar, you basically have no trace of the rights you should have.

Zelina Vega standing up for the rights of wrestlers within WWE was groundbreaking, that was until she recently returned to WWE as if nothing had happened. Either call your staff full blown employees and give them the rights that come with that, or provide them with more freedom if you insist on using the independent contractor concept. Essentially, Vince McMahon is truly having his cake, and then some!

MORGAN: I strongly disagree with WWE labeling it’s employees as independent contractors. In theory, as independent contractors, performers should be free to work on other projects outside of WWE. However, performers are hardly given the freedom to pursue those options. Even if they are, the performers have to get permission from WWE before doing so. WWE exercises a ton of control over their employees, which ultimately invalidates their classification of performers as independent contractors.

COLEMAN: WWE wrestlers are NOT independent contractors. If they truly were, they would have the ability to work for whomever they choose, which we know is not the case. WWE shamefully calls them independent contractors to justify them wrongly not providing them benefits and insurance. It’s a joke!

Question 2: Which company do you feel currently has the best approach to looking after it’s wrestlers? Are there any companies with particularly egregious policies?

MORGAN: In early May, Major League Wrestling (MLW) decided to take a two month break in programming, giving its wrestlers an "off season." I loved this idea from MLW, because it’s roster was given a choice between taking some time to rest or work.

This type of break allows for wrestlers to take some time to heal (if needed). Even if wrestlers don't take the time off, at least they were given the option to do so. If wrestlers can't receive benefits, they should at least be given some vacation time throughout the year. MLW's approach allows for this, and it would be nice if other companies would follow suit.

COLEMAN: NJPW, from what I’ve seen, does a pretty good job of taking care of their talent and provides them the freedom to work for other promotions. Strong Style is on full display, but you don’t see Kazuchika Okada falling off the top of a cell or ladder. Also, the way they’ve responded to COVID-19 with the disinfecting of the ring in between matches and banning fans from cheering vocally are both great measures to ensure everyone, including their talent, is as safe as possible.

ALLSOPP: I’m a mark for how well AEW has addressed wrestler's rights so far, and I hope they break new ground for the industry as a whole to adopt these changes. What they offer may not seem like much, but it makes them look a lot more benevolent than WWE.

Unfortunately, WWE has such a poor track record of dealing with sensitive issues. Recently, this resulted in a number of former WWE wrestlers revealing they had their belongings sent to them in a trash bag, sending out a message that they didn’t really matter as a wrestler. Yes, this resulted in a number of firings, but the situation should never have happened in the first place. WWE’s HR processes seem so bad and egregious, that I feel they would truly benefit from having some form of external HR representative to audit their actions. Otherwise, the company will continue to circle the drain in terms of their reputation with wrestler treatment.

Question 3: Would creating an industry wide union leave a positive or negative impact on professional wrestling?

COLEMAN: Creating a union would be beneficial for the wrestlers, and I believe will overall leave a positive impact on the professional wrestling business, as long as the wrestlers are organized and unified. It will be a great way for wrestlers to not be bullied by large promotions that overstep their bounds, such as WWE telling talent what they can do on Twitch or Cameo. The one potential negative impact a union could have is the likelihood of strikes and lockouts. Are fans prepared to have WrestleMania potentially canceled due to a lack of agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement?

ALLSOPP: It’s a hard outcome to predict, as there are so many positive and negative impacts that would befall wrestling as a result of unionisation. Yes, there may be a more uniform set of practices that protect wrestlers and all staff that contribute to wrestling shows, but this may end up causing associated costs to rise. Smaller federations could be put out of business, but the larger ones would be more accountable for their actions.

Raven has been one of the most notorious advocates of unionisation in wrestling, but even he realised it was a fight that was near impossible to win. I initially admired the efforts of Zelina Vega and Paige to raise awareness of the need to unionise, but especially in the case of Vega, it appears money talks for those in a position to shout the loudest. Until the majority of high level wrestlers feel confident enough to press for change, unionisation won’t happen. But additionally, the unknown landscape it would create is a more pressing concern that prevents this from becoming a possibility.

MORGAN: I am all for wrestlers having benefits and better pay. However, I worry that a union would not be the best approach. There are aspects of unionisation, such as union fees and a lack of individuality caused by unionising, that would be major hurdles for wrestling companies to overcome. The topic of unionisation highlights a greater need for wrestlers to have rights and protections, which makes me happy and hopeful for the future. However, to me, unionisation is unfortunately not the answer.

Those are our thoughts on the issue, but where do you stand?

Let us know your answers to these questions in the comments below!

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Dallas Allsopp is a writer with two main interests, Pokemon and wrestling. He has been writing for a few years for his own personal blogs and is now taking his passion for wrestling and putting it into his writing. You can follow him on Facebook.


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